It’s time for the 161st 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.
Who do you think one of the greatest female gymnasts of all time was? Someone you felt embodied what gymnastics was overall?
This is a tough question because I don’t think there’s any one gymnast who embodies every single thing that gymnastics is. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, even the greatest of all time in terms of medal count or talent. It’s also hard to compare across different generations, because if you match up Simone Biles — easily one of the greatest gymnasts of all time — against gymnasts like Larisa Latynina, Vera Caslavska, and Nadia Comaneci — also considered the greatest of all time — you’d have Simone wiping the floor with them in terms of her ability, making it the least fair fight ever, while at the same time those three brought this presentation and flair and drama to their performances that Simone doesn’t have, and that we don’t really see at all in the sport anymore. It’s almost impossible to compare across generations to come up with an absolute ‘greatest of all time’ because the sport is constantly changing. My middle ground is probably Lilia Podkopayeva. I think she probably best embodied everything about gymnastics that makes it what it is, and was kind of a link between the sport as it once was and the sport as it is today. There are a few other gymnasts in her generation who also fit that mold, but for me, Lilia is it.
What happened to Natasha Kelly? Did she get injured, or wasn’t able to upgrade? Hit her peak and moved on to college?
Natasha was generally someone who was often dealing with injury. It was always something, and it ended up affecting her career quite a lot. In 2007, Natasha was dealing with heel injuries, and had a rough performance at nationals, placing 10th and not making the worlds team. That fall, she left her coaches at Stars for another Houston gym, Cypress, continued training up to 2008 nationals, but then retired shortly before the meet, probably because she knew she wasn’t going to be competitive enough for a team spot. Instead, she went on to Oklahoma, competed for two seasons, was injured almost constantly, and then medically retired just before the 2012 season started.
How is the Cojocar not an F? Is the FIG legit trying to tell us it’s the same as a tuck full-in? Same for full-in pike on beam being rated easier than a Silivas on floor.
I say this all the time but there is literally no logic in assigning skill values. A back 3½ on floor, which no one does, has the same difficulty value as a double layout, which everyone does. Clearly if no one can do one skill, it should not be rated the same as a skill most elites can do! The same goes for the Cojocar…literally every elite can bust out a full-in, but no one ever does a front 2½. Like, yes, an E is a logical step up from the front double full at a D, but it still makes no sense when you compare it to other skills with the same difficulty value.
Why do some gymnasts like Rebeca Andrade not train two vaults when they could actually be world contenders? Does it really require that much effort that it could hurt their all-around performances?
A majority of gymnasts find it easier to stick with four events rather than adding a second vault. If you can do it without it affecting your other routines, like Simone Biles could, great! But many don’t want to sacrifice anything from their all-around performances if all-around is the greatest goal. For someone like Rebeca, who has dealt with so many lower extremity issues, that second vault could really end up hurting her, literally and in terms of her all-around performance, so since all-around is a greater goal for her, she doesn’t feel the need to add a second vault just on the off-chance of medaling. Maybe if the vault field was weaker, which it could be this year…but last quad when it was practically impossible to get on the podium without an Amanar and Cheng combination (or without being Simone), she would’ve needed to not only add a second vault, but to add a second vault that was way harder than her first vault, which is like…no. Simone as a top all-arounder with two vaults difficult enough to medal in a tough field really is an anomaly.
I totally believe MyKayla Skinner is capable of making a run for worlds this year, but would she do it? Would she have to take time off from NCAA?
Yeah, she could and I think wants to do it based on what I’ve heard. I think we’ll see her at least try. She’d have to take the fall off from school, but would obviously still be training gymnastics if she’s going to worlds, so she could easily step right into the spring season even if it would throw her academic plan off a bit. In 2011, Mackenzie Caquatto finished up her freshman year at Florida and then went back to elite for the summer in an attempt to make the worlds team, which she was in the running for until she got injured on her beam dismount at camp. MyKayla now has a much greater chance than Mackenzie did back then, so it would absolutely be worth it for her to go back to elite training after the NCAA season ends, take some time away from school in the fall, and then return in the spring.
When is the next of your gymnastics books coming out? I want to see how Amalia does in the all-around!
Probably this summer at some point! I’m hoping to have it out before the craziness that will be worlds but if I have publishing issues like I did last year, it’ll probably happen after worlds.
If leg separations are frowned upon on bars, how come Andreea Raducan and others split their legs during giants?
Giants can be completed either with the legs together or with the legs in a straddle. Since the straddle giant is a legitimate skill, it’s not considered leg separation even though the legs are apart. The legs being apart is the correct position for a straddle, so there wouldn’t be any deductions there.
What has Gabby Douglas been doing with her life outside of gymnastics?
She has lots of endorsement deals and contracts and public appearance commitments and things like that, and is probably also just taking time off to enjoy herself and have a break from training 24/7 the way she did in elite. She seems to travel a good amount, so I’m hoping she’s getting to spend time with family and friends away from her career until she figures out what she’s going to do next.
Why do people say China was underscored in Rio? From a judge’s perspective I thought a lot of their flaws were the same as other countries, but more pronounced, though I do agree they were underscored on beam.
I think that while yes, they did have some flaws like everyone else, their flaws were definitely hit heavier than other countries. But that aside, Bruno Grandi also made some kind of comment about how their style of gymnastics isn’t really preferred and I don’t remember specifics but there was a whole thing with how the FIG judges simply just don’t like their gymnastics and so they were judged more harshly. I thought coming into the first subdivision, they were definitely also at a disadvantage because of that, but I thought for sure we’d see higher E scores from some of the bar routines (like Fan Yilin’s) especially when later in the day we got crazy high E scores on bars from girls like Aly Raisman.
Can gymnasts get skills named at world cups or only at world championships?
WAG gymnasts can only get skills named at worlds or the Olympics, but MAG gymnasts can submit skills and get them named at the world cups.
Do you know if it’s common for a coach to tell an elite gymnast to lose weight?
Not really. I mean, there probably are some coaches who do it in a nasty way, and that used to be common back in the day, but now I think coaches are more respectful for the most part. Sometimes a gymnast’s weight could legitimately come into the conversation if it’s affecting her performance. Most gymnasts have ‘competition weight’ or what we’d call being in competition shape, which is when they’re at peak fitness for big competitions like worlds or the Olympics. Sometimes when gymnasts gain weight or otherwise lose their higher levels of fitness in the off-season, the coach will have to bring it up because it might not be safe to be doing a high level of skills at a size bigger than they’re used to, so when they go back into season from hiatus, there might be a conversation about ‘getting back in shape’ or something (not that they’re necessarily out of shape, but they just might not be in peak shape). If a gymnast begins gaining weight because she’s growing and her body is changing, that also becomes a conversation, but I think from what I’ve heard, for the most part coaches know how to bring this up in a way that isn’t like, hurtful or to shame the gymnast. They might suggest working with a nutritionist or personal trainer, not necessarily to lose weight (especially if the additional weight is a normal part of growing up), but to maintain where they are or to better optimize their bodies for what they’ll need to be doing in the gym or while competing. Again, there are always going to be those coaches who are straight-up dicks and with weight a touchy subject, sometimes coaches don’t even have to say anything and it’s implied like McKayla Maroney said about the coaches watching the gymnasts eat at the ranch, but I think for the most part the culture is now more about respect.
If a gymnast today tried to connect two tumbling passes, will it be considered one tumbling pass or two? Is this not allowed in the code?
It would be considered two passes, unless they did something really insane (and probably physically impossible) that would earn connection bonus. Most of the back-to-back passes back in the day were typically one big pass, and then simpler skills connected out of it, and that was fine because it worked within the parameters of that code. Today, if a gymnast did a roundoff back handspring double tuck pass straight into a roundoff back handspring double pike, for example, it’d be worth nothing because there’s no value in doing a double tuck into the roundoff back handspring that would come before the double pike. You’re better off doing the double tuck pass, taking a breath or dancing or something, and then doing the double pike pass. But if a gymnast did something like a roundoff back handspring double tuck to immediate front layout full to Rudi to double pike, she’d probably die, but it would be worth a nice connection bonus and would technically be one single pass.
We have seen an increase in ‘real’ beam mounts this quad, but not much variance in bars mounts. What would it take to see gymnasts go for bigger mounts on bars? Will the American women step up their beam mount game or play it safe?
They’d probably need to up the value of the bars mounts in the code just like they did with the beam mounts this quad. That’s really the only reason girls are upgrading them…when they’re worth more, it’s more worth competing. Some U.S. women might upgrade their mounts, but who knows? It’s not really ‘playing it safe’ because, yes, they’re getting on the beam without any risk of falling, but they still have to count seven highly-valued non-dismount skills if they want high D scores. The girls who do big mounts count one as a mount and six on the beam, and the girls who do simple mounts count seven big skills on the beam. Whether a gymnast chooses to take a risk on a loso mount or she does a simple mount but competes a standing full, neither is playing it safe.
Do you think there’s a way to get GK Elite to make replicas of the U.S. national team leos?
Probably not…sometimes they’ll make training leo replicas of the bigger national team leos, but I think the whole deal is that those leos are specifically for the national team which is an honor and so getting one of those national team leos is like, reserved for the girls who make the team. Once every now and then you’ll see one of the designs replicated in some way, and I remember Alyona Shchennikova randomly had a 2012 Olympic team finals leo at one point? But yeah, mostly, those leos are specific to the national team and GK probably knows replicas would fly off the shelves, but I think there’s some sort of branding/copyright issue involved with reproduction which is why we don’t see them.
Do you think Kyla Ross kind of got screwed over in elite not being able to adjust the bars height?
Yeah. I don’t know what the real story is there, because I’ve heard multiple stories…that she wanted to change them but no one would let her, that she didn’t want to change them, that the FIG wouldn’t approve it…I know some taller gymnasts did get the bars raised for them in elite, so I know it was definitely an option, but I still haven’t heard the whole ‘true story’ about why they didn’t do it, so I’ll just say yes, she got screwed over for not adjusting the bars, but who screwed her over? No clue.
Do you have a full time job outside of doing gymnastics coverage? How do you manage to stay so on top of the gym world?
Yup! I work in legal marketing, doing social media and branding for a large global law firm (I’m based in our NYC office). Pretty much all of my spare time is dedicated to gymnastics coverage, so yeah, I work a lot between my full-time job and my gymnastics job (which is a full-time job in its own). But I love it and I apparently love working all the time. I actually had to start taking ballet classes at night so I wouldn’t go straight home and start working. :-p So now I have a better balance but I do spend a loooot of time on the site and researching gym happenings. Really, though, when I was a full-time student I also had a full-time job, and when I graduated from college I felt like…WHAT DO I DO WITH MY NON-WORK TIME!? when I wasn’t working. I started this site a few months after graduating from college so in a way it kind of replaced school…except it’s way more fun than writing 20 page papers and studying.
I remember McKayla Maroney talking about doing a double back on vault. What would that have been worth? Have any gymnasts ever done it?
Yes, she was talking about a Yurchenko double back. No female gymnasts have competed it, but Yurchenko double backs (tucked and piked) exist in MAG. A Yurchenko double tuck is a 5.2 and a double pike is a 5.6 in MAG, so considering an Amanar is a 5.2 in MAG which is the same as the Yurchenko double tuck, we can probably assume that a Yurchenko double tuck in WAG would be about a 5.8 whereas the double pike would be about a 6.2? Though honestly I’d put them both a little higher…maybe a 6.0 and a 6.4.
Do you think Maggie Nichols had the best season of any college gymnast? Just purely score-wise. Neither Bridget Sloan nor Courtney Kupets got a 39.925 or had an RQS as high as Maggie’s.
She had a really good season, but due to injury only limiting her to all-around for half of the season and then having that fall at NCAAs, it wasn’t literally the best season ever. If anyone, MyKayla Skinner actually had the best season this year because she did the all-around at every single meet with the highest level of difficulty in the country and never fell once. If you want to base it purely score-wise, you’d have to include Karen Lichey’s perfect 40, in which case based on score alone, she had the greatest meet ever, but I do think Maggie could one day also get a perfect 40.
Does Alex McMurtry have a second vault? This specialist year is her best shot at worlds.
She does not. She also isn’t elite, so she has no shot at worlds unless she qualifies elite after NCAA nationals. To make event finals with a DTY, she’d probably need a pretty difficult second vault…most of the gymnasts who have made it to finals in recent years with a DTY have had a Rudi or Lopez for the second one. The gymnasts who have been topping the vault podiums so far this season have two-vault difficulty combinations that total 10.6 or higher (Wang Yan’s 11.4 combo is the highest). To match this top group, she’d need a second vault of at least 5.2 in difficulty to go along with her DTY, meaning she’d need something like a Lopez or Tsuk 1½ at the very least, and that’s just to make finals, not to medal. Some vaulters right now have a DTY and tsuk full (4.8) combo, but they’d be lucky to make the vault final at all, let alone get on the podium. Even with how nice Alex’s DTY is, it’s not really going to be super competitive in a world vault final, and there’s no way Valeri Liukin would take her unless she’s able to contend with those at the top of the field.
What do you mean when you say ‘technique’ as opposed to form and execution?
Technique is basically the fundamentals, like good basics and body position and all of the little things she learns early on that act as the building blocks. As gymnasts move up in the levels, the ones with strong technique have that translate into their bigger skills, whereas those who move up with poor foundations will keep those bad habits going forward into the higher levels. Technique is different than form…a gymnast with perfect technique on a layout can still perform a skill incorrectly with mistakes and have form errors. And execution is kind of a combination of both technique and form…technical errors in skills are deducted as are form errors, so a gymnast with excellent technique who has several mistakes and form errors would have fewer deductions than a gymnast with poor technique and only one or two mistakes/form errors. Strong technique also ensures longevity by preventing injury, building strength and flexibility, and refining movement, so it’s not just about having nice lines or a good aesthetic basis, but a gymnast with good technique is going to be able to better perform higher-level skills without risking injury.
Why so much hate towards MyKayla Skinner? The way some people on the gymternet dislike her is horrendous. You’d think she committed a heinous crime. Do you think she has been cheated of some individual awards at times simply because people don’t like her attitude or personality?
It’s so bizarre. Honestly, I think people don’t like her in general because her attitude on social media is very much like this over-confident “I’m the best” sort of thing that comes off super cocky and people want to drag her down. Plenty of male athletes are like that, though, and get very little of the hate MyKayla does, so it’s kind of sexist actually. I think if people knew her off social media they’d get a very different impression of her, though, and most of the time her attitude and poor sportsmanship on twitter aren’t even coming from her…it’s all retweets and things like that.
I’ve been around MyKayla in person for about four years now and I’ve never once heard her talk disrespectfully about other athletes. Even after Olympic Trials, where she had the biggest disappointment of her career and actually legitimately could have had an Olympic team spot had someone else been making the decisions, she was nothing but gracious…and then she got on her phone and started retweeting nonstop about how she should’ve made the team. People are definitely put off by that, especially when what she retweets isn’t exactly appropriate (like someone photoshopping her face over Gabby Douglas’s face in a picture) but honestly she herself hasn’t really said anything? It’s all just retweets, so I’m imagining she gets home from a meet and sees dozens of messages of support and just goes through and retweets them all without really thinking about what she’s doing. Plenty of people don’t think about their actions so she’s not alone in that, but when you’re in a more public position, you kind of have to think about it so someone needs to sit her down and be like “stop.”
The thing is, though, other athletes — including some gymnasts — have said or written things that have been inappropriate or offensive, but because people don’t already dislike these gymnasts, they all get excused, but with MyKayla it’s like people seek out reasons to hate her and it’s like, oh, inappropriate retweet? Screencap it and drag her for it for the next three years! It’s so insane and is such a double standard.
I get not liking her for coming off as cocky (even though again she’s very different in person). That’s totally valid. She’s done some stuff that warrants not liking her. But in any other sport, people can be both cocky and strong athletes and any award they’re up for is generally based solely on what they did in the sport, not on their attitudes. There are some terrible people out there who have done far worse than MyKayla could ever dream of doing and these people get awards all the time, so turning MyKayla down for something like PAC 12 Gymnast of the Year when she literally had one of the best seasons ever in collegiate gymnastics (no one else has competed her combined level of difficulty all season long with 11 weeks of all-around performances in a row and no falls/big mistakes) is silly to me. Again, she’s not going to win any Best Human Being awards any time soon for the attitude she has on social media, but what that has to do with her gymnastics is beyond me.
Personally, I’ve been a fan of her gymnastics for a long time, even though I’m not as much of a fan of her as a person because I tend to separate what an athlete does in the gym with what an athlete is like in real life (the same goes for people with other talents and in other sorts of jobs…I can respect what someone does on the field or in a boardroom or with a guitar, but still think they’re trash people in every other aspect in life). But even so, I think the hate she gets goes far beyond what she deserves. She hasn’t killed anyone or run a dog-fighting ring or even said anything really mean about anyone. Seeing some of her awkwardly inappropriate retweets got annoying, so I unfollowed her. Simple as that. If you don’t like what someone’s saying or retweeting, there’s no need to follow them, and yet the people who dislike her not only follow her, but like, live for social media stalking her so they can immediately screencap anything she says that can be considered rude or whatever. *eye roll* Get a hobby.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins