You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Becky Downie competes in the women's uneven bars at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships

It’s time for the 145th 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.

I’m really disappointed that Laurie Hernandez is taking so much time off. What do you think of her chances for coming back to elite this year, making the worlds team, and winning the all-around title?

I honestly don’t think we’ll see her back at all, based on random rumblings I’ve heard around the gymnosphere. But really, if she were to come back with the goal of making it to 2020, it makes more sense to wait a couple of years and then return in 2019 rather than push herself through another four years. She hasn’t been in a gym since before the Olympics, so I highly doubt we’ll see her getting back to training anytime soon let alone getting into shape to come back and make the worlds team.

Which NCAA teams would be the most dominant if gymnasts had to stay in their home state for college?

Division II Texas Woman’s would be like the best Division II program in any sport in the history of the world if this was a rule. Actually, the University of Texas would probably open up programs at every single school in the state, because they’d all be unstoppable. I think the California programs would also still be pretty strong, and probably Illinois as well? I feel like a ton of strong NCAA gymnasts come from Illinois.

Why hasn’t Aliya Mustafina competed a second vault since her ACL injury in 2011? Even if she doesn’t have an Amanar and Cheng, couldn’t she still qualify with a DTY and Lopez?

She could probably qualify if she put the effort into it, but I think all of her focus after her injury in 2011 were on other things and no longer included making the vault final. She definitely wouldn’t have medaled with a DTY and Lopez, so why shoot for making a final when there’s no medal in the mix? Instead she decided to focus on the medals she could get. Given that she medaled in the all-around and on every event but vault at one point or another in every worlds and Olympic Games she competed at following her injury, I guess you could say her efforts were well-directed. I think that’s why many gymnasts in general don’t bother with two vaults…if you have two vaults that are too low-difficulty to challenge for a medal, it’s really not worth going for it when you have other areas you could work on to actually challenge.

Why hasn’t Amanda Wellick been competing?

Amanda tore her Achilles early in the season during warmups prior to a meet. I believe it was only the second or third week of the season, so it was a huge loss to the Arkansas program this year, though the one positive is that it happened early enough so that she could still redshirt and compete next season if she wants.

What has been up with Michigan’s gymnastics program in the past two years?

What do you mean? I haven’t noticed anything ‘up’ with them. They tend to always have very little depth because they don’t tend to get a lot of walk-ons, so with only 12 available to compete, injuries hurt their lineups a lot more than they would hurt a team with 20 girls. But even so, they have pretty strong seasons even if they’re not one of the top teams. They still have very strong recruits for the most part.

What is the difference between a back handspring and a flic flac?

They’re the same thing, but I think the term people use is a geographical thing. I usually hear flic flac from the British, whereas back handspring is more of an American way to say it. I think the code of points also refers to it as a flic flac, and then others also refer to it as a flip flop.

What is an RQ in NCAA gymnastics? Is it different than an average score? If you look at scores at the end of the season is it better to use their RQ or average?

An RQS is the regional qualifying score, which is pretty self-explanatory in that it is the score used to qualify a team to regionals. Around the sixth or seventh week of the regular season, the official rankings go from average scores to the RQS. Instead of simply averaging every score a team gets in the season, the RQS takes the top six scores (three of which must be away scores), drops the highest, and averages the remaining five.

It’s basically a way to ensure that a team’s ranking is more fair. Say a team competes seven times, four times at home and three times on the road. The home scores, thanks to biased judging, come out to 198 at each meet, but the three road scores come out to 197 apiece. If you average that, you get 197.571, but if you use the RQS formula, you get 197.4, with the average weighted more toward the less-biased road scores.

At the end of the regular season, which concludes with conference championships, the regular season rankings are calculated by RQS and the top 36 teams get to go to regionals. If you want to see a true average of every single meet a team competed at the end of the season, look at the average…but if you want to see the ranking system that will qualify teams to the postseason, you have to look at the RQS because averages mean nothing.

Why does McKenna Kelly only compete floor?

LSU is a really strong program with tons of gymnasts available to fill each lineup. McKenna probably just doesn’t have the routines that would get her a lineup spot on the other events. Having seen her vault a few times, there’s no way she’d make the vault lineup over LSU’s other vaulters at this point, but in the next couple of years as current vaulters graduate and she reaches a more senior level on the team, she could end up working her way into that lineup.

What’s the difference between a piked Tkachev and Becky Downie’s skill?

A regular Tkachev is done from a giant swing, but there are a bunch of variations that are performed from other swinging elements, like a stalder, a toe-on, a clear hip, etc. In an original recipe piked Tkachev, the gymnast does a giant swing, releases, holds a piked position during the counter movement over the high bar, and regrasps on the other side. In a Downie, the gymnast does a stalder swing into the release rather than a giant swing, making it a bit more difficult because a stalder doesn’t generate as much momentum as a giant.

Here are all of the piked Tkachev variations and their skill values:

Piked Tkachev – E
Toe-on piked Tkachev (Church) – E
Stalder piked Tkachev (Downie) – F
Clear hip piked Tkachev (Shang) – F
Inbar piked Tkachev – F

What happened to Jordan Rae at Bowling Green?

She had an Achilles injury and is still attending Bowling Green but is no longer able to compete.

Say an NCAA gymnast competed until her sophomore year and then transferred. Would she start over as a freshman?

In terms of her gymnastics, no. In some cases, academic credits won’t all transfer, so her academic status might still have her as a freshman, but in terms of NCAA she’ll be recognized as having used up one year of her four years of eligibility, so in their eyes, she’ll be a sophomore.

I’ve noticed there are different makers of gymnastics equipment around the world…is there a difference between them? Do gymnasts have a lot of time to practice and adjust when they go to a new country to compete?

Generally there are no major differences but some equipment can sometimes be a bit bouncier or tighter than another brand, which is somewhat easy to get used to after a single training session, so it’s never really an issue…though occasionally you do have a rogue floor mat that sends gymnasts bouncing through the roof. When a certain brand is determined for the Olympics, some national gyms will replace some equipment with the Olympic brand (I think the ranch swapped from AAI to Gymnova for London, but I can’t remember if they did anything similar for Rio). But for the most part, it’s more than enough to just show up for training sessions and podium training for bigger meets…most teams will come in a couple of days or even a week before the official podium training at meets like worlds or the Olympics to use the equipment in the training gyms so they can have a pre-podium training where they just get used to everything so podium training can be more like a dress rehearsal for the competition rather than about figuring out the equipment.

Why was Simone Biles on the floor at the UCLA meet? It was nice to see her support the girls but it was a bit of thunder-stealing from the actual UCLA gymnasts who got overshadowed by her being there. In the final interview they spoke to Simone, who was technically a spectator, and that felt wrong.

I actually felt like that was suuuuuper awkward. Like, I’m sure it was the network’s idea, not hers, and it was UCLA that brought her down to the floor and everything, probably because she was at one point a UCLA commit so she’s probably close to the coaching staff and is obviously close to many of the girls on the team. But at the same time, with her not being on the team, it just felt like…really? Can anyone who’s a friend of the team just run down and celebrate with them? I feel similarly about Mary Lou Retton at LSU meets…she’s always running down to the arena floor for various reasons and it just makes more of a spectacle about it all. Like, yes, it’s amazing to have huge Olympic superstars in the crowd, but also like, networks need to calm down. This isn’t about them, it’s about the girls competing. Having Simone wave to the camera is cute, and maybe once or twice a season shouting out to Mary Lou is a good idea, but we don’t need either of them to be focal points for teams they’re not on.

How does traveling in NCAA work? Do they miss lots of classes for meets? Do they fly or take a bus?

They might miss some class time but that’s the same with any sport. I once had an Italian teacher in college who was like “the only acceptable absence in my class is if you’re a student athlete!!!” meanwhile I was working a full time job on the side and a couple of times had to sub for a coworker so I was like oh I guess supporting myself financially isn’t as important as doing sports at the worst DI school in pretty much every athletic endeavor!!! SORRY!!! But yeah, schools tend to be pretty lenient with student athletes missing class, especially if the teams are big winning programs.

There are very few mid-week meets that would force them to miss multiple days, so generally most would fly out on Friday mornings and compete that night, and the bigger programs tend to travel by private jet because that can sometimes be cheaper than booking commercial airline tickets for close to 30 people who travel with the team. For meets that are closer geographically they might take a bus, though…like the MPSF schools, Alaska aside, are all pretty close as are most of the schools in conferences like EAGL, MRGC, MAC, MIC, etc. Many of those programs will bus for 12+ hour road trips rather than fly because the budgets aren’t as big. Oklahoma, meanwhile, will fly pretty much everywhere because they’re in a gymnastics dead zone, though they do bus down to Dallas when they attend the Metroplex meet or when they face off against Texas Woman’s.

Why do you think the Dutch gymnasts don’t upgrade their tumbling?

Some actually have or had pretty good tumbling, though I think their strongest leg gymnasts have either all gotten pretty injured or have retired, so now the only ones they really have left are more of the dancer type. I think the real reason they don’t upgrade is because they all happen to be bizarrely good at dance elements, and they can build solid enough difficulty off of things like leaps and turns so that once their minimum tumbling requirement is met, they can focus on what they’re good at instead. One of Eythora Thorsdottir’s turn sequences adds over a point to her routine between skill values and connection bonuses, whereas the biggest tumbling element in the code only comes in at 0.9, so why kill yourself attempting tumbling when tumbling isn’t your strength and you can instead exploit what IS your strength? People get angry about the Dutch finding these loopholes, but like, everyone does it. Simone Biles did no front tumbling because she could get away with all backwards passes, because that’s what she was good at and there was nothing in the code that said she couldn’t. Finding those loopholes and making them work for you and your talents is a legit strategy in gymnastics. Eythora and Lieke Wevers aren’t going to become iron-legged power gymnasts anytime soon, so they might as well work with what they have instead.

At Junior Euros, Angelina Simakova scored about a point lower on her FTY than any other gymnast. In the video, she didn’t fall, and her vault looks high, clean, and well-executed. What did I miss?

In the qualifying round, Angelina actually competed two vaults. The FTY was her second vault, and received a score of 13.933, with an 8.933 execution for what was a good, clean, solid vault. But her first vault — the one that counted toward the team finish — was her handspring pike half, which she fell on and only received a 12.766. That vault is also out of a 5.0, so it’s a bit confusing because it’s the same start value as the FTY, and unless you know the order in which she competes them, it’s impossible to know off-hand. But yes, she actually did get a good score for her FTY, and it was her first vault that had the problems. I think at that point, the FTY was still maybe new for her which is why she did it second? I think in the past I had only ever seen her do handspring vaults, but I’m not totally sure. I think at Gymnix that year she did two handspring vaults.

If Simone Biles had competed NCAA, what level of difficulty do you think she would have kept?

I think she probably would’ve done something similar to MyKayla Skinner, where she kept a few of her super impressive skills — probably her Biles, since that would be her big signature skill, and maybe her double double since it’s relatively easy for her — but then would’ve downgraded a little bit on the other events, though not TOO much…like her Amanar would probably become a DTY, her full-in off beam might last a week or two but then go down to a double tuck for the majority of the season, etc. I think lots of gymnasts with big difficulty come in expecting to do huge skills week after week but then as the season goes on, their bodies start giving up and they downgrade from there…like, I remember when Bridget Sloan came to NCAA with a Church on bars which was amazing, but then it was gone a few weeks later. I thought the same would happen with MyKayla but somehow she made it through 11 weeks of regular season competition doing the all-around with the difficulty she started out doing back in January…mad props. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone stick to that before.

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


21 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. I don’t blame coaches and gymnasts for using the code to their advantage, I just want FIG to close up the loopholes as people start exploiting them. Which, for a lot of things, they’ve done this quad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mustafina tried to qualify to vt finals at 2013 worlds but it did not go well. I think that’s the last time she competed two vaults. (she did a dty and then sat her nabstafina ro 1/2 on 1/1 off).


  3. My tired brain thought the first question was: “I’m really disappointed that Lauren Hopkins is taking so much time off.”

    I was ready to rip them a new one! Thanks so much for your Jeslo coverage today 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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

  5. Jordan is still at Bowling Green but no longer competing after an achilles injury. Brittany Robertson from New Zealand abruptly left Arizona under suspicious (scholarship-pulling) circumstances and is back in Auckland.


  6. I can’t figure out why people would be made that the Dutch gymnasts build difficulty with leaps and turns. It sets their routines apart a bit. I like big tumbling too but it’s nice to have the variety.

    After years of people whining about gymnastics becoming too much about strength and difficult tumbling and not enough about grace and beauty. Then Eythora Thorsdottir and the Wevers sisters come along and find away to be successful internationally with grace and artistry rather than huge acrobatics and people don’t like that either!



    • I agree! I’m so confused why people are upset after listening to everyone say it’s not artistic anymore! Then beautiful, artistic and difficult routines are poo pooed on. The way people complained about Sanne winning gold, like you go do that routine, then I’ll listen.

      Eythora’s spin combo on floor is gorgeous and insane. How many gymnasts fall out of their turns?! And she combines four! I love it!


    • Because routines with two 2 1/2 twist and double tuck tumbling passes are every bit as unbalanced as routines with 4 major difficulty tumbling passes but are weak on dance skills and artistry. If you get mad about one, you should get mad about the other.


    • Yes, but not like Simone, Aly, Gabby, etc. She doesn’t have an agent but is kinda just taking opportunities as they come to her, like the Nike N7 thing


  7. I totally agree about MLR and Simone getting too much attention just by showing up, at least at those NCAA meets. I have felt for a while that MLR is an attention lover and she really annoys me, especially since she was so unsupportive of the victims of the sex abuse scandal, or rather, too supportive of Steve Penny. I was appalled that a mother of 4 female gymnasts can so blatantly support the wrong side.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Finally someone spoke out what I’ve been thinking about Laurie Hernandez. I do not believe at all she’ll come back, she enjoys the attention too much. When they asked her at last P&Gs she was already so hesistant and (not to be rude or anything) but I just feel like someone like Simone can come back kinda quick but she would need years of work to get back into shape. Plus the youngsters are so good I doubt she’d get a spot on the 2020 team. I can really only see that happening for Simone.


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