You Asked, The Gymternet Answered


It’s time for the 133rd 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 it just me, or were both UCLA and Arkansas underscored at their opening meet?

With NCAA scoring, know this going in — every meet has different judges and its own benchmark. Scores literally don’t matter from meet to meet. A routine that is a 9.95 at one meet would be a 9.8 at another and you can’t compare scores between meets, because judges who may have been super strict with small errors like bent elbows on bars at one may have completely ignored elbows at another. Compared to other meets, UCLA and Arkansas may have seemed a little low, but it doesn’t matter because you don’t need to compare them with other meets. As long as the scoring is consistent within that one particular meet, it’s fine.

At LSU this weekend, one of the bars judges was late, so a vault judge had to go back and forth between vault and bars in the first rotation. The bars judge arrived for the second rotation, but they opted to continue having the vault judge do both because introducing the bars judge into the mix would’ve made the bars scores that rotation inconsistent with the scores in the first. If scores in the same meet with only one different judge would have been inconsistent, imagine the inconsistencies when comparing meets across the country? You literally can’t do it.

SO DON’T! Don’t say “So and so got a 9.8 on bars in Utah on Sunday but her routine was better than this other girl who got a 9.85 in Florida on Friday! UNFAIR!” It doesn’t matter. Routines are ranked based on the benchmark set in that particular meet. It’s absolutely silly to judge the scores of routines that were not held at the same meet. Because guess what? It’s going to happen at least 100 times every single weekend. Some teams will benefit from lenient judges one week and other teams will benefit the next. It all works out in the end.

Now that I’m ranting, this is also a good time to bring up the fact that a perfect 10 never has and never will mean an absolutely perfect, flawless routine. A 10 is basically an acknowledgement of a routine that goes above and beyond both in difficulty and execution. If the second-best floor of the day gets a 9.9, and then the best routine has a tiny leg separation in a tuck or something, judges can take off that deduction and give the best routine a 9.95, or they can say you know what? Yeah, we saw that, but who cares? This routine was killer and even though it wasn’t literally perfect, it was still the best routine and whether it gets a 9.95 or a 10, it doesn’t matter because in terms of rankings, the routine is still where it needs to be.

So yeah. Don’t treat NCAA like elite when looking at the scoring. Yes, there are concrete deductions that the judges must take, but sometimes more goes into it than that, and you WILL get lenient judges more often than not, especially if the atmosphere is crazy and the crowd is throwing up 10 signs all night and screaming their faces off. Stuff like that absolutely plays into some judging decisions, but as long as the rankings within one particular meet are accurate, the scores from one meet to the next don’t really matter too much.

What would Nastia Liukin’s 2008 bars D score be in the current code?

I’m gonna give you the 2013-2016 code because that’s when I got this question and since we have no actual scores as a frame of reference for the newest code, if I was like “5.9!” or whatever you’d be like what huh what’s going on?!

The top eight elements would be EEEDDDDD for 3.5 and she’d get 0.1 CV for the Ono to Healy, the Healy to Ono half, Ono half to layout Gienger, and inbar to Tkachev for a total of 0.4 in CV. That added together with the 2.5 CR gets you to 6.4.

Something funny about Nastia’s routine…in the new code, two of her skills — the layout Gienger and the double front half-out — both got bumped up from D to E skills! If the CR was still 2.5 this quad, her routine would go from 6.4 to 6.6 with those element changes!

For those of you ready to move on to the 2017-2020 code (I’M NOT!) with the 2.0 CR, her routine would be 6.1 which would be a pretty solid D score for this coming quad. It’s almost like the FIG was like “hey Nastia, come on back, we’ll even increase the value of your favorite skills.”

Will there be a third book featuring the rest of Amalia’s story, and do you know roughly when we’ll see it?

Yup! The third book right now is set to come out at some point in June. I wouldn’t leave you hanging with the cliffhanger ending of When It Counts! That would be so rude. The story is just starting to get juicy, and there’s going to be lots of Amalia and Emerson tension coming up in book three. Both characters go through more of a journey in the final book and you’ll also get to see every character’s stories get wrapped up…for now. I’m thinking about doing further books later on in the series with other gymnasts and focuses, but everything from Finding Our Balance and When It Counts will get a conclusion in book three.

When you say empty swing on bars, does that include the two or three giants before a dismount? It kills the rhythm of so many routines.

Nope, those giants are allowed and aren’t considered empty swings. Some gymnasts only need a single swing into a full-in, and others can even do full-ins out of a pirouette, which is awesome, but often gymnasts need the momentum from multiple giants to wind them up for a bigger dismount like a double layout or something, and other gymnasts who aren’t quite as powerful need the multiple giants even for simpler skills.

Does any other country have nationals for two days as the U.S. does?

Most countries do, though most don’t do two days of all-around competition. Instead, they do one all-around competition and one event finals competition, more similar to international meets. Gymnasts must qualify into the event finals, so in a way the U.S. way is better because the point of national meets is to assess how gymnasts look, and if your best bar worker falls on the event twice and misses EFs, it doesn’t really make sense to not have her do a second routine at nationals when you’re probably going to take her to worlds anyway. I like that in the U.S., every single gymnast gets to compete every single event twice. It definitely helps the coaches and national team coordinator see what was a fluke and what’s an actual problem.

Brazil has had some gymnasts earn world medals. Why haven’t they had good results like these recently?

It’s all a matter of international depth and who else is hitting or not hitting. Flavia Saraiva with a hit routine in 2015 could’ve easily been on the beam podium, but it didn’t work out for her. Rebeca Andrade came into the Olympic all-around final as the third-best in the world but then had mistakes in finals and didn’t medal. It’s not that they’re not good enough to compete with the best in the world, but just that they tend to not have their best routines when it counts.

In NCAA, you’ve said gymnasts can land in a lunge rather than having to stick. But what is the difference between a lunge and a step? Any videos or tips?

I haven’t seen any video comparisons but really it should be one of those “you’ll know it when you see it” kinda things? Like, lunges are controlled and steps are taken because of a lack of control. You’ll see someone land a pass and then lunge back into a landing, usually flaring out her arms, and you’ll know that’s a good landing. But if you see someone land with her chest down and take a step forward or come in too far backwards and jerk her foot back to keep it stable, that’s a step, as is when you see someone land the skill and then shuffle back in a way that’s not controlled. Watch the rest of the skill beyond the landing and the body position and watch the control on the landing itself, not the actual step or lunge.

Does a team that doesn’t qualify to the Olympics get one all-around and two specialist spots?

No. No country that doesn’t qualify a full team gets spots that they don’t qualify for outright. If a country doesn’t earn a full team spot, they can earn one of the all-around spots at worlds, world cups, and continental meets, or specialist spots either for event medalists at worlds or event champions at the apparatus world cups. Some non-team countries will have one gymnast, and others could have three or four depending on how many end up qualifying. Oh, hey! Look what it is — the post I made with all of the 2020 qualification rules

If a gymnast drops her heel during a turn on floor, is it a deduction or is the turn downgraded?

I believe the point at which the heel drops marks the point of the turn’s completion. If she’s attempting a double spin but her heel drops halfway through the second spin, she’ll only get credit for the full turn.

What are your expectations for the Brazilian team in the next quad?

It’s going to be interesting because Alexander Alexandrov did a fabulous job bringing them to a superb level this quad when they had the incentive of wanting to make the team final on the home stage in front of local fans. Now without Alexandrov and without the Olympics held on home soil, I’m wondering if the program will continue their upward rise or if they’ll dip a little as other programs get stronger. They definitely have the talent. I’m not sure who’s planning on sticking around until Tokyo…Daniele Hypolito and Jade Barbosa are still fabulous competitors so they may want to keep it up to add to the program’s depth (Tokyo would also be Daniele’s sixth Olympics!!), but I can see why both would want to retire at this point as well. If they stick around and if the younger seniors like Rebeca Andrade, Flavia Saraiva, Lorrane Oliveira, and Carolyne Pedro stick around as well, that’s an awesome core team especially when they’ll also have some talented juniors like Thais Fidelis joining the senior ranks. They could very well continue to build on the foundations built by Alexandrov, both literal (a new gym in Rio, access to training facilities at the Flamengo football club) and figurative. But if there are multiple injuries and retirements, they don’t really have a tremendous amount of depth to become a top eight program.

Is it normal for a coach to get a medal with the team at worlds?

Yes. The FIG decides whether the head coach and first alternate get medals or not, and this past quad, they opted to give team medals to both because technically, both are part of the team even if they’re not actively out there competing. Some years they decide not to have the coaches and alternates out there, and I don’t know what goes into the decision-making, but I like that both the coach and the alternate get recognized as members of the team.

Who were the most successful former elites in NCAA?

I think the best NCAA gymnast ever was probably Courtney Kupets, with Bridget Sloan right at her heels. “Most successful” or “best ever” are kind of subjective because what are the standards? But I think in addition to their tons of individual awards, both Kupets and Sloan were instrumental in leading their teams to multiple national championship titles. It’s no coincidence that Georgia was unstoppable with Kupets on the team, and that Florida dropped several spots in the ranking between Sloan’s graduation and now. They were both consistently the strongest all-arounders in the country who could realistically get a 10 on every event, so I consider them the best of all time for these reasons more than reasons like winning individual national titles.

Which gymnasts did elite during or after NCAA?

In recent years, Mackenzie Caquatto of Florida continued doing elite after her freshman year, coming back to try to make the 2011 worlds team and getting close but then getting injured on a beam dismount at camp. Vanessa Zamarripa of UCLA did elite one summer between two years in her NCAA career, going to U.S. nationals in 2010 where she competed a Cheng and hoped to make the worlds team but then didn’t go anywhere beyond that. Anna Li of UCLA returned to elite after finishing her NCAA career and became a 2012 Olympic alternate. Mohini Bhardwaj of UCLA finished her NCAA career to become an Olympic silver medalist at the age of 26 in 2004. Casey Jo Magee of Arkansas, who had never done elite before, made it to U.S. nationals at age 22. Melissa Doucette of Bridgeport, who also had never done elite before, qualified to classics in 2015 at the age of 24 (now she’s attempting a career in elite tumbling!). Brenna Dowell of Oklahoma took time off from school and made the 2015 worlds team and got a spot at 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. Off the top of my head, that’s about it! Oh yeah, and Brittany Rogers kinda famously competed both simultaneously this spring, representing Canada at Pac Rims one weekend and then competing for Georgia at NCAA Championships a few days later.

Why did Svetlana Khorkina used to straddle her shaposh? Was it because of her height? Did she get a deduction?

It’s like a giant in that the legs on a shaposh can be done in a straight position or in a straddle position (though Khorkina is one of the only gymnasts I can remember who did her shaposh skills straddled). As long as it actually reaches that position and isn’t just wildly sloppy split legs, a straddle is fine on a shaposh, though most prefer to keep their legs straight and together. It’s definitely a preference thing, just like when swinging giants, and I would guess it has to do with her height. She also swung most of her giants in a straddle, so it was definitely a stylistic choice for her.

Why has Eythora Thorsdottir been competing so much lately? Isn’t it an unnecessary risk of injury, especially given that she’s the most important gymnast on the Dutch team at the moment?

It’s not really a risk if you’re competing safely…no more than training every single day is a risk. Competing regularly helps with consistency and there are also several competitions that will pay gymnasts, and so it’s worth it for some to keep competing regularly to get a little money for their work. One of the meets Eythora participated in was the Bundesliga in Germany, which is a league that has club teams competing against one another. Club teams can pay gymnasts from other countries to compete as guests to help them out, which is why we’ve seen many international competitors at Bundesliga, the Serie A meets, Japan’s team meets, and so on. Eythora can downgrade a little so that she’s not pushing herself and she can get that competitive experience and a little money as well. Angelina Kysla, Irina Sazonova, and Jasmin Mader also competed pretty much nonstop this fall, and Jessica Lopez did a few meets as well.

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


13 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Is Jasmyn Foberg going to be competing this quad? What happened to her? It would be so cool to see her and laurie hernandez fight it out for the usa championships.


    • Foberg said that she will compete 2017 to try and gain more national/international success and elite experience, and then will transition to NCAA for 2018. Your Laurie/Jazmyn duel might not happen though because Laurie said she has no plans on competing next season, she basically said that she’ll return to training when she feels she’s ready to go back and if she’s in the right shape by nationals/worlds then she’ll go and if not she’ll wait.


  2. Don’t forget about Jenny Hansen. She was a low level elite in the late 80s/early 90s, won three straight NCAA all-around titles at Kentucky in the 90s, and then attempted to qualify elite again in 2011 in her 30s.


  3. I strenuously disagree with your first answer – judging discrepancies between meets DO matter, very much. The scores a team receives at one meet create a perception for that team – they establish what judges see as that team’s benchmark. So if a team receives low scores one meet, the judge at the next meet is more likely to give the team lower marks as well. Think about how hard it is for gymnasts in not-ranked programs to get top scores, or how, once a big name gymnast gets a 10 on a event, she starts getting them week after week. While this may not matter much in the larger scheme of ranking teams, it certainly matters to the individual gymnasts who may be being denied the high scores and records they deserve, and it also matters in terms of discouraging or encouraging teams, which can impact their performance in future meets. Scores matter for more than just mathematical post-season ranking of teams, which means that judging discrepancies matter, too.


    • I really don’t think the impression of low scores at one meet matters THAT much in terms of carrying into the next. I saw lower-ranked teams last year have breakthrough 195-196+ away meets when they normally scored in the lower 190s at home, and gymnasts who typically scored around 9.7 for a good bars or beam get in the 9.9s for an exceptional one. The top ten or so programs, and especially gymnasts with big names, always get the benefit of judges ignoring smaller faults, and so an identical routine for a Florida gymnast and a Rutgers gymnast could have two tenths in difference, but the top ten teams are always and have always been like that, at least since I started watching. A friend who judges NCAA said she watches most meets that she doesn’t judge, but wouldn’t remember how a team is judged one week when she sees them the next. Everything she judges is based on that particular meet and on her own personal judging style. She also said she’s never seen a team set a low benchmark at one meet that’s followed them around for an entire season. And with ranking teams it doesn’t matter much either (outside of the top ten or so), because teams that get lenient judges one week will get tough judges the next and it all kind of events out. Besides, no 36th or so ranked program is ever so low-balled that they would’ve been in the top 10 with more lenient judging. We’re talking tenths, not the multiple points that typically separate lower-ranked teams from the top ten. I agree that it sucks to see routines with form issues get 10s every single week, but nothing in collegiate judging is so catastrophic that it actually limits a team’s potential, and besides, plenty of teams rise up and overtake top teams all the time. Auburn and Cal are two very recent examples of teams that have surpassed traditionally stronger programs and it’s because of the recruitment efforts and coaching, not because judges magically decided to up their benchmark one year and every other judge followed suit. If you watch the meets regularly, you can see why some teams are scored one way and others are scored another. The differences between top 10-20 programs and the lower-ranked programs beyond them are incredibly clear, and it goes far beyond how strict or lenient judges decide to be.


      • I agree with you about no team ranked 40th would be in the top 10 without judging bias, but these smaller discrepancies do add up for when a team is trying to qualify for regionals, or even more so when an individual is trying to qualify for regionals. I generally find that conferences with lower ranked teams are tighter on judging than conferences with higher ranked teams. In my mind, the problem is that the lower ranked teams will rarely, if ever, compete in the higher scoring conferences, so it will never even out for those teams that don’t have the opportunity to compete in higher scoring conferences. Yes, teams like UCLA and Alabama will have slightly over and underscored meets and it will all even out. It’s true Auburn and Cal have built great programs (and props to them, don’t mean to take anything away from them), but they are both teams in big conferences where they got an opportunity to compete in higher scoring settings.
        For teams from outside these conferences, like GW for instance, EAGL judging is super tight, and most of their schedule is EAGL or other conferences with lower ranked teams, and that slight edge over a season may result in them having a lower seed for regionals, thus making it even tougher for them to break into nationals. For your Rutgers example, those tenths added up wouldn’t place them in the top 10 for sure, but might make a difference when they are trying to qualify for regionals.

        I agree with Spencer in last week’s gymcastic that the scoring will never be perfectly even but it could be better than it is now. Just my thoughts anyway, I’m a big fan of the gymternet. Thanks for all you do!


  4. Hey Lauren. Small correction – Nastia wouldn’t get 0.1 for inbar to Tkachev. The D skill in a D+D connection must be flight or pirouette with at least half turn. Her total D score would be 6.3 (3.5 + 0.3 + 2.5) instead.


  5. I just submitted a comment in the question box, sorry.

    Alicia Sacramone competed for Brown in 2006, while continuing elite training at Brestyans, she went pro in 07-08 but was a volunteer assistant coach for the team.

    Liked by 1 person

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