You Asked, The Gymternet Answered


It’s time for the 150th 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.

Do you know of any good websites that mainly feature men’s gymnastics?

Not in the sense where they cover every MAG meet…but there are a few blogs, like Uncle Tim’s most notably (which is especially beneficial if you don’t want coverage as much as you want explanations of what’s going on), and then a few tumblr users are also knowledgeable about MAG, so you can always just search around there. But yeah, there are no real websites dedicated to covering men’s gym on a hardcore basis. I’ve been trying to cover more MAG this year, but am already overwhelmed with WAG, so I’ve limited my MAG coverage to bigger meets like worlds, Euros, and the world cups with the occasional domestic meet thrown in.

Do you have any info on how Deanne Soza’s training is going in general now that she is at Texas Dreams? She’s been absent from camp but Kim Zmeskal has said on social media that she’s a hard worker.

Not really. They’re probably keeping things quiet as they work on her routines and mental game going into this season. She’s one of the most technically proficient gymnasts I think I’ve ever seen, and she definitely works super hard, so I can only hope they’re doing great things with her over at Texas Dreams!

I know Shawn Johnson had trouble hitting some of her 180 splits on her leaps and jumps on beam. If she made the requirement in her first leap but didn’t hit the rest, would she get a deduction for not hitting 180 in her other splits?

She’d get deducted for any split that didn’t reach 180, but if she hit one 180 split in combination with another dance element, she wouldn’t miss out on the “connection of two dance elements (one must be a 180 degree split)” requirement. Losing 0.5 in CR is different from getting deducted for not reaching 180. The CR is taken from the D score, whereas deductions come from the E score, so it wouldn’t matter if all of her other splits got deducted for not hitting 180. As long as she hit that required combo, she’d be fine in terms of her CR.

After gymnasts successfully perform the same new skill at worlds or the Olympics and it doesn’t get named, could another gymnast perform it later and have it named for her?

No. Which is honestly really weird because that skill just ends up in a kind of nameless limbo. So like, the stalder shaposh half and the inbar piked Tkachev are just going to be called by their actual skill descriptions instead of by any sort of name even if someone shows up and successfully competes it in the future.

I was watching video of Elena Produnova doing her eponymous vault…how does she manage to not make her butt graze the floor at all?

She is superhuman. Slash I also think if more of the world’s top gymnasts performed the Produnova, we wouldn’t see as many butt-grazers. Like if someone like Simone Biles or another really strong vaulter seriously trained the Produnova, it would most likely be fantastic, just like Produnova herself was.

The problem is that most who attempt it tend to be weaker gymnasts overall, but go for this vault because even though difficulty-wise, it has a huge value, it’s actually a relatively easy vault to learn, technically (unlike a Yurchenko or roundoff half-on, which requires more skill on part of both the gymnast and the coach). Pretty much any gymnast can chuck herself into the air and rotate forward twice. Before I had any gymnastics training I used to throw myself off of my parents’ deck into the pool to see how many times I could flip around before hitting the water.

You don’t need the world’s best coaches to train a Produnova, so it’s become kind of a loophole vault for gymnasts who might not be as technically-proficient but who have a lot of strength and can chuck themselves through it, whereas the more technically-savvy gymnasts compete vaults that aren’t as difficult but require far more finesse and skill (the sole difficulty of the double front comes from the fact that it’s two flips, as opposed to literally every other vault being one single flip).

So I think because Produnova in general was a very strong, technically-proficient gymnast, she was able to have a great deal of control on this vault in the way she could also control her other difficult skills in her repertoire, and I think other top gymnasts like Biles or other strong vaulters (maybe Giulia Steingruber, since she’s good with the handsprings) could add the finesse back to it that Produnova was able to bring when she did it originally.

But the stronger vaulters tend not to do it because even though it’s technically ‘easier’ there’s still the inherent risk of something going wrong. If something goes wrong on an Amanar or Rudi, you might injure a knee and be out for a season. But if your hand slips or you’re having an off day with a double front? Say goodbye to your life! You know how sometimes when gymnasts miss a foot on beam dismounts and yet still rotate backwards twice because the momentum is going and it’s too late to balk and they end up landing on their heads? Picture that, but coming in at quadruple the power. If it does happen, it won’t be pretty, and so the stronger gymnasts would rather perfect vaults that won’t kill them even if the D value isn’t quite as high.

What is the most difficult skill currently being done on floor?

In elite, there isn’t a whole lot of difficulty right now…maybe the Dos Santos? Megan Roberts of Canada is still competing it. Most of last quad’s top floor gymnasts are currently either not competing or are pretty heavily downgraded, so it’s kind of slim pickings at the moment, but there are also a few double layouts out there, and a couple of double doubles as well. I think that’s about it right now, though!

Are there any non-elite gymnasts that have the skills to ‘pull a Kayla Williams’ this year and make the worlds team due to the dearth of two-vault vaulters at the moment? Do you think it’s likely that MyKayla Skinner would come back for this reason?

Jade Carey, who has a kaz tucked full vault named after her in the J.O. code of points, has been going to the national team camps but I don’t think she is quite what they’re looking for, at least right now. I think she also has rumors of an Amanar, and was hoping to try these vaults out at Jesolo, but she ended up not making the team so I’d guess she also wouldn’t make the worlds team without a lot of work.

I think that’s why MyKayla wants to — and probably will — come back this season. With many of the world’s top vaulters not in the game right now, she could very well win gold there this year, and she could actually even make floor finals with her NCAA routine based on the current state of elite floor, so a few minor tweaks, and she’d be a shoo-in for worlds. She’s in pretty much the best shape of her life, and was a machine this season, competing the all-around 11 weeks in a row without a single fall. Love her or hate her, that’s mind-blowingly impressive, and if she can bring that level of consistency and fierceness back over to elite, she could end up with a pretty great chance of topping the podium on two events.

Do you think China could have swapped between Fan Yilin and Shang Chunsong in the bars and beam finals? Shang would’ve had a better chance of a medal on beam and Fan on bars.

They could’ve taken Chunsong out on bars and slipped Yilin in as the first reserve, but on beam if they took Yilin out, the spot would’ve gone to Ellie Downie. Swaps like that are pretty shady, so most countries prefer not to do them at worlds or the Olympics even if they can technically make them happen with the way reserves work out.

How does UCLA award scholarships to some but not others? JaNay Honest is the 2016 PAC 12 bars champ and isn’t on scholarship, while Macy Toronjo hasn’t competed once but is. Why doesn’t Miss Val award scholarships to the top producers?

Scholarships aren’t based on what you do when you get to school. They’re based on what you were doing when you were recruited, and what you can bring to the program. Almost all NCAA gymnastics scholarships are multi-year scholarships, meaning an athlete is pretty much guaranteed all four years at the school she signed on for even if she gets injured or begins under-performing. Toronjo was recruited as an elite/one of the top level 10s in the country and earned her scholarship because of what she did in her recruitment years leading up to NCAA. As a side note, Toronjo has started competing now. She wasn’t able to compete her freshman year due to injury, and then had to take off the first half of this season due to an illness that left her blind in both eyes and unable to train for a significant period of time.

As a level 10, JaNay wasn’t a top recruit. In her five years competing at that level, she only made nationals once, in her senior year, and placed 34th all-around. She was recruited by lower-level programs, but would not have been even slightly in the mix for a scholarship at UCLA, especially not when UCLA was simultaneously recruiting every elite and Olympian under the sun. But UCLA had been Honest’s dream, and so she turned down full-ride offers from Washington and UC Davis to get the chance to make her dream come true. She CHOSE no scholarship at UCLA over full scholarships at other programs, because that’s what she wanted to do.

One of the best things about UCLA’s program is the value Miss Val puts in her walk-on gymnasts, treating them the same as she treats her Olympians. She brings in tons of walk-ons because they add to the team in so many ways, and when injuries happen, walk-ons are the ones who save the team from catastrophe because they can fill-in if needed even if they’re not initially the top choice. And because UCLA has an awesome coaching staff, often their walk-ons end up being some of the program’s top contributors, and some will eventually go on and get a scholarship for at least one of their competitive years, as Sadiqua Bynum ended up making happen.

