It’s time for the 156th 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.
Can you break down the E scores for Gabby Douglas and Viktoria Komova from the London all-around?
I mean, not being a judge so what I say is only going to be based on what I personally saw wrong with their routines. When you look at their performances side by side, they’re so close, it’s almost impossible to say who would win over the other, but at the end of the day, Gabby had fewer large/noticeable mistakes. In my opinion, that’s why she won, and you can see that without breaking down every E score. The job of the judges is to rank performances, and while Viktoria did have a very strong day and was probably the better all-arounder if both had perfect performances, she had a couple of actual large mistakes whereas Gabby didn’t.
Here’s an event-by-event recap that kind of shows how this works out without breaking down E scores.
Vault: Gabby was clean in the air and had a small hop on the landing. Viktoria had crossed ankles throughout the entirety of her twist, a short landing, a large step to the side and out-of-bounds, and then two more large steps off the mat. Winner: Gabby.
Bars: Gabby had no major mistakes or even glaringly obvious form issues (aside from her inbars not being super piked down, but as long as the feet clear the bar, they’re fine, and judges can’t deduct). Viktoria had a beautiful routine, but her catch on her Komova was noticeably off, her layout Jaeger was a bit piked, and she had a big hop back on her dismount. Winner: Viktoria had the prettier and stronger routine overall but Gabby’s had fewer large deductions. I give them a tie.
Beam: Gabby had some small checks in her routine, a wobble out of her switch to back pike, and a hop back on her dismount. Viktoria had a large wobble on her arabian, a large check on her punch front, and two steps back on her cowboyed dismount. Winner: Gabby.
Floor: Gabby had a couple of small landing deductions but was otherwise solid and clean. Viktoria had a couple of glaring form issues (most noticeably leg separation on all of her tucks and crossed legs on her triple) but it was otherwise a beautiful set with some of her best landings. Winner: Viktoria.
So see? It could’ve gone either way, realistically. But Gabby had far fewer noticeable mistakes, so with both gymnasts at their best and the judges having to rank the two, Gabby was the clear choice for gold. If there was no such thing as a D score or E score or any sort of technical basis behind judging and we just had to go by our eyes, Viktoria would win the aesthetics contest, but Gabby would win for having the overall better day.
Why can’t Madison Kocian consistently win bars in NCAA? Was her difficulty level the only reason she was a bars specialist in Rio?
She was dealing with a shoulder injury and hadn’t been training as much on that event, which is why her other events have gotten noticeably stronger whereas her bars have lost a bit of their finesse. No, difficulty was not her only reason for having really great bars in elite. Obviously, despite a couple of noticeable built-in deductions with her gymnastics, she had an incredibly clean set in Rio. But when you’re not able to train at your full potential, even if you’re amazing on a certain event, your skills are going to deteriorate. If you saw her routine from regional championships, it was probably the best she’s done all season, so clearly she’s been putting more work into that routine as the season has gone on.
Are bent arms a deduction on bars?
Yes, on kips and release catches and the like. They’re also a deduction on things like vault block and back handsprings on beam and floor. Bent arms are not only not aesthetically pleasing, but they’re also incorrect technique.
Why do injured NCAA gymnasts still travel with the team? It seems like a waste of money and study time.
They can still study while they’re traveling…that’s how most spend their time when flying to meets and stuff. Often, injured gymnasts won’t travel for bigger meets, but if teams have the budgets, they’ll fly out anyone who is part of the team even if they’re not physically competing. As I’ve seen on this site before when talking about why alternates now medal at worlds, I think most people who haven’t actually been on a big team don’t realize how important every cog in the machine is, and sometimes it’s those non-competing athletes who can end up being what a team needs to be at its best. Claire Boyce was basically called Florida’s MVP this year and she was medically retired for more than half the season. It’s what she contributed behind the scenes that made her so important to the program, and there’s usually someone like that at every school.
Why did Amy Tinkler switch gyms?
She wanted to move to London to take advantage of some opportunities there. Where she lived before, she had to travel a lot when working with sponsors and endorsement deals and things like that, so she basically had to make the decision to keep training at home while traveling often to get her business done, or moving to London but changing gyms so that she could get everything in her life in the same place. She opted for the latter.
What are the biggest differences between the normal JO code and the modified JO code used in NCAA?
Some of the skill values are a little different (a C skill in JO might be a B in NCAA, or vice versa…there are a few skills that have differences between the two) and the execution deductions in JO are greater than they are in NCAA (a small hop in JO would be a tenth but in NCAA it would be half a tenth, for example). There may be a few connection bonus values that differ as well, but for the most part the codes are close enough so that any L10 competitor can just go right into NCAA without restructuring any of their routines.
Do you know what’s up with Jazmyn Foberg, Norah Flatley, and Bailie Key?
I need a FAQ…I feel like I get and answer this question 200 times a day. Jazmyn was at some skills camps earlier in the year but didn’t go to either selection camps, probably because she doesn’t have full routines that are competition ready at this moment. Then we found out this week that she’s going to Florida early, so she’s most likely done with elite. Norah has been at camp but didn’t make the Jesolo team so I can assume she’s probably not also ready to compete. Bailie is planning on coming back for elite at least for one more season, so we can hope to expect her at classics and nationals this summer, but like the others, she’s probably just not competition-ready right now.
Could you write about who might be new ones to watch in the U.S. senior field now that so many big names from last season have taken time off?
I mean, pretty much anyone who’s getting international assignments right now is who you should be watching…the top girls currently competing are the ones getting the world cup and Jesolo assignments, and then also the few who are currently waiting to get back to competition, though we don’t know how any of them will look this summer so it’s kind of impossible to say.
Is it possible to get a zero in execution without any falls?
It’s basically impossible to get a zero in execution even with falls. I’ve seen routines with 4+ falls and really messy technique/execution still get E scores around 4 or 5. Also, at some point, if a routine is so rough, judges will often just give an “aww, you tried” score of 1 as a courtesy.
Is a ‘Russian giant’ just when a gymnast bends her knees on a giant passing the low bar? Is that a deduction?
A Russian giant is basically what an inverted giant is referred to on high bar in MAG…it’s like a front giant and then they pike the body as they swing back to the top. It’s not really a thing on uneven bars. But when gymnasts do giants and bend their bodies to not hit the low bar, it’s not a deduction if done correctly. There’s a fine line between a giant swing meant to miss the low bar and a giant swing that has super piked hips or bent knees.
What does the gymternet think about the Italian juniors like Giorgia Villa and Asia D’Amato? Are they really promising?
As far as I’ve seen, the gymternet loves them, along with Alice D’Amato and Elisa Iorio. People are definitely excited for them and think they have the potential to turn the Italian team into a huge threat this quad. We especially love Elisa’s bars, everyone’s style on floor, and Giorgia’s general awesomeness at everything she does. We hope she gets well soon after her Achilles surgery a couple of weeks ago, but it’s ‘good’ that it happened so early so she has time to recover before her final year as a junior next year…Italy’s team in 2019 is gonna be amazing!
Where is Kai Rivers committed to college?
She’s committed to LSU, set to join the team for the 2019-2020 season.
Do you know why Canada didn’t replace Ellie Black for the American Cup?
They probably didn’t have anyone ready to go that would’ve had a shot at finishing well in a competition of that magnitude. They were hoping she’d be ready for that and Isabela Onyshko would be ready for Stuttgart, but neither was ready and no other seniors were close to their level.
What’s up with Felicia Hano? We only saw her compete once in NCAA so far.
Felicia was dealing with a nagging elbow injury but she’s back on vault now.
What does it mean to ‘flare’ a vault?
While twisting on vault, gymnasts wrap their arms in because it helps them twist faster. For those who aren’t the best at twisting or who don’t get the best block, they might still be finishing the twist as they come in for the landing, but there are those who get high enough off the table so they complete the twist with time to go before landing, so they’ll open their arms up from that closed position and put them out to the sides like a bird opening its wings, and then sail down for the landing. That opening of the arms is a flare, and you’ll see it from the best vaulters.
Ragan Smith’s double arabian on floor always seems a bit off. Is this just a different technique?
It’s not really a different technique so much as just not doing the technique correctly. Like she kind of cheats her way into it like anyone who doesn’t have the proper technique down for any given skill. It’s funny because Texas Dreams produced a gymnast with one of the most amazing arabians ever in Kennedy Baker, and then there’s Ragan. But she came up from another gym, so she probably learned all of her bad habits there in her foundational skill-building.
Why do they have the American Cup so early in the season when gymnasts aren’t really ready to compete?
No idea. It’s always been held in February or March, and back in the good old days, schedules didn’t really have big hiatuses the way they do now, so it’s kind of just tradition to have it at the same time each year? But the same goes for the other world cups being held at awkward times. The FIG definitely needs to reconsider when they schedule them, and should probably put them either in the weeks leading up to or immediately following worlds so we can get gymnasts at their best. Right now it doesn’t really matter, aside from just not being as exciting for fans to watch, but when the world cups are going to be used for Olympic qualification, it’s going to suck for those who absolutely MUST be at their best so early in the season if they want to earn an individual spot for their country.
What do KJ Kindler’s initials stand for?
No idea…I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything besides her initials used anywhere. Even in her official bios and on Wikipedia she’s only known as KJ.
Edit: The K is apparently for Kathie!
Why was Larisa Iordache’s beam a 15.5 in the team final at worlds in 2015 but barely broke a 15.1 in qualifications or the all-around? Were the judges just more lenient there?
Sometimes depending on the day judging can be a little different by a few tenths, so in some cases, yes, a 15.5 could be the case of more lenient judging whereas the same exact routine on another day is a 15.1. Going back to rewatch these routines, in team finals Larisa had a few tiny errors, and a 9.0 E score does seem a tiny bit high, but aside from the errors, she had a really excellent day. Her all-around beam performance was just about equally good, getting an 8.8 E score, but she lost two tenths from her start value when she didn’t connect the front aerial to side somi, which is why it was four tenths lower, and it was the same thing in quals where it was more about that missing two tenths in D than it was about her E score.
How do you think the sexual abuse scandal will affect USA Gymnastics?
It will affect them — and has been affecting them — in more of an admin sense than on a participation scale. There will be shifts and changes in the organizational structure and policy, but I don’t think they’ll see much of a change at all in terms of bringing young athletes into the sport. I talked to a couple of moms after all of this was happening, and they were like honestly, this could happen in any sport, at church, at school…no matter where you are or what you’re doing, if you leave your kids in someone else’s care, they’re always going to be a risk. Maybe there are the few who will pull their kids out of school, church, and all extracurricular activities, but the majority of people aren’t going to make decisions like that because of something that happened to other kids…and they probably are in situations where they can fully trust their coaches, doctors, and other adults.
Going off of that, parents will just have to be more diligent about teaching their kids straight up what is right and what is wrong. There’s too much dancing around the subject in terms of what kids call their ‘private areas’ and (a) that can be super confusing for younger kids who don’t know what this actually means, and (b) when you assign cutesy words to body parts instead of using anatomical terminology, you’re essentially assigning shame to the words and to those body parts, and so an older child who DOES know something might be wrong would be ashamed to tell someone. Those are the two underlying themes of this case — that kids either didn’t know that what was being done to them was wrong, or that they knew something was wrong but were afraid to tell. They were also afraid to tell because of the whole ‘winning before anything else’ culture. In the McKayla Maroney interview with Gymcastic, she said all throughout her career, she had people telling her what to do. When adults make every decision for kids, they learn to not question what’s ‘best’ for them, and those decisions aren’t always going to be in their best interest, especially when things like medals are on the line. So in addition to the issues with dancing around the terminology, a kid who sees a doctor and has a procedure done that feels icky or inappropriate might not say anything or even question it because clearly it’s going to be what they need to win.
The reason Larry Nassar was so good at concealing his abuse was because he was able to prey on girls/young women who trusted him implicitly because he was an adult and he was doing what was best for them. So if anything is to change at USA Gym, I hope it’s that culture of ‘do what the grown-ups say and you’ll go far.’ Already at the ranch, in a completely unrelated incident having nothing to do with sexual abuse or anything like that, the second a coach put an athlete’s welfare at risk, that coach was removed and even though it meant the athlete couldn’t compete internationally, it was the correct decision. So already we’re seeing little changes like that, with adults making the RIGHT decisions for kids instead of ignoring things that put kids at risk even if it means the kid will have to miss a competition or won’t bring in medals or something. Admin and staff changes are small-scale, but changing the culture of USA Gymnastics is going to be what makes the organization better in the long run.
I came across a series of Reese’s sponsored meets involving costumes and extra parts of routines. What is the history behind this event? What would it take for this to happen again? Also omg, Oksana Chusvotina in a Batman-themed bar routine in the early 90s is incredible.
I think the Reese’s International Cups were kind of like galas meet competitions. So you often have galas or showy gymnastics productions (like end of the season galas that are popular in many European countries, the post-Olympic tours in the U.S., the Mexican Open gala) but these are just performances and not actual competitions. The Reese’s Cups combined the two in a way, allowing gymnasts to put up competitive routines but in more of a performance-oriented way, so that it became more about fun than competing. I think most of the Reese’s Cups were geared to older gymnasts who were maybe done competing on the international elite scene, but who wanted to have some fun (and probably also earn a little money because I’m sure that was the incentive to get athletes to ‘compete’!) with the sport.
Does Canada have a men’s artistic program? Where roughly is it ranked team-wise? How good is it?
Yes they do. They’re not super strong as a team, but did make it to the Olympic test event in 2016, though they had a horrific performance that day, finishing last and not qualifying a full team to the Olympics. So, like, they’re a top 20 team at the very least, but they’re not at a strength that would get them into most major team finals. They sent Scott Morgan to the Olympics as an individual and he had a pretty good day, and they send the men to a bunch of the world cup apparatus meets and things like that. They’re also pretty famous for having Kyle Shewfelt as the creator of the Yurchenko 2½ in MAG (the Shewfelt is the MAG version of the Amanar so you hear the name Shewfelt a lot in MAG). He is probably Canada’s greatest MAG gymnast in history, having won the country’s first Olympic medal with his gold on floor in 2004 in addition to creating the Shewfelt vault.
What do you think of Japan’s chances this quad?
I think they have the potential to come into 2020 as one of the front-runners for a team medal. Their depth is going to be INSANE. Not only do they have some incredible new seniors coming up this quad, but pretty much all of their top Olympians from the past cycle are sticking around, so they’ll have tons of options going forward and if needed, can replace team gymnasts who get injured with gymnasts who are capable of about the same level of scoring, which is huge and what every team dreams of. That’s the mark of a super healthy program, and it’s why they’re going to be pretty unstoppable going forward. They do have to work on adding a bit more difficulty going forward to ensure that they can medal, but I think right now they have huge potential going forward and could definitely have a chance at upsetting a historically stronger program like Russia or China, depending on how these teams look in the next few years.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins