You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

It’s time for the 159th 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 think changing junior vault final rules to make them more consistent with senior level rules would help increase the level of vault depth at the international level?

Not really, because what’s happening now is that juniors are vaulting two same-family vaults, and then not training a second vault because they don’t plan on competing second vaults as seniors. If they change the junior vault final rules, then fewer juniors will bother going for vault finals at the junior level because they still won’t plan on competing second vaults as seniors. Most of the juniors from smaller programs who go on to compete vault as a specialty at the senior level already have two different-family vaults as juniors. The only ones who don’t are those who are just doing it to get the extra medal as juniors even if they have no intention to do two vaults as seniors, like most of the Americans who do a DTY and FTY to pretty easily win medals at the junior level, but then won’t go on to become senior-level vaulters because they have different priorities.

How reasonable is it for someone like Alex McMurtry or any other NCAA gymnast without elite experience going elite after college?

It can happen, but most gymnasts who have attempted this haven’t really been able to reach a high level. Some, like Anna Li and Mohini Bhardwaj, had elite experience before NCAA but weren’t super strong as younger kids and NCAA helped them gain the confidence to compete elite routines at a high level so their elite comebacks were successful. But most who go elite on a whim after college struggle to gain an elite skill level. Even if they’re really strong competitors with clean skills, adding so much difficulty is really hard, and even the best NCAA gymnasts can’t make it happen. Marissa King, who was an Olympian for Great Britain in 2008, tried to come back to elite to have a shot at the 2012 British team, but she couldn’t even get her skill level back to the elite level, so you can imagine how difficult it is for non-former elites to compete higher-level skills.

Tatiana Nabieva’s floor routine was scored very low in 2016. Is this because she had low difficulty?

Yeah, her difficulty was super low compared to others. At the Russian Cup, she did a triple full, double tuck, a double pike, and a couple of basic spins and easy leaps. She hit them decently, but the difficulty was too low to bring in major scores.

If a gymnast’s hair goes out of bounds on floor but no other body part does, is it a deduction? Some long ponytails get close.

I’ve never thought about it but I’d imagine no. Like, maybe if they’re laying down in the corner for their choreo and their hair goes out of bounds on the floor, but the rule is that the body part must TOUCH the out-of-bounds. If they’re standing up in the corner before a pass or if they land a pass with their heels all the way in the corner and their ponytail, like, blows up and is out-of-bounds in the AIR, that wouldn’t count.

Is it possible to go the elite route or get a college scholarship through the Xcel program?

Not just through the Xcel program, because the skill level isn’t high enough there generally. Strong Xcel gymnasts could decide to then transition to J.O., but as an Xcel gymnast you wouldn’t be on the radar of any college coach doing recruiting. The best Xcel gymnasts are probably at a level 6-8 in the J.O. program, so no coaches would go to Xcel meets expecting to recruit gymnasts for college.

What is Sydney Johnson-Scharpf’s status? Is she still on the national team? How can she get international assignments as an individual?

She hasn’t been on the national team since she made the junior team in 2015 and was on the team for the 2015-2016 season. She didn’t make the national team last summer because she didn’t compete at nationals, and hasn’t been at most of the camps, either because she hasn’t been invited or because she hasn’t been ready to come back if she is getting invites. She definitely had a strong performance in Reykjavik in February, and was expected to compete at Gymnix in the challenge division, but ultimately pulled out, though I’m not sure why…it must have been last-minute because she still traveled to Montreal with her club, which was competing in the level 10 division.

Individual gymnasts can compete at any meets that are more invitational or friendly-style meets and that aren’t sanctioned by the FIG. For meets like the world cups, Euros, Pan Ams, worlds, and the Olympics, a gymnast has to be sent by her national federation, but for invitationals like the WOGA Classic or Gymnix, clubs can send gymnasts to certain sessions like they can at J.O. meets. In this way, gymnasts can get international experience without being on the national team or even being elite (a bunch of level 10s from various gyms go to elite meets around the world for the experience). It’s not an official international assignment, but is still a fun way to get that experience either just for the sake of experience, or because they might want to eventually try for national team assignments.

Why is the Yang Bo more difficult than a split ring jump? The head position looks the same.

In a Yang Bo, there must be an oversplit with the front leg above horizontal, and the entire body must arch back with the head dropping down. Without the raised front leg, it’s downgraded to a ring jump, and without the body arch or head release, it’s downgraded to a split jump or sissone. In a ring jump, the legs are at 180 like in a normal split jump, and there’s an arch, but only an upper back arch with the head released back compared to the entire back being arched.

Why were scores in Stuttgart so low? Why did floor routines in Stuttgart only have three passes? Why do that when they are surrendering an opportunity to build difficulty?

New quad, lower D scores, falls, no one throwing out their top difficulty this early in the year because they’re trying to peak for worlds…you name it, that’s why scores are lower now at the majority of international meets. Floor difficulty is so low in general, not just at Stuttgart, because no one is fully back yet this early in the year/quad. No one is risking crazy passes yet because there’s no need to when everyone in the world is slowly building back from the peak of last quad at the Olympics. This year is always the weakest in terms of skill level because why do your top difficulty when (a) no one else in the world is, meaning no events are really super competitive, and (b) when you don’t really have to do it until 2019 or 2020?

Do you think Viktoria Komova will return to competition?

She’s going for it, so maybe it’ll happen! We’ll see what kind of level she’ll be able to come back to with all of the injuries she’s been dealing with, but if she could come back to win a world gold medal in 2015, she could definitely surprise us with big things this quad. Valentina Rodionenko was kind of all of us when she heard Vika was coming back, basically saying “I’ll believe it when I see it” because she apparently always says she’s coming back. 

Remember when Nastia Liukin fell on her Gienger at Olympic Trials? This is a silly question but could someone submit that as a dismount?

Hahaha. No. One time Laurie Hernandez missed her catch on a Tkachev but landed it perfectly on her feet, and I was like omg YES dismount! But that dismount if allowed would be an A or B at best.

How do NCAA teams establish training schedules for the off-season? How do gymnasts stay in shape if they take half the year off?

Many will stay at the university and continue to train at their team facilities. Often, universities have camps for younger kids that the gymnasts work at, and most gymnasts end up taking summer classes so they can graduate on time, especially if they’re taking a light course load during competition season. Some gymnasts will take a few weeks off to do a study abroad or to travel or something, but even that time will involve workouts in some way, like running or basic conditioning. Others will go back to club gyms if they do end up going home for the summer. They don’t literally take half the year off and not do anything at all and then come back and start fresh in the fall.

People have said Viktoria Komova didn’t make a smooth transition from junior to senior. Why do you think it was difficult for her?

I think compared to the majority of gymnasts, her transition from junior to senior was just fine. I mean, she won silver all-around medals at worlds and the Olympics in the two years following turning senior; the only way to improve from there is to have won two golds. She didn’t have a growth spurt until after the 2012 Olympic Games, so normally the juniors who turn senior while also gaining weight and growing six inches are the ones who have it super rough, but Vika didn’t have to deal with that until after London, and even then she was able to come back well enough to win a gold medal on bars at worlds. Her consistency at the senior level could’ve been better, but overall I don’t think it’s as bad as people suggest and I think she had a junior to senior transition other gymnasts would’ve killed for.

How does the selection work for this year’s worlds? I know they usually bring two strong all-arounders, but why did they also bring McKayla Maroney in 2013?

Generally, the best fit for the individual world championships is to have two all-arounders and two event specialists (in 2009, it was a vault/floor specialist and a bars/beam specialist, but it could be any combination). In 2013, the U.S. had two strong all-arounders in Kyla Ross and Simone Biles, a strong vault/floor specialist in McKayla, and a strong bars specialist in Brenna Dowell, and a beam specialist didn’t even matter because Kyla and Simone were gonna get those spots anyway. In a perfect world, they would’ve had Kyla and Simone do the all-around in qualifications, McKayla do vault and floor (and maybe beam for fun), and Brenna do bars. But then at camp, McKayla did the all-around and beat Kyla. There was an argument that McKayla and Simone should do the all-around, with Kyla doing bars and beam, but then what’s Brenna gonna do? You can’t put four girls up on bars in qualifications because it’s only three-per-country allowed per event in quals. So in the end, they opted to just have Simone, Kyla, and McKayla do the all-around (and from what I’ve heard from various people, Steve Penny was really hoping for a Simone and McKayla all-around final, because McKayla was pro and Kyla wasn’t), which left Brenna out. Crappy situation, really, but in the end it was Simone and Kyla anyway, and McKayla didn’t even make it on floor when she should have. Should’ve just let her focus on her two events, really.

What would Laurie Hernandez have needed to score on bars to top Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman in Olympic qualifications?

To outscore Aly, she would’ve needed a 15.242 or higher, and to top Gabby, she would’ve needed a 14.766 or higher.

After watching NCAA vault, elite vault is ruined for me. After American Cup, Ragan Smith said she had a great DTY and I was like, seriously? Does it fade away or do you just get used to all the errors?

You honestly get used to it. It’s funny, because I get used to watching NCAA for a solid two months before elite gets back into the swing of things, and so I’m used to easy routines but beautiful execution. Then I watch elite and I’m like UGH, everything looks SO messy, but then NCAA ends in April and I only have elite from then until the following January. So I get used to really high difficulty routines that end up being a little messy, and then NCAA starts again in January and I’m like UGH, everything looks SO easy, ANOTHER RUDI ON FLOOR?! And thus the cycle begins again. This has been ongoing since I started really watching NCAA in about 2008, so yes, you’ll definitely get used to elite once again and when you get back to NCAA you’ll be like “where are all the Amanars and Chengs?!” And then you’ll get back to elite like “where are all the clean fulls and 1.5s?!” Seriously a vicious, never-ending cycle.

I have two questions concerning falls. First, do the deductions preceding a fall get counted in the execution score? Second, when do the judges start recalculating deductions after a fall? For example, on bars, gymnasts sometimes don’t have good leg form when they jump back up. Does that count?

No, the deductions preceding a fall don’t get counted. If the skill is a layout, the layout is a mess, there are a million wobbles to try to hold it on, and then there’s a fall, the layout’s form errors get deducted, the million wobbles don’t, and then the fall does. If there’s a messy layout and a million wobbles but no fall, the form errors and the wobbles get deducted. Deductions after a fall come in once the gymnast begins doing skills again. On bars, they jump back on and usually will swing forward and back once or twice to get momentum to kip cast into handstand, and then they start getting back into their routines after that kip cast handstand, so that’s when deductions would start. That swinging back and forth at the beginning wouldn’t matter in terms of deductions because they’re not skills.

Is there a tutorial to understand the different skills on bars? It moves so fast, I have trouble distinguishing the skills.

You can search various bars skills videos on YouTube…for example, you can search something like “transitions uneven bars” or “releases uneven bars” and get a bunch of random videos. That’s probably the best way to learn…for example, this video of the most difficult release moves in the current code lists every release skill by difficulty so you can see them all with their name and skill value underneath. You can also look up some quick hits on our live blogs and find the videos from those routines to see if you can match up the written quick hits with what you see on the video. Also, maybe search for slo-mo videos, or film them from your laptop using a slo-mo setting on your phone or something. That’s probably the best way to figure out bars.

Why didn’t Ragan Smith compete at Jesolo?

At the American Cup, she told me after winning that competition, her goal was to go home and work on all of her upgrades that she hopes on adding into her routines by this summer. She didn’t want to start competing this early in the season, but didn’t want to turn down an opportunity like the American Cup, so she decided to stick with her old and slightly downgraded routines there and then not try for Jesolo so she could use the next few months training the new skills/routines before coming into the summer season and worlds. She went to the Jesolo selection camp and verified her new upgrades, but didn’t verify full routines in an attempt to make the team.

Sometimes in MAG, the men can get back up on high bar to re-attempt the skill they fell on. Are the rules similar for the women on bars and beam? If she falls on a release, does she get credit?

You see it occasionally for two reasons. Sometimes a skill with a fall still gets credit if the skill is completed, but the skill is connected into something else and the gymnast needs to complete the skill in order to get through the whole series, she’ll get back up and repeat the skill into the series. And then if the skill isn’t completed and won’t get credit, the gymnast will usually get back up and repeat it so her D score doesn’t take a huge hit in addition to the point deduction for the fall.

What happened to Yao Jinnan last quad?

She had shoulder surgery in the U.S. in early 2015 and it looked like she was on the right track to recovery, but then when she showed up at nationals last year, she just wasn’t ready. She wasn’t back at all on bars, she crashed her vault onto her back, she fell twice on beam, and she had a super easy floor routine with some errors there as well. She didn’t qualify to any finals at nationals, so that marked the end of her Olympic journey, though I believe she’s still training with the goal of competing at Chinese National Games this summer and then retiring after that.

What is Giulia Steingruber up to? Will we see her this year?

Giulia had surgery in Australia, and then stuck around Australia for a little while to travel and have a break. Her goal was to be back in time for worlds, so hopefully we’ll see her then, but I could see if she decided to take a bit more time off and waited until next year to come back.

Did the rules for world cup invitations change between last quad and this quad?

Yes. In the past quad, the top eight all-arounders from the previous year’s worlds got invites. The federation accepted the invites on part of the athlete and could send anyone they wanted, not just the all-arounder who finished in the top eight. For the all-around world cup, here are the rules for invitations:

  • 2017-2018: The top 8 federations from the team final competition at the 2016 Olympics get invites. The federation accepts the invite and can offer it to any athlete. Should a federation decline, the federations ranked 9th to 12th in Olympic qualifications get invited. Should any of these decline, the best-ranked federation not already invited from the team ranking at 2015 worlds qualifications is invited.
  • 2019: The top 8 federations from the team ranking in qualifications at 2018 world championships are invited. Should anyone decline, they continue going down the line, inviting 9th, 10th, 11th, and so on.
  • 2020: The top 12 federations from the team ranking in qualifications at 2019 world championships are invited. Should anyone decline, they continue going down the line.

In addition, the host federation of each world cup is allowed to have one wild card spot, meaning the U.S. will get two spots for the American Cup, Germany gets two spots for Stuttgart, and Great Britain gets two spots for London. The wild cards aren’t eligible to earn world cup points that go into the country’s overall world cup ranking, however.

What does that mean? So the overall world cup top three federations from the 2019-2020 world cup all-around series get Olympic spots. First place at each meet gets 30 points, second place gets 25, third gets 20, and then each ranking beyond that also gets a point ranking. At the American Cup, Ragan Smith added 30 points to the overall series and at Stuttgart, Morgan Hurd added another 20 points, but Riley McCusker as the wild card this year wouldn’t have been awarded any world cup points for her fifth-place finish.

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

  1. Re: learning the different bar skills. Youtube also has a feature if you click on the little settings wheel at the bottom where you can slow videos down to different speeds. All the way down to a quarter speed I think. SUPER useful for learning skills and trying to learn to see deductions at full speed!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The question about turning a missed release into a dismount on bars is hilarious! haha This makes me realise that if someone performs a Def as her last skill before dismount, falls and lands on her feet, she can pretend she was going for a layout 3/2 dismount (C). Assuming minimum composition and no loss CR, she’d lose 0.6 of SV (dropping from GD to BC) but then avoid 1.0 of fall deduction. Net +0.4. Epic backup plan?!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Re bars skills: Watch a bunch of bar routines with commentators and they will most often name the skills or at least mention them. In slo mo replays, you can see the releases and skills in slo mo and get a visual of the skill. I learned all of my terminology over time, and now, I love showing it off.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ragan Smith seems to be a very well advised gymnast … Just comparign her timetable to Melnikova’s … Ragan is focusing on upgrades and Angelina is burning out ! Did both of them ever met in the same comptetition ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, not that I can think of. However, If Melnikova can pull herself together, there could be an epic showdown for the world AA title, and they both would be contenders.


    • I, too, look forward to Ragan competing at Worlds. I didn’t realize her international experience was so limited (thanks, Becca). I think it’s prudent for young gymnasts to train, rather than compete. Ragan’s team is wisely taking the long view of her career.

      Of course, this is easier done when the US team is so deep with talent. Russia has no depth. They work their few top gymnasts to death (ahem…WTF was Paseka doing at European Championships?). Russia’s struggles to produce a deep talent pool will ruin the few great gymnast they have. Russia needs to look at Romania as a dire warning. I’m glad Melnikova is done competing for a little while.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. More help for learning bars skills (and other skills):

    This page has skills separated into Mounts, Pirouettes, Releases, Transitions, and Dismounts. I believe the D-values are updated for the current COP. There are gifs listed next to most of the skills (thought that makes the page image heavy/slow to load sometimes depending on your internet).

    I use this and the other Skills pages on this site for quick references!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You forgot Victoria Nguyen for the World Cup points when she was at London and in Viktoria Komova’s question, you meant London and wrote Rio, love this ❤️❤️❤️


    • Yes, her sister was severely disabled.such a sad story. BTW Guilia went on a two month vacation in Australia around January and then had surgery in.Switzerland right after coming back


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