You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

It’s time for the 143rd 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.

Anna Pavlova said she switched to Azerbaijan after being constantly sidelined because Valentina Rodionenko favored younger gymnasts. Did this make sense? She was past her prime after her knee injury in 2009. It’s not like she was going to get better as a gymnast. Don’t you think there was logic in favoring up-and-coming gymnasts rather than investing in Anna when it seemed it wasn’t going to pay off? Has anything else like this happened before?

I mean…I guess technically Valentina favored younger gymnasts but at that point, it wasn’t because of their age, it was because they were stronger than Anna. Plenty of older gymnasts came back and earned team spots, like Tatiana Nabieva and Ekaterina Kramarenko in 2014.

Anna was still a strong gymnast when she decided to continue on but she definitely wasn’t one of the strongest, especially during that 2009-2011 era where they had some super promising juniors reaching the senior ranks. I think if you look at the history of Russian gym, you’ll see they tend to stick with the really productive gymnasts no matter how old they are. It’s why Svetlana Khorkina lasted for a decade and why Valentina cries herself to sleep every night about Aliya’s pregnancy. If Anna was still producing the way she had been in 2008 and earlier, she absolutely would’ve made teams.

Is Ashton Locklear working on a floor routine? I swear I saw this somewhere…

She will occasionally throw a pass or two on the tumble track or something at the gym but has too many back problems to seriously train passes with the goal of competing them. I remember one pass she posted on Instagram, a triple off the tumble track, and it was this epic perfect clean triple. Everyone assumed it meant she was going to come back on floor but I think she just plays around on occasion.

Why don’t you see many elites competing different single bar releases such as the Comaneci or the Deltchev?

I think gyms or even national programs get used to coaching certain skills and so certain styles become really popular, especially with skills that you can add to and build off of, like you can with the tons of different Tkachevs and Jaegers out there. Most try to go for difficulty, but also straight-forward difficulty that is easy to replicate with other gymnasts, and so coaches who are really good at coaching Tkachevs and have a whole set of drills that lead to Tkachevs will stick to Tkachev variations rather than trying out something entirely new worth the same difficulty rating.

When someone’s going for a D or an E level skill, yes, there’s the awesome Deltchev for a D or Comaneci salto for an E, but there’s also about 8 Tkachev variations rated D-E, and another 5 rated higher than that, so what do you go for as a coach? The single cool skill or the one skill that you can build on with that one gymnast and then replicate with upcoming gymnasts? Occasionally you do get kids who want to try out something cool or different, and that’s great because it gives them a little fame even if they’re not necessarily the best on that event. But I think in general, especially with the best gymnasts in the world, the aim is for high scores and medals, not trendsetting, and so the tried and true skills win out over elements that are more unique.

If Peyton Ernst isn’t allowed to compete for Alabama this season due to transfer rules, why can Rachel Slocum compete for Florida?

If an athlete meets all of the transfer exceptions, she can begin competing immediately at her new school. The exceptions include…

  • You must compete in any sport other than baseball, basketball, football, or men’s ice hockey
  • You are academically and athletically eligible at your previous school
  • You receive a transfer-release agreement from your previous school

So Rachel fits all of this criteria whereas Peyton does not. My guess is that Peyton didn’t receive a transfer-release agreement from Florida. Most gymnasts who end up transferring will compete the next season, but when you have transfers within the same conference, things can get a little shady. At least with Peyton, she wasn’t really expected to compete this year anyway because she’s still rehabbing her shoulder and didn’t get back to training until early this year, so she wasn’t missing much and would’ve needed the time off even if she did get the transfer-release agreement.

What is Peyton Ernst’s status at Bama?

She is currently a redshirt sophomore, meaning she’ll still have three years of eligibility left after this season finishes.

Who do you think are the most promising first-year seniors of 2017?

As for the bigger countries, Morgan Hurd of the United States, Elena Eremina and Anastasia Iliankova of Russia, and Ioana Crisan and Olivia Cimpian of Romania. There are also a few smaller countries getting new seniors who could help bring the program to a higher level, like Aneta Holasova and the Merkova twins of the Czech Republic, Diana Varinska of Ukraine, Lynn Genhart and Livia Schmid of Switzerland…I’m also excited for Thais Fidelis of Brazil, Alice Kinsella and Maisie Methuen of Great Britain, Hanna Traukova of Belarus, Polina Borzykh of Georgia, Martina Maggio of Italy, Caitlin Rooskrantz of South Africa, and Kiko Kuwajima of Japan.

Do you think Aliya Mustafina should have gotten her shaposh full named for her since the grip is different from Elisabeth Seitz’s? Or is that difference irrelevant?

That difference is irrelevant. A gymnast can do a Jaeger from a reverse grip or L grip front giant, but the skill is still a Jaeger. Typically, unless the skill is a swinging element (a giant swing, a stalder swing, a pirouette, etc), the grip doesn’t matter. Catching in mixed grip was really cool, but unfortunately for her, it didn’t change the skill enough to make it a new skill. I think in MAG, some releases caught in mixed grip change the skill? Like, I’m pretty sure a Tkachev half is different from a Tkachev half to mixed grip in MAG…so I’d imagine someone who performs a skill like a Tweddle to mixed grip could maybe get that named? I don’t know why the WTC would consider that a major difference but not a shaposh caught in mixed grip, but hey. When is anything ever straightforward?

Is the aerial half turn Betty Okino does at 0:50 in the code of points anywhere? Probably not since it’s not all one skill? So original!

I think it would be considered an aerial into a half turn, so it wouldn’t count as a skill but rather a connection of two skills…but still, a super original connection, and done extremely well!

If a gymnast lands an element on her feet and then stops the routine and sits down due to injury, is it counted as a fall?

No. The routine would be considered stopped once she finishes the routine due to her injury. She wouldn’t get docked for a fall after stopping and sitting down, but she would only get D credit for the elements performed up to that point, so the score would still be quite low.

Why hasn’t Deanne Soza been at any of the national team camps so far this season?

Gymnasts have to be invited to the camps. She either wasn’t invited (which is possible considering her performance at nationals last year was below the standard the national staff usually accepts for camp invites, or she was invited but turned it down for the time being because she’s been dealing with injury or otherwise isn’t ready for camp. It could just be that with her gym change, turning senior, and probably a bunch of routine changes on top of it all, they’re trying to keep a low profile for her rather than throwing her to the wolves. She looked like she could use some time to regroup mentally, and camp really doesn’t have to be a priority right now, so it could just be in her best interest to hold off.

Can a front aerial to back handspring layout stepout be performed as a flight series on beam in elite?

This actually used to be THE elite beam series of the 2009-2012 quad. Literally everyone and their mother did this series because there was connection value involved…I don’t remember what exactly…maybe a two-tenth B + C + D series bonus? I’m pretty sure that existed but then disappeared in the 2013 code changes. But anyway, everyone did that series, and then stopped doing it after 2012 because it didn’t have as much value anymore and there were new series trends that made more sense. So they CAN do it now, but most don’t because it’s not as valuable as it once was.

What’s some of your favorite NCAA floor music right now?

I actually am the worst and don’t listen to a lot of it? Mostly because it tends to sound repetitive but I also watch multiple meets at once and almost always have the volume turned down. I did think that one of the most fun floor routines I saw earlier this season was Shannon Hortman of BYU…she starts out with “Surfin’ USA” and then it goes into like, dramatic shark attack music, which makes for a really fun story in her routine. It’s not like, the most amazing routine or best-choreographed routine or anything, but sitting here for the past two or three minutes trying to think of other music, I literally can’t, so what she has going for her is that she really stands out. The other standout music is I think Charlie Owens of Cal, who does “Shut Up and Dance” that goes into a little bit of “Brown-Eyed Girl” which is memorable especially because the second song is like, a tribute to her parents’ love song which is cute. I like when popular songs are used in a fun way. Speaking of, Lauren Rice of Sacramento State…her mix of songs is hilarious and awesome.

What if a club had a level 2 gymnast who could do a level 8 vault? Could she be a level 8 specialist that only vaults?

No. Gymnasts have to qualify out of compulsories, meaning they must qualify past level 4 and 5 in order to move onto optionals. A gymnast with a level 8 vault but only the ability to do level 2 routines on her other events wouldn’t be able to qualify out of compulsories. Once she reaches 13, she can petition out of compulsories, and gymnasts can skip level 6 optionals, but she’d still have to get a 31 AA to qualify from level 7 to level 8, which she would never do with level 2 skills on her other three events. So at best, when she’s 13 and petitions past compulsories, she could essentially be a level 7 who only competes vault (and as a level 7, she couldn’t compete level 8 vault difficulty so she’d be stuck in a kind of limbo and would be better off competing Xcel).

At Bundesliga last year, Eythora Thorsdottir competed a double L turn to a double pirouette to a Memmel to an illusion turn…how much would this be worth in the new code of points?

She has actually competed this sequence a couple of times this year, and it’s AMAZING. The turn sequence is D + B + D + B which would get 0.1 for each of the three connections, giving that series 0.3 in bonus on top of the 0.8 skill value from counting the two D-level turns. Her total difficulty is around 5.1, and taking away the automatic CR means she has 3.1 made up of skills and connections, and almost HALF of that comes from that one turn series, which is kind of amazing.

Why don’t former elites in NCAA compete in the all-around, specifically Kyla Ross, Brenna Dowell, Peng Peng Lee, etc?

Some do and some don’t. It depends on what they can contribute to the team. NCAA isn’t about creating all-around stars and any all-around title matters very little in the grand scheme of things. Kyla has actually added floor after having a foot injury so we could see her in the all-around regularly in coming seasons if her floor gets more consistent (she had a fall her first time out), but Brenna isn’t a strong beam gymnast and OU doesn’t need her in their lineups there, while Peng was often dealing with injuries and rather than push her on vault and floor, they have her stick to events that she can compete while staying safe.

Basically for any NCAA program, it’s not about trying to have top all-arounders. It’s taking each gymnast and seeing which of her routines contribute most to the team. MyKayla Skinner and Maggie Nichols are both top contributors for all four events, so they do the all-around not because Utah and Oklahoma want them to be big all-around stars, but because their teams benefit from having them in the lineups on all four events. But a gymnast who struggles on an event and isn’t in the top six at her program on, say, floor for example won’t make that lineup because she wouldn’t contribute a top score. No coach is gonna have her do floor over someone with better scores just to get her in the all-around, which is why UCLA would rather have a strong floor gymnast in their lineup over Kyla, even though it means taking Kyla out of the all-around. The focus is always on the team.

Has there been any instance where someone did NCAA and then went pro? Is that allowed?

Not only is it allowed, but in literally every single sport except gymnastics, it’s the norm. NCAA football, basketball, and baseball players finish up their NCAA careers and then get multimillion dollar pro contracts and endorsement deals, and athletes who are stars in smaller sports without pro leagues can still go on to the elite level and win Olympic medals and sign endorsement deals. With gymnastics, there aren’t the same opportunities because most Olympic gymnasts either opt out of college early on by going pro at 16 or they haven’t yet been to college.

But one gymnast did do things the opposite way, and that was Mohini Bhardwaj, who competed NCAA and then went back to elite gymnastics after she graduated, making the 2004 Olympic team and going pro. Anna Li also accepted money after graduating from NCAA, going on to become an Olympic alternate and then doing the post-Olympic tour in 2012, and Alicia Sacramone did part of her NCAA eligibility at Brown but then halfway into it decided to go pro and didn’t finish up her NCAA career. It happens but it’s very rare just because the monetary opportunities aren’t really there, as opposed to sports with pro leagues.

Once out of NCAA, anyone can accept money, so occasionally you get gymnasts who will accept endorsements or gifts to help them if they keep competing or stay involved with gymnastics in some capacity on a smaller scale…like I think Houry Gebeshian had a couple of offers to cover her grips for Rio this past summer, and she couldn’t have accepted those had she still needed to maintain her eligibility. There was also a wave of NCAA gym grads who participated in a professional gymnastics competition one summer and were able to accept money…I think Brie Olson of Oklahoma and Vanessa Zamarripa of UCLA both did it, so technically they went pro because they accepted money from that competition, but neither went on to have huge professional gymnastics careers with endorsements and the like.

Is Mackenzie Brannan injured?

She had surgery recently, I believe on her knee, to get bone chip removal. It wasn’t a serious injury or anything…I think she was just feeling pain and having that surgery done helped her feel better. She’s already back on bars, so obviously it wasn’t a major surgery, and I’d imagine she’ll be back in the all-around by next season.

Is Ruby Harrold the only two-time Olympian to have competed in NCAA?

Ruby has only competed in one Olympic Games, in Rio this summer. She made an attempt for the 2012 Games but was not selected for the team (though I believe she was one of maybe three alternates). I can’t think of any two-time Olympians who did NCAA, though, so if that happens eventually, whoever it is will be the first.

Edit- Brittany Rogers was a 2012 Olympian, competed her four years in NCAA, and then made a second Olympic team so that kind of counts? But I don’t know of anyone who did two Olympic Games and then went off to NCAA.

Now that Valeri Liukin is the national team coordinator, who is the developmental coordinator?

Valeri is handling both the national team responsibilities as well as the developmental side of the sport. When he came into the developmental role, it was basically so Martha Karolyi would no longer have to worry about anything but the immediate needs of the national team, so when she created the developmental role in 2013 and that position went to Valeri, it seemed pretty clear that he was the one she wanted to take over the national team coordinator position when she retired.

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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21 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Brittany Rogers is a two time Olympian though her second Olympics came after her NCAA career. Also fun fact, Alicia said that she decided to go pro only after one year at Brown because Marta told her that she didn’t want her competing NCAA and elite at the same time!

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  2. Do you know anything going on with Jordan Chiles? She was named to two world cups, then got pulled off both and didn’t even get selected for Jesolo? Have the other ones simply outworked her? (Because I could very well imagine that) Or might she be injured?

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    • She actually wasn’t named to either…she was entered as the nominative entry but that’s just a placeholder and doesn’t mean anything. Whenever you see a nominative entry change, you have to know that that person hasn’t been named and then pulled…she was never named to begin with, but was submitted as a placeholder for the purposes of the competition’s organization. She was injured last year so my guess is they were hoping she’d be fully back but she isn’t yet.

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  3. Kate Richardson (UCLA 03-06) is also a two-time Olympian (00, 04). She went to her second Olympic Games halfway through college; she also counts?

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    • Yeah that’s right…totally forgot she was on two teams. I was thinking in terms of Americans and forgot about Canada, but so far I think every double Olympian NCAAer has been Canadian. About four total.

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  4. Why would Houry Gebeshian have to maintain NCAA eligibility? Didn’t she graduate in 2011? I thought she was a Physician’s Assistant in Cleveland…

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    • Houry competed for Iowa in her NCAA career so if she had been doing elite before or during her NCAA career (like Danusia Francis, Kristina Vaculik, and a few others have done) she wouldn’t have been able to accept any help like that. She was an example of someone who went pro post-NCAA as the question asked.

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

  6. Do you know if there’s prize money at nationals for ‘pro’ athletes? I know there’s some prize money in other sports like track and field.

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  7. Thank you Lauren for answering my question about Anna Pavlova. But I specifically said that in home meets Pavs was scoring higher than some young up-and-coming kids, but that when it came to giving international assignments, Valentina would choose the kids in question over Pavs (I’m quoting Pavlova herself). So for me that was the dilemma. Pavs was scoring higher but the kids (she didn’t name names), although they were scoring lower, had good hope of improving by gaining experience thanks to those assignments, while Pavs was already in decline (even if she was scoring respectably). So in such a scenario, do you play fair and give the assignments to the gymnast who scored higher nin the local meets (that counts towards earning your place to those assignments), or you play strategically and sideline the higher scorer because you do not see her as a good investment? Can you think of other similar cases in other countries?

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    • Sorry, I have someone who field all of the questions for me so I don’t get duplicates and so I can just give answers without reading a whole book since most people who ask questions write 1000 word essays that I don’t have time for, so if I missed part of your question, apologies. In that case, yeah, even if she was outscoring kids at home, chances are Valentina saw where the potential was and that it was more in those younger gymnasts than it was with Anna. This happens all the time.

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    • Looking at Gabby from 2016 Olympic Trials, I see how sometimes a National Team Coordinator has to choose gymnasts based on where they see potential. I think Martha definitely could see beyond scores, and I think she could select gymnasts instinctively.

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  8. Regarding the level 2 vs Level 8 thing, sure, you can’t compete Level 8 without jumping through specific hoops set up my USAG (and in many cases stricter ones set up by clubs). But I figure at some point this stops mattering. Like, if you could show videos/in person that you have a perfect, 10,0 Yurchenko Full, but somehow never learned a giant, USAG cares. NCAA I’m guessing doesn’t, and I don’t know of any rules that say you could totally still get a scholarship just because you’ve never competed before.

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