You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 144th 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 don’t you do a daily or weekly You Asked, The Gymternet Answered?

I try to do them weekly at times but with so much going on in the competition season it can be very difficult to also answer a bunch of questions (many of which require a lot of research on my part so I can fact-check everything, unless they’re more opinion-based). I actually have someone who helps me manage the questions that come in, because there are a ton, and when they get sent to me, I try to answer as many as possible right away, but I don’t always have time for this and so I end up just copying them into a google doc to save them for a rainy day. Over the past three days, I’ve tried answering as many questions as possible thanks to a lull at work, and there were over 400 questions waiting for me. We seriously get about 50 a day. That’s a lot. Overwhelming. If I were doing this every single day, I’d be spending upwards of 2 hours per day answering questions. With a full time job and also trying to cover five meets a week on average, answering questions ends up getting pushed to the background even though I love doing it. But blammo, I’ve just answered enough to keep me going for about 20 new posts which I hope to put up with some sort of regularity over the next few weeks.

Is the ‘two different families’ requirement for vault finals only in effect for worlds and the Olympics and other big meets? I was watching the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and Viktoria Komova won vault with an Amanar and a DTY.

The two different families requirement is always in effect for seniors, but juniors don’t have to compete two different families in vault finals. That’s why you see a greater number of juniors making junior-level vault finals, because they don’t need to spice it up, so they can just perform their regular vault, and then a slight downgrade by a twist or a half twist for their second vault. Many of the American juniors with DTYs will throw FTYs as their second vaults because most with that combination will pretty easily win junior international vault titles. Emma Malabuyo did it at Gymnix this year, and I expect she, another one of the Americans, or one of the Italian juniors with the same combo will also win with these two vaults in Jesolo this weekend.

Why does McKenzie Wofford only do bars in college when she was an all-arounder as an elite? Does she get a full scholarship for only one event?

Anyone who signs a Division I letter of intent gets a full scholarship. It doesn’t matter if they’re coming in as a one-event specialist or an all-arounder, the scholarship remains the same. McKenzie and other specialists work just as hard as all-arounders in training, and even though you only see them competing one event, some actually train a greater number of events behind the scenes so they can be an alternate (specifically, McKenzie also trains beam) or they only stick to one or two events because they’ve had some kind of injury that limits them on other events.

All athletes who make it to level 10 do the all-around for the majority of their careers because, aside from the rare petition, you can’t compete at the higher levels without achieving all-around qualification scores. And yet the majority of gymnasts who compete NCAA do not compete all four events, because only six gymnasts can go up on each event in any given competition, and with 12+ gymnasts per team, it means the majority will end up not doing the all-around (most teams have about two all-arounders per meet on average). Of the 1000 gymnasts who compete in NCAA, fewer than 200 have competed the all-around this season, so only about 20% of those who competed all-around in elite or J.O. and go on to receive a full NCAA scholarship actually continue on to compete all-around in college.

Is Brazil’s Lorrane Dos Santos sisters with Daiane Dos Santos?

Nope. Dos Santos just happens to be a popular last name in Brazil. Daiane’s full last name is Garcia Dos Santos and Lorrane’s full last name is Dos Santos Oliveira. Commonly with Portuguese last names, people have two last names, with the maternal last name first and the paternal last name second, and most will colloquially drop the maternal last name so you’ll see Daiane listed as Daiane Dos Santos and Lorrane listed as Lorraine Oliveira when their maternal last names are dropped.

I know in the U.S. they build the team based on the team competition, but I read that in Russia, they decide based on how many individual medals they could get. If the U.S. Olympic team in 2016 was built around the idea of winning as many individual medals as possible, who would have made the team?

I think MyKayla Skinner would’ve made the team, probably over Gabby Douglas. I think her chances of winning a vault medal were higher than Gabby’s chances at winning a bars medal, solely because the bars field was stacked making it nearly impossible to get on the podium, whereas vault wasn’t as tough and MyKayla had that magic Amanar + Cheng combo that would’ve pushed her to at least a bronze had she hit in finals. For team medal purposes, with the U.S. ten points ahead of everyone else, Martha Karolyi could’ve justified literally anyone in that fifth spot, so Gabby was the right decision for her reasons (I think Martha wanted to show the world how great a bars team the U.S. could be after getting crapped on for bars in the 2012 quad not looking cute) just like MyKayla also could’ve been a correct decision had Martha’s priorities been different. So this is nothing against Gabby being on the team, to clarify, but I think had Martha prioritized individual medals more, MyKayla probably would’ve made the team.

Is Roxana Popa underscored?

I’ve never thought of her as significantly underscored, aside from when she didn’t make the floor final at worlds in 2014. International scoring can be a little inconsistent, so it’s not so much about the actual scoring itself if the ranking is correct…but I definitely didn’t think the ranking was correct in that floor qualification. There will always be problems like that, though, when different gymnasts are spread out over ten subdivisions. It’s almost impossible to rank 200+ gymnasts correctly, and someone’s always going to lose out in this system even if they deserve to be in a final.

Do you think we’ll see the TTY this quad?

We saw it last quad, with Hong Un Jong hitting a few in training and then competing it in Olympic vault finals, though unfortunately she landed it short and fell, getting it downgraded to an Amanar and not getting it named. I think we could see her come back to try to get it named after nearly a decade now of submitting it, but technically we did see it, even if Hong didn’t exactly hit it when she meant to.

What does it mean when an NCAA gymnast is All-American?

There are a few different categories of All-American.

The first is regular season All-American. This is determined once the regular season RQS rankings are in, with the top eight in each individual category (all-around, vault, bars, beam, and floor) making first team All-American and those ranked 9th through 16th making second-team All-American.

Then you have postseason All-American. Here, the top four in each individual category from both preliminary sessions get first team honors, while those who place fifth through eighth in each of the two sessions get second team (so again, you have a total of eight first team and eight second team, but this is a one-shot deal kinda thing where the only performance that matters is that one prelims performance).

Finally, there’s Academic All-American, which is based purely on academic performance. Schools nominate their best candidates, which is partly based on a minimum GPA, but at the same time you also want high levels of athletic achievement. Then SIDs vote on the candidates, first regionally (these are the Academic All-District teams) and then the first team Academic All-District picks those who advance to the national ballot. A student-athlete can be first, second, or third team Academic All-American. There’s also the Scholastic All-American team, which is awarded by the collegiate coaches association, based purely on a minimum GPA. At the Division III level, only seniors are named Academic All-Americans, and it’s based on GPA.

What makes a jam to handstand on bars so difficult?

Inbar skills in general are really hard, as are front swings, so you’re combining two of the most difficult bars elements and combining them. And as if that isn’t enough, the jam to handstand isn’t a full swing around like other forward skills like an Endo.

In an Endo, when the gymnast is about to cast, her legs go from the straddle position back up into a straight body position following the same direction of the circle swing she’s been in for the whole skill. But in a jam to handstand, as the gymnast casts back up, her body stays in the piked position, and she then straightens her body into a handstand once her arms are back in handstand position on top of the bar.

It’s hard to explain without visualizing so I’m trying to describe what you see in the skill if you’re watching, so apologies if none of this makes sense. The technical term for the skill would be an inbar to rear inverted pike support to handstand, but that’s hard to picture if you don’t know what all of those words are describing. So just know that it takes two of the most difficult bars elements, combines them, and then also finishes in a crazy unnatural cast up into handstand that no other skill has.

If a Tkachev doesn’t involve a flip but a Jaeger does, is a Tkachev an easier skill to learn? Is that why we see more Tkachev variations than releases with flips (like a Deltchev or Comaneci)?

It depends on the gymnast…for some gymnasts, a Tkachev can be more difficult than a Jaeger, and vice versa. In terms of skill level, they’re about equal, so a gymnast of a certain level of ability can conceivably master both, but both present their own challenges. A Jaeger has a flip, but a Tkachev requires counter movement up and backwards over the bar, which can be difficult for some in terms of getting the timing right.

Generally the reason you see more Tkachev variations than variations of other skills is because with the Tkachev, there’s more room to play with the entry. With the other skills, you can’t really do much of anything into them as far as the entry goes because of the direction they swing. Like, with a Jaeger, you start out in handstand on the bar, swing down about ¾ of the way through front giant, and then flip before you reach handstand again, so you don’t have any room to do a skill into it, whereas with a Tkachev, you start in handstand and go through an ENTIRE swinging element before completing the skill, so you can do a stalder or a clear hip or something within that swing that goes directly into the release, if that makes sense.

I mean, I guess someone could conceivably start in handstand and do ¾ of a front toe-on or Endo into a Jaeger, but it would be super awkward in terms of getting from that front swinging element into a front flip. Like, taking your body from a piked or stalder position and then releasing to do a front flip would be nearly impossible physically. The same goes for any other skill that doesn’t go through an entire swinging element before the release. Off the top of my head, I think the Tkachev is the only release that fits that bill. The only thing I can think of that might work for a non-Tkachev release combo is maybe something like a stalder into a Comaneci?

Thoughts on McKayla Maroney medaling in the vault final with a fall? I know you said you didn’t think Cheng Fei should have gotten bronze with a fall but what about this?

Yeah, I feel about the same, actually. Generally I think earning a medal with a fall depends on the depth of a field, and I think my feelings about 2008 were so intense because Cheng and Sacramone were SO close — within 0.025 of one another — and the judges ranked a fall higher than Sacramone’s vaults, which were two of the best-executed vaults of the day.

With Maroney, it ended up being about a tenth between her and Sandra Izbasa, with Izbasa rightfully winning out. But then both Maria Paseka and Janine Berger both finished less than a tenth behind Maroney, and since things were THAT close, I think the judges should’ve ranked the two non-falls higher than Maroney’s.

But at the same time, I understand that difficulty will often win out. It’s not like Paseka or Berger were immaculate with their vaults, so you do have to consider that, and so naturally someone coming in with higher difficulty is going to have more padding that can allow for a fall…especially because the execution on her first vault was so stellar.

Going back to Sacramone, I do understand that she was more a victim of the code allowing for difficulty to win than she was a victim of the judges…but at the same time, I think the judges have a responsibility to rank routines based on that one instance in time, and I think Sacramone should’ve ranked higher than Cheng, just as I think Paseka and Berger should’ve ranked higher than Maroney.

How does the wildcard spot work for the U.S. at the American Cup?

It’s not really a ‘wildcard’ spot, even though that’s what they call it. Basically, for the three all-around world cups, each country invited gets one spot, but the host country gets two spots. The national federation can give these spots to anyone, and generally, the U.S. women’s program tries to name both gymnasts as early as possible…but in some years, where the field is tight and they’re not sure who to send, they’ll name one and wait until the camp right before the meet to name the other one, or they’ll wait until camp to name both.

I think because it’s such a big meet, they do try to name at least one American as early as possible, and in years where they’re coming off of major worlds success with the top gymnasts from worlds expected to continue on to the next season, they’ll name both by the beginning of January so they can use those gymnasts in promotional materials. Like, I think after 2011 worlds, both Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman were named pretty much right away. But this year, coming back from Rio, pretty much everyone retired so it was almost impossible to know coming into January who would be ready for a big all-around competition in March, so they gave one spot to the big name and waited for camp to name the other entrant, calling it the ‘wildcard’ spot because why not?

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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9 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Can you please explain the difference between a weiler kip and a free hip circle. I’ve watched gifs of both and had some trouble dintinguishing the difference.

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    • Yup! A free or clear hip circle is a hip circle done in a backwards swing in regular grip. A Weiler is a free/clear hip circle done in a forwards swing in an inverted grip. The best way to spot the difference is that in a clear hip, when starting in handstand, the swing is in the direction the gymnast is facing, but in a weiler or in any front skill (front giant, Endo, front toe-on) the swing is the opposite way that the gymnast is facing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Irina Alexeeva verbally committed to Stanford! Does that mean she’s given up hope to compete elite for the US? Haven’t seen her on any elite qualifiers also.

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    • It is kind of a demotivation to know they are every couple of years shrinking even more the name number of participants in international competitions. Now ia only four. At least in USA you can still go to this great college league. In my country we still have to deal with 4 spots , 2 of those reserved for daughters of daddy national team coach… i mean, why work so hard with so few spots and we still have the politics… hard times for gymnasts…

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    • Verballing to a college has nothing to do with competing elite. Many young elites end up committing somewhere. As long as she doesn’t go pro (which at this stage would be very very silly), she can keep competing elite if she wants to.

      Irina Alexeeva is only 14. (well, almost 15). She’s class of 2020. She still has multiple seasons left to compete US Elite (and still a few to figure out this citizenship issue so she can maybe actually compete at Nationals)

      As for qualifiers, there’s still the Parkettes qualifier at the end of May.

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

  4. “For team medal purposes, with the U.S. ten points ahead of everyone else, Martha Karolyi could’ve justified literally anyone in that fifth spot”
    THANK YOU!! I want everyone who is still arguing about the team to be assigned 300 lines of this. You have your opinion, I have mine, nothing would have changed whichever gymnast went.

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