It’s time for the 160th 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.
When do the U.S. juniors who dominated at Jesolo turn senior?
The country’s three best juniors — Gabby Perea, Maile O’Keefe, and Emma Malabuyo — all turn senior in 2018.
Why do the Oklahoma gymnasts wear gloves with their warmups?
I actually have no idea and just thought it was part of their whole look rather than serving any kind of purpose. I remember I first noticed it when they went to compete at Florida a few years ago, and I was like it’s definitely so they can strangle the competition without leaving fingerprints. Until someone can explain otherwise, I’m going to continue believing my reasoning. Like, arenas are a little cold sometimes? But not “I need my gloves!!!” cold.
I noticed Aliya Mustafina mastered the art of fake sticking. She lands, takes a casual step back, and salutes. Do you think the judges notice this? Is a gymnast required to hold the stick?
Yes, the judges notice this. I call it cheating the stick. You see it a lot in NCAA, but you’re right, Aliya does it pretty well too. When they know they won’t be able to hold the stick without a fight, they step back quickly as if they meant to step back into the salute, but really, WE KNOW THE TRUTH. Most non-NCAA judges will absolutely take the tenth off for the step but I’m pretty sure NCAA judges are far more forgiving and count it as a stick. In order for it to count as a true stick and not receive deductions in elite, however, it has to be held for a solid couple of seconds to show that the gymnast has full control over the landing.
Why do some gymnasts do two whips while others do a single whip into their tumbling passes when they give the same amount of bonus?
They do this to build speed and momentum into the follow-up skill the same way they’d use a back handspring (a whip is literally a back handspring with no hands, but it serves the same purpose). Some gymnasts may only need one whip, but most would prefer two whips in the indirect connection to keep the speed and momentum up before going into the rest of the pass.
With the way the Olympic teams have been decreasing, do you think we’ll ever see teams with fewer than four?
Never say never, but I hope not. I honestly don’t think so, because even with all of the team size changes, the whole three-up three-count aspect has stayed the same since the 2004 Olympic Games. I think that has been really working well and the FIG hasn’t wanted to adjust that, and when you take the teams down to only three gymnasts, that doesn’t work at all because it’s no longer about any kind of strategy regarding who to put up…it’s just like, okay, there are three all-arounders on every single team and they’re all doing all four events so, bam, done. You don’t even need national team coaches or coordinators because it’s like…there are zero decisions to be made after initially picking the team. So unless they also changed the format to two-up two-count, which I highly doubt they would because then it’s literally a second all-around competition, then I don’t think the team size will dip below four either. There’s also the fact that we have a new president and based on his desires for the federation, it doesn’t seem like changing team sizes every five seconds is a priority for him whereas Bruno Grandi was all about that, so hopefully he’ll leave it alone.
What value do you think a quad twist would have for women on floor?
Based on how the layout twists climb in the rankings (a double is a C, 2½ is a D, triple is an E, and 3½ is an F), I’d guess a quad would most likely be a G. But at the same time, given that literally no one competes a 3½, having it rated the same as a double layout — which dozens of gymnasts compete — makes no sense. I would up a 3½ to a G and have a quad be worth an H.
Could it be possible that all three Olympic alternates make it to worlds this year? Has that ever happened before?
Yes, it could be possible! Ragan Smith could go as one of the top all-arounders in the country if she keeps that up, Ashton Locklear could go as a bars specialist, and MyKayla Skinner could go as a vault/floor specialist. It definitely hasn’t happened with the U.S. before. Usually when the whole Olympic team retires or goes to college or takes a break following the Games, the alternates do as well, though one or two might stick around. But this year there’s a very real possibility that all three will be around to attempt to make the team, and an equally real possibility that all three will make it. Right now, they’re definitely all frontrunners.
Do you know if some of the elite gymnasts actually follow the sport in-depth? I remember Simone Biles once said she didn’t know who Anna Pavlova is.
Most barely follow it at all. Fans have to realize that there’s a massive difference between what they do — which is obsess over the sport and watch every competition possible — and what the gymnasts do — which is train and go to school all day, and then come home and talk to their friends and go to bed. Most gymnasts are not gymnastics super fans and don’t know the first thing about what’s going on in other countries. They probably know all of the big U.S. Olympians in the past couple of decades from watching the Olympics, but they’re not sitting at home in their spare time away from the gym following live scores from Euros or watching hours of old competitions on YouTube.
Occasionally you do get gymnasts who are fans, and I love seeing elite gymnasts getting super excited about gymnasts from other countries and their routines, but that’s way rare. Most are teenagers for whom gymnastics is a job, and when they get out of the gym, the last thing they want to do is watch old meets and learn about gymnasts they’ve never competed with directly (like, Simone and Anna Pavlova were at the same world championships in 2014, but they wouldn’t have had any reason to interact being in different rotations/subdivisions). It’s just not a priority for them. They might watch an old video for routine inspiration if their coach points it out or something, but they’re not like “omg I love Anna Pavlova!!!” while googling her and watching every video that exists online. Most gymnasts, especially in the U.S., are basically four-year fans, to be honest!
Any word about what’s going on with Elena Arenas?
I believe she’s done a few level 10 meets this season, but more as like an exhibition kind of competitor rather than as someone who’s dropping down to level 10 for real. From what I’ve heard she’s definitely planning on sticking with elite, so we’ll probably see her this summer.
There are several Texas Dreams elites that haven’t shown up at qualifiers or level 10 meets this year. Do you have any info on Abi Walker, Annie Beard, or Colbi Flory?
Texas Dreams is pretty notorious for not having gymnasts compete if they’re not 100% ready to compete, so chances are, they haven’t been doing competition-ready routines. Abi competed at the Texas Prime meet, but didn’t do anything else in the level 10 season, so I’d imagine she’s planning on doing elite this summer. Annie competed at the WOGA Classic as a level 10, but also skipped most of the season, so I’d have to guess she’s planning on qualifying elite later this season. Colbi, though, has officially dropped back down to level 10.
Mihai Brestyan said he wants to bring the U.S. system to Australia. What does this mean? Do you think he’ll be able to improve them?
I think he means he wants to bring the whole camp system to Australia, because it’s worked so well in the U.S. The biggest value of the camp system is that all coaches get to come together in order to learn from one another, and so having something like that in Australia could not only help the gymnasts, but it could also help the coaches be in a better position to do their jobs.
Why is it that we follow NCAA all season long but then regional championships aren’t televised?
Literally no clue. NCAA regional championships were impossible to watch. Every other sport gets postseason in the limelight, and gymnastics doesn’t get any coverage at all, which makes no sense. Coming into nationals, which does get televised, people who don’t follow it closely enough to search for streams are gonna be like ummm how did we get here? Why is it these teams? No one will know because no one watched regionals, and those who did are probably like umm what’s happening, why is no one commentating, why are we seeing ten seconds of a routine before jumping to something else!? It was horrible coverage almost all the way through, except for the Morgantown meet. That had commentators (biased, but still) and a four-way screen. They tried! Everyone should learn from West Virginia. One of the regionals, I forget which one, jumped around from bits and pieces of each routine and so you never knew if someone hit or not. You could be like well she didn’t fall in the first five seconds of her beam…but why is her score an 8.5?! It’s the worst way to follow sports and is analogous to a baseball broadcast where the cameramen only film third base.
Why are people getting such low scores on floor now? Hit routines with good difficulty are scoring in the low to mid 13s. Flavia Saraiva got a higher score with a fall on beam than Trinity Thomas got with a hit floor routine in Jesolo.
Difficulty scores are super low, with the top gymnasts on floor currently maxing out at about 5.2-5.4 on average. This means the top floor workers right now are earning around 13.7-14.1 for hit routines, while weaker floor workers with hit routines are getting scores in the high 12s and low 13s. Beam still has a moderately high level of difficulty because there are ways in this new code to make up for the CR that’s missing from the last code, so you have beam workers with 6.2+ difficulty meaning they can realistically reach a high 14 or even low 15 with a hit routine. Flavia can get close to a 6.0 D on beam, so a routine with a fall could realistically get a low 13 and thus a similar or higher score than someone with a hit floor out of a much lower difficulty. Trinity, though, didn’t really have a hit floor routine in Jesolo. She actually has the highest D score on floor in the world right now at a 5.6, but in her all-around performance in Jesolo, she racked up six tenths in penalties for going out-of-bounds, and also had a number of form issues, making her routine pretty heavily deducted.
How do inquiries work exactly? Is it a general inquiry or do you have to guess what the judges didn’t credit and hope for the best?
The inquiry process involves getting a breakdown of the D score from the judges, which allows for the coach and athlete to contest the D score if they thought something should’ve been included and the judges didn’t include it. Coaches request either a verbal or written inquiry, and have to pay a fee. Judges can explain reasons for not crediting a skill or series, and coaches can contest it, in which case the judges conference, video review, and then decide to either go back and credit it or deny the request.
What is considered rebound on a connection series on beam, or just rebound in general on beam?
A rebound in a connection is when a skill leads directly into another skill. For example, when a gymnast performs a front handspring into a front tuck, that is a forward rebounding connection series. I don’t really think there is a ‘general rebound’ on beam…unless you mean when a gymnast lands a skill and has a rebound bounce out of it, which would be a deduction. Generally when ‘rebound’ is used on beam, it means in terms of skills that rebound from one into another.
Can you explain how the new code change has affected gymnasts’ bars difficulty? I’m thinking specifically at D scores from Daria Spiridonova and Ashton Locklear in Jesolo. Did they downgrade, or did their old routines lose that much value in the new code?
Aside from the missing 0.5 in CR that no longer exists, and aside from a few minor skill value changes (like a piked Jaeger from a D to an E), most bars D scores haven’t changed at all. You could literally take a 6.5 routine from last quad, subtract 0.5 for the missing D dismount requirement CR, and get a 6.0 in this quad. Daria and Ashton have both downgraded their routines, though, so their D scores are much lower than they were last year because they made so many adjustments. Ashton’s D score this year is a 5.5, which would’ve been about a 6.0 in last year’s code, but last year in reality she was working with about a 6.5 D score on average so that shows you that she’s downgraded by about half a point.
How many leotards do NCAA gymnasts get? It seems most schools wear a different leo at every meet through regular and postseason. Do you really get 16 leos every season that you only wear once?
They often recycle leos season after season, but may debut a couple of new designs each year. No team gets 16 new leos every season that they only wear once. Often, you might see the same leo twice in a regular season. The teams with higher budgets definitely have a bigger assortment to choose from, and some teams might get one or two leos per athlete each season. But no one has a brand-new leo for every single meet.
Could the Biles potentially be turned into a bars dismount?
Yup! No reason why someone couldn’t compete a double layout half-out off of bars. I’ve definitely seen double tuck half-out dismounts before, and there are full-twisting double layouts, so I’m sure we’ll eventually see a double layout half-out (though it wouldn’t be named the Biles on bars, which you might know already, but just clarifying).
Why is the DTY so rare in J.O. when it’s common in elite? Do you know how many J.O. gymnasts are competing a 1½ or a double?
Most J.O. gymnasts don’t bother with it because they can do fulls and still have their vaults be rated out of a 10 start value. Occasionally we’ll see two or three in a season, but yeah, they’re pretty rare overall because it’s not worth it to push for one. I’m sure doubles and 1½ vaults will become more common in J.O. since NCAA devalued the full, though. The younger girls coming up now who want to get recruited will absolutely want to show college coaches that they have a 10 start value on vault for NCAA, so for gymnasts who aren’t strong at Yurchenkos past the full, we’ll start to get more handspring and tsuk entries, and for the good Yurchenko vaulters, we’ll get the 1½ and double twists.
Why did Laurie Hernandez always have a leg separation on her double layout on floor?
The same reason anyone has any form issue or error on a skill — gymnasts are human and not every skill is going to be perfect. When you’re rotating your body around twice in a fully laid-out position, your main focus is on not crashing it on your head, and lots of the little things like leg separations and other form deductions tend to slide for the majority of gymnasts. Top gymnasts will clean up a majority of the smaller issues, but no one is perfect or competes every skill perfectly, which is why deductions exist.
Do the Instagram/YouTube gymnast ‘stars’ risk losing their NCAA eligibility when they monetize their channel?
Yes. The second they start endorsing products based on who they are and their fame within the sport, their NCAA eligibility goes out the window. It doesn’t matter if they’re six. Too bad. Your parents blew your shot at a free $200,000 college education and the chance to perform on a college team. Enjoy your free Nastia leos and Nikes, though!!! Totally worth it.
Do you think Viktoria Komova could possibly compete as an event specialist and spare her glass ankles by dropping vault and floor this quad?
Yes. I hope she does. She has absolutely no need to come back on vault or floor. I mean, they could use her DTY, actually, so if she’s up for it, why not? But I think her focus should definitely be on the events that won’t kill her if she’s really serious about coming back and staying back.
How does the seeding work at U.S. nationals? Is it just a random draw? Do their night one rankings affect where they start on night two?
Teams compete together in the same rotation, so they try to make things even so two teams with five athletes won’t end up in one rotation while two teams with one athlete apiece aren’t alone in another rotation…generally the rotations all end up fairly even. So it’s not quite a random draw, but more like a logistic decision kind of like figuring out seating arrangements at a wedding. And no, gymnasts stay with their same rotation groups on both nights of competition. Because it’s just a two-day total score and not a qualifications and then finals score, there’s no seeding into the second day.
I heard Russia stopped sending gymnasts to the American Cup after 2011 because they felt Aliya Mustafina should have won over Jordyn Wieber. Is that true? Do you think Jordyn was overscored and Aliya was underscored?
After the meet, Aliya was actually pretty gracious about her loss, acknowledging her own mistakes and congratulating Jordyn. As always, the adults were the only ones involved in the “this is so unfair!” Nonsense. Jordyn had a mistake on bars, but fought back from it incredibly well with some of her strongest performances on beam and floor I’d seen from her at that point. Yes, she was probably overscored a little in terms of her E scores on both of her final two events, but at the same time Aliya received much too high an E score for her Amanar (it was not a strong vault at all) and then she also had a greater number of problems on beam and floor than Jordyn had, so in the end, it all balanced out (if I remember correctly, she was debuting a new floor routine, and there were lots of issues throughout). It was going to be close either way, with Jordyn making that one large mistake and Aliya making a greater number of smaller mistakes that added up. Honestly, had either won, there would be people on either side being like “so unfair, the other one deserved it!” depending on which side you’re on. It was a good fight, though, and it made for a very exciting competition to watch. Had either one come out on top, it would’ve been the ‘right’ decision, but of course Jordyn had home field advantage and so it ended up swinging her way whereas the same competition in Moscow probably would’ve went to Aliya. Still not a ‘wrong’ decision by any means because either way, it was gonna be close.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins