It’s time for the 135th 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 Sabrina Vega the oldest NCAA freshman?
I believe so. She’s 21 and will turn 22 this May…I don’t know of any other freshmen who are older. Sometimes you will get former elites who try to make it through Olympic cycles and put school off until after they’re over, so in the post-Olympic season, you’ll get a few older freshmen than usual, like Bridget Sloan when she put off Florida to try for 2012, and Kyla Ross and MyKayla Skinner are also a couple years older than a typical freshman because of deferring for the Olympic cycle…they both turned 20 late in 2016.
Does a beam mount count as acro? For example, if someone had a D rated mount onto the beam, could they count it as one of the three required acro elements?
No. For a skill to count as acro, it must be listed in the code of points as an acro element. Even if someone mounts beam with a full-twisting back handspring, there are two different full-twisting back handsprings in the code — the mount version, and the acro version. A gymnast can get a difficult acro mount credited into her D score, but she would have to compete three acro skills from the acro section of the code in order to get credit for doing three acro skills. And yes, this means a gymnast can do a full-twisting back handspring mount, get the credit for it, and then do a full-twisting back handspring acro skill later on and get the credit for that as well, since they’re not technically the same skill.
With the D requirement now gone, don’t you think it’ll be very boring to watch gymnast end their routines with double twists on beam and floor and double tucks on bars?
Getting rid of the D requirement will have almost zero effect on the gymnasts who are currently doing D+ dismounts. Dismounts must still count into a gymnast’s total D score, and so a gymnast who has all D and E or higher level skills in her routine would not want to work hard to count all of those difficult skills just to dismount with a C and be forced to have that C cancel out one of her D or E acro or dance skills on the beam. Getting rid of the D requirement will not make gymnasts downgrade their already high-level dismounts. It will only open up the door for the lower-level gymnasts who ALREADY competed C dismounts to now no longer have to get penalized for doing so by losing two tenths from their CR. While the highest-level gymnasts you usually see on broadcasts have D+ dismounts, a good number of lower-level gymnasts have already been competing double twists on beam and floor and double pikes or tucks on bars. Now they get to do their lower-valued skills without also getting the penalty, which was kind of ridiculous. Why penalize gymnasts who already aren’t getting high scores because their skill level is lower?!
Is Alex McMurtry injured? Is that why she’s not competing floor?
Alex typically holds off on some routines because of her back problems. She’s had back problems her entire NCAA career, and doesn’t like to rush out and do floor right away sometimes because it’ll help save her for the latter half of the season when her team needs her scores. That’s why she’s only doing the full instead of her double on vault at the moment, as well. I’d say by the fourth or fifth week we’ll see her start to bring a little bit more to the table.
I saw Simone Biles say that she’d love to try a triple layout but her coach never let her. Is this even possible?
She probably could’ve thrown one into the pit or something…like, if it was possible to do two-and-a-half flips landing on your hands or something, she could probably do that. A triple layout is a bit much, but I could totally see her tossing one into the pit just to be a daredevil. I mean, she’s the girl who went for a standing double back when she was like 14 or 15 and actually almost stood it up. If anyone can throw a triple layout, even if it’s with the help of a trampoline going into the pit, it’s Simone.
I often hear about gymnasts switching schools or turning pro and not honoring their verbal commitment. How often does a school not honor the verbal? I recently heard a school denied a verbal due to injury but offered a walk-on spot instead.
Verbals are basically ways for coaches and gymnasts to say “this is really really really where I want to be” but neither has to honor it. Once athletes sign their letters of intent, it becomes more of an agreement, but when things are still in the verbal stage — which is often made when gymnasts are 13 or 14 years old, way before they might actually know what they want to do with their careers — anything can happen and both the coaches and gymnasts know that. A coach who offers a spot to a 14-year-old gymnast who wins one of the junior levels at J.O. nationals might take that offer back if at 16, the same gymnast regresses in her skills and never makes nationals again, or if she breaks her back and her prognosis looks good but it’ll take her a year to recover and she might not be anywhere close to her old level. That’s why early verbal commitments are so stupid, in my opinion. I mean, granted, they usually end up working out, but there are always those unfortunate few who assume they’re going to a certain school and then get off-track and don’t end up making it work out, which really sucks. And then on the other end, a gymnast who commits at 14 to one school may realize later on that she wants to be in a different city or with a friend who went elsewhere or who no longer wants to go there because the coaching situation changed or has the opportunity to go pro or something, and then the coach is running around trying to recruit someone else for that spot. Basically, no one should be allowed to verbal until the year before they’re set to sign the NLI.
Why are there no team finals at worlds next year? Is this an ongoing thing?
Yeah, in the past few quads, worlds in the post-Olympic year has focused on just the individual events rather than having a big team event because most countries are back in a rebuilding stage after so many gymnasts who were at the top in the previous quad have decided to retire or take breaks. Most countries have to wait a couple of years for young gymnasts to turn senior so they can replenish their depth, and while they may have one or two gymnasts to vie for an individual medal, they have nowhere near the strength that will make them as competitive as a team. It’s a way to kind of give everyone a break, but to still reward those who want to show up and fight for all-around and event titles.
Why do so many NCAA gymnasts have a spot during their bail? Is this a high risk skill for injuries?
I think it’s like, a sense of security kind of thing? It’s not necessarily a high risk skill, but directionally, it can be a tricky skill to master and having a coach there to spot can help with that. I’ve seen falls and blunders on bails but no real injuries on them…I think I’ve actually seen more injuries on paks, but paks are easier to self-spot whereas bails are a little more difficult to spot without maybe seeing someone to guide you in, like an air traffic controller in a way.
Do you know what happened to Nastia Liukin’s Shine Agency?
I know she originally said she wanted to be an agent and that led to trouble when Sheryl Shade found out, because she was still under contract and that would’ve led to a conflict of interest. So then Nastia went back and said she doesn’t want to be an agent, and that the Shine Agency was taking a different track to be more of like a lifestyle and entertainment venture, with her gym tour and her book coming out of that..and now she has that new thing with Shawn Johnson that’s also more about, like, getting hired to give motivational sessions and advice to teens or whatever they’re doing, I can’t keep track. Honestly, her agency only really represented a couple of the ‘Instafamous’ six-year-olds from what I remember so I can’t imagine that this was really viable as a business? I think she wanted to make it more into a legit sports agency repping high-level athletes, but either that didn’t take off or she had conflicts with her own personal representation that made this impossible. She went to school for sports business so it’d be cool to see her become some sort of high-powered agent, but I think if she wants to attract the big clients, she’d need to get her start working in an actual agency and then eventually branching off on her own. Though she’s been in the industry at a professional level for over a decade, her experience hasn’t been on the business side of things outside of her own brand so it would be difficult for her to attract high-level clients who aren’t, well, HER. But she seems to have a crazy entrepreneurial mind, which is awesome and she’s obviously had lots of personal success with her own things going on.
What is a pak and a pak salto on bars? What is an Onodi and a Jaeger?
I love how random this question is. A pak and a pak salto are the same skill…facing the low bar, a gymnast swings in that direction and does a back salto in a layout position before catching the low bar. It can also be performed with a full twist, known as a Bhardwaj. A Jaeger is a front flip during which a gymnast swings down in a front giant, lets go of the bar, performs a front flip (generally in a straddle, pike, or layout position), and then regrasps the bar. An Onodi is back handspring with a half twist performed on beam.
Is there a visual encyclopedia of sorts to learn common gymnastics skills? What do you suggest is the best way to learn?
The one I like the best is the list of skills on the gymnastics wikia. They have gifs with every skill for each event broken down by skill category (mount, dismount, beam acro, bars releases, etc.) so you can see the names with a visual representation. I actually was going to make my own visual encyclopedia this summer but while searching for skill videos and gifs, I found that, and now I use it pretty regularly when looking up skill values!
If a skill is named for a female gymnast but then performed by a male (or vice versa) is it still called the same thing? If a male competed the Biles on floor would it still be called the Biles or could he get it named?
It depends on the skill…officially in the code of points, yes, there is usually a MAG name and a WAG name. But colloquially, sometimes MAG names stick for WAG, especially for the older skills like the Tkachev…not so much the other way around, though. I can’t think of any MAG skill called by the WAG name except for the Yurchenko vault entry…that’s the only thing I can think of where the guys use a WAG gymnast’s name for a skill. But like, the Yurchenko 2.5 has both names, for example, as it’s named after Kyle Shewfelt for MAG and Simona Amanar for WAG, and as more female gymnasts continue to compete more difficult skills that were first performed by men, they’re getting them named for themselves.
Why do most NCAA teams work out in tank tops and shorts instead of leos?
Most gymnasts want to work out in whatever they’re most comfortable in. Many elite and J.O. clubs require leos with no shorts, but at the NCAA level there’s a little more freedom and they can choose to wear shorts and a sports bra or a tank top or they can keep wearing tank leos if they want.
How do you think Elizabeth Price at her peak would have factored into the 2016 team selection? Could she have challenged for a spot with her all-around score, Amanar, 6.5+ bars, and usable beam/floor?
I think because her strengths were vault and floor, she very well could’ve challenged Gabby Douglas for that fifth spot. Assuming she was at her 2014 strengths, her biggest advantage over Gabby would’ve been the Amanar. They both would’ve been at similar levels, but the Amanar would’ve meant the team could have three Amanars in team finals, though I’d wonder if Martha Karolyi would still go with whoever was the stronger bar worker of the two. Could’ve gone either way but it definitely could’ve come down to those two.
If the worlds team format goes from six to five, do you think the weaker countries will be able to collect the depth to bring the team final back in the post-Olympic year? What are your thoughts on no team finals in the post-Olympic year?
I don’t think so…I think they like having one individual-only year because even the deeper countries don’t have to scramble to put together teams before any sort of Olympic qualification is involved. The U.S. tends to go straight through at full speed ahead no matter the year, but other countries really do take the time to rebuild and even with smaller teams, they don’t want to use that time to worry about teams and strategies. Like, pretty much all of Russia’s top seniors are taking time off for a couple of years, so it makes more sense to just let their newer seniors try for individual medals rather than for them to have the added pressure of a team event.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins