It’s time for the 149th 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.
It’s cool to see NCAA leos that are ‘fun’ but how do gymnasts reconcile lace tops, extensive peep hole backs, and other designs with the undergarment support they would need while tumbling?
I think many actually have problems with this, and deal using something like double sided tape or something else that’s awkward. Not worth the sacrifice in my opinion! Other teams will stick to bras that are more skin-tone so that they can still wear the big open backs but won’t have to worry about not wearing anything underneath.
What ever happened to the person who set the vault wrong for the all-around at the Olympic Games in Sydney?
Nothing…mistakes happen! They weren’t, like, burned at the stake or publicly flogged or anything. I don’t know who was responsible for setting it, but based on what I’ve seen at various domestic and international meets, the people who set up the equipment are usually volunteers and then the coaches play around with the settings as needed. What’s more concerning is not the person who set it wrong, but that no coaches double-checked or realized something was off in warm-ups and that it took something like three rotations full of falls and a major injury before anyone was like “oh.”
Why do MAG high bar routines use such stronger/more emphasized tap swings than WAG uneven bars routines?
I think it’s just that they’re going for more high-flying releases that need more momentum to generate the power needed to get them up into the air. A stronger tap creates more momentum, which is why they’re able to do things like double backs and full-twisting layout Tkachevs over the bar. Women could gain a similarly strong momentum with a more aggressive tap swing, but the low bar kind of hinders them from doing so.
Which Chinese gymnasts are you most excited to see this quad? Any star juniors to keep an eye out for?
The 2002-born Li Qi is probably who I’m most looking forward to. She is so good on beam and has a ton of potential overall. I also really enjoy Du Siyu, another 2002 baby, on bars, and I think the new senior Jing Yang has a ton of potential to be a really strong vaulter but I think she needs a bit more control and focus on her technique.
More than new seniors, though, I’m excited for some of last quad’s background gymnasts to step out into the spotlight, especially as a wave of older gymnasts will retire after this summer’s national games. Liu Tingting getting injured right before Rio was devastating, but I think she looks even better now and has the potential to blow everyone away this quad. Luo Huan, an Olympic alternate, also looks fabulous, and I think Wang Yan and Fan Yilin will grow from baby Olympians to bigger stars. There are a few other 2000 babies with big potential going forward, but this is probably my favorite group.
Is there any kind of cheat sheet to follow NCAA? Something with the basic information?
We put out schedules every week during the season to help people see what’s going on, and we generally live blog the meets to help people figure out what they’re watching, with comments about the skills and how they look and even some judging complaints. We also put out an intro to collegiate gym guide a couple of years ago that’s still pretty relevant and you can also check our NCAA tag for all of the NCAA coverage we’ve done in the years we’ve been around. That’ll help you follow in the most basic way, but I think with NCAA — like with any sport — actually watching is the most helpful. Pick a team or a couple of teams as your favorite, preferably one that does a great broadcast helpful to newer fans (the SEC Network broadcasts are amazing!), and try to follow them all season. Even watching two or three times, you’ll pick up on the lingo and what you should be paying attention to and all that good stuff. It can be overwhelming to follow because there’s just so much going on, but if you stick with one team at first and ease your way in, eventually you’ll be one of the NCAA mega-fans watching as many meets as possible in a given weekend.
Do you think countries like Australia will ever have a shot at challenging the Americans if they begin revamping the program?
I mean…maybe someday? Not anytime soon, just based on how development of the younger generations is going on in each country at the moment. But you never know what will happen ten or twenty years down the line. Bringing Mihai Brestyan in was a smart decision on their part, as he’s seen the behind-the-scenes aspects to the U.S. program and can bring that to Australia. With Australia, their issues have been in developing younger generations and turning promising juniors into productive senior international elites. They get the occasional strong standout gymnast, but as a team, they’re not bringing in enough of those strong gymnasts to challenge other top teams. That’s the real difference. I’m sure Mihai will make development a priority because it doesn’t matter if you have a few top stars. If you don’t have that depth coming up from below, you’re not going to be successful internationally at all. It’s the same issue Romania and several other top programs are having, where once the top girls are injured, there’s no one of equal value who can step in and take her place, and that’s what they need…a brilliant A team, but also a B team of kids who are at a similar level and can step in when the A team kids can’t compete.
Is it true that most Olympic level gymnasts don’t go through puberty until after they stop training? Or has that kind of shifted in recent years?
There’s definitely been a shift. I think it can definitely delay puberty a bit, but most Olympic gymnasts we see now have definitely been through puberty. Most tend to see the bulk of it happening around the same time they turn 15 or 16, which can be detrimental, as the transition from junior to senior is hard enough without also going through a growth spurt and other body changes that force you to re-train a good chunk of your gymnastics. But for the most part, the gymnasts you see at the Olympic level more or less have their adult bodies, give or take a few who are just naturally tiny or under-developed.
Is it important that a good psychologist is available to gymnasts?
Yeah, definitely. It’s not vital, and not every gymnast works with a sports psychologist, but it really does help take some kids who might be nervous or tentative competitors to a whole other level. Sometimes gymnasts can be the most talented in their field, but really struggle mentally with competing, and it completely holds them back. I know Simone Biles went through a major breakthrough after just a single session working with a sports psychologist, and the national team staff will definitely recommend that to anyone who needs one, in the same way they’d also recommend nutritionists, personal trainers, and anyone else not exactly necessary for gymnastics, but who can help turn a gymnast from good to great.
I was wondering about the differences between NCAA conferences? There are a lot of them and I want to know if there are differences in performances, rules, etc.
So first you should know that NCAA conferences are set up for NCAA sports in general, not just for gymnastics. The conferences are a way to divide teams up into different leagues, usually based geographically (kind of like the AL East, AL West, NL Central, and so on for baseball) so travel doesn’t have to be too extensive for any team (though teams can compete against teams outside their conference, and do this somewhat regularly in gymnastics).
Some conferences are stronger than others, and that can depend on the sport as well. Like, the ACC is arguably one of the best NCAA basketball conferences right now, but no ACC schools have super strong gym programs. Of the 15 ACC member teams, only three have gymnastics teams, period, and so those programs (Pittsburgh, NC State, and North Carolina) got together with three other lone programs (New Hampshire of America East, Towson of the CAA, and George Washington of the Atlantic 10) to create the EAGL conference, which is specific to gymnastics. There are a couple of gymnastics-specific conferences, like the fairly-new MRGC, but the biggest gym conferences tend to also be big sports conferences in general, like the SEC, PAC 12, Big Ten, and Big 12.
There aren’t really any differences in performances or rules between conferences. Again, it’s basically just a geographical divide to keep league play easier to manage, but conferences mean very little overall in the grand scheme of the sport. Yes, there are bonds and rivalries within conferences, and with conference championships, the winning team gets an annual conference title so you’ll see banners for 2017 SEC Champion or 2017 PAC 12 Champion or whatever, but unlike in some sports, conference finishes don’t determine postseason.
Going back to major league baseball as an example, postseason is limited to the top regular season finisher in each division plus one wildcard per league, but in NCAA gymnastics, if the seeding into regionals works out just right, you could conceivably see all eight SEC teams at nationals. There’s nothing like the top finisher from each conference makes it to postseason, because since there are vast differences in conferences in gymnastics, nationals wouldn’t come close to representing the best in the sport (the top regular season team from the MIC is ranked 50th overall, for example, so you’d basically have the overall first, second, fourth, and seventh-ranked teams up against a 50th-ranked team, but the third-best and fifth-best teams overall would miss out).
So don’t worry too much about conferences. It’s nice to know who’s in which conference, because then you can see, like, “oh it’s UCLA against Utah tonight, the top two teams in the PAC 12, that should be a great epic rivalry meet!” But it doesn’t really mean anything in terms of postseason or ranking or anything like that.
Is there an empty swing deduction for not doing an element directly after a pak or Bhardwaj?
Nope…a gymnast can kip cast to handstand directly after a pak or Bhardwaj and that’s totally fine. Many top bars gymnasts will compete something of value out of a pak to add bonus…if they do a pak to inbar or a pak to Maloney or something they can get an extra tenth, and a pak to van Leeuwen or other E transition would get them an extra two tenths. Many can and will take a breather by just casting out of a pak and they won’t incur a deduction or penalty, but for those who want to boost their D scores, it’s worth it to perform another element out of the pak.
