You Asked, The Gymternet Answered


It’s time for the 137th 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.

What’s with Aly Raisman and Gym Australia?

Aly Raisman is the ambassador for the Melbourne World Cup next month, meaning she’ll travel to the competition and do press to help get people involved and things like that. She’s not competing, so it’s more of an appearance thing and I’d imagine she’ll sign autographs or do a meet and greet or something. I’ve heard Sanne Wevers is also planning on stopping by for something similar.

At the Olympics, a couple of gymnasts changed their routines between qualifications and finals. Did anyone aside from Oksana Chusovitina and Sanne Wevers do this?

Not that I can think of…I mean, there were probably a few tiny things that were different in a few routines but nothing major that would’ve added huge difficulty to any routine.

Who started the trend for Chinese women wearing white ankle socks on floor and why do they do it? I’m guessing it makes the turning skills easier but it’s such a hideous look! I wish the FIG would pass a rule saying that anything on the body extremities must be flesh tone.

I can’t remember when it started but yeah, there are others who use white shoes on floor and it just doesn’t look as aesthetically pleasing in a sport where literally every decision made is to enhance aesthetics. The Chinese socks are interesting too because you’d think it would be super slippery? It helps with turns but like, there’s no grip to them or anything which I imagine must make tumbling more difficult? I like the flesh-tone strappy toe things that Aly Raisman wears just on her turning foot. You can barely see it at all and so it doesn’t distract you from what she’s doing.

What is the highest score a junior has ever gotten on the uneven bars?

It’s hard to say because the code of points changes every year, so I’m sure there have been juniors who have gotten a perfect 10 in the past under the old system, and even in the past few codes since it changed in 2006, bars scores were way different under the 2005-2008 code than they were in the past two quads, and they’re going to go down a bit in the coming quad as well. Many juniors have scored at the senior level, though. In this past quad, some of the Chinese and Russian juniors got 15+ scores, which would’ve made them on par with some of the top senior competitors.

Do I have to buy the all-session tickets to U.S. Championships or are there single session tickets? I only want to go to watch WAG, so I don’t need the tickets that include MAG.

There are single session tickets but they generally don’t go on sale until a month or two before the event. Basically the all-session ticket buyers get priority, and then USA Gym begins selling whatever’s left over to single-session buyers.

Do you know how Anna Glenn is doing at UCLA?

Unfortunately, both Anna and her twin sister Grace have torn labrums and will not be able to compete this season. #twinjuries We’re looking forward to seeing them next year, though! They’ll add tons of depth to the Bruins.

At worlds in 2013, Aliya Mustafina submitted a skill on uneven bars and did it in the all-around final but never got it named for her. Do you know what happened there?

Yeah, both Aliya and Yao Jinnan of China submitted the stalder shaposh half on bars, but because they both submitted it and both competed it successfully, it can’t be named for either of them. Fans referred to it as the Yaostafina for a little while, but I think most people just continue to call it the Chow half, since the stalder shaposh without the half twist is called the Chow after U.S. gymnast Amy Chow.

Edit: Sorry, this was 2012! I was thinking about the Yaostafina but the skill you meant from 2013 was the toe-on shaposh full. Basically, this skill was already in the code of points after Elisabeth Seitz got it named for her a couple of years earlier. Because the only change Aliya made to the skill was a grip change when catching on the high bar, it wasn’t eligible as a new skill. Had she changed the entry and done an inbar or stalder or clear hip shaposh full, she could’ve gotten it named, but a different grip doesn’t count as a new skill.

What happened to Jana Bieger?

She competed at U.S. Championships in 2009 and made the national team after placing sixth all-around (she had a bad first competition day but was in the top three or four on the second day). Martha Karolyi invited her to the world selection camp, and she ended up getting an alternate spot as well as a consolation prize international spot at a world cup in Croatia, but she opted not to compete there and retired instead. Since then, she’s done a couple of professional gymnastics championship meets (like the famous “IT WAS A DELTCHEV!!” meet), and now she’s working as a coach and I believe she also competes as a CrossFit athlete.

How is a pak salto supposed to be performed? I see it sometimes as arched and sometimes straight. Are these stylistic choices?

The little drawings in the code have it more arched but I think doing it straighter is an acceptable stylistic choice…I’ve never heard of anyone getting deducted or not credited for doing a straight pak. It says ‘salto backward stretched’ in the code but because of the distance between the bars, not everyone can hold a full layout position? Which is why I think you only generally see the shorter gymnasts who don’t arch at all. The one requirement is the angle at which it must be caught…if it’s between 30-45 degrees shy of handstand, it gets a tenth off, and if it’s greater than 45 degrees shy of handstand, it gets three tenths off, meaning it has to be caught in a handstand position between 0 and 29 degrees. The gymnasts who do it with a straight body could conceivably catch in a true handstand, but I think the majority we see are somewhere around 20-25 degrees.

If two gymnasts successfully perform the same new skill at worlds or the Olympics, how do they name the skill?

They don’t name it. That happened a couple of times this quad, most notably with the Chow half and the inbar piked Tkachev on bars. In 2013, both Aliya Mustafina and Yao Jinnan successfully performed the stalder shaposh half and in 2015, both Kelly Simm and Sophie Scheder successfully performed the inbar piked Tkachev. Both skills are in the code of points, but they remain unnamed because they were added to the code by two gymnasts. For fun, we call the former the Yaostafina and the latter the Schimm, but officially the skills exist as unnamed elements.

What do student volunteer coaches and managers actually do for NCAA teams? Is it worthy of a full-ride post-secondary scholarship?

Volunteer coaches and managers don’t get scholarships. Usually volunteer coaches are those who were part of the program at the undergrad level who stay at the school for grad school and remain involved with the team through coaching, while managers can be basically any student who wants to help out (I know people who have emailed people in athletic departments asking to be managers). Jordyn Wieber isn’t at UCLA on a scholarship for being a team manager; she’s paying to be at UCLA and was a manager and now a volunteer coach because she wanted to do it and it made her feel like part of a team. Team managers generally do a lot of mat-moving and bag-carrying and other tasks that help out the team during practice and competitions, whereas volunteer coaches help coach the team (they’re kind of apprentices to the actual coaches and get to learn the ropes and stuff, giving them invaluable experience should they want to be NCAA coaches in the future).

Catalina Ponor has said she’s going to Tokyo but she isn’t an all-arounder and never really was. Now Romania might put her on the team anyway and roll the dice on bars. But if they had four strong all-arounders, where would that leave her? Could she qualify for two events without having to do the all-around?

Well, she can’t really decide that she’s going to Tokyo…she wants to go to Tokyo but obviously a lot more goes into it than wanting to go. To follow that up, some teams without a ton of all-around depth WILL bring a specialist to round out the team. Using this year’s gymnasts as an example, Romania with three all-arounders and Catalina Ponor would be a much stronger team than Romania with four all-arounders. It would suck to go three-up three-count on bars in qualifications, but maybe Catalina is planning on bringing bars back? She went at it this year, so you never know what she’s hoping to do in the future. But even so, if they had to go three-up three-count on bars so Catalina could do vault, beam, and floor for the team, it would definitely be worth it for her huge scores on those events compared to someone with a mediocre all-around set. Bars could be a disaster either way. They might as well take Catalina and at least get her big scores even if it means losing a bars routine in qualifications. But if they do decide to go the four all-arounder route, yes, Catalina could qualify on both beam and floor through medaling at worlds or winning the titles at a world cup. If she wins a beam bronze at worlds and then wins the world cup floor title, for example, she could go to the Olympics for those two events.

In smaller countries and programs it seems that some gymnasts either have really good technique and lower difficulty skills or bigger skills with questionable technique. How do programs develop gymnasts with an equal ability on both?

Basically just be a part of one of the biggest programs in the world with insane depth and the most access to resources and top level coaches. Smaller programs without these resources or without deep pools of talent will mostly just train lower difficulty routines with the goal of competing them as well as possible so they can get their best possible E scores. But because they lack the difficulty, it doesn’t make them very competitive in a deep international field, so other programs will say let’s just chuck as much difficulty as possible even though it might be beyond our skill level because maybe we’ll get lucky and hit it well and then the combo of D and E scores could help them get ahead. You don’t see that so much, actually, just from a few…mostly you just get smaller programs with lower difficulty routines and then as the athletes continue to grow, they’ll hope to keep adding to that difficulty which can create more of a D and E balance like bigger programs have. They’re doing what they can with more limited resources, but without that access, it doesn’t matter if they follow the U.S. or Russian training systems exactly.

Why did they stop requiring gymnasts to do two vaults? Do you think they should bring that back? If they do, should the scores be averaged or added?

I think it was in the 2000 quad? I liked that athletes got to do two vaults because it’s such a quick event, it kinda sucks that it’s one-and-done…I wouldn’t mind if they brought it back and averaged the two attempts because then it’s like, there wouldn’t be anything like a fluke and your score becomes more a testament to your actual vaulting skill than just like “wow I had a really shockingly good or bad day” as vault tends to sometimes go. Since vault execution is so high in general compared to other events, averaging between two performances could also help bring the scores down a little bit, unless you’re someone like Simone Biles who could do two incredible Amanars back to back. But someone like Aly Raisman who only tends to have one good Amanar in her at any given competition would struggle a bit more. I don’t know. I like the idea of averaging better than the idea of taking the higher of the two because in that format, someone could fall and get to make up for that which is not something gymnasts can do on other events, making it a bit unfair.

Can you explain why Kyla Ross only got a 9.7 on beam at UCLA? She must have missed some requirement because she seemed pretty clean by NCAA standards, no?

Correct…I believe the code of points now requires a dance series that includes a C element. My guess is that she maybe meant to link her switch ring to something? Sonya Meraz also missed a C dance series when she botched the connection on her first leap. That one was more obvious because you could see her do the switch leap like she was going to connect it, but then she paused and went on to do her backup series, the beat jump to straddle jump, so she wouldn’t lose the dance series…but because the code now requires a C dance element series, she missed that one and also got a lower start value like Kyla did.

Any updates on Viktoria Komova’s injuries or if she’s planning on coming back?

From what I last heard, Vika really wants to come back and is planning on it, working on it, training for it…but whether she’ll be healthy enough to make it happen or not is another story. I hope she comes back in the early half of the quad rather than the latter because it’ll give her time to do it under less pressure than a comeback in the year before the Olympics…she can kind of get her bearings and play around for a couple of years, and then really start to push for Tokyo with upgrades and things in 2019 or so. But we’ll see…if she’s afraid of getting injured even more than she has been, she might want to hold off and return as late as possible so she won’t get injured on the road there. Anyway, I hope it happens!

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. Lauren, the Yaostafina happened in 2012, when both performed the Chow 1/2 at the Olympics. Yao as her second low to high transfer and Mustafina in her pak Salto combination.

    The 2013 Mustafina element that was not named after her was a toe on shaposh with full turn to mixed grip on the high bar. Apparently, the technical comittee decided that the mixed grip was not enough to differentiate that element from the Seitz (toe on shaposh with full turn to normal grip on high bar), which was already in the code since 2011, I think.


    • Oh, that’s right…I forgot she submitted that. Yeah, the Seitz skill and the 2013 Mustafina skill were the same thing grip aside, and the FIG doesn’t differentiate between grips for naming transitions/releases.


  2. A couple of thoughts about volunteer coaches and managers…Depending on the school and program funding, some managers do get scholarships. At my university, the volleyball manager got half tuition while the basketball manager weirdly enough was basically free labor. It might be just gymnastics but in other sports, usually volunteer coaches are post grads and are like another assistant coach. They can’t be paid directly as there’s a limit to the number of assistant coaches, but volunteer coaches often run the summer camps where there’s a lot of money involved.


  3. Weren’t the vault rules at the 2000 Olympics, like, hella confusing? Something like, two vaults in prelims (could be the same), two vaults in team/AA finals (could be the same family, but not the same exact vault), and two for event finals (had to be different families)? I’m not sad that was changed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, before the 2000 quad, gymnasts could do the same two vaults in team and all-around. Sometimes, the gymnast would use the first as a ‘warm up’ and then throw a more difficult vault second. It used to be that the best of the two scores was counted; then the two vaults were averaged for the 1996 quad. For 2000, gymnasts had to do two different vaults (even in prelims). This was the case for the 2001 Worlds as well, which was the last Worlds under ‘older’ rules (36 athletes and 3 per country in the AA, for example). But at the conclusion of 2004, gymnasts only did one vault.

      I think it is interesting to see this progression. Previously, female gymnasts were allowed two attempts on their compulsory vault, too! Then that was brought down to one try. Also, gymnasts did not have to perform two vaults from different families in event finals; any two vaults would do. The system was certainly refined over the decades!


      • In Shannon Miller’s book she mentions that her vault was often good enough to make finals but she didn’t have a good enough 2nd vault to be useful there. She seemed to think it was silly as she’d make it over good vaulters.


  4. I think all gymnasts should be required to do two vaults of different families. I think it makes no sense that you can decide whether or not to bother trying for vault finals – it’s like oh, you only have to do a beam dismount if you want to make finals? It’s bizarre.


  5. Hey Lauren, great post as always. If you take a look at the 13 skills submitted at Worlds 2013, Mustafina never submitted the Seitz equivalence for evaluation. She did, however, submit the triple Y turn on floor (that eventually got named after her a year later).

    Everyone seems to think she submitted the UB skill since the NBC commentators misspoke… Should have hired you to fact-check for Worlds 😛


  6. I have also heard that the Chinese gymnasts wear socks to reduce the “hardness” of the floor, so their ankles hurt less while landing… I think chinesegymnastics.tumblr once reposted a Weibo post in which Zeng Siqi (?) said something like ” 😦 the floor here is so hard” and someone replied saying “wear more pairs of socks!” So that could be a possibility too. And the thing that Aly (and Maggie!) wears could also be a rhythmic gymnastics toe shoe; the rg ones typically don’t have sewn on soles like the dance ones do.


  7. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: I am not a victim. I am a survivor. | The Gymternet

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