It’s time for the 136th 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.
You mentioned that in 2020, you think Olympic individual spots for the U.S. team will likely go to the next best all-arounders who would essentially be alternates. If an injury occurs, how would that work out, if one of the individuals suddenly has to join the team? Would the U.S. then be able to swap in a reserve to take an individual spot? Would the swaps occur only prior to qualifications? What’s to stop the federation from faking an injury to bring in an individual for the team final?
The non-team athletes can be used as alternates for the team, and then they can swap in a reserve for one of the individual spots. Yes, any alternate swaps can only happen prior to qualifications for whatever reason, so no federation will be able to ‘fake an injury’ to swap in an athlete between qualifications and team finals.
What determines what competitions U.S. elites compete in? Why don’t they compete in smaller-scale international meets?
There is a competition budget for travel and everything, and so the women’s program has to decide which competitions they want to send gymnasts to. They do generally send gymnasts to smaller-scale international meets, like the world cups, Jesolo, friendly meets around Jesolo if they get invited to any that work out timing-wise, Pac Rims, Pan Ams, the Mexican Open some years, etc. People for some reason are under the impression that the U.S. gymnasts don’t compete often but they actually compete a good amount aside from worlds. It’s easier for European federations to send gymnasts to tons of friendly meets and world cups because everything’s right there, but it’s a huge trip to take the U.S. girls out of school and send them to apparatus world cups every other week.
Now that Aliya Mustafina is married, do you think she will return to gymnastics?
She said she wants to return in 2019 but we’ll see what happens, especially now that we know she’s pregnant. A lot can change in the next two years. I think she’ll make something happen because she’s Aliya and also seems to really love competing even though she does go through periods where she gets frustrated with it, but again, who knows?
How can one see who the Olympic team alternates are for other countries? Who did Great Britain select as an alternate this year?
They’re not always publicized. I know when Great Britain made their announcement, the alternates weren’t listed in the article and photos but they were mentioned maybe on twitter or somewhere else on social media. I kept a master list of all teams so I could track this year’s alternates, and they are as follows…
- Belgium: Cindy Vandenhole and Julie Meyers
- Brazil: Carolyne Pedro
- Canada: Madison Copiak and Megan Roberts
- China: Liu Jinru
- France: Anne Kuhm
- Germany: Leah Griesser, Michelle Timm, and Pauline Tratz
- Great Britain: Gabby Jupp, Rebecca Tunney, and Kelly Simm
- Italy: Lara Mori
- Japan: Marina Kawasaki and Natsumi Sasada
- Netherlands: Reina Beltman and Tisha Volleman
- Russia: Evgeniya Shelgunova, Lilia Akhaimova, and Natalia Kapitonova
- United States: Ashton Locklear, MyKayla Skinner, and Ragan Smith
How do you think the horrible revelations about gymnastics coaches and doctors abusing young gymnasts will affect this sport?
If anything, it will make coaches even more vigilant than they already have been, and will hopefully lead to measures being taken to ensure that female athletes are not left alone with adult males. Several current elite coaches have already said they had no idea this was happening behind closed doors, and that they feel sick for not knowing. Even those who assumed they were doing everything to keep it from happening in their own gyms and on the national team had no idea that this was an issue. Now that we know how easy it is for people to fool others, I’m sure coaches will be even more vigilant, but overall it won’t affect the sport itself. Kids are still going to do gymnastics. Abusers exist everywhere, from schools to churches to every sport and activity under the sun, so there’s nothing inherent to gymnastics that will make people weary of sending their kids to gyms.
Do you know if anyone has tried fouettes or a la secondes on floor or beam?
I haven’t seen it on beam, but a few gymnasts have done fouettes on floor in recent years, including Denver’s Julia Ross and SCSU’s Kate Aberger, and the young Scarlett Williams, who competes for Great Britain. I also noticed some piqué turns in Brenna Dowell’s routine tonight, which made me happy!
I was struck at how different Kim Gwang Suk’s bar routine from 1991 worlds is from today’s routines. What difficulty would that routine have in the current code? Also, what happened to her?
It’s funny because some of her skills aren’t even in the code of points anymore and some transitions would be super easy A or B skills if they were…so half is so easy from today’s standards and the other half is super difficult and no one would even attempt some of her combos today! In the newest code of points, she’d have about a 5.4, and under last quad’s code of points, because she only had a C dismount, it would’ve been about a 5.7, but if she bumped up the dismount to a D+, she would’ve been around a 6.0 start value.
Why doesn’t Marta Pihan-Kulesza do back handsprings?
Some gymnasts prefer to back tumble straight from the roundoff into the skill, for personal reasons. Could be that their back handspring form gets hammered with deductions which is pointless if it’s not a necessary skill, could be that they have wrist pain and are trying to limit hand contact with the ground, could be that they take up too much room in their run and the back handspring before the big skill could take them out-of-bounds.
Has there ever been a Russian elite or former national team member in NCAA?
Nope! Not sure why, aside from maybe the language barrier. It’d be cool to get some of them over here, though.
Why are there no ties allowed for gymnastics at the Olympics? Other sports allow them, and they are permitted in other competitions like worlds.
They technically allow ties now for individual events if the D and E scores are exactly the same in event finals, which is a change from 2008 when they had crazy in-depth tie-breaker rules that involved dropping lowest individual judge score which is insane so thankfully that rule is gone. All-arounders and teams can’t really tie, but at least two routines in an event final with the same D and E scores can both get the gold medal. I don’t know the reasoning behind being so strict with this, but probably just because remember last year at worlds how annoyed everyone got with seeing four gymnasts win the gold medal on bars? People like seeing a difference between routines, and so I think if there were ties, it wouldn’t make things as exciting because it’s like, come on. There had to be SOME difference between two strong routines that made one stand out a little more than the other.
Who are the new seniors for the coming year?
We have a post with every gymnast turning senior in 2017.
What do you think of Irina Alexeeva’s chances of making major international teams for the U.S.? Could she represent Russia while living in the U.S.?
She could represent Russia technically but having not trained through their system, it’s not likely that this would happen. She could make some international teams for the U.S. based on her ability, but she won’t be allowed to be on the national team and make international teams until she gets her citizenship. Right now she only has a green card, so she doesn’t fit the citizenship standards to be on the U.S. national team and to represent the country at international meets. With that much talent, you’d think someone would be making her citizenship a requirement just in case she ends up being someone the team really needs in 2020. It would be a shame to see her left behind due to a technicality.
What is the transition from the low to high bar that Madison Kocian uses? She goes over the low bar with a half turn? Why is that so common? I’ve only really seen Ruby Harrold do a really awesome transition from low to high.
You mean the van Leeuwen probably? It’s a toe-on shaposh half and it was a pretty common skill last quad because it has an E difficulty, which is the highest difficulty possible in a bars transition. There are other E transitions from low to high, but the van Leeuwen is the easiest for most people, which is why it’s more common than other E low to high transitions like the Komova, the Komova II, the Chow half, or the Seitz. The Ruby Harrold transition you’re thinking of was her Zuchold, which was a high to low skill, not low to high.
Can you explain the artistic deductions on beam and floor?
They’re pretty vague but basically the E panel can take off a few tenths if routines are lacking in performance value. They can take a tenth off for things like lack of confidence, creativity, personal style, rhythm, and fluency, which are all pretty subjective, but in my opinion it’s pretty clear who looks awkward in a performance compared to someone who performs really well. Specific to beam, gymnasts can get a tenth off for not using the whole length of the beam and not doing low beam choreo, and then there are more concrete tenths that come off for things like excessive arm swings before dance elements, pauses, and other things like that.
You recently talked about German girls doing NCAA…can you say who?
For bigger names, right now Antonia Alicke is competing with UIC and Pauline Tratz committed to UCLA for next season. Alaska also has a German gymnast named Louisa Marie Knapp, who was a promising junior but didn’t really end up having the senior career people expected she would.
What are your thoughts on the Canadian national team this year and who if any should have a breakout year?
I’m really hoping for big things from Jade Chrobok, who will be a new senior this year and who was fantastic as a junior. She struggled in 2016 because of injuries, but hopefully now that she’s been on the mend for a little while, she’ll be able to upgrade a little more and gain some consistency. She’s very talented and has had some great results internationally when she’s been healthy. I hope Rose-Kaying Woo continues beyond her Olympic journey this summer…she’s another one who dealt with injuries and could’ve been even better than she was last year. Shallon Olsen is planning on continuing and could do big things internationally, especially on vault, and I’m hoping we get more from Isabela Onyshko and Ellie Black. I love both of them and think they’ll continue to lead the team going into Tokyo assuming they both stay on. I know Ellie is coming back for Elite Canada and hasn’t said anything about retiring, but I’ve heard Isabela has looked into NCAA and would like to do collegiate gymnastics within the next couple of years, so we’ll see how that works out, and if she could pull off something like Brittany Rogers did this year with doing both at the same time or taking a year off like Kristina Vaculik did in 2012.
Do you think China was underscored in Rio?
Yes, I do…and after seeing Bruno Grandi’s comments about China and not liking their style of gymnastics or whatever it was that he said, I’m not surprised that they were kind of hammered. Mistakes that other teams made got completely ignored whereas China got every possible deduction under the sun. It was a vastly and noticeably different standard of judging in almost every facet of the competition, but especially in qualifications, with the whole first subdivision thing hurting them from the start.
Will Larisa Iordache continue competing in the next quad?
She plans on it. Again, whether or not that happens, I have no way of knowing. I have no access to a crystal ball at the moment!
What is the value of an Onodi on floor?
There isn’t really any such thing as an Onodi on floor…if gymnasts do it, it’s usually a basic acro skill as part of their choreo but it wouldn’t count into a D score and isn’t an element listed in the code of points. Things like a side aerial or front aerial that you see in the choreography of a routine don’t have skill ratings and don’t count as a routine’s acro, so an Onodi would be similar unless you could somehow figure out how to work it into an acro line in which case I’d guess it would be like an A?
Do you think Valeri Liukin will make changes to the U.S. system? His coaching style seems different from Martha’s.
Nope. He has already said that aside from how he personally coaches, nothing will really change. Even though he’s in charge, there’s a whole team of people also responsible within the women’s program, and any decision he’d want to make in terms of large-scale change would have to go through boards and committees and other people besides him. Obviously, his justification for adding people to teams will be different than Martha’s, and who knows, he may have gone an entirely different way this summer with his team decision. But the actual system won’t change.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins