You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 141st 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.

Why did this Emily Schild beam routine score so low? It seems almost worse than Chinese nationals scoring!

I honestly have no idea, especially given that the US home scoring is NEVER that tight. When you see a 7.9 you usually expect multiple big mistakes in addition to the little things…but she really only had little things, like:

  • Bent leg form and her chest down on her layout stepout
  • Her chest down on her punch front
  • Maybe a little too forward on her side aerial
  • Her split jump is at 180 but I can see it getting a deduction because when you watch quickly you only see the split for a nanosecond, and it looks like she doesn’t hold it in the true split position long enough to make it look like it’s at 180
  • Her switch side is maybe 20 degrees short
  • Little hop back on her pike jump
  • Chest down and hop on her double pike

It’s a lot of little issues that add up, but like, nothing super noticeable and not enough little deductions to come out with 2.1 points off in E score deductions. Not judging by the standard by which other routines that day were judged. Simone Biles only got 1.6 in deductions with multiple big landing deductions and coming up super short on her dismount. Madison Kocian got 1.65 in deductions with some form issues similar to Emily’s and a wobblier set. I’ve often noticed a different judging standard for the ‘stars’ versus everyone else but this is a pretty great example of just how crazy it can be. If I saw both Emily and Madison’s routines one after another, I’d guess Emily’s would get the higher E score of the two.

A lot of people think MyKayla Skinner will come back for worlds and challenge for a vault medal, but what about Jordan Chiles?

We don’t know for sure if Jordan Chiles is training two vaults. When she competed two vaults as a junior, she competed two Yurchenko vaults, an Amanar and a double. Junior rules allow for competitors to perform vaults from the same family, so she was able to win several vault titles with two Yurchenko vaults, but I haven’t seen any videos or evidence of her training a high-level non-Yurchenko vault to compete as a senior. If she does have a Yurchenko half-on or a handspring or a tsuk, she’s obviously in the mix, especially if that other vault to go along with her Amanar has a high difficulty level. But as of right now, I don’t think anyone’s really putting all their money in the “Jordan Chiles for world vault champion” basket because we simply just don’t know what she has up her sleeve. Especially given that she was injured last year, her priority may have been just coming back strong in the all-around rather than pushing for a high-difficulty second vault. As MyKayla Skinner learned this year, even though her vault combo could’ve pretty easily gotten her an Olympic medal, it still wasn’t enough for her to make the team because the national coordinator didn’t value two vaults as highly as she valued other assets. I’d say for Jordan, right now two vaults isn’t as high-priority as other aspects. If she has them, depending on what her second vault is, she definitely has the talent to challenge for a medal.

How will Thais Fidelis help the Brazilian team this quad?

Well, we don’t really know yet who will retire and who will hang on, so it’s hard to say where the team will have gaps. I’m most excited for her potential on beam and floor, though. To me, that’s where she has her most exciting skills and where I think she could make the biggest difference going forward.

What are some ways to stay involved with the sport of gymnastics if you don’t have good adult classes near you?

Hmm, you could coach or judge? I know people who have coached rec levels with zero gymnastics experience. They kind of fit right in, learning as they went along, and the more they learned, the better they became at coaching and eventually began coaching higher levels, like compulsory and even optional Xcel and JO. Judging isn’t really that hard to get into, either. You just have to get your professional membership with USA Gym and take a judging test, and from there you get assigned to various meets.

When do you think the U.S. Olympic team was ‘decided’?

I mean, I’m pretty sure I knew what it was gonna be back in…March or April? Unless something went drastically wrong, I think those five were pretty much set as the Olympic team all season. Not officially ‘decided’ but obviously Martha Karolyi wasn’t walking around like “la la la, I wonder who will be on my team, guess we’ll find out at trials!” By the time mid-2015 came around, we had a pretty clear picture of what the Rio situation was gonna look like and I’m sure Martha had that same picture that far back as well. Just like we make teams in our heads all the time, putting in place those who at that moment in time best fit the situation, Martha was doing the same. But I think she was also keeping the team fluid enough to allow for major problems, like if someone gets injured or starts being unable to mentally compete, or on the other hand, if someone comes up and really explodes onto the scene as a first-year senior. I’d say at least 60% of the team was set by the summer of 2015, and then it came down to deciding who would be best for bars and whether Laurie Hernandez would make it to her senior career injury-free. By the time we got to nationals and trials, all five were pretty much competing the way we expected them to compete, with the exception of Gabby Douglas struggling on beam…but then Gabby was never gonna go to Rio for beam, so that didn’t even matter. There were no big surprises or last-minute dark horses that could’ve pushed their way in for a spot, maybe with the exception of MyKayla Skinner, but with her even though she could’ve added a vault medal, there wasn’t much more she would’ve added to the team over Gabby, so it became kind of like…do we get some extra tenths from her vault or do we get those extra tenths from Gabby’s bars? They probably considered her, briefly, but I don’t think she did quite enough to make a legitimate push…I think she would’ve needed a top-three floor in addition to her vault.

Why do gymnasts sometimes do toe-on skills one leg at a time? Is it a deduction or an accepted variation on the skill? Why would a gymnast choose to do it that way?

It’s an accepted kind of stylistic choice. I think most tend to do it because it alleviates tension on the low back? So for gymnasts who have issues with their hips or low back, piking down all at once might exacerbate that pain, but doing one leg at a time could ease it for them? That’s what I heard about why Kyla Ross chooses to do it that way. But it could also just be a stylistic thing or how a gymnast learned it from a coach or in training…either way it’s fine!

Have you heard about Whitney Bjerken? Do you think she can make elite?

I actually just heard about her the other day. I mean, she’s a level 9. She had some decent level 8 scores but it’s impossible to be like “yes that level 8 will transition perfectly into elite!” because even if she can perfectly execute every routine, you have no way of knowing if she will be able to translate from excellent JO gymnast to good elite. Even top level 10s struggle when they have to take on the elite skill level and workout regime. There are a lot of NCAA gymnasts right now who are really phenomenal and people get super excited about them saying “they should do elite after college!” but the fact is that their NCAA routines at the elite level are nowhere near strong enough to directly translate into competitive elite routines, and when most do try to make the switch, they can’t keep up the same level of execution or consistency that they had with a lower-level of skills. Whitney was a good level 8 and so far seems like she’s doing well in level 9 (she’s a new level 9 this season) but it’s impossible to say right now whether she’ll be able to get a high level of elite skills and make elite in the future.

Under Valeri Liukin, will the selection procedures for worlds and the Olympics change?

No. I mean, he might have different reasons for selecting gymnasts (Martha Karolyi really placed a high value on bars this quad, for example, but maybe Valeri would go after something different) but beyond personal preferences aside, the selection procedures will be the same.

Do you know why Aliya Mustafina trained a ton of floor passes this quad?

With her floor, it seemed like she really struggled with endurance this quad and she likely tried out a bunch of passes to see which ones she could put into a routine to both get it to a high enough difficulty to be competitive but also to make sure she could compete it without issue. I think she had a lot of ‘dream passes’ maybe that were more like wishful thinking if she could get her endurance back up? I think a lot of gymnasts play around with adding different passes but only end up doing the ones they feel comfortable competing within the context of a full routine.

Have there been any all-around gymnasts whose ‘weak’ event is beam?

Yeah, several…to keep things current I think Rebeca Andrade was the biggest name last season who was comparatively weak on beam, and I’d also put Ellie Downie in that group, though she did have some moments where she hit really excellent sets. But overall it was definitely her weak spot.

There used to be a lot of 1.5 pirouettes on bars…did they start getting deducted heavily?

No…but I think in the most recent code there was no reason to do a 1.5 when you could get the same level of difficulty doing an easier skill. A regular backward giant 1.5 is worth a D, but a 1.5 is much harder to control on top of the bar compared to a full pirouette. So instead, gymnasts do the D-rated full pirouettes, out of clear hips or stalders or toe-ons, and if they want to get really difficult, they do fulls out of inbars to get an E. If regular giant 1.5 was worth an E maybe we’d see more but I think most gymnasts find a stalder full or a toe full much easier than a giant 1.5. In watching routines, I always find that the 1.5 pirouettes tend to look a little awkward and break up the rhythm of the routines…like, they do a full, pause for a second, and then throw in a late half turn after, which could be pretty heavily deducted. I’d much prefer to see a clean full than a messy 1.5 and I’m pretty sure gymnasts would also much rather compete clean fulls than messy 1.5s!

Was there some sort of controversy surrounding Anastasia Grishina’s preparation for the 2012 Olympics Games that hindered her career and damaged Alexander Alexandrov’s oversight of the Russian team?

Anastasia’s coach, Sergei Zelikson, blamed Alexandrov for focusing more on his own athlete, Aliya Mustafina, as his favorite than on the unity of the team. In London, the coaches noted a lack of cohesion between them, saying that there was no team work and that all of the coaches were basically just coaching their own gymnasts rather than working together as a single unit, and that as the head coach, Alexandrov shouldn’t have been coaching an individual gymnast. There were lots of weird things with Anastasia (she traveled with her mom rather than with the national team and apparently didn’t fit in with the team generally) but I don’t think they directly led to Alexandrov getting fired. I think the general atmosphere surrounding the 2012 team was messy and uncoordinated and because he was the head coach, Alexandrov got the blame and the boot.

Did Nadia Cho leave WOGA? Is she done with elite?

I believe she had shoulder surgery…I haven’t seen her compete in almost three years I think! But I believe her family moved to Wisconsin and she’s back training again at a gym there, Swiss Turners according to her USA Gymnastics profile. I hope we see her in elite again!

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

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13 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. I’m actually really happy someone asked about Whitney Bjerken, out of all the youtube gymnasts, she’s my favorite and I think she has a lot of potential due to her perfectionist nature and that she’s super hardworking and well paced. Also partially because her floor is beautiful and she’s super elegant all the time. I kind of wish there were more floor routines like hers. COUGH National team COUGH.

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    • I’ve been following Whitney Bjerken too and agree she is hardworking, perfectionistic, and elegant…but she’s also 5’1″ at eleven years old and does not give the appearance of having started her final growth spurt. I’m wondering just how much height is going to figure into her eventual success or struggle.

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  2. I would put Skinner in the category of aa’er whose weak event is floor. Though people think of bars as her weakness (or did before Utah bar precision coaching), the truth is that often, she missed beam and hit bars. I recall many meets where bars was her second highest score, with beam the lowest.

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    • Yeah, her bars ended up being her second-best event for a little while, beam was always really rough for her in elite but I remember being shocked with how good her bars were at the Glasgow World Cup last year…they outscored her beam AND floor!

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

  4. You think Laurie would have went over Maggie? (assuming the team was kinda decided late 2015). I’ve always been under the impression that Maggie would be part of the team if she didn’t get injured.

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    • Yeah, I heard Maggie wasn’t ever really going to be in the picture, MAYBE as an alternate, but I think they really had their eyes on Laurie. It probably would’ve been close between them competitively but in the end Laurie’s beam would’ve pushed her over the edge.

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      • Interesting…. did Maggie score similar with Laurie on the other events? I had Maggie in my head because she had an amanar at the time and could maybe swing bars better than Laurie? I dunno, I just picture Maggie because the commentating made it seem like she was a lock prior to her injury.

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  5. I saw you answered a question about Whitney Bjerken’s chances of having elite success and was wondering which is the typical/ideal age for a gymnast to qualify to elite? I’ve noticed Laurie Hernandez had a ton of success as a jr elite when she was really young and now turned out to be a great senior.

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    • The youngest will try to qualify elite around 10-11, but many aren’t very successful at that age. Generally 13-14 is when you start seeing more success, though Jordyn Wieber at 11 or 12 was already beating many 14-15 year olds. Laurie first tried qualifying elite at 11 and her choreo was always a highlight but it wasn’t until she was about 13 that she became one of the best juniors. I’d say 13-14 is probably the best age? It gives you time to get used to the elite level before you become a senior but it’s not so young that you’re probably mature enough to handle the tough training that goes into elite. Often gymnasts who push it to be the best by 11 or 12 end up being totally worn out by the time they’re 16.

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  6. Could you do an American Cup preview? Was hoping either Key or Foberg would get picked but I know they didn’t even attend camp. Still I’m super excited about Mccusker’s and Hurd’s senior debuts!

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