You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 132nd 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.

Is there a rule about having a woman on the floor with the team during competitions? I always wondered why Martha Karolyi was on the floor in Beijing.

Yup! Teams can have two coaches on the floor at the same time, but one must be a woman. In 2008, every coach with a gymnast on the team was male, so Martha had to be on the floor the whole time while the guys kind of shuffled through as needed. But in the other quads during Martha’s reign (2004, 2012, and 2016), all teams had women so there was no need to have her come out and be on the floor with the team to fulfill that requirement.

If MyKayla Skinner returned to international competition, could she submit a one-handed Cheng as a new vault in order to avoid the two point penalty for missing her hand?

No. There’s a reason vaults are supposed to be done on two hands — the skills coming off the table are supposed to rely on the gymnast’s upper body strength. Gymnasts who miss a hand are generally relying not on arm strength but on leg strength from the push off the board. They’re supposed to push off the springboard and onto the table, and then off the table and into the air. By not pushing off of the table, MyKayla was simply just pushing off of the springboard and into the air, which is not a vault, which is why there is a heavy penalty. A one-handed or no-handed vault defeats the purpose of vault and is basically just a floor skill!

Is there a rule that allows for the bars to be raised or set further apart because of a gymnast’s height?

In NCAA, the bars are set further apart than they are in elite, and gymnasts can raise the high bar if needed, but in elite gymnasts can’t change the width of the bars and they need some kind of special permission to change the height. I believe Georgia-Rose Brown of Australia got it cleared so that she’s allowed to raise the high bar, but I don’t know what the reasoning was for Kyla Ross never getting it cleared. I heard that Martha Karolyi ‘didn’t allow it’ but I can’t imagine that’s the whole story. Kyla tried switching to the double front once her double layout became an issue for her height, but now I believe she’ll be back to the double layout in NCAA thankfully.

I know you’re sick of 2020 questions so I’m sorry but if a gymnast earns an individual spot, then is named to a team, they lose that spot and it’s passed on to someone else. Does that mean that there might be some 98th placed all-around gymnast from worlds who has to wait for the U.S. to pick its team before she knows if she is going? Or will there be a commitment date by which federations have to accept spots? If the U.S. earns three or more spots, will they have to announce which spot they are sacrificing?

Not all of these are spelled out in the new rules because they don’t really get into hypothetical situations, just the actual rules with some of the exceptions and what-ifs.

I believe if a gymnast from a country with a full team qualified to the Games goes on to earn one of the four nominative spots at a world cup, she likely won’t be part of the team situation anyway. Gymnasts who attempt to qualify these spots can’t have competed at worlds in 2018 or 2019, so they’re probably not going to be top choices for teams and rather will just be candidates for one event at which they’re super strong (think like a MyKayla Skinner who wouldn’t fit the team but could medal on vault). Countries will essentially send gymnasts to attempt to earn those nominative spots solely because they won’t factor into teams. Like, the U.S. won’t send Simone Biles to the world cup meets to qualify herself a nominative vault spot when they know she’s gonna basically headline the team. It’s pointless. It’s gonna take some strategizing in the Olympic year, but teams will essentially know beforehand who will be in the mix for the team and who will be in the mix for attempting to qualify individual spots. I don’t know if there will be a date by which they’ll have to commit to the nominative spot, but like every year with nominative gymnasts, there are always reserve athletes waiting and training to find out. Like, Marina Nekrasova as the first reserve this summer was basically waiting up until the day before qualifications to see if she’d get to take over if one of the nominative all-arounders got injured.

As for the second question, teams that already earn two individual spots probably won’t send gymnasts to attempt to qualify a third. If the U.S. gets a world cup all-around spot and a continental all-around spot, they probably won’t bother with the apparatus world cup because they already have two non-nominative spots and can send whoever they want. They don’t need to qualify another spot and won’t bother sending an athlete.

Even if there aren’t exactly all things worked out for hypotheticals in place as of right now, I’m sure they have rules and guidelines set in place to ensure that all gymnasts will know who’s going to the Olympics with enough notice for them to train with that goal in mind. A couple of issues might come up with needing last-minute replacements, but that’s always the case whenever there are nominative spots available because you never know who might get injured or have to otherwise miss the Games.

Why wasn’t there a team or all-around competition at worlds in 2002?