Could Miss Val or Randy or another UCLA coach have coached Jordyn Wieber if she wanted to continue elite after getting to college? I know she couldn’t train with the team due to restrictions, but could the coaches coach her privately?
Yup. Miss Val coached Vanessa Zamarripa at the elite level in 2010, when Vanessa was attempting to make the worlds team while simultaneously still competing at the NCAA level. Watching Miss Val runway walk around the arena at U.S. nationals in a suit and heels while every club coach was in yoga pants and sneakers was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life, so I fully support anyone who wants to compete elite with her on their side. If she had the time and wanted to do it, Miss Val or any NCAA coach could absolutely coach any gymnast on the side. I also always forget that Chris Waller coached Mohini Bhardwaj at the Olympics in 2004! I just happened to be on USA Gym’s list of Olympians the other day and all coaches were listed as well, and when I saw his name I was like who did he coach at the Olympics??? and then was like, duh, Mohini! So yes, entirely possible.
What are some of the reasons that an NCAA gymnast would transfer schools?
The same reason any student would want to transfer…not feeling the atmosphere, not enjoying the classes or teachers, wanting to be closer to home or family, etc. There could be similar athletics-specific reasons, like not getting along with the coach or teammates, and there can also be disciplinary reasons (several gymnasts in recent years have been kicked off of NCAA teams due to infractions but they can transfer to another program if they want to finish off their eligibility).
This is an awesome beam from Tatiana Gutsu (she got a perfect 10). What would its D score be in the new code?
Ahh, yes, this is an incredible routine! So beautiful, and it would actually have a pretty solid D score today. My one question would be whether she counts a forward acro element, which is required in order to receive the full 2.0 CR. She does a tic-toc, an A-level acro skill that technically goes both forward and backward, so for the purposes of what we’re doing right here, I’m going to say she satisfies the front acro requirement with that skill, though I’m not totally sure if the FIG would agree.
So she gets the full 2.0 CR, her skill value totals 3.2 (GFEDCCBB), and she has 0.3 in CV, giving her 5.5 under the current code, and about a 6.0 in last quad’s code. She does count four skills below a D, which would be somewhat weak in a routine today, but I’m sure had the Tatiana Gutsu of yore been competing under today’s code, she would’ve figured something out to change that! But it wasn’t really necessary back then. Her routine more than met the requirements.
In NCAA bar routines when a gymnast connects a release to a shootover, is that the same skill as a bail? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone land it in handstand, and that’s a big deduction, correct? Why would they do it if they know they’re accepting a huge deduction?
No, a bail and a shootover or overshoot are different skills. The requirements for a bail is that it must finish in handstand to receive credit, whereas an overshoot can be caught at the horizontal, making it an easier and lower-valued skill. Pretty much no one in NCAA will do an overshoot on its own, because it’s worth basically nothing, but doing it in connection with a release is kind of like doing a wolf jump out of a D acro skill on beam in elite. You do it for the bonus, not for the skill value itself.
Why is it that gymnasts from the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, and a couple of others end their elite careers in NCAA while gymnasts from other countries stick with elite for much longer? Could some of the NCAA girls have done well for themselves in elite?
I think because, simply, they have the option to end their careers in NCAA whereas gymnasts from other countries don’t. Many gymnasts, especially from non-Western countries, grow up in systems where they can start earning money almost immediately from gymnastics. The Merkova twins from the Czech Republic, for example, just turned senior and have already earned some cash for their floor finishes at the world cup in Doha, and will have many other opportunities going forward to earn money. Russian and Chinese juniors on the national level basically earn salaries, other countries have ways of funding their gymnasts through connections with the national army and things like that…they have more of an incentive to stay in the sport at the elite level, especially if they’re the best in their country. That, and they don’t really know much about NCAA or how to get involved. U.S. gymnasts and those from mostly English-speaking countries who know about NCAA as an option since they’re very young make it a point to not accept prize money or endorsements, and then once they’ve reached their peak in elite, they have another level they can move on to while also getting a $200,000 education for free. NCAA at some point becomes a higher incentive than any prize money or endorsements most gymnasts would ever get, so they opt to do that rather than continue elite.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins