You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

It’s time for the 158th 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.

What’s the difference between the apparatus world cup series and the challenge cup world series? Do they have separate rankings?

The apparatus world cup series will qualify gymnasts to the Olympics and the challenge cup will not. They do have separate rankings. But both offer monetary prizes so gymnasts will regularly do both the world cup and the challenge cup series for that reason in addition to making the world cup series in 2018-2020 a focus since that’s when the Olympic qualifying rounds begin.

What’s the difference between Xcel and J.O.? Have there been any prominent Xcel gymnasts that have been to worlds or the Olympics?

Xcel is meant for gymnasts who don’t want to make the huge time and financial commitment that J.O. requires, but who still want to compete at the optional level (level 6-10 in J.O.). The skill level is far lower in general in the Xcel program, so an Xcel gymnast who ends up being really strong and competing crazy skills could conceivably attempt to qualify elite, but being in the Xcel program, there’s not really anyone keeping an eye on them in the women’s national program whereas the J.O. optional girls have more of a presence on the national scene and will have an easier time transitioning over into the women’s elite program. So yeah, it’s not impossible, but it hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t. If anything, the most talented Xcel girls will just move into J.O. optional levels and hope to reach level 9-10 and then qualify elite from there.

Why didn’t Larisa Iordache compete at Stuttgart?

Based on how her bars and beam looked at the Sainté Gym Cup, she probably just wasn’t ready to put together a full all-around program in time for a big competition like the Stuttgart World Cup where all-around is the focus. It’s better that she eases her way back into it rather than throw herself into a big international all-around meet, so even though she probably had good intentions going into that meet, she eventually must have realized she just wasn’t ready.

Is it correct that not landing feet first on vault will no longer be a 0, and just a full point off?

No. The big change that came on vault is that the judges can downgrade the Produnova to a handspring front tuck if the second flip isn’t rotated completely. If a gymnast doesn’t land it feet-first, she’ll still get the zero, but if she does that cheat where she doesn’t fully rotate the second flip but slaps her feet down forward on the mat before falling so she doesn’t get a zero, they can downgrade it pretty heavily to a front tuck and count the fall, which will result in a super low score.

WHY AM I JUST FINDING THIS SITE? How long will it take me to read every word on this website?

Hahaha. 🙂 Let’s see, at the time I’m answering this, we have 1631 posts, at about 1500 words per post on average, which is 2,446,500 words. An average person reads 200 words per minute, which is 12,000 words per hour. If you read three hours a day at 36,000 words per day, it would take you about 68 days to read every word on this website. If you read straight through without stopping to eat or go to the bathroom or sleep, it would take you about eight and a half days nonstop. GOOD LUCK.

Do you know what Mai Murakami is up to at the moment? Does she have plans to continue to Tokyo?

She is still training, and is expected to go straight through to Tokyo. Following the Olympic Games, Mai competed at All Japan Team Championships where she won vault and floor, and then she went on to win beam and floor at the Toyota International competition. She made her 2017 debut at the All-Japan Championships a couple of weeks ago, winning the all-around and posting the top scores on beam and floor in addition to the second-best score on vault. So basically, she’s KILLING IT, and actually, her two floor scores there are so far the two best floor scores of 2017 out of something like 2000 elite routines thus far. So excited for her, and hope she can medal at worlds this year.

Is scoring the same for J.O. and NCAA? Can I, as an amateur, learn how scoring works? Or at least learn to approximate a gymnast’s score from watching the routine? If there an official document I can read to figure out deductions?

Execution deductions are much more severe in J.O. than they are in NCAA. A hop that gets a few tenths in J.O. might get half a tenth in NCAA. For the most part, an amateur can watch an NCAA routine and get to know the basic deductions to guess what a gymnast might score…just watch competitions on the SEC Network and they give you enough of the basics with illustrations and stuff showing what constitutes a good routine and what would incur deductions. I don’t think the code is online (I can only ever find code updates but not the actual code), but really, just look for hops on landings, leg separations, and things like that. You’re not gonna know every single deduction if you’re just starting out, and you might not even see everything aside from the really obvious things like hops because you have to train your eye to know what to look for especially when routines and skills happen so quickly. But NCAA is definitely pretty easy to get used to in terms of figuring out how much will get deducted.

Does every college team have a team manager? I’m interested in becoming one but am nowhere near the level of someone like Jordyn Wieber. Would it be possible to still be one?

Yeah, most have team managers and some have almost no gymnastics experience. You definitely don’t need to be an Olympian to move mats around and help organize practices and things like that. Most team managers are students at that particular school, and will only take on that role during the time in which they’re at school…it’s not like a lifer position where you get hired and do it for 30 years. Most who are team managers in school do it because they want to go into some kind of team position as a career, whether that’s a coach or working in admin or something like that. Your best bet would be going to a school with an NCAA gymnastics program and asking around to see if they need a team manager or some sort of volunteer to help them out.

What happened to Shang Chunsong on bars in Baku?

I’m still not sure. No one seems to know. Her score suggests that she got on, performed a kip cast handstand, and hopped right off. Had she scratched, she would’ve received a zero, but getting a 0.3 E with a 9.733 D isn’t something a judge would give out to a gymnast who scratches. But someone who was there said she didn’t touch the bars, so my guess is that she just scratched and there was a glitch with the scoring system or something.

In the past it seemed that gymnasts would keep floor routines for at least two seasons, but now it looks like they get them every year. What is the reasoning?

Some still have them for two seasons. There’s really no reasoning. Sometimes a gymnast might bring in a new floor routine with the hopes of competing it for two years but it’s not really well-received, so they get another new routine or, as Laurie Hernandez and Lieke Wevers did in 2016, they’ll try out something new but end up going back to an old routine that got tons of love. Or maybe they just tire of a routine after one season and want something else the following year. But the majority still keep floor routines for more than a year, unless like, they get a routine in the year before an Olympic year and instead of changing things up with only six months to compete leading up to the Games, they’d rather just keep the old routine to get more familiar with it rather than unveiling a new one to surprise everyone.

Why did it seem more common to stick landings with the old horse, and maybe even the old floor?

It’s probably more the mats for vault? They definitely weren’t as soft or bouncy as they are now, and it can be difficult to sink into these current mats and then hold that position. It could also be that when the old horse was in use, gymnasts at the highest levels were doing easier vaults, so if you have a gymnast with the talent of a Simone Biles or someone like that doing a full on vault, obviously you’re going to have more sticks. On floor, I think it’s definitely because the old floors were far less bouncier than the current ones are.

Is it true that judges give better scores to American gymnasts in U.S. competitions than in international competitions? I’ve heard that international judges give tougher scores.

Every single country’s domestic judges far outscore what a routine might be scored internationally. Just this year, domestic meets in Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Spain, Norway, Ukraine, Denmark, and the Czech Republic have scored routines higher on average than those same gymnasts have earned for hit routines internationally. In 2014, I went through and compared every gymnast’s nationals scores to her worlds scores and while there was usually a difference, it was never more than a couple of tenths per routine (aside from the occasional insane scores, but those were rare) and because every country was doing it, it made literally no difference in terms of predicting how each team would do in finals. In fact, not only did we accurately predict every single team placement in 2014, we predicted the U.S. team score within about a tenth of how they actually scored. So yeah, a beam routine that gets a 14.8 in the U.S. or the Netherlands or Russia this season might only get a 14.5 at worlds, but it won’t really matter at all.

Why do college gymnasts salute differently?

I don’t know the story behind it or why gymnasts started doing it, but it’s just become kind of a tradition to do a hilariously exaggerated dramatic arched back salute when hitting a great routine. NCAA gymnasts also do more fist pumping and celebrating after successful routines than elites do, so the big crazy salute is probably just an extension of that celebration. My favorite is Peyton Ernst’s spoof of the salute, but yes, these salutes are even known as the ‘college salute’ and should basically be worth a C as a skill value.

In both Riley McCusker and Laurie Hernandez’s bars routines they repeat Tkachevs. Why are they given credit even though they are repeating a skill?

They’re not repeating skills. Tkachevs have many variations, and they’re doing multiple Tkachev variations. Both Riley and Laurie have (well, had for Laurie) a straddle Tkachev, a Downie (stalder to piked Tkachev), and a Ricna (stalder to straddle Tkachev). Even though they’re all technically Tkachevs, the entry and the shape in the air change the skill officially in the code of points.

Why did Jordyn Wieber compete at the American Cup as a junior in 2009? Is that still allowed?

The American Cup didn’t become an official FIG world cup until 2011. Prior to that, Martha Karolyi simply selected the top gymnasts for that meet, and because Jordyn happened to be the top gymnast as a junior, she beat all of the senior gymnasts at camp and got one of the two spots. A junior can no longer compete at the American Cup because of its official FIG world cup status, which allows only senior gymnasts to compete.

Can you explain what the deal was with Brenna Dowell and her floor music at 2015 worlds? Who messed up?

The music itself was just a glitch, probably something going wrong with the person operating the sound system. I think when it glitched, because she had gone onto the floor expecting it to start, there was a concern that she would get a penalty if she didn’t start right away, so Martha Karolyi told her to just go without the music. I don’t think it was anyone’s fault, music mistakes happen all the time, but rather just a concern that they’d get the penalty, and so out of that concern, they just freaked out and had her go.

What has happened to Maria Kharenkova?

As far as I know, she was still training late last year, but I don’t think she’s been seriously training at the elite level even if she’s in the gym…like, before the Olympics is the last time she was seriously training, I’m pretty sure. She did start judging I think…so maybe she’s planning on moving on from competing even if she hasn’t officially retired.

What is Chantysha Netteb up to after her horrible injury at worlds in 2013?

She got back into the sport in early 2016 with the goal of coming back to get a vault spot at the Olympics, but then she reinjured her knee during warm-ups on floor at the IAG SportEvent in May, her first competition back, and wasn’t able to contend for an Olympic spot. I don’t think she has officially retired (if she has, I haven’t seen anything), so hopefully we’ll see her back again, especially now that two of the best Dutch vaulters have officially retired (Lisa Top and Noel van Klaveren).

I thought Katelyn Ohashi went pro a long time ago. How is she in NCAA?

Even though Katelyn competed at the elite level, she never went pro, so she had no issues with her eligibility coming in to compete in NCAA.

Is there a reason Gabby Douglas didn’t vault in Rio team finals? She seemed better than Laurie Hernandez there.

Yeah, that was confusing…she had a much better vault than Laurie but for some reason, Laurie outscored her in qualifications and so they used Laurie in finals. Laurie also outscored Ellie Downie despite Downie’s DTY being literally on an entirely different planet, that’s how much better than Laurie’s it was. I guess the judges just loved her? But yeah, her DTY was never great. Some casual dumb Olympic judging.

How tall is Ragan Smith now?

Maybe 4’6” or 4’8” or so? That’s based on me standing near her at American Cup and basing her height off of mine, though, so it might not be totally accurate but it’s probably around there.

What are Svetlana Khorkina and Lilia Podkopayeva doing now?

Svetlana is the vice president of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation, a position she’s held since 2005, and she also does commentary for gymnastics at times, like for Olympic coverage. She has an 11-year-old son and got married a few years ago, and I believe is also involved with Putin’s government in some way (she used to hold an official role and her husband has some sort of role now). Lilia is married with two kids, won Ukraine’s version of Dancing with the Stars in 2007, and is a U.N. goodwill ambassador. I think she lives in the U.S., or spends a lot of time here. I see her at events every so often and she always looks like she’s having fun.

Did Adria Biles retire?

She hasn’t competed in about a year, but I don’t know what her status is in terms of training with the goal of competing in the future.

Do gymnasts get paid for world championships medals the same way they do for Olympic medals?

Yes, there are payments for medal winners at world championships. It’s not considered ‘prize money’ even though it technically is, so gymnasts are allowed to accept it and still maintain NCAA eligibility.

Nina Derwael’s new bars routine has two releases from a stalder. I thought entries had to be different to get credit under the new code?

Under the new code, gymnasts can’t have three different skills from the same entry. So a Downie and a Ricna half are fine, and she can also do one more stalder skill after that, so her Chow half is also allowed. But beyond those three, she can’t have any more stalder skills count as part of the eight skills that make up her D score. Most gymnasts do have a good amount of variety between stalders, toe-ons, inbars, clear hips, and regular swings…but some routines are super stalder-heavy, like Laurie Hernandez’s bars last year, where she had at least six stalder entry skills.