I don’t know what the reason was, or if there was one. Worlds didn’t really take on its current format until the 2008 quad with the individual year first followed by two team years. Before then, it was a little more erratic and sometimes changed from quad to quad. In 1992, the format for worlds was similar to the format in 2002, and in 1994 they had two world championships, one for individuals and one for teams. Oh yeah, and worlds were sometimes also held in Olympic years for a little while. Basically the FIG likes playing around with how things are done, though I like this current format and hope it doesn’t change anytime soon.

Do you think Irina Alexeeva has any remote chance of representing Russia?

No. Maybe if she was 12 they’d still let her in over at Round Lake but at this point it’s far too late. Now she’s in a kind of limbo because she can’t compete for them, but she also can’t really compete here in the U.S. either until she gets her citizenship squared away.

Why don’t we see hop pirouette skills on bars anymore? Do they count as pirouettes?

We do see them occasionally. Yes, hop pirouettes count as pirouettes, but most gymnasts tend to stick with the basics for pirouetting skills…a backwards giant full or a stalder full or something like that as opposed to the fancier forward pirouettes or hops. With the bulk of the difficulty coming from big releases and dismounts as well as connection value between skills, that’s where the focus goes for the majority of gymnasts. As with any event, some skills just naturally become more popular than others, sometimes without explanation.

With the new FIG president being Japanese as well as having been the former president of the Japanese gymnastics federation, will there be a conflict of interest this quad with Japan hosting the Olympics?

I don’t think so. I mean, it would be fairly obvious if something fishy was going on and that would put his entire presidency at risk. He seems like a stand-up guy and while this could be a conflict of interest, he doesn’t have ultimate power and there’s a whole team of people who would be noticing if something fishy was up. That being said, the whole situation with Belarus last year was super sketchy, especially with Nellie Kim involved as the facilitator getting the U.S. girls to compete for them…and clearly there was nothing in place to stop her. Generally, federations hosting the Olympics try to get at their highest possible level so they can put on a big show at home, so I’m sure all of Japan’s programs will be stepping it up a notch and will be prepared to look better than they did this year, just as they did back in 1964. But it would be fairly obvious if something was up. Also, whether the event is hosted in Japan or elsewhere, he’ll always have a stake in the Japanese program, so it doesn’t really matter that the Olympics will be held in Japan…if he has plans to help give them an edge, he could do that if they’re competing in Rio or London or anywhere else if he wanted. He has more incentive to do it at home, but any leader who wants to be sketchy like that can do it no matter where the meet happens.

Why do gymnasts keep doing layouts if they’re hardly credited? Wouldn’t it make more sense to do a different skill and not lose the difficulty?

A question on my mind every single day. It wasn’t really until 2013 that the FIG began to crack down on devaluing the layout, so maybe gymnasts who had it last quad weren’t expecting that and hoped theirs would still be credited? Especially when they had national judges crediting it at domestic meets…there was basically no one telling them, like, “hey, you might wanna change that flight series because it’s gonna cost you two tenths.” I think with all of the layout drama this quad, gymnasts and coaches are probably working on alternative flight series combos so they don’t have to worry about losing those two tenths.

How well does a new skill have to be performed to be named for a gymnast? Do you have to land on your feet before falling, not fall at all, or something else?

The only stipulation is that it has to be ‘competed successfully’ at worlds, the Olympics, or YOGs. Successful to me means you can’t fall or have a large mistake on it. I’m guessing if you have a new kind of shaposh transition or something and your hand slips, that isn’t really a success…but maybe because it wasn’t a fall the FIG would still consider it? I don’t know. ‘Competed successfully’ is pretty vague.

Why doesn’t McKenzie Wofford ever get a 10 on bars? Is there some built-in deduction I’m not seeing? Her routines last season were consistently better than some routines that got 10s.

I DON’T KNOW. She’d better get one this year. Last year was a joke when some routines with seriously noticeable errors got 10s and hers didn’t. It was actually shocking and bizarre. Like, her routines weren’t *literally* perfect, but in comparison to every other routine, they were about as perfect as you can get and other routines that weren’t that good definitely got more love from the judges. Judging NCAA is about ranking routines, and while I think her routines are generally ranked accordingly in that she’s usually somewhere at the top, it would be nice for her to get the 10 as a recognition of how incredible she’s been on that event throughout her entire career.

Why are there no junior worlds?

Most at the FIG seem to be against it for some reason, maybe because it wouldn’t be a popular event to put on? If you go to a meet like Euros or U.S. Championships with both senior and junior competition, the stands are mostly empty for the junior meets compared to the senior meets, so it just might not be financially feasible to hold a junior meet on its own. They could tack it onto the senior worlds, but again, logistically it’s a lot of work for very little pay-off. That’s the biggest reason I can come up with. But I don’t see the harm in letting the juniors have their own worlds every two years or something in the way they do with Euros. They could do it in the odd years and put the emphasis only on the individual rather than having them bring full teams. Offer discounted tickets to those attending regular worlds so they can fill the seats…kinda like how with the Nastia Liukin Cup, you can sometimes get free tickets if you buy a full price ticket to the American Cup.

Why did they switch from having the American Cup as an individual event competition like it was in 2005?

It was only an individual event competition that year, probably because there were lots of retirements after the 2004 Olympic Games and they wanted to bring in a big number of gymnasts who weren’t all-arounders. At that stage, it wasn’t part of the FIG world cup series, so USA Gym could do whatever they wanted. In the year immediately following the Olympics, the depth internationally isn’t as great, so by making something an event competition instead of a full all-around meet, it opens the doors to a greater number of competitors. Prior to 2005, though, the event was often an all-around event, though sometimes it would go off of that format.

Do the big training camps like the ones with Simone Biles start in January?

Simone Biles won’t be back in the sport until at least 2018 or 2019 based on what she’s said. The training camps in the fall were mostly skills camps, and I think January will probably be a skills camp as well, helping to ease gymnasts back into the season. By the time we get to February, we’ll get a camp with more routine verification, but it still won’t be routines at a hundred percent unless you’re someone hoping to get an American Cup spot. The majority of the elites who are planning on competing this year have been at the skill camps in the fall. Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and Laurie Hernandez have all said that they want to return, but most will take at least the next year off, if not more time than that.

Have a question? Ask below! Remember that the form directly below this line is for questions; to comment, keep scrolling to the bottom of the page. Keep in mind, we sometimes get about 50 questions a day and can only answer usually around 30 or so a week, so don’t be discouraged if we don’t get to you right away. We do not answer questions about team predictions nor questions that say “what do you think of [insert gymnast here].”

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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22 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Actually Lauren, it was after the 2004 Olympics that the current format (individual worlds followed by two years of team) for Worlds happened as 2005, Chellsie won the all-around.

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  2. I just want to throw out a HUGE THANK YOU to you Lauren for doing these posts — I LOVE them more than I can adequately express! I learn so much from them, and I love your insights and opinions! Thank you, thank you for taking the time to do this for all of us gymnerds 🙂

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      • Kocians in NCAA and doesn’t plan on returning to elite. And I don’t think Gabby ever stated whether or not she will try to continue

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        • Both have said they plan on it. Kocian explicitly said after she finishes her UCLA career in April 2020, her goal will be to get her bars up to snuff and try for Tokyo that summer. And Gabby also said she wants to go all the way to 2020. Of course, lots of people say things four years before the Games. Doesn’t mean they’re going to do it.

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  3. With Madison out of elite, Simone and Aly taking at least two years out, and Gabby and Laurie not having any specific plans for 2017 at the moment, who do you see stepping up for the US team this year?

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  4. I’ve been thinking about junior worlds and I compared to other sports, a lot of other sports that have a junior world are 18 and under, sometimes 19 and under, sometimes strictly under 18 – but I couldn’t think of an olympic sport where there is a regular worldwide strictly under 16 event. I can think of sports that have under 23 worlds, some that you could be called a junior until you are 25. In the end the conclusion I come to is that in all of those, if you run, or row, or swim, or many other things you train at the same intensity in your growing years whether there is worlds or not. I think people want gymnastics junior worlds so that girls who peak at 15 e.g. Komova 2010 can have their time to shine – but if the FIG has been gradually raising the age for women, I think that says something about their belief that it’s after that time that women should be peaking, that we see women not girls competing and it seems like it’s working 2 vets on the US team for the first time since 2000, a vault medallist going from bronze in 2012 to silver in 2016, the gold on bars being retained, when in 2012 the bronze and silver medallists had been part of a memorable 2008 final, beam shifted around, but we still got a mature winner, floor having a 22 year old silver medallist, three of the top AAers being the same from 2012 to 2016 etc. Why when that is happening would the FIG turn around and say here, have a junior world championship.

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    • Yeah, that’s a really good look at it. Junior gymnasts do need experience, though, which is why I think an individual level competition — no team events — wouldn’t be so bad. If they can have junior Euros I don’t see what the big deal is with having an individual event competition at the world level for juniors.

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      • It’s a sadly incomplete argument, though I think it still leaves the FIG without organising anything themselves, even though they have junior specific rules (iirc). Junior europeans are organised by UEAG (?) I think that’s what it’s called, YOG have gymnastics as an event, countries have there own events and there are several other major international junior events or events that include juniors, TopGym, Jesolo, Japan Cup etc. Maybe there isn’t actually a need other than from fans, but we’d just moan it wasn’t being broadcast if it wasn’t somewhere we could go. Still cursing I couldn’t make it to Glasgow either time, I made it to the 2012 olympics though and I guess anything in Paris is closer than Glasgow, so maybe the 2024 olympics will be a possibility. I’m still cursing that I failed to see Rebeca Andrade in Ipswich – they failed to answer their phones or put enough info on their website – there was a Britain v. Brazil thing there summer 2013.

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        • Yeah, UEG does Euros, and YOG is in FIG’s hands as an Olympic event but they’re not the organizers obviously. There might not be a need with all of the other meets and maybe it’s just fans getting a little greedy but I still think it would be great to have a junior event that would involve any federation in the world to send someone…most junior meets are invite-only and the YOG has a qualification process so a lot of nations get left out. Maybe YOGs could open up participation a bit more or something? It’s definitely not that we lack junior meets but we do lack a good number that are more inclusive and that attract a high number of top participants.

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  5. Thanks for that answer re: MyKayla’s Cheng! I never really understood why it was so bad — I thought “isn’t that harder than two hands, she’s just being penalized for disobeying arbitrary style rules” but your analogy that no-hands would just be like floor helped me understand.

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    • Haha yeah it seems like it would be harder! Like, wow, she has so much strength in that one arm! But really all of her power comes from the springboard/her legs and not from her arms at all!

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  6. Few years ago I read some interview with one European gymnast who was very tall, she was allowed to have the upper bar set higher. She said that there were often problems during warm ups on the event (right before she went to compete) as the staff wasnt willing to move the bar for her just for the warm up. Maybe thats also the reason that most gymnast try to stick to regular heigh?

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    • Yeah, maybe…it becomes an issue with everyone else in your rotation being at the regular level so you either have to go first or last which makes things really hard in team situations where there is a strategy to the lineup…I think most think it’s more of a pain than anything else? I know Georgia Rose Brown of Australia sets hers a little higher but yeah, I can see Martha being like “Kyla we’re not raising the bar for you and then lowering it five seconds later, GOD!!!!” hahaha.

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      • I happen to be reading up on this before this “you asked…” got posted. In a mixed group they don’t change the order and the event organisers must provide qualified staff to raise the bar, it’s not just up to your coach to do it. Similarly it’s not required you go first or last in a team situation, but instead of delaying the time between warm up and perform for another gymnast in a mixed group, you’re delaying it for your own team and first or last still ain’t good for the other gymnasts. You get some issues when there is a single non grip wearing gymnast, but getting the bars just right doesn’t take as long as adjusting and checking. I’ve seen a mixed group with bars being raised take longer than floor. In figure Kyla was banging her feet on the low bar intermittently and elite that wouldn’t change so there were more things to balance than just her height.

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  7. First of all thank you so much for answering all these questions. Its really appreciated!

    I was thinking about two of the questions.

    Maybe a reason that gymnasts do the lay-out on beam is because they are working on layout full twist and want to see how it goes in competition before they do with the twist?

    And I thought the tv commentstors said that you Only get a skill named after you if you compete it with les.than 0.3 deduction

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    • Ahh, interesting, I didn’t know that about the less than 0.3 deduction. I was wondering that about a couple of skills we saw at the Olympics this summer that were technically ‘hit’ new skills but didn’t make it into the code.

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  8. If I remember correctly, in 2005 the American Cup was working on becoming a World Cup and official FIG event. As such, the FIG definitely influenced the decision to try the competition as an event finals only format, since they knew that specialists were becoming predominant in the sport. I am very very glad they went back to AA!
    And I definitely agree re: the Worlds schedule– this current format is great!

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