You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

It’s time for the 151st 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.

I know you said scores don’t really matter from week to week but some routines get really big scores that their routines don’t really deserve. Why doesn’t this matter?

Literally every beneficiary of overscoring is part of a top team that is most likely to go to regionals as a full team, so their individual regular season scoring won’t affect them going into postseason at all. Their teams are still going to go to postseason, and if their team doesn’t qualify a full team to nationals, their only way to get there as an individual is based on how they perform at regionals, which are less likely to be overscored.

As far as teams that generally have overscoring go, for the most part it doesn’t matter because the top teams would be the top teams with or without overscoring. It doesn’t matter if someone from LSU gets a 10 on vault with a minor foot slide when that same vault would’ve been a 9.95 or even a 9.9 elsewhere. LSU is going to be at the top of the rankings with or without that 10. The only time it really matters is when you get down to some of the lower-ranked teams that need to seed into regionals. If you have a team ranked 16th that throws out 10s at every meet, they get a better regionals seed than a team ranked 20th that scores more fairly, and it’s similar if you have a team that ends up ranked 35th or 36th that gets overscored to beat out another team that ends up placing 37th and doesn’t make it to regionals.

But it’s rare that we see crazy overscoring with these teams in the way we see it with top teams. Really, though, if LSU or Oklahoma get a million 10s, that’s not going to affect how a team like Central Michigan or Maryland or Minnesota will finish in the rankings. The stronger teams are always going to be the stronger teams with or without the occasional 10 for an exemplary, but not literally perfect, routine.

Is Morgan Hurd the first international elite to compete with glasses?

Kami Moore, who was a pretty strong junior national team member from Geddert’s Twistars, used to compete with glasses as well but it’s pretty rare! I do ballet with glasses and can barely pirouette when I wear them because it’s hard to spot with them on, so I can’t imagine having to spot while tumbling, though in terms of keeping them on and secure, there are sports bands that hold them to her head so they’re not flying all over the place during her double double.

Why do you think Kyla Ross took her Jaeger out of her college routine? She only does a Maloney, bail, toe shoot, and her dismount. Is it normal for a college routine to only have four skills?

Yeah, most college uneven bars routines are simplified, and releases don’t have to be same-bar releases, so transitions from low to high fit the requirement. That routine is pretty similar to a lot of other collegiate routines…many of Florida’s bar workers used to have pretty much that same exact set at one point, actually. Even those who do a release might do something like a Tkachev, bail, jump to high, giant full, and full-in or something. It’s all very quick and to the point in NCAA, with only four skills able to cover all of the bases and requirements pretty easily.

Who would you choose to play Amalia, Ruby, and Emerson in a film of your books?

I’d really want Amandla Stenberg to play Ruby and Elle Fanning to play Emerson. Those are definites. For Amalia, I get more indecisive, but I always end up going back to Sophie Nelisse, who played Liesel in The Book Thief. She was a gymnast at one point in Canada which is why I first thought of her, and on top of that her features definitely fit what I picture for Amalia. I would obviously need a real-life gymnast cameo appearance in that movie, though, because what’s a gymnastics movie without a real-life gymnast cameo?! Laurie Hernandez would win that role from me.

Do you think there will come a day when women somersault backwards over the high bar like the men do?

I HOPE SO. I think having the low bar hurts them because it limits how aggressive they can be on a giant swing if their legs are reaching back to the bar so they’re not able to get as much momentum as the guys can build up…but it’s my dream, basically. I was secretly hoping Anna Li would come back after 2012 and do some crazy high-bar-esque uneven bars routine with a million releases, but sadly this was never to come true. Now all of my hopes lie with Brenna Dowell. She posted an IG of a Tkachev to Tkachev last fall and I was like ummm I know you’re playing around but that was actually seriously awesome and please do high bar now. She’d be great at it.

If the NCAA has practice time limits (say 20 hours per week), does that mean a gymnast who competes all four events has less time on each event while someone who only focuses on one or two has more time?

Yeah, someone who trains all four has to figure out how to divide her time between events whereas someone on fewer events gets to really specialize, though she probably also does more conditioning or drills or something rather than just non-stop routine training on those one or two events.

How can some NCAA teams have so many gymnasts that never compete and aren’t on the roster (like UCLA with Nicki Shapiro and Melissa Metcalf)? How and why do teams take gymnasts off the roster? Do they have scholarships?

Nicki Shapiro and Melissa Metcalf aren’t on the roster this season and aren’t on scholarship. Both are still working with the team, but I believe Nicki may have medically retired and I’m not sure why Melissa ended up finishing out her career but yeah, even though they both have jobs within the team now they’re there more as support staff and not as athletes anymore.

Could a gymnast potentially perform a release caught in reverse grip, then change grip and swing immediately into a pak or bail? Has anyone done that?

Ummm…I’m not sure if I’m picturing this right? What kind of release? That would make a difference, I’d expect. There’d really be no point in doing it though? It wouldn’t add to anything in terms of value, and it would make for a really awkward transition…I guess they could kind of catch in reverse and hop change to regular grip or something but yeah I really don’t know what you’re picturing in your head so it’s impossible for me to do anything here aside from come up with my own scenarios.

Do gymnasts retain scholarships for their redshirt years? Do they essentially get five years of college fully covered?

Yes they do retain scholarships for redshirt years. NCAA athletes get four years of eligibility in a five-year period, meaning if they need that fifth year covered, it’s available to them, but there are many restrictions with red-shirting and you can’t just decide to redshirt for the fun of it. Besides, whether they finish in four years or five years isn’t like getting an extra year of school…their college education is fully covered either way so that extra year doesn’t really matter.

What is the release requirement for bars in NCAA? Some don’t have high bar releases.

The release requirement includes both transitions (C level I believe) and same-bar releases, but the release doesn’t HAVE to be a single bar release, which is why you’ll see a gymnast compete a Maloney in combination rather than competing a Jaeger or Tkachev or other same-bar release in some cases. Both options are fine.

What was with the bars scoring difference between 2015 worlds and Rio? Brittany Rogers scored higher in Rio with a fall than she did in Glasgow with no fall!

I will never in my life understand what kind of drugs the judges were doing in Rio. Never. It’s a mystery for the ages. There’s literally no explaining it other than every judge was like “what are deductions???”

What did you think about Mai Murakami’s 2013 floor routine in terms of artistry and composition? Do you think it was scored fairly at worlds? How does it compare to her current routine?

I actually loved her 2013 routine and thought she absolutely should’ve medaled. I think she was definitely underscored, execution-wise…as much as I love Larisa Iordache, I think Murakami’s was the more medal-worthy that day; it looked cleaner and had stronger presentation, in my opinion. I preferred her 2013 routine to her 2016 routine, I think, but I actually did really enjoy her 2016 routine even though everyone hates the “Burlesque” music. It was just such a weird transition into that music I think? But yeah, she’s fab, and she’s maintained such a high level of tumbling and performance for so many years at this point, it’s super impressive.

How is each NCAA team’s meet schedule organized each year? Do they have to have a certain number of meets with other teams within their conference?

I don’t know what the rules are for conference play, but I did notice that once the SEC Network and PAC 12 Network started broadcasting, it felt like there were more conference meets than going outside of the conference. Like, who else remembers the good old days when you had to pay like $10/month for four or five different services depending on the school and the host team would do their own broadcast which was sometimes great but mostly awful? Back in those days, I felt like there was far more inter-conference play than there is now, where you can expect the SEC and PAC 12 teams especially to compete against other teams within their conferences for the majority of the season. Broadcasting definitely does play into the scheduling now (there’s also a lot more structure to meet times than there used to be). I think same-conference meets definitely get priority over inter-conference, so conferences probably work out their own schedules first, and then any leftover dates they can pair up with other teams from across the country to figure out what works. I know some teams have annual meets with other non-conference teams…I feel like Georgia and Stanford always meet up at least once, and Georgia and Utah, both of which go way back in their histories. Oklahoma also tends to go up against DII Texas Woman’s at one point or another because they’re so geographically close…and because there’s only four teams in the Big 12 so it’s hard for them to stay within the conference when all of their real competition is in the SEC and PAC 12.

Why are front tosses popular in NCAA but nonexistent in the elite world?

Basically because they’re not really worth much in elite. A C maybe? I’ve seen one or two, but from the stronger competitors you’re going to see front aerials instead because no one wants to count skills below a D.  That’s why we also don’t see any random stray gainer losos or back tucks on beam in elite (unless someone misses a connection) but they’re also pretty popular in college.

I know that both Aliya Mustafina and Asal Saparbaeva submitted the triple Y turn at 2014 worlds. It’s named the Mustafina even though a skill submitted by two gymnasts can’t be named. Why is this?

Two gymnasts who submit the same skill basically just have to hope that the other gymnast doing it falls or doesn’t otherwise complete it successfully. If that happens, the gymnast who does complete it successfully can get it named. For whatever reason, Asal’s must not have been considered done successfully, though I’m not sure what exactly went wrong or why it wasn’t considered successful because I still haven’t seen her routine. She competed only in qualifications and I don’t believe the qualification subdivisions were streamed, or perhaps I just missed that routine, but yeah, I never saw it so I don’t really know. But knowing that Aliya performed it successfully and got it named for her, you can surmise that Asal didn’t hit it and that’s why it wasn’t thrown into “two gymnasts did it so now it never gets a name” limbo.

Why did Isabella Robledo score a zero on the two events she competed at worlds in 2003?

On most results sheets, a zero means the gymnast was on the start list expected to compete but ended up scratching. Now I think the FIG tries to make it more clear by putting DNS for ‘did not start’ and DNF for ‘did not finish’ which is used in other sports as well. Like, in Rio, Ana Derek got a zero on vault for over-running and jumping over the table, so she ended up scratching bars because it was pointless to do the all-around at that point. She got a DNS on bars for not starting the routine, and her all-around score was DNF because she didn’t complete all four events despite being on the start list for all four and expected to compete them all. Similarly, Catalina Escobar fell on floor in Rio and got injured before she was supposed to go to her final event, vault, so she got a DNS on vault and also got a DNF in the all-around.

I think this is so it takes away the confusion whereas just putting a 0.000 makes it look like something went terribly wrong (like Ana Derek’s actual vault zero). If you see a zero now, you know the gymnast competed that event and had an error, and that zero factors into her all-around total score (as it did with Hannah Whelan in 2012 when she got a zero for sitting her vault and ended up with a 41.99 all-around). Had Derek gone on to compete the remaining three events in her program, she would’ve received an all-around score that included the zero on vault, but instead she opted to not compete bars, got a DNS for scratching bars, a DNF for not completing her expected program, and finished the competition unranked in the results.

What’s your opinion on the new four-per-team rule beginning in 2020? How will it affect first-time Olympians in the U.S. considering members of previous teams may want to return?

I don’t mind it, especially because for the U.S. and many other top programs in the world, the actual number of gymnasts who get to go to the Olympics actually increases to six when you take the individual spots into account. No matter how many people are on a team, the best of the best will go to the Olympics, whether they’re returning Olympians or younger gymnasts in their first Olympic cycles. Olympic team size has nothing to do with who makes the team, and returning Olympians aren’t guaranteed spots just for being comeback kids (otherwise Nastia Liukin would’ve made the London team over Kyla Ross, and Alicia Sacramone would’ve gone over McKayla Maroney). Everyone has to earn their spots whether it’s a four-member or a five-member team, so the size of the team won’t affect who gets to go at all. Obviously it narrows the playing field, and all of the team spots will pretty much just go to the top all-arounders (or three top all-arounders plus one addition strong top 8 all-arounder who can add a huge score on one event making up for an overall weaker all-around score) so returning Olympians and newcomers will want to make sure they can best fit that team puzzle, in the same as any year.

Is there a deduction for not touching your head with your feet for the split ring leap on beam? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually do that.

The deduction (or even D score downgrade to split leap) comes with not completing the full ring shape. I don’t think the feet have to literally touch the back of the head (or front of the head, as the case was with Viktoria Komova, who always had THE best ring position) but if there’s like a foot-long gap between the feet and the head, it’s obviously not a ring shape and will get pretty heavily deducted.

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

14 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Do you think they could switch the team spots with the individual spots in 2020 after qualifications? For example, USA rotation for the team in quals consist of the gymnast A,B,C,D. and the two individuals E,F. However, gymnast E scores way better than gymnast A, could Valeri change the team in TF having gymnast B,C,D and E instead?


    • Thank you!! Amalia was a tough one actually but then I was watching The Book Thief one day and was like OH YAAAAS and remembered reading Sophie was a gymnast before filming that and was like okay, sold, you get the part. But I ALWAYS pictured Amandla and Elle as Ruby and Emerson.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Lauren, loooove your blog. Are you still getting to old questions? I submitted a few that haven’t come up yet– just checking bc it’s possible I could’ve commented them wrongly instead of asking them as Q’s.



    • Yes I am! There’s always the chance they got lost somewhere but if you’ve asked anything in the past few months you’ll probably see it come up in the next couple of weeks!


  3. Based on this and one of the “you asked…” from last week, I’m still not clear on how NCAA gymnasts can effectively train elite if they are only allowed 20 hours per week of practice. I get that they are “allowed” to also train elite if that is their goal, but does it mean they can only do it within those 20 hours? Hope this makes sense… and thanks for all the awesome info!!


    • I may totally be wrong and you should probably wait for Lauren, but I had lots of student athlete friends in college, and my understanding is:

      1. 20 hours/week is the limit of practice you can do with the team. You can do other things on your own if you want to.
      2. The limit only applies when school is in session, so during the summer you can train however much you want, but it cannot be required.
      3. If you take a semester off of school, the 20 hour limit does not apply.


    • Like Matthew said. The hour limits is only with the coach and school. Take Sacramone in when she was at Brown and competing elite. NCAA dictated only how much she trained for school. But she could do whatever she wanted during her free time, which meant driving to Boston to train with Mihai.


  4. Re gymnasts competing with glasses – there was a Soviet gymnast back in the late 1970s who wore glasses – I think her name was Valeria Zhudinova (sp?).


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

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