Why did Andreea Munteanu get an 8.9 E score on beam at worlds in 2014? What did Stefania Stanila fall on?

She got an 8.9 E score because she had a hit routine. I’m not sure what Stefania fell on…I’m assuming you mean her beam in team finals? I never saw that routine…it wasn’t in the live feed because they didn’t do a live stream of qualifications, and it isn’t anywhere on YouTube.

What is the reasoning behind gymnasts saluting the judges, touching the apparatus, and saluting again when they scratch?

They’re basically communicating to the judges that even though they’re on the start list to compete that event, they won’t be competing it. If they don’t officially scratch by saluting, touching, and not saluting, it’s kind of like “we were expecting them, where are they, they didn’t officially say they weren’t competing” or whatever and it invalidates their scores for other events. I’m pretty sure it works out so that if you’re not on the start list for that event, you don’t have to scratch, so Catalina Ponor didn’t have to scratch bars in Rio because she wasn’t expected to compete it, but Ana Derek, who was on the start list for bars but opted to scratch after she had her mistake on vault in the first rotation, would’ve been required to scratch if she wanted to go on and compete beam and floor and have her scores valid. That’s how it’s been explained to me, anyway.

Any idea why Giulianna Pino hasn’t competed for UCLA yet?

She’s probably just not making lineups. She came into a really deep team this year, and I don’t think she’s injured, so she’s probably an alternate for events rather than a member of any starting lineups.

The commentators for UCLA said Madison Kocian isn’t training much right now and that’s why she’s not sticking dismounts. Are there major differences between how much each athlete on the team trains each week?

Not really, unless gymnasts are dealing with injuries and playing it safe in training, but even then, they still go to the gym and condition and stuff like that. She’s probably still in the gym even if she’s not training at 100%.

How can I watch some of the FIG world cups that USA Gymnastics might not broadcast?

You basically just have to seek out links…I usually tweet whenever anything is streaming, but even though I follow everything really closely and am always hunting for streams, sometimes even I miss stuff because a lot of it can be tricky to track down.

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

32 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

    • I really want Mykayla Skinner to be the scary movie villain who just keeps coming back once you think you’ve gotten away from them, so I want her to go to World’s and take the vault + floor titles. And then show up at 2020 trials.


      • She is really the nightmare of who afmires beautiful lines in gymnastics: flat feet , and so on. I mean, if she is what the code favors on the floor, they should just not do it with music anymore and change the name of ” artistic” gymnastics back to olympic gymnastics.


  1. If you look at Adria’s instagram, a little bit ago she had a post that basically said goodbye to gymnastics so I think she did retire.


  2. Re:What happened to Shang Chunsong on bars in Baku

    i think she did a kip to handstand then jumped off. Not sure why though because she was gonna scratch the event anyway.


    • Yeah that’s what I assumed from the scoring since that would make sense for that D/E. I figured something was wrong after she got injured on floor in qualifications but it was definitely weird that she’d just do a single kip cast and then be like “ok that’s enough.”


  3. I saw a tumblr theory that said Laurie went up on vault in the olympic team final to find her feet in the competition before going up on beam, which made sense to me even though her vault is blrrghhh compared to Gabby’s!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That makes sense…and yeah, it DID outscore Gabby’s in prelims so they could definitely have justified it just by seeing that. But the scoring was so baffling…the judges really ignored literally everything wrong with it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What are your thoughts on Dong Fingxiao? I feel that she had so much talent that got overshadowed by inconsistency and the Sydney underage controversy.


  5. FGI italian fed usually has some of the FIG cup full length on their youtube channel but you need vpn…

    Looks like flogym doubled their bribe as FGI has decided to still not post 2017 jesolo…. major sucky!!


  6. OK but if music mistakes “happen all the time”, is it not spelled out somewhere in the code how they are to be dealt with?


  7. I think the NCAA CoP is supposed to be an adaptation of the J.O. code which is why they tell you when a skill value differs from L10 but they don’t have a table of elements, of course it can be a little frustrating for gym fans because you have to pay to recieve a copy of the J.O. CoP


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