It’s time for the 146th 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.
NCAA gymnasts often use cat leaps and beat jumps on beam. Why don’t we see them in elite?
They’re not worth anything in the elite code of points because they’re not difficult enough. The code has a cat leap half (A) and full (B), but no regular cat jump and no beat jump, so there’s no point in doing either of them because they wouldn’t add value. On beam, gymnasts use lower-level jumps for two reasons: to satisfy composition requirements and to build connection bonus. So you could see a gymnast doing a basic A jump as part of a jump series to get that 180 CR down, or you could see someone connecting D-level acro to a B jump to get a tenth in bonus, so even though most gymnasts won’t count A or B skills into their eight counted elements, those elements are still useful in some other way. In NCAA, cat leaps and beat jumps do have value as CR and bonus builders, but since they don’t exist in the elite code of points, there’s literally no point in doing them (though I think I have seen both as part of choreography).
Is there a reason why Jordan Chiles hasn’t been selected for a team or individual spot yet this year?
Jordan was injured last year, causing her to miss part of the competitive season and probably some training as well. Chances are, coming into this early part of the season, she probably hasn’t been at full strength or hasn’t yet returned on all four events, which can make it hard to make teams. Given that she was nominative for the world cups and Jesolo, they were probably expecting her to come back a bit sooner, but she likely hasn’t been able to meet the standards they wanted her to be at for international competition and opted to not push it rather than having her compete when not fully ready.
Has anyone ever done a front aerial + side aerial + loso as a flight series?
Hmm, not that I can think of. I’ve definitely seen front aerial to side aerial connections, and Aliya Mustafina at one point was doing an Onodi to front aerial to side aerial…so this is definitely possible but I can’t picture any routines that had this series.
Do you think U.S. dominance is over?
Nope. Yes, the team isn’t competing at the same level they were at in Rio after 10+ of the country’s top gymnasts have retired or gone on to NCAA, but why would they be? No one is pushing their best stuff for Gymnix or world cups one month into the season. They’re pushing for worlds and for Tokyo. No teams are giving their best right now, and this weaker U.S. team is still stronger than any other country, including top countries who have already seen 2016 Olympians return. The gap has obviously narrowed a bit, but the U.S. gymnasts as a team are still pretty unbeatable at the moment.
On the individual front, worlds will definitely be more exciting this year with no one like Simone Biles basically guaranteed to take all the golds, but the U.S. women should still be able to collect a pretty decent number of medals and once they’re at 100% worlds shape, should still lead the way in the all-around as well (though it won’t be as pre-determined “I can win with two falls” like Simone’s wins were, and they’ll have a bit more competition internationally).
People are freaking out about falls and lower difficulty, but like, do we not remember any U.S. nationals in a non-Olympic year? I always think back to 2011, just a year out from London, when the U.S. ladies had the biggest splatfest nationals ever and then went on to dominate worlds only two months later and then the Olympics a year after that. And in March 2009, three of the 2012 Olympians hadn’t even begun competing elite yet! So no, there’s no reason to be nervous about falls and lower difficulty this early in the Olympic cycle, especially when every single other country in the world is having the same problem.
Do you know anything about Bailie Key and Jazmyn Foberg? Are they done with elite?
As far as I know they both plan to continue elite at least into this summer, but beyond that I’m not sure. Jazmyn has been to a couple of the camps, but I guess doesn’t have full routines back, and Texas Dreams tends to not bother bringing gymnasts to camp if they’re not at a high enough quality, so Bailie’s definitely still training, but like Deanne Soza as well, probably doesn’t yet have the routines that are polished or completely representative of what they can do as gymnasts. Sometimes it’s better to skip this early part of the season and focus on the bigger meets down the road. If you’re prepared in February and March, great, go out and compete, but if you’re still working on upgrades or getting solid with the routines you have, it’s better to not push anything and to just wait patiently for the summer season going into worlds. Jesolo and the world cups will definitely linger in the selection committee’s minds, but no worlds team is going to be decided on what happens in March.
Given the hilarious overscoring with some ‘perfect’ 10 routines this NCAA season, what do you think will happen during the postseason? Are there teams you believe have been overscored all season that will be unpleasantly surprised at regionals or nationals? Or will the top teams from regular season still make up the Super Six?
I think just from watching the teams all season, the top teams truly are the top teams, especially with Oklahoma or LSU. I feel like this is really LSU’s year…I don’t love them as a whole, but they’ve been on fire all season and just look like a championship team. That, plus they’re coming off of a couple of rough postseasons where things looked like they might go their way but ended up not. That’s a huge motivator going forward, and I think they can make it happen, though Oklahoma is obviously also insane right now and they’ll be huge competition.
In terms of the rankings, the only team I don’t really feel is accurately ranked is Florida…but even they’re not too far off. I think UCLA overall has a stronger team than Florida, but Florida also tends to hit more when it counts whereas UCLA is always like “how many times can we fall today?” But if both teams are at full strength, I think UCLA is SUCH a stronger team right now.
The Super Six and nationals in general are weird, so ranking isn’t always a good indicator of what will happen. After being rankings-based all season, regionals is a one shot deal, so the best team in the country that has gotten 198s all season could have something go majorly wrong and end up with the worst meet of the year and not make it to nationals. There are almost always upsets like this, not really with the TOP team, but with some highly-ranked teams not ending up at nationals. That has nothing to do really with how they’ve been scored all season, though. It’s because regionals are about hitting when it counts, and sometimes teams just happen to have their one bad day when they need to have their best day.
Prelims is the same way. With the top three teams from each prelim representative of the top six teams from regionals, you’d think the top six teams coming into nationals would seed right into the Super Six, but again, if a top team happens to have its worst day in that moment, it doesn’t matter that they looked so good all season. That happened to LSU in 2015, coming in ranked fourth from regular season but then counting falls in prelims and not making the Super Six whereas Auburn, ranked 8th in regular season, ended up shockingly getting into the final.
That’s how it is with gymnastics in general, though. How many times are we like “omg Larisa Iordache is amazing on beam, she needs worlds beam gold!” and then she falls either in qualifications or in finals and it’s like damn, one of the best beam gymnasts in the world isn’t going to medal? And I mean, the biggest example is McKayla Maroney in 2012, basically guaranteed vault gold, and falling for the first time in like four years on that event in the exact moment when it counted the most.
So top teams not having a successful regionals or nationals prelims or Super Six has more to do with not hitting when it counts than coming in getting 198s all season and then getting a 197 from postseason judges. Generally the teams that get high scores all season will continue to be the highest-scoring teams in postseason if they hit.
What are fouettés and à la seconde turns?
Both are turns that are often used in ballet, though a few gymnasts have done them as part of their choreo on floor. Neither is recognized in the code of points, though I think fouettés would count as pirouettes with the leg below horizontal while à la seconde turns would probably count as pirouettes with the leg at horizontal.
Fouetté is French for ‘whipped’ and that’s exactly how these pirouettes look…the dancer whips her working leg around at horizontal with her arms open in second position to generate momentum for the next part of the turn, where she brings her arms back to first and the working leg to passé. She is able to turn several times in this position before needing to whip through again thanks to the momentum generated at the beginning, and a more experienced dancer with incredible control can continue this sequence of opening up and whipping and then closing up back to passé multiple times (Swan Lake is famous for its 32 fouettés in a row).
An à la seconde turn looks similar to the first part of the fouetté, with the working leg at horizontal, though in this turn, the leg stays at horizontal the entire time, with no whipping back into passé. In ballet terms, à la seconde on its own just means open in second position or open to the side, so a turn is simply done in this open position.
In gymnastics, I actually don’t think I’ve seen à la seconde turns that I can remember, but I have seen a few floor routines that might have a single fouetté, which is when it’s like, one horizontal whip into one single pirouette in passé, as opposed to one whip into two or three turns in passé before having to whip around again. I feel like anything beyond a single fouetté would be really difficult on the carpeted floor mat.
Why does Brenna Dowell only compete front tumbling on floor?
Probably just personal preference, as is the case with most gymnasts who prefer a certain style of skill on any event. Some gymnasts legitimately fear backward tumbling but I don’t think Brenna does, as she can and has done it. I think she has a strong ability with front tumbling, and so sticks to what makes her stand out.
Can a school take away a scholarship after someone has already started?
In the past, NCAA scholarships were granted for a single academic year at a time, but I think in gymnastics now the majority of programs award multi-year scholarships so I can’t think of this happening in recent years. There might be some individuals who are on a year-by-year basis? But I think for the most part almost everyone competing in gymnastics goes onto a team knowing she won’t lose her scholarship due to injury, poor performance, or coaching changes. The only time it really has become an issue in recent years has been because of disciplinary issues or something…the SCHOOL can choose not to renew a scholarship based on issues like misconduct or not meeting grade requirements, but these reasons are pretty much all unrelated to athletic performance.
How is Kyla Ross sticking double layouts in NCAA when she was too tall for it in elite? Did they adjust the bars?
Yes, they adjusted the high bar for her in NCAA. There’s also the fact that the routine she competes now is basically a quarter of what she was doing in elite in terms of skill level and even routine length, so she has much more endurance at the end of the routine to get the height needed in her release for her to safely land a double layout. Shorter routines and thus higher stamina at the end of a routine are the reasons why you see more full-twisting double layouts in NCAA than you do in elite, actually!
Did Ashton Locklear go pro?
Technically, yes. I don’t think she has an agent and isn’t really doing big endorsement deals or anything (you need a certain level of fame/recognition from being on a gold-medal Olympic team or winning a million medals at worlds before you start getting big offers as a gymnast), but when she opted to not compete in NCAA, she opened the doors to accept money related to her gymnastics, which she’s been able to do on a smaller scale than some of the girls who competed in Rio. She was able to accept payment for doing the post-Olympic tour, which is a pretty sweet paycheck for that time commitment, and she is also now a Nike N7 ambassador (the Nike N7 Fund supports aspiring Native American and Aboriginal athletes in North America). Hilariously, she also recently posted a pic of her orthodontist on Instagram and tagged it #ad the way some athletes or celebs do when they’re endorsing products, so she might be getting a little sponsorship help from local businesses or something as well. So yeah, she’s pro, will not be competing NCAA, but she’s not like, racking up endorsement deals in the way Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas are.
What is the highest all-around score someone has ever gotten in NCAA gymnastics?
In 1996, Karin Lichey of Georgia got a 40 in a meet against Kentucky after earning perfect 10s on all four events. That’s the one time this has happened, so it’s obviously the rarest unicorn, but I think Maggie Nichols will make it happen at some point in the next few years. She almost made it happen this year!
Would a whip full to double twist receive any connection bonus?
Is a whip full in the code? If it is, I can’t find it, but since a whip is an A and a whip half is a B, I’d assume a whip full would be a C. Since a double full is also a C, yes, this would receive one tenth in direct acro connection bonus.
I noticed a lot of gymnasts in NCAA have flexed feet in their choreo on floor. Isn’t it a deduction if their toes aren’t pointed?
It’s only a deduction if the toes aren’t pointed on a skill. Flexed foot choreo is popular in many styles of dance, which is why some floor choreographers like to use it, especially in more modern or jazz-style routines. Because it’s part of the choreography and is intentional, it doesn’t receive a deduction the way a skill would.
How do you think the current crop of GB juniors and new seniors will rate against their established stars next quad? What do you think the new seniors will have to do to make a big international team in the coming years?
I think without upgrades, they’re going to mostly be in the shadows of last quad’s stars, which is a shame because many of them have a beautiful style that is so unlike their predecessors. Alice Kinsella, Maise Methuen, Georgia-Mae Fenton (okay, she was a new senior last year, but I count her as one of the younger generation since she wasn’t really part of last quad’s major teams), Taeja James, Amelie Morgan, and a few others are very promising, but unfortunately aside from Fenton on bars, none of them really have routines that could make them stand out enough when it comes time to make an international squad. I do think Kinsella could be valuable to the team on beam if she gets a bit more consistent and like I said, Fenton’s bars are great and we could see her in the mix for that event alone, but otherwise, yeah, they really need lots of upgrades if they want to factor in, given that already four of last year’s Olympic team have returned and are back in the spotlight.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins