You Asked, The Gymternet Answered


It’s time for the 134th 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.

Will the 2020 ‘specialists’ and teams interact? For instance, will they travel together, train together, stay in the same part of the village, etc?

Yes, they’re all part of the same team. The only difference is that four will compete in the team event and the others will compete in individual events. Think of it as similar to the swim teams where there are both relays and individual races. They’re all still on the same team but each individual swimmer is there with separate jobs to do.

I read somewhere that all five members could have been in the all-around final if not for the two per country rule. Would Madison Kocian have qualified, and where would Laurie Hernandez and Gabby Douglas have qualified?

Correct. Gabby qualified third, just behind Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. Had Laurie competed the way she had all summer, she probably would’ve been somewhere between second and fourth, since she, Aly, and Gabby all scored similarly throughout 2016 (she would’ve needed a 14.765 on bars to tie Gabby in the all-around qualifications). At trials, she got a 14.75 and a 14.9, so she probably would’ve been right in between Aly and Gabby if she hit. As for Madison, had she hit all four events, she probably would have finished somewhere around where Rebeca Andrade and Seda Tutkhalyan finished in qualifications, with a score in the low 58 range. So yes, without a two-per-country rule, all five American gymnasts would have made the all-around final, and likely all would have easily finished in the top ten.  

If Simone Biles does come back in 2018 or 2019, can anyone beat her? Will she win her fourth and fifth world all-around titles and back to back Olympic all-around titles?

I’m not a fortune teller, so how would I know that? It depends on who is competing and how they’re doing internationally as well as on how well Simone comes back and what routines she’s doing. The last two Olympic all-around champions before Simone both made comebacks, and one didn’t make the team while the other made the team but wasn’t quite at the place where she was competitively four years earlier. Simone could come back and look just as good or even better than she did this year, but she could also come back and struggle with motivation or have others on the competitive field who are stronger than her. I have no idea what’s going to happen because I have no way of seeing the future.

Can elements other than a split jump be used to fulfill the 180 degree split in combination requirement on beam and floor? For example, would the switch + switch half series that Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas did, a Yang Bo, or Teza count?

Yup! Any dance element that reaches a 180 degree split fits into the 180 degree split in combination requirement. The switch to switch half series is a common one, and I’ve also seen gymnasts do turn and leap combinations, since the requirement just says ‘connection of two dance elements,’ not connection of two jumps or leaps.

How do gymnast invitations work for the American Cup in the post-Olympic year?

Invitations go out to federations in order of their team ranking at the Olympic Games. For the 2017 American Cup, the eight WAG invites went to the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and Brazil. Both Russia and Brazil declined, so then the invitation go in qualification rank order, with Canada and Italy getting the next two. Italy declined, so France got and accepted that invite. Had both France and Belgium declined, they then go back to the team rankings at 2015 worlds. Invitations go to federations, not to specific gymnasts, and when the world cup rankings begin to be used as Olympic qualifiers in 2019 and 2020, the rankings will be non-nominative, meaning they belong to the federation and not to the gymnast(s) that qualify.

Why are/were the gainer saltos off the end of the beam considered more difficult than the ones off the side of the beam? Why is the Khorkina the same D score as the Steingruber when the Khorkina has 1.5 more twists?

It has to do with the momentum…because the skill has forward momentum into a backwards skill, doing it from a standing position off the side of the beam is relatively easy compared to running forward and then having to suddenly flip backwards. It’s also scarier to do a gainer off the end of the beam…I know gymnasts who can do double pikes and yet are afraid of a gainer pike because when you’re facing forward and flipping backwards, it feels like you’re going to hit your head on the beam behind you!

The Khorkina and the Steingruber don’t have the same skill direction, and the skill direction in the Steingruber is much more difficult than in the Khorkina. Svetlana Khorkina’s beam dismount is a backwards gainer with zero forward momentum. She takes off backwards and continues to flip backwards, so it’s more similar to the side of the beam gainer except just done at the end of the beam. Giulia Steingruber’s dismount, meanwhile, is a gainer with forward momentum into a back flip with a full twist. There are fewer twists, but because of the forward momentum into a back skill, it’s much more difficult.

What is the difference between a sissone and a split jump?

In a sissone, the split must be in an oblique position, with the legs not parallel to the beam or floor (the back leg is angled up and the front leg is angled down), whereas in a split jump, the split and beam or floor are parallel. On beam, you see a lot of split jump to sissone connections, or sissone to split jump, so it’s usually easy to identify when you see them one after another because you can see the split jump totally horizontal with the legs parallel to the beam, and then you see the sissone at about a 90 degree angle between horizontal and vertical.

What does it mean besides not competing when gymnasts take a break? Do they practice or train gymnastics at all?

When gymnasts take breaks, most don’t do gymnastics at all. Anyone in the gym and training is not taking a break even a little, even if they’re not competing at the moment. If they’re in the gym regularly and working skills and routines, they’re just ‘not competing,’ not taking a break. Gymnasts who take breaks still work out and stay healthy, but they’re not in ‘gymnastics shape’ and would need a few months back in their actual gymnastics gyms before they could start legitimately training skills and routines again. Many take time off to let their bodies heal and to do other things…like, Laurie Hernandez right now probably hasn’t stepped foot into a gym since Rio because she’s had other things going on like the tour, DWTS, and now the DWTS tour. If she went back to gymnastics right now, she’d be at a lower level than where she was in Rio, but could probably somewhat easily get back to a similar level after training at a high level again for a few months.

Some gymnasts who are older can go all year long training and competing, but others will sometimes train and compete hard for six months, and then spend the next six months not going into a gymnastics gym and just staying healthy/fit but not doing gym skills so their bodies aren’t beaten up when it’s time to compete again. I believe Alicia Sacramone said she did something like that during her comeback between 2010 and 2011. After worlds in 2010, she was able to take a bunch of time off to just chill and not be in ‘elite mode,’ and then she got back into the gym in the spring and back to competition in the summer, skipping all of the spring training camps and Jesolo and everything because her body couldn’t handle all of that stress of high-level training.

Why are NCAA scores out of a 10? Is it a different code of points from elite?

Yup, it’s a completely different code. Routines have required elements like elite, element ratings are different and some skills that would be considered easier in elite are given higher element values making them more difficult in NCAA. Routines build up to a start value of 10, but some routines from gymnasts who don’t have higher skill levels will be out of a 9.9 or even a 9.7-9.8 at times (an FTY, for example, is out of a 9.95 whereas a Yurchenko 1.5 is out of a 10). Execution deductions are also smaller. You won’t see a full tenth off for a small step, but rather half a tenth, which is why a floor routine with four small landing deductions could realistically still get around a 9.8 E score if everything else is close to perfect.

Who do you think is the more successful offspring of Texas Dreams, Bailie Key or Ragan Smith?

They’re both successful in different ways. You could say Ragan based on the fact that she got an Olympic alternate spot, but because Bailie never got the chance to try due to her injury, you don’t know how she would’ve done this summer. If she looked in 2016 how she did a year earlier, she definitely would have been in the running for an alternate spot if not a team spot. So Ragan has that one big claim to fame, but Bailie as a junior literally never lost anything. In her international career during 2013-2014, she won basically every meet she entered, and regularly competed at such a high level that she matched the top U.S. seniors. Like, had she been eligible and healthy in 2014, she easily would’ve been on that worlds team and probably would have medaled. Her bad timing with injuries in the sport doesn’t mean she wasn’t successful. She was just successful in a different way than Ragan was.

Can you give a brief example of NCAA deductions?

NCAA deductions are more or less the same as elite, but come in smaller increments (a one-tenth step in elite might be a half-tenth in NCAA, for example). Steps on landings, bent knees, piked hips, leg separation, late pirouettes and short handstands on bars, it’s all there and the amount of half-tenths off depends on the severity of the mistake. Falls are half a point instead of a full point. Just cut basically every elite deduction in half and that’s pretty much the deduction you can expect for an error in NCAA.

In NCAA, what does it mean to anchor an event? Which are the most convenient positions for the best gymnasts?

Anchoring an event means the gymnast goes up last in a six-member rotation. Coaches most often decide to save the best for last, so the rotation can end on a strong note and with a big score, as scores tend to build throughout the rotation. However, some coaches will opt to let a weaker gymnast anchor to take advantage of score-building so a 9.7 routine at the start of a rotation could maybe become a 9.8 routine at the end of a rotation. The first gymnast up tends to set the scoring standard, so when gymnasts are ranked, if they start the first gymnast out at a 9.7 and everyone is stronger than her, the scores will build from that mark…but if they put a stronger gymnast up first and she gets a 9.85 and then everyone else gets a 9.875 or 9.9 or higher, the weaker gymnast going up  last might benefit from that and get a 9.8 relative to the other scores, if that makes sense. Some coaches also might opt to put up a weaker gymnast last and the strongest gymnast fifth, hoping that if the first five gymnasts hit, the sixth and weakest gymnast up will have no pressure, and can just focus on getting through her routine without worrying about her score needing to count. So expect the strongest gymnasts in either the fifth or sixth spots, and the weakest in either the first or last spots…though I’ve also seen some weaker gymnasts in the middle of a rotation because it gives them padding on both ends. It all just depends on the coach and his or her strategy.

What’s the difference between a Tkachev and a Jaeger?

A Tkachev doesn’t involve a flip but a Jaeger does. A Tkachev is a counter movement over the high bar where a gymnast swings through either a regular giant, toe-on, clear hip, stalder, or inbar, releases up and backwards over the bar, and regrasps on the other side. A Jaeger is a front flip during which a gymnast swings through a front giant, lets go of the bar when she’s about parallel to the floor, performs a front flip, and then regrasps the bar. Both a Tkachev and a Jaeger can be performed in a straddle, pike, or layout position.

Are the Valeri Liukin Invitation results available somewhere?

MeetScoresOnline has them up. 

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


17 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Isn’t the difference between sisone and split Jump that you land sisone on one leg (your front leg) and split Jump on both legs? If that is not a requirment what are the rules to keep them sepperated? How much angle difference should there be?


    • No, a leap takes off from one foot but a sissone is not a leap. Sissones and split jumps are both jumps. A sissone just has a different air position than a split jump.


      • This is not the gymnastics rules, but in ballet, the strict technique of a sissone pretty much forces it to travel slightly and though it lands on two feet the action of it will often mean the back foot is brushing the ground as the front foot goes through demi point to flat, there is also no requirement for splits and whilst you expect a professional ballet dancer to be hitting splits in appropriate leaps, sissones are often done much smaller. My somewhat uneducated theory is that though there isn’t music on beam, or a story to tell that originally “split” leaps and jumps didn’t hit full split, but leaps and jumps being distinguished as they are today and whilst I don’t recall seeing a sissone in 70s beam routines I’ve not watched that many and I’m forgetful, it would have hit the code at some point with a ballet type definition and then the 180deg split requirement came later and the ballet version would have a higher back leg, so it’s now a very different move with the same name.


        • Just to add, in ballet, there are many types of sissone, but the one done in gymnastics can does get done by men getting close to split, women in pointe shoes struggle to do a jump reaching split even if it’s possible when leaping.


      • I always thought that you needed to land on one foot for sissone haha so I checked the COP and it says Sissone, (leg sep 180 on the diagonal/45 to the floor) take off from both feet, land on one foot. Also, it says jumps need to take off two feet but can land on either one or both feet.


        • I think it’s because you do land on the front leg and close the back leg to the front leg as you land. If you then do another (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this beam series), if you want it credited as a series very little weight is coming off the back leg to rebound correctly, but you’re now really doing a hop not a jump. I’ve no idea what they call a sissone like jump that lands on one leg not brushing the back leg in but holding it in a scale, it’s probably not in the COP and I can’t see a reason for someone to do one, it probably increases chance of a fall without increase in difficulty.


  2. Is Aliya training again already? She posted a picture on her instagram account recently of her stretching at a gymnastics gym in Moscow and I’m not sure if it was a picture from before Rio, if it was for fun or if it was serious.


  3. “So yes, without a two-per-country rule, all five American gymnasts would have made the all-around final, and likely all would have easily finished in the top ten.”

    It seems to me that this is untrue. The “two-per-country” rule has nothing to do with the fact that only 4 scores count for each apparatus in qualifications. At maximum, only FOUR gymnasts would have been able to compete all-around in qualifications (if the fifth gymnast on the team sat out all apparatuses).


  4. I see Simone returning a lot different to Gabby or Nastia and a lot more like Aly. Nastia was too late and time not skill was her problem, she wasn’t in shape, if she had been she could have done her bars routine and might have made the team. Gabby is strange as she was clearly commited winning a sliver in 2015 and could have been ready in 2014 but for gym changes. I don’t have all the answers as to why Aly surpassed her in 2016, but if we look at body types, the biggest similarity is between Simone and Aly. Aly wasn’t quite there in 2015 but by 2016 she was better and only wasn’t able to defend her gold on floor because someone better emerged, but it’s hard to imagine someone better than Simone emerging. She may not have it on all events, perhaps lacking time to train two vaults, or up things on beam, but I think she’ll be very strong AA and on floor if she comes back at the right time and her body hasn’t changed too much in the mean time, also, a lesson from Mihai, months of conditioning, I know Simone has a different personality so it might not work out exactly like that, but it’s still got to be a priority.


  5. Pingback: You Asked, The Gymternet Answered – Natasha Konwitschny

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