You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 148th 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.

Was Mihai Brestyan’s selection as the national team coach for Australia a surprise? What does this mean if Aly Raisman tries to come back in 2020? What will happen to his gym?

Yeah, it was definitely a surprise. Aly could still probably figure out a way to train with him, and then have other coaches at Brestyan’s travel with her to international competitions. Mihai is actually pretty used to this, having Aly as his main elite for the most part, but then also having Talia Chiarelli competing for Canada or Khazia Hislop competing for Trinidad, and so on. There are ways to work it out. I think he still owns the gym, but it’ll end up being kind of like a Valeri Liukin/WOGA situation where he’s the owner and sticking with the gym in an administrative sense, but won’t be coaching there anymore and it’s just kind of his gym in name.

Aly said in a recent interview that she plans on continuing with her training looking to compete in 2020. She also said Mihai isn’t moving to Australia and is still at Brestyan’s all the time, but when he’s not there, she trains with his wife, Silvia, who is also one of Aly’s coaches and always has been. She guesses Silvia will be the one on the floor with her at international competitions.

For years, people have complained U.S. girls were all tricks, no style, and lousy form. Now we have Riley McCusker, who is very much of the ‘international’ style, and yet in comments sections and message boards people call her overscored. The hate is palpable. Why are people so harsh on her?

No idea. Here’s the thing — she’s not my favorite gymnast to watch. Her vault could use work, her beam is dull, and her bars is practically a recycled version of Laurie Hernandez’s routine, dismount aside. But even though I’m not a fan of a lot of her routine construction and choices, and am hoping she eventually gets a bit less rigid as she gets more confidence and experience, I am a fan of her style and her flawless technique.

Yes, she has mistakes and issues with consistency, but her skills are so unbearably clean and perfect, I don’t know how people are so upset about her scores. Most gymnasts have so many technique issues, they basically come into a meet with built-in deductions. Like, when you see Aly Raisman going up on bars, you know if she has an absolutely perfect routine on bars with zero mistakes, she’ll probably have a max 8.8 E score because of all of those built-in technical errors. But then you have someone like Simone Biles with a nearly-perfect Amanar where her one inherent flaw was her crossed feet in the air, so a perfect routine for her would basically have a max 9.9 E score because everything else is technically flawless.

On pretty much every routine (except vault, though I think if we saw her go back to a full, that would be included) Riley is working with such a high technical level, her routines basically have no built-in deductions, and so when she has mistakes like multiple wobbles or other problems like that, it won’t look as severe in her E score as it would for someone with a weaker technical ability. Watch her in slo-mo. It’s insane. But what we’re trained to pick up on aren’t these barely-noticeable technical things, but rather the bigger mistakes like wobbles or form breaks, so I think that’s why everyone’s like “ew, an 8.7 E score for that many wobbles?!” But really, it’s totally legit that she could get a high E score with big mistakes because there’s less to take away from in terms of the technical aspects of her gymnastics.

The first time I heard of Riley was after she passed elite compulsories with near-perfect scores on every single event, which is nearly impossible. The passing compulsory score is 35.0 and most struggle to get that, but Riley got a 39.025 and it’s because her basics and foundational skills are practically perfect. It’s totally bizarre to me that people have spent the past decade complaining about U.S. being all about ‘chucking difficulty’ and now here is someone with big difficulty and also incredible form, who’s just a little shaky right now because she’s literally not even a year into her elite career, and people are tearing her apart. She’s exactly what you all wanted!

Do you think the downgrade in the dismount requirement in the FIG code will translate into NCAA?

Nope. They’re two different entities that have nothing to do with one another. Besides, the NCAA dismount requirement is already really low, I believe requiring a C level dismount (or a lower level B dismount like a layout full in combination with a C acro skill). If anything, whereas the FIG got more lenient with difficulty requirements going into this next quad, NCAA has recently been trying to make things more difficult, like with the vault value decreases due to the FTY-heavy lineups. Since the skill level in NCAA is rising, they need to create a wider disparity between ‘good’ and ‘great’ and that’s not gonna happen by decreasing dismount requirements. Elite gym doesn’t have this problem because ‘good’ and ‘great’ routines can be separated by D scores, with the best gymnasts performing more difficult routines and getting rewarded for that greater level of difficulty.

What happened to Arizona State last year? Why were the now-sophomores “made to carry” them?

Since John Spini retired, they’ve had coaching issues, with Rene Lyst fired last season after two seasons. During her tenure, the girls on that team really struggled with how she ran the program, and it caused quite a few to jump ship. Their program was dominated by freshmen last year and the team had crazy injuries on top of that, so they were basically just a mess and those freshmen really had to step it up and contribute in ways that most inexperienced freshmen don’t have to. Now they’re back on track with a strong coach guiding them, recruitment is doing better, and their underclassmen are getting really strong. This year was a rebuilding period for them, and the next couple of years probably will be as well, but I think Jay Santos is going to do some incredible work for them and hopefully bring them back to a more competitive level. Just seeing them upset Arizona this year was an insane testament to how much he’s already done for that team.

How do you think subdivisions will work in 2020? Will they have the teams and individuals from the same country in the same subdivision?

Yes, whether gymnasts are on the team or competing as individuals, they’re all representing the same country and will compete together in the same subdivision in qualifications.

Do you have to home school to train elite? Which elite clubs offer a choice of public school options?

You don’t have to, but it makes your life easier when you’re training at weird hours during the day and traveling to the camps monthly and then to international competitions, which can take up weeks of your time. Like, Morgan Hurd was in Germany for a week, then at camp for a week, and now is going to Italy for a week, which would basically be impossible if she was in public school. You can definitely work it out with school administration, and some gymnasts — like Jordyn Wieber — prefer to stay in public school to have more of a balance between gym life and normal life, but it’s just easier from a logistics standpoint to get your schoolwork done more on your own terms when you have a demanding schedule that doesn’t necessarily conform to school hours. No club will really dictate whether elites must go to public school or home school, though some might suggest home school as the better option and will offer programs within the gym to help kids and parents through that transition.

Does Irina Alexeeva’s citizenship status prevent her from going to the camps?

Yes. The national team camps are for national competitors only, and even though she lives and trains in the U.S., without citizenship she can’t be part of the U.S. women’s program, which means no national team camps or national championships, though she can still obviously compete at other domestic meets like elite qualifiers, invitationals, and classics.

Can you do a double arabian and a front double tuck in the same routine? Has anyone ever done it?

Yes you can. They’re two different skills and there’s no ‘conflict of interest’ when it comes to performing both. Off the top of my head I can’t think of anyone who has done both within the same routine though I’m sure someone must have and I’m just not remembering at the moment.

In a video of Nina Derwael on bars, she’s doing a Tweddle to a pak half. Is that a new skill?

She’s actually doing a Ricna half to Ezhova. A Ricna half would be a new skill…right now the only Tkachev half skills in the women’s code of points are a straddle Tkachev half (named for 2012 Olympian Natalia Kononenko of Ukraine) and a toe-on straddle Tkachev half (named for Beth Tweddle). Brenna Dowell competed the Tweddle to Ezhova last quad, so I love Nina also going for a similar combo while hoping to get that Ricna half named for her.

Do you think a healthy Kyla Ross will be able to compete against Maggie Nichols? Why hasn’t she been scoring as well?

She’s scoring very well on the events she’s always been strong at, which are bars and beam. She’s also a pretty solid vault gymnast, though doesn’t have a 10.0 vault the way Maggie does, and floor has always been an issue for her, which is why she’s struggling there a bit. Kyla finished the regular season ranked first on bars ahead of Maggie, and fourth on beam one one-hundredth of a point behind Maggie, so I don’t think there’s a problem with her scoring at all.

What is the difference between the world cup and world championships? Why are there multiple world cups in one year?

World cups are individual competitions only. In the past, they were a fun way for gymnasts to compete regularly throughout the year while earning prize money, but going forward they’ll be used as qualifiers for individuals to get to the 2020 Olympic Games. All-around world cups are open to the top eight countries in the world based on team finishes at the previous year’s worlds or Olympic Games, but apparatus world cups are open to anyone with a FIG license whose federation doesn’t mind sending them. All-around world cup wins are worth more than apparatus wins, but there’s still a nice amount of prize money in both, which is why they’re popular with gymnasts around the world who basically train and compete for a living. World championships have traditionally been the sole means by which a gymnast could qualify to the Olympics, and they’re also basically an annual showing of ‘the best of the best’ in a non-Olympic year. They’re different from the world cups in that sense, because the world cups aren’t as prestigious as world championships and aren’t events where every country shows up hoping to do their best, but rather the FIG runs them as a way to highlight individuals who compete regularly, often from smaller programs. The world cups began as a way to have more competition between world championships, which used to only happen every four years, but once world championships began to happen biannually and then annually, the world cups stuck around in a different format.

How come college teams have so many athletes but we only see the same names competing? Are they just back-ups in case someone gets hurt?

College teams are all about putting together lineups that will score the highest. If a gymnast isn’t in the top six on any of the four events, she won’t make a lineup because the score she’ll contribute won’t be as much as the score someone else could contribute, and in NCAA, every tenth and even every hundredth counts. Occasionally gymnasts who aren’t first choices for lineups might compete exhibition routines or might step in if a top lineup choice is injured, but for the most part, many teams will stick to the same competitors week in and week out because they need to keep their team average and RQS numbers high if they want a shot at postseason. Some stronger top 10 teams will play with lineups because they have enough depth to field multiple athletes worthy of the top six, but for the most part, teams want the best of the best representing at every meet because that’s how big scores happen.

Is Christian Gallardo still coaching?

Yes, I believe he’s at Future Gymnastics now, still based in Ohio.

If you had a daughter what club would you want her to go to?

I have a strong feeling about Texas Dreams. I love their whole atmosphere, I’ve heard good things from parents, and I like that the coaching style tends to fit each gymnast on a more personal level. Plus, the gym looks beautiful and whenever I see pictures of it, I want to go there myself! I also think Chow would be fun to train with, so I’d go with him second.

I rarely see illusions performed on beam. Is it too simple for elites?

Nope! It’s actually one of the more difficult turns, rated at a D. I think most elites tend to stick to the basic A turn to fulfill the requirement because if they’re not natural at turning elements, they’d rather get high difficulty from bigger tumbling elements and leaps rather than tricky turns that could take them off the beam. Slash wolf turns. When most gymnasts do more complicated turns, that’s what they end up doing. Sigh. Since beam is risky enough as it is in terms of the acro, it’s easier to stick to a simple pirouette and call it a day, so I’m always grateful when the pro turners come in because that’s when we get the more complicated spins on beam like the illusion. In NCAA, because they have fewer requirements and skills to count, they have more time within the time constraints of the routine to get fancy with some of the non-acro elements, and so they will do more unique or tricky dance elements that aren’t as popular in elite where the name of the game is building difficulty with as little room for error as possible.

Are gymnasts still required to touch each apparatus even if they’re not competing in the all-around in the U.S.?

Yup! This is called scratching. It basically signals to the judges like, hey, I’m here, and I am fully aware that I am supposed to be competing right now because I’m on the start list, but I’m not competing for whatever reason. This is so there’s no mix-up with scoring, basically…the judges can see each and every person on the start list and won’t skip over someone or something silly like that.

It’s not only required at domestic U.S. meets, but at international meets as well. When the Ukraine men’s team ended up not having a full roster in Rio last summer, they had to go up and scratch for each routine that they weren’t going to perform. I think because that whole getting up, touching the apparatus, and stepping down thing looks like a protest of some sort (thanks to Stick It probably) many people assumed Ukraine was doing something symbolic or political when they were scratching last summer, but really, they were just letting the judges know what was going on with their plans so no one was sitting around like “ummm is Oleg ever gonna get on the podium and do this routine or what?” It’s like a sign of respect almost, like, thank you, but no thanks, I shan’t be competing this today.

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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24 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. ASU beating U of A was by far my favorite thing that happened in NCAA this season. Of course, I’m a life-long Sun Devil fan, so it would probably be my favorite thing in NCAA any season it would happen, but this year it just had so much meaning to it.

    Also, how does scratching vault work? Do you just have to step up to the podium and salute, or do you actually have to go touch the vault?

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    • You have to salute, touch the apparatus, then salute again. You would touch the vault, beam, and floor. But, you would just step onto the floor.

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      • Okay, thanks. I was just picturing it and seemed like it would be super awkward for vault. But then again, I was picturing the gymnast starting at the end of the runway and then walking over to the table… I assume for scratching vault you’d just walk straight over to the table once you got on the podium?

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  2. “It’s like a sign of respect almost, like, thank you, but no thanks, I shan’t be competing this today.”

    Love this! I think I saw Alicia Sacramone do this on bars at nationals in 2010…IIRC, she ran up, swatted at the low bar, and took off, laughing the whole time. The judges were all, “yeah, yeah, we know…next!”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you Lauren. Another informative Q&A. I can’t get enough of them.
    I found what you said about the NCAA teams, sticking to the same names and using the other girls as a back up, really demoralising. If I were part of a team and training 20 a week and travelling to the competitions, I would find it so frustrating never to have my chance to shine. I wonder whether it doesn’t create a sense of failure in the ‘back-up girls’ as well as a bit of resentment towards the coaches and the ‘big names’ who get to compete week after week. I know NCAA is all about the team. And I understand that strategically, it makes sense. But how does this strategy really create a team spirit?

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    • Well, I think most come onto a team knowing where they fit in and what they’ll compete. It’s one of those things where everyone knows their role, and not everyone is going to be competing as a starter, like in any other team sport. That’s the difference between sports in elementary/high school and sports in college/professional leagues. These teams are playing to win, and while winning isn’t everything, the whole point of recruiting for NCAA programs is to get the best gymnasts to fit the team. A gymnast who could be a star at a lower-ranked school might choose UCLA or Florida knowing full well she won’t ever make a lineup as a non-alternate, but would rather be benched at UCLA or Florida than leading the team in another program..and vice versa. I know of plenty of gymnasts who will choose lower-ranked schools to get more competitive experience and to be that team’s star instead of warming the bench in the ‘big leagues’ so to speak. Literally every single team sport has athletes that will be used heavily and athletes that will sit on the sidelines until they’re needed, and those athletes tend to not be surprised about what their role on the team is, which is why so many of the non-superstar competitors on the bigger teams are happy to support their teammates.

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    • Take UCLA for an example, they have a huge team with lots of great gymnasts. UCLA is also a really great school. Many gymnasts would want to go to UCLA regardless of the gymnastics program and would rather go to their dream academic school, UCLA, and get a chance of doing gymnastics there rather than attend and star in a program / college that they wouldn’t attend had they not been offered a scholarship.

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    • I was one of those people on my team who never completed and I never resented my teammates. I totally understood. I chose a school where I knew I would have trouble competing because I wanted to be pushed. I could have gotten a scholarship elsewhere but chose to walk on at my school with the understanding that I may never compete. I worked my butt off and was exhibitionist 2 events my sophomore year and had never loved gymnastics more or felt more proud of myself for how far I had come. People on the teams can see where they are lacking and often are only working the events that they may have a chance to compete anyway instead of constantly doing All around

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        • Thank you! Yeah, it’s hard I think to see some things from the outside, especially if something looks unfair…but generally no one comes onto a team not knowing where they stand. Once in a while you do get someone going to a top SEC or PAC 12 school thinking they’re gonna be the star and they end up doing one event, and eventually most of these girls will move to programs that better fit their desires…but yeah, for the most part there’s no bitterness and if someone does have a really cool floor that won’t score well or something, they’ll at least get exhibition routines in so they can perform with the team for the crowd. Better than nothing!

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  4. Thank you to whichever contributor asked the question about Riley McCusker. I was feeling the same way about what seemed like an excessive amount of negative comments on the boards. And thank you Lauren for calling us on our hypocrisy when we start to show it (and I include myself in that.) 😉

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    • I think Riley is also suffering from the 2012 Gabby Curse, where a relatively unknown gymnast joins the conversation in a MAJOR WAY, and ascends to the top gymnast in the Country, despite all gym fans already having their faves. Suddenly it feels like Riley is stealing opportunities from gymnasts that we already love and feel are more deserving. I think a lot of gym fans hated Gabby in 2012, because no matter how good she was, a lot of people thought(And still think) she stole Jordan’s all-around slot at the Olympics.

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  5. I’m sorry but just because Riley is new to Elite and “still a little shaky” doesn’t make the ridiculous overscoring any better. I like this kid but come on 15.05 on bars in quals and then silver with that form?
    Imo it’s not hate, it’s just a fact. This kid is gonna go places for sure and she’s really elegant etc but still, it’s not gonna score that well at worlds etc.

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    • It’s fine to say she’s overscored, but that’s not what people are saying. People are legit being disgusting about her, going as far as saying “I hope she breaks her neck.” Cute behavior! Also, almost every competition this year has had gross overscoring. Where is all of this discourse about Becky Downie getting a 13.725 on bars with noticeable mistakes AND A FALL? Or Eythora Thorsdottir getting a 14.8 on beam? I’ve watched something like 30 meets this year and can think of maybe five that weren’t insane with scoring, so calm down, it’s not just this one meet or one routine or one person. It’s judges not knowing WTF the standard is in this new code. Get used to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you!!!! I commented on another post about this same thing. It seems like the US girls are talked about over and over again with over scoring but the Russians and other countries? Not nearly as much, even when it’s blatant for them as well. It’s like complaining about the US girls is the “it” thing to do or something, when you are #1 it’s more accepted, who knows. I realize you can complain about one person and still think the same about another, but it just seems so PROLIFIC with the US girls in general, and Reilly in particular.

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        • Yeah, it’s really obnoxious to see it all the time. Like, yeah, guess what, the U.S. girls are overscored at home and at Jesolo, but then they also go to worlds and to the Olympics and win everything, so what does it matter?? Does it really truly matter if Riley got a 15+ on beam at a meet that means nothing 3.5 years before the Olympic Games? Nope, just like it doesn’t matter that British and Russian gymnasts can get 13.7s with falls at home. And also, last time I checked, the judges are the ones handing out the scores, not the gymnasts themselves. If you have a problem, take it up with them. No need to bash literal children because you don’t like the bars score they got. So obnoxious and also, frankly, boring. It’s been the same nonsense for almost a decade at this point. Come up with new material, please.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Agree 100%. I think your assessment of it being the “in thing” to do could explain the trend. I’ve tried to say this in a few other places and have been quite forcefully shot down. :/

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        • Yes, I totally agree about the “in thing”. I think we’re seeing a lot of the same thing with hate toward Utah this year (though I’ve not seen anything about them anything close to what Lauren’s apparently seen about Riley).

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        • Yeah, Utah also gets it pretty bad, and always have…no idea why. I mean, I get people not liking MyKayla Skinner, but they generally have good, solid gymnastics and yet people hate them for some reason.

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

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