It’s time for the 127th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered! We apologize if we haven’t gotten to your question yet, but we try to answer in the order in which they were received (unless they are super relevant and need to be answered in a timely manner). Something you want to know? Ask us anonymously by going through the contact form at the bottom of the page.
When do you think other countries will start to challenge the U.S. women? 2020? 2024?
It’s hard to say because it’s really one of those things that starts from the bottom with development and works its way up. There are programs right now with juniors who could realistically challenge the current U.S. juniors, but the thing is that the U.S. juniors keep growing and developing into major senior threats whereas other countries tend to get stagnant and regress rather than move forward.
There’s also the consistency factor. If nothing else, the U.S. kids are taught how to fight to stay on their events at international meets. I don’t know how, nationals can be a disaster, but they get to an international competition and whether it’s small like Jesolo or major like the Olympics, bam, they mean business. Like, at Gymnix earlier this year the Russian kids should’ve somewhat easily matched the Americans on bars and yet they fell three points short due to mistakes that the Americans didn’t make. Most of the American kids contribute this to the super scary verification at the ranch, where the pressure to compete one at a time in front of no one but judges and coaches and teammates trying to make an international team is much scarier than actually competing internationally, so basically anyone who survives that can survive a real competition. Maybe other countries need to take their own domestic meets and internal verification meets more seriously and that’ll help them going forward?
It took the Americans about 12 years to get their program back on track from failing in 2000 to winning by a significant amount of points in 2012. Maybe for programs that start getting their shiz together this year, they can get ready to challenge again by 2028? Most programs have the talent but lack the coaches who can transition juniors into seniors and teach their kids how to have a strong mental edge, so if Russia or China or other programs can work on that in the coming years, then maybe they’ll be up to the task again in 2024 or 2028, especially with teams dropping from five to four, which will make it easier on countries that lack the extreme depth the U.S. has.
How consistent does an upgrade have to be in training before a gymnast tries it out in a competition?
It depends on the gymnast and the coach. I know with Simone Biles, coach Aimee Boorman always wanted her skills to be as perfect as possible before she added them into her competition routines, which is why we waited so long to see the Cheng on vault even though Simone started training it a couple of years before she debuted it. It was good in 2015 and probably would’ve scored well, but it didn’t meet their high standards and so they held off on it until it was absolutely ready.
Other gymnasts will chuck skills no matter what they look like, and in some instances, as long as they’re doing them safely, that can make sense for them because you never know — a skill that isn’t working in the gym might actually benefit from being thrown into a competition routine, whereas a skill that you’re doing perfectly in the gym might end up being your hardest to compete mentally. If you’re adding in something big like a layout full on beam and you have it up on the high beam but fall most of the time in training, you might as well take it to a smaller competition like classics in the U.S. to test it out in front of a crowd, because that could be what you need to hit it…but if it doesn’t work there and then you try it again at another meet and it’s still not working, then it might not be competition-ready after all. Sometimes you just never know until you try it at a meet, so it doesn’t really matter how consistent it is in training…a competition setting is where you’ll decide to keep it or toss it.
Do you have any insight about France’s upcoming juniors? What about Belgium’s?
Both have a bunch of kids coming up, though it’s hard to say exactly where they’ll fit in 2017 because we don’t really know who’s taking time off and who’s gonna keep going. In France, I believe a couple of this year’s Olympians are going to take breaks and Marine Brevet retired, so there’s definitely room for upcoming juniors as well as for young seniors who didn’t quite make the cut this year (especially Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, who could be a huge star for France, as well as Alison Lepin and her crazy awesome bars).
As for juniors, Lorette Charpy is their big up-and-comer. She has been competing at a high level all year, was the French junior all-around champion, the Euro junior bars bronze medalist, and was a medal threat in the all-around at Euros, qualifying fourth into the final but she ended up having a few falls and placing 12th. She does great work on all events, with bars and beam her best when she’s hitting, so I hope she can improve her difficulty on both so she can be competitive as a senior.
France also has Janna Mouffok, Assia Khnifass, Melissa Poitreau, and Lea Marques coming up into the senior ranks. Both Mouffok and Poitreau were on the Euros team and can vault very well, and I think Mouffok has a good shot at doing well as a senior, but the others would need some upgrades here and there to stand out.
As for Belgium, they have five juniors who are regulars on the international scene reaching the senior ranks this year, including Euros team members Rinke Santy (this year’s junior national champ who also placed highest for the team at Euros, finishing seventh), Maellyse Brassart, and Myrthe Potoms, as well as other kids with international experience like Chloe Leblicque and Marthe Hoskens.
None of the new Belgian seniors are at a super high level right now, and they all tend to score somewhere in the low 50s on average, which won’t make them stand out in a senior field where the majority of their all-arounders are at 54 or better. It’s all about difficulty for them, though. Belgium tends to hold off on throwing bigger difficulty at juniors until they actually need it. I could see Rinke especially coming through with some bigger skills…and Maellyse has superb foundations and a ton of power on vault so maybe she can upgrade from her FTY to give them a bit more difficulty there?
What are the types of deductions for leaps and jumps?
The biggest and most obvious come from not hitting a 180 degree split, and another big one comes from a lack of amplitude, which is the height you get from the beam or the floor on your jumps. Some gymnasts have these huge floaty leaps and jumps while others barely get off the ground, so the latter tend to get penalized even if everything else about the jump is clean. Then you have deductions that come from form issues like bent knees and flexed feet, and you also get deducted (or lose the value of the skill) for the shape of the skill. Like, if you’re supposed to do a ring leap and your back foot is nowhere near your head, you could get downgraded. Each leap or jump that requires you to make a certain shape (like the ring, the wolf, the sheep) has its own specifications related to how your body should look on each one and if you don’t meet the standard, you can be deducted or downgraded depending on how you look.
Why do you think we never saw the upgrades Gabby Douglas started speaking about a year before the Olympics?
She tried to put them in, but I think a combination of a lack of motivation in the gym and time creeping up on her made it difficult for her to work them out. After worlds she kind of took a little break and even Martha Karolyi said something about having her do the American Cup in 2016 because she needed a competition like that to keep her motivated going forward throughout the rest of the year. I have heard a few parents and coaches talking about how she found motivation difficult, and wasn’t necessarily loving being in the gym this year, for whatever reason, which hindered her progress.
She still looked fabulous, don’t get me wrong, but it took a lot of prodding to get her to that point, and so it seems the focus became getting back to where she was at worlds in 2015 rather than pushing a bunch of upgrades when her regular routines still weren’t at a hundred percent. She did get that extra back tuck on floor which was good, and she worked on adding the Amanar in, but ultimately it wasn’t clean or consistent enough to justify doing it over her cleaner and more consistent DTY.
Most gymnasts at 1986 U.S. nationals had a turn while in handstand position. Was this a requirement?
On floor, I’m assuming? I doubt it was a requirement…probably just a choreography slash basic acro as choreo trend. The compulsory routine that quad featured a back walkover to handstand in a split with a full turn, so maybe gymnasts threw them into their optional routines because they were doing it anyway for compulsory? I can’t think of many international optional floor routines that had handstands with turns, so it definitely wasn’t a code of points requirement, but maybe coaches and choreographers in the U.S. were like YAS I’m really feeling that whole turning around in a handstand thing, let’s go for it.
Since there is a new front tumbling requirement in the code, what would gymnasts like Simone Biles or Aly Raisman do? Does an arabian count?
Yes, you can no longer get away with doing all four passes as backwards tumbling while subtly tossing in a front or side aerial to be like “suck it” the way some gymnasts have done in recent years. Aly would be fine, because a double arabian is a front skill for the women, and even if it wasn’t, she punches front out of it and that satisfies the requirement since it’s part of the tumbling line (it doesn’t matter if the front skill is like an actual big skill or a little A skill as long as it’s part of the acro pass and not just casually thrown as a side skill).
For gymnasts who don’t like tumbling forward in a double salto and don’t like punching out, they can work on things like a front double full or a front 2.5, the latter of which we never got to see often in recent years but could become a thing again under the new code, especially because it’s an E skill. Actually, I think Jordan Chiles was even training a front triple full, which would be awesome. So I’m excited to see some of the new front skills that could come out of this rule, though I think many who aren’t strong front tumblers will fall back on the front skills in a combination pass kind of thing.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins