You Asked, The Gymternet Answered


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.

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


26 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

      • Roundoff, flic-flac and front handspring are in the CoP and ToE for floor and they are A-skills as Nina says. They are NOT eligible for connection bonus as they are all skills with hand support; please see para 13.4 in current Code. The aerials are in the Code too (A-skills) and they CAN be used for connection bonus.


  1. Ireena Alexeevas situation is so stupid. Super talented Russian who has lived in the US for a good amount of time now is stuck in this years long citizenship transition and unable to internationally compete while two subpar (by elite standards) Americans who have no affiliation to Belarus get to represent Belarus internationally through the weirdest loophole ever.


    • Personally, I don’t think it’s a weird loophole. I’ve seen the exact situation with field hockey, cycling, handball, tennis, beach volleyball, etc. where athletes got expedited citizenship thanks to executive order. America has also expedited citizenship for exceptional athletes in the past. Unfortunately since Alexeeva is a junior with no established senior elite results, I doubt any politician or government official will help her out yet.


      • No the loophole was weird. They used some weird rule that had to do with the nationality of the coach or something? And Nellie Kim let it pass through. The thing about other countries that had done this sort of thing is that those athletes, while never having visited the country they represented, actually have some tie to their country. In Rio for example, there was an athlete from France (or maybe Australia) that had never been to Brazil but was Brazilian on her mothers side, so in order to get representation in a certain sport, they let her compete for them.


        • Yes I know of those examples, but there has been dozen of cases where athletes in other sports switched to countries they had no ties to. For example, Sesil Karatancheva represented the Kazakstani fed cup team in tennis even though she had trained her whole life in Bulgaria. The whole Qatari Olympic team is filled with European players. Alessia Dipol had no ties to Togo but represented that country in the 2014 Olympics. Julia Rumbutis is representing Georgia with no ties and is still training in Sweden. The list goes on and on.


        • Yes but those athletes represented countries that didn’t have a national system in place. They didn’t have any elite athletes in their sport so they decided to import athletes who were actually on the world level. Belarus actually had home grown gymnasts to send to worlds yet went with options that still didn’t get them anywhere. It would have been at least slightly understandable if Kylie and Alaina were on a high level and could pull in top finishes at World Cup events or at Euros in order to pull in funding for the program or garner positive attention within Belarus. Instead, two of their most seniors retired.


        • Nope. Georgia has a gymnastics program and Kazakhstan actually has a well funded national tennis program that produced the likes of Zarina Diyas, a former top 40 player. Qatar has been participating in international handball since the 1980s, so their system was well in place before they turned to Europeans.
          And Kylie and Alaina did get Belarus an Olympic spot, securing funding for the next quad. None of the 2015 Belarussian seniors could score 49 to 50 points. Without the Americans, Belarus wouldn’t have even qualified for the test event and most likely, the artistic gymnastics program would get even less money as it does now.


  2. Why do some countries have 3 alternates and others just one? I can’t really imagine a realistic scenario in which more than 1 athlete would need to be swapped out.


    • Some choose one strong all-arounder but others pick three of various talents so they can sub in where needed. Like, if the U.S. lost Madison Kocian to injury in Rio, they’d bring in Ashton Locklear, but if they lost Aly Raisman, they’d bring in MyKayla Skinner. Other teams without that depth to pick multiple gymnasts with various talents just pick the next-best AAer and have her as the backup for everyone.


  3. Really, I hope Valerie is less alternate-o-phobia than Martha was. It’s great to have built-in alternates, but it’s another to never want to use one or even hope to have a case to use one.


    • I hate that Marta would often not put the last person on the list for any given event in team finals. It would be really really unlucky to have enough people go down to not count a score, but it was close to happening at several events for the US. 2006 worlds, Chelsea got injured on bars, but had to do beam because no one else was listed. FIG might not allow full substitutions once the event as a whole has started, but a gymnast can be pulled mid team finals if injured as long as there is someone listed to take their place on that event. It was really noticeable at 2015 worlds that Brenna wasn’t listed on any event when I think if you actually did have multiple injuries during the event you’d put her on floor before Madison Kocian, possibly even before Gabby. If you look at lists for the British women, Beth Tweddle would always appear last on vault and beam once she wasn’t competing them, in quals this could be important, someone could get injured during the meet and then when they come to vault if someone with a DTY fails to land feet first or otherwise gets a zero, the ten points she could pick up on a simple vault could easily make the different between qualifying to TF and not. They’ve done the same with Becky Downie, she’s always there on the floor and vault lists.

      I’m also not thrilled with how Anna Li was treated in 2011, she was on the floor in a leo, how is that not part of the team. Looking back given her ab injury the 5AAer prelims line up was sensible and given the scores they got and the position they were in not gambling on her for finals was also reasonable. The alternate isn’t usually on the floor (or at least wasn’t then, has that changed with alternate and head coach getting medals), she was using someone’s slot on the floor, she can’t have used Alicia’s ID (I really hope she couldn’t), so maybe she was a coach, but it’s still odd that she marched with the team, went on the podium looking like part of the team, it feels like trickery, to other teams, to her etc.


  4. Why nothing about Megan Roberts when you mention Canadian gymnasts, she came in second at Elite last year and had a strong outing at both the Nationals and Oylmpic trails as well as being the 1st alternate at the Olympics?


    • I didn’t include every single person who could have an impact on Canadian gym this season…just the ones who were on the Olympic team who are planning on coming back and then mentioned Jade because she turns senior this year. There are probably 10 other names I could bring up, including Megan.


  5. I think the reason we don’t see turns a la second is that it would probably be counted as an L turn, so why make an L turn harder. Given how few people seem competant at single L turns on beam, I don’t think we’ll see it there. The current code does not care about fouette’s, you could do 32 beautifully and it has little to no value and whilst artistry, choreography and dance are not all the same thing the quad turns and most triples that we see are rarely well choreographed, done with a sense of go for it and done rather than a highlight of a section of dance – when we did see fouettes it was often much more of a highlight in the centre of the floor on the music, fitting with the style of the music and often from a gymnast who was considered artistic. Jordyn Wieber’s triple turn is a good example of one that fitted in choreographically was in the middle of the routine when so many quads are done at the very beginning.

    There are things I could see looking good on beam, but that I’d also find scary, if you look a Sanne Wevers beam construction it’s quite clever in that being off balance on one turn doesn’t put her in a position of going into another turn off balance and risking a major ankle injury.

    The code doesn’t reward intricate choreo when you aren’t connecting two things of sufficient difficulty, but I don’t think it would help if it could because every time you try and write something down in the code you remove creativity, I’d love to see a bonus for gymnasts who smoothly connect elements in the code into a dance passage.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If the USA can swap in someone for the individual spot in 2020 why would they need to have the idividual be a strong all-arounder? Why couldn’t the individuals be event specialists and then sub in a true alternate for the team spot? I don’t see the value in putting an all arounder in the individual spot over some with two events with a better chance of a medal


  7. To be honest I don’t see Aliya coming back after her pregnancy. It seems like something she’d want to do but her husband competes in elite bobsleigh so he spends a good chunk of the year traveling abroad for training and competition. Maybe Aliya or Alexei’s parent could step in and help with the baby so Aliya could try for Tokyo? I guess we’ll see in two years.


  8. I worry a bit about your hope that the current sex abuse scandal will lead to “measures being taken to ensure that female athletes are not left alone with adult males.” I think it’s worth keeping in mind, as we think about solutions, that that even though we’re hearing about male predators and female victims right *now*, that’s probably not the only kind of abuse taking place in gymnastics. Male coaches also sexually abuse their male students (as we saw in the boy scouts and the catholic church, to name just two institutions). Women sexually abuse their female students (and male students) – it’s rarer, but it does happen. And women often collude with, or cover up, the crimes of their male friends/ coworkers/ husbands etc.


    • Yes, I know it’s not the only type of abuse taking place (in gymnastics or in general), but right now that’s where the heat is. Every case at the moment in gymnastics is related to an adult male being able to manipulate a young female victim when left alone with her, and in the history of abuse in the sport, it’s been this way 95% of the time. While not ALL abuse is adult male on female child, for a quick fix solution, no gym right now should be letting adult males alone in rooms with young females. That alone won’t stop child abuse in general, but had an adult third party been in the room with Larry Nassar, the abuse in MOST cases wouldn’t have taken place (he was so manipulative that in some cases, parents and other coaches knew what he was doing and thought it was a normal procedure which is horrifying, but in many other cases people had no idea what was going on behind closed doors and I know for a fact some coaches present in those situations would have NOT put up with what he was doing for even a hot second, and they’re sickened to know these things were happening nearby). Simple as that. It’s a short-term solution for a long-term problem, and until something more long-term can be figured out, this is something that can prevent many instances of abuse. You might still die in a car accident even if you buckle your seat belt, but you have a much better chance of survival than if you’re not buckled up at all, so until everyone on the road is a perfect driver, it’s the best possible solution. Long-term fixes take time and we’re probably never going to live in a perfect world where child molesters can’t manipulate themselves into gyms and churches and schools. This is a short-term fix that many coaches are using because it works until we can figure out something more sustainable.


  9. don’t gymnasts from russia and china recieve some sort of salary or compensation for making the national team, couldn’t that disqualify them from NCAA competition, and if I’m wrong about that the gymnasts would have no reason to not accept prize money from competitions.


    • I’m not sure how that would work with NCAA, because the U.S. girls on the national team also get paid (about a $2000/month stipend) and that money is not considered breaking eligibility. I believe all of the Chinese and Russian gymnasts do accept prize money, though.


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