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