Part of the gamble of recruiting gymnasts so early is that you don’t know if someone who is at the top of her game at 15 will come into the program at the same level. Some gymnasts who really plateau or go downhill as elites or J.O. gymnasts might not get past the initial verbal agreement with the coach, but for the most part, coaches bet on gymnasts coming into NCAA to do what they did as younger gymnasts. It doesn’t always work out, but again, that’s life when you recruit kids three or four years before they’re college-aged. Some top J.O. or elite recruits might end up crapping the bed in college, whereas kids who were nowhere near the top of the J.O. charts end up kicking butt at the NCAA level, where they no longer have to compete all-around and can focus on the skills and routines that make them stand out.

JaNay is obviously the latter. In the future, JaNay might end up getting considered for a scholarship for one of her remaining years if one opens up, which would be a nice thank you for what she was able to contribute to the program. But she knew the deal coming in and is more than fine with her decision.

I’ve heard rumors that the Big Ten is considering having all Big Ten schools get women’s gymnastics NCAA teams (I go to Wisconsin which currently just has a small club team). Do you have any insight?

Nope, no insight! That would be cool, though. So Wisconsin would get a team, and what else? Northwestern and Purdue, right? I’m all for the building of new gym programs. If Lindenwood could do it in division II, I’m sure new Big Ten schools could bring in some pretty great recruits.

What should I expect at a MAG college meet? Do they score out of a 10?

It’s similar to WAG in that it’s all about the team, but because men who compete elite tend to be a bit older, there are a ton of collegiate gymnasts who simultaneously compete NCAA and elite, so the scoring is the FIG elite scoring system for both to keep things consistent.

If Maggie Nichols left Oklahoma for the fall to train for worlds, could she return in the spring for the 2018 season?

Absolutely. That would be more than enough time for her to come back with a competitive elite program. Actually, she could probably finish up at NCAA Championships this year, start training elite, and be ready for nationals in August, honestly. Her routines are a little downgraded compared to elite, but she could probably pretty easily get most of her skills back.

Why hasn’t the US announced where classics will be yet?

Classics will be held in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, just like they are every year, the bane of my existence because it’s so far from everything haha. Who wants to fly into Chicago and then rent a car and go the opposite direction of the city?! Often a meet’s location isn’t announced because USA Gym has to finalize details with the arena and host clubs who work behind the scenes to put on the meet. I know for the 2016 elite season, there was a lot of waiting because the basketball and hockey seasons would affect some of the arena availability, so it’s pretty much beyond USA Gym’s control in some ways.

What is the process for selecting a coach for a gymnast? How will Simone Biles choose?

Someone like Simone Biles at that level doesn’t really need someone to teach her what to do anymore. She just needs someone who can motivate her to do what needs to get done, and to make the training decisions, set up training logistics, and so on. With all of the foundational work Aimee Boorman did with her, Simone at this point could literally go to any coach of any sport and work something out. At this stage, it’s not about finding the best gymnastics coach, but rather about finding someone who works well with Simone on a person-to-person level. Aimee was great for Simone as a gymnastics coach, but she was even better for Simone because the two clicked really well. As talented as Simone is, I don’t think she would’ve made it to the level she reached with someone she didn’t click well with. I can’t imagine her reaching that level with half of the elite coaches out there in the U.S. so if she chooses to come back, I think her process will be all about finding someone who knows how to push her without being a tyrant about it, someone who knows when it’s time to get down to business, and when it’s time to back off and take things easy.

Do you think the NCAA should devalue the FTY even further? I thought we’d see fewer of them with only a 9.95 start value, but that hasn’t happened.

I wouldn’t be mad if it was a 9.9, but honestly, I don’t think we’ll see real change on vault for another few years at least. When the start value was changed after the 2015 season, all of the recruits coming up had been training FTYs for years, so it wasn’t really enough warning to get them to bring entirely new vaults into the mix. Now that the new rule is out there, clubs are probably making 10.0 start values a priority with younger athletes because that’ll make them more recruitable when schools want to ensure six-person lineups of 10.0 vaults. I’d say by 2019, most schools will start to have full lineups of non-FTY vaults.

Utah has a few graduated gymnasts working with the team. Are they paid, volunteers, or students no longer eligible? Do other teams do this?

Yes, pretty much every school does this. Most are volunteers who stick around because they either decide to live in that area or are in grad school and want to stay involved with the team while they finish up grad school. At Georgia right now, all three of last year’s top seniors — Brittany Rogers, Brandie Jay, and Mary Beth Box — are still working with the team as they have remained at Georgia to finish up with school. Rogers is the undergraduate coach, Jay is the graduate coach, and Box is the graduate assistant.

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. We do not answer questions about team predictions nor questions that say “what do you think of [insert gymnast here].”

Article by Lauren Hopkins


17 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

    • She’s the administrator for the team, so I’d imagine does a lot of the office work but then obviously still has a connection to the team having just been on it, so she is involved at meets too.


  1. Something that I do sometimes is watch the medalists every world and Olympic competition dating back to 1972 (as much as I can anyway). So I just got done watching Produnova and Mo Huilan and I realized that I never really appreciated the fact that they were both the most complete gymnasts of all time. It’s one thing to not have a weak event, but a whole other thing to have the ability to become a world and/or Olympic medalist/champion on every event.


  2. If all the Big Ten schools added gymnastics programs, Indiana University would get one as well. (Sorry, I know way too much about NCAA conferences.)


  3. I thought the Moors was the most difficult skill on women’s floor (I), unless the Dos Santos II(layout) is also an I?


  4. Thanks for answering that Produnova question! However, if the Produnova is technically easier to learn than an Amanar or Cheng, then why does it have a higher difficulty value?


    • Because it’s two flips. Any vault jumps up immensely in difficulty when you add a flip, as opposed to only a few tenths when you add extra twists. A single flip off the vault is easy, and adding twists to it increases its difficulty. But even though the Produnova is technically not hard to learn, the act of doing two flips is what makes it inherently more difficult even though you could literally coach the weakest lower-level non-elite gymnasts through it. What makes it hard is having the power to actually flip through two forward rotations and stand it up. But I know level 8s who can walk into a gym and chuck a Produnova into a pit with zero coaching. If you know how to handspring front tuck, you know how to handspring double front tuck, even if you probably won’t be able to put it to your feet because of the strength required.


  5. I want to know, in your opinion, what country have the most chance to challenge the top 3(USA,CHN,RUS) right now and for the next years?, considering that we have a long gap until the next Championships with Team Final.

    I’m new here, loving it so far, great work!.


    • Thank you! I think Japan is gonna come up and be a major challenger this quad. They have a few really strong individuals who can lead a team, but also a ton of depth so they can replace the top girls and it won’t make too much of a dent, unlike other countries that rely on the top girls and then are screwed if they’re injured.


  6. you mentioned that we may see more non-FTY with the devaluation of the full in college. However, just looking at this year’s Nastia Cup, there seemed to be only 2 DTY and not more than a few 1.5.. We aren’t seeing bunch of Jr. JO gymnasts busting out DTY at this point.

    Is 1.5 and DTY that much harder to coach/learn? would it be easier to coach/learn other entry vaults that are still worth 10.0 in college?


    • Yeah, by younger I mean the ones who are still like 11-13 who aren’t yet being recruited. Since the rule is only two seasons old, the gymnasts who have already been recruited for years wouldn’t have made the changes from the Yurchenko full yet since they grew up doing those vaults expecting them to be their college vaults. But the younger gymnasts who are just getting to level 10 will begin learning different non-FTY vaults.


  7. I think the person asking about Maggie Nichols was referring to her returning to college gymnastics not elite. Like deferring this fall and come back to school in the spring semester. Could she do that?


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

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