It’s time for the 164th 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.
Are Euros, worlds, and the Olympics the three most important meets in a quad? Are there any other competitions that would show a high level of ability?
Worlds and the Olympics are the most ‘important’ meets. Euros and the other bigger continental meets (Pan Ams, Asian Games) are also generally strong (though since most of the bigger programs are concentrated in Europe, Euros tends to get more hype than the other two), some world cups (all-around, apparatus, and challenge) get really good fields, and then many of the smaller invitational-style meets are also typically great, like Jesolo, Junior Japan International, Flanders International, and Gymnix.
If a gymnast is too tall to do a skill like a Korbut without hitting the ground, does it still count as a fall or is she allowed to raise the beam?
I don’t think anyone is really too tall to do a Korbut unless their legs are four feet long, haha. I think even men who are six feet tall still just about pass the three-foot mark for legs, so I’m pretty sure every gymnast would be fine.
Do you think the beam will ever be made longer, the vault table higher and bouncier, or the floor bigger to accommodate for the bigger crowd-pleasing acrobatics and ever-rising difficulty levels?
Actually shortly after the 2008 Olympics, a gymnastics equipment manufacturer in Europe came up with a prototype for a beam that was five inches wide and had ends that tapered out to be even wider. I remember asking some gymnasts what they thought about this, and they were all like “UGH it means we’ll have to do even harder skills!!!” hahahaha. Obviously nothing came out of this, but yes, given that events have changed so much over time and that at some point, gymnasts will max out what they’re able to do on the current apparatuses, we’ll probably see more changes eventually. I’d actually like to see something that would allow women to do high bar releases on uneven bars. We’ll probably get some changes in the next couple of decades, I’m sure.
What college program would you want to go to?
Combining various factors — gym program, coaching staff, teammates, academics, and location — I’d pick either UCLA or Washington.
Did you base Amalia loosely on Alyse Ishino? There are so many parallels — older teammate and mentor who ruptures Achilles before the Olympics, wanting to go to Stanford, becoming the Olympic alternate…
NO and I didn’t even realize all of the similarities until reading this. I based different aspects of who she is on various people. Aly Raisman in 2010-2012 inspired the story (though a lot changed from her actual journey) and then I have bits and pieces from a few other gymnasts thrown into her character, and even a little of myself if I were an elite gymnast.
Why doesn’t the U.S. send a female gymnast to the Youth Olympic Games?
It’s not a competitive meet at all. Because the YOGs are usually held at the same time as U.S. nationals, the reasoning is basically that the gymnast would face more competition at nationals than she would at YOGs, making the YOGs pretty pointless when the whole reason for justifying international meets is to give athletes competitive experience. In 2014, the best U.S. gymnast was Bailie Key, who ended up being injured that summer, but had she been healthy, she would’ve been the top choice for YOGs. Having earned a 58.25 at Jesolo and a 59.25 at Pac Rims earlier in the year, Bailie would’ve come in multiple points ahead of everyone else and could’ve probably swept the competition easily, but at nationals, she would’ve faced about eight gymnasts who had the potential to surpass Tutkhalyan’s 54.9, the highest score at YOGs. So yeah, if the point of competition is competitive experience, you want to be getting that experience at meets that have some aspect of a challenge, and YOGs haven’t really offered that in their history at this point, mostly because they’re only open to gymnasts born in one specific year. If they open up the competition to a wider age range and add a team competition (even for small three-person teams like at EYOFs) it would be much more appealing to USA Gymnastics, which is why they send kids to Gymnix, Jesolo, and Junior Japan but don’t really bother with YOGs.
Do you know anything about the scoring system for levels in Great Britain?
No I don’t. The only domestic system for lower levels I really know is the U.S. system, and only because that’s the system I knew growing up. I don’t really pay attention to or follow closely the lower levels in any country, including J.O. in the United States, because my coverage is focused on elite gymnasts and competitions.
What is the deduction if a gymnast circles up out of a shaposh instead of connecting it to another skill?
A shaposh or shaposh with a full twist that doesn’t connect to another skill is now considered to be an empty swing. Which is a 0.5 deduction. Shaposh skills with a half twist don’t have to directly connect to another skill, however, so a gymnast can compete something like a van Leeuwen and kip cast out of it with no deduction.
While watching European Championships this month, I noticed that several of the British women, including Ellie Downie, didn’t have a forward element in any of their tumbling passes. Isn’t this a missing special requirement?
Ellie Downie and Claudia Fragapane both compete arabians, which are considered front tumbling for WAG. I forgot the skills in Alice Kinsella’s routine but I’m pretty sure she does a punch front out of one of her passes…three of her four passes are twisting passes and I think she does something like a front through to a double full or something like that for her third pass, but I don’t remember. Either way, they were all definitely covered.
What would happen this next year if a team like Romania won bronze at worlds guaranteeing their spot in Tokyo but in 2020, they didn’t have enough seniors to send?
I mean, they’d only need four seniors. Even if they have to send gymnasts who are basically glorified level 10 gymnasts, as they did for the test event last year, they’d still have gymnasts to send. Even if they only had three competing gymnasts, they could just go three-up three-count in qualifications. But if they for some inexplicable reason only had two competing gymnasts in the whole country, they could forfeit their team spot and the alternate team would come in to compete instead (in 2016, the alternate team would’ve been Australia, for example, since they finished just outside the team qualifications at the test event) OR they could just show up anyway and waste their team spot, like Ukraine did when they had an injury in MAG team finals last summer.
Could a gymnast do a layout full as a floor dismount but make an inquiry that it’s a whip full? Or to be a whip full must it be connected to a back handspring? I ask because of the whip full now being a C.
A whip full is very distinct from a layout full. Whip skills are basically like no-handed back handsprings, performed low and long as opposed to a layout which is performed high and short. Any whip skill is more of an intermediate connecting skill, not a skill a gymnast would perform at the end of a pass, but if a gymnast did decide to perform a whip full at the end of a tumbling run, it would be incredibly distinct from a layout full. They look nothing alike and there’d be no confusion about what the gymnast competed…unless the gymnast competed a whip full so incorrectly that it essentially was a layout full.
I thought the point of the new code was to ensure that each event is weighted evenly, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Now it seems to strongly favor bars and beam workers with the downgrades on vault and floor. Why is that?
I don’t think the point of these past changes was to weigh events evenly…the point was getting rid of the D dismount requirement so that gymnasts who couldn’t safely perform D-level dismounts could perform a C instead and not be penalized for it, and because each event was losing 0.5 in CR, they shifted the vault start values down accordingly.
Bars and beam were also ‘downgraded’ in terms of difficulty, but beam also had several changes in terms of connections and some gymnasts are already taking advantage of these to boost their D scores. Bars is still basically the same, though I think right now we just happen to have more of last year’s top bar workers returning already whereas almost no one who was best on floor last quad has come back yet.
So floor is disproportionately weak because only one or two of last quad’s best floor workers have returned, and because they’re still easing their way in, they’re not doing anywhere near the level of difficulty they’re capable of but on bars you have gymnasts doing the same or even higher levels of difficulty than last year. Floor will catch up. No one wants to go all-out on floor this early in the quad because it’s where a majority of Achilles and knee injuries tend to happen, so I think everyone’s holding back a bit. The scores will get higher, though. Aside from the CR, nothing really changed there.
Mai Murakami is a good example because last quad she could regularly get around 14.7 or so, and this year she’s back with pretty much her full level of difficulty and she’s getting around 14.2, so her scores are telling us all that’s missing is just that 0.5 CR. But other floor workers have downgraded in addition to losing the CR, so of course their overall scores will be lower at the moment.
Do you feel the 2.5 and triple full bars dismounts are undervalued due to their apparent impossible-to-stick status?
I guess? It’s also hard to compare twisting elements with flipping elements…I think most just assume every skill that has multiple flips is harder than something with one flip and twists added on, which I think is also reflected in certain skill values on vault and floor (a double layout, which everyone does, compared to a 3.5, which no one does, for example). So it’s more about that whole “single flip” aspect than the sticking, because I doubt they rate difficulty based on the ability to stick, but it’s still probably undervalued compared to some double flips.
Why didn’t Larisa Iordache throw her 7.2 beam at 2014 worlds if her team had no shot without it?
Probably because it was too much of a risk to casually throw in team finals. Also, they didn’t ‘have no shot’ without it. They actually would’ve beaten Russia in team finals had they not counted a fall on beam in the final rotation! Russia had the stronger team, but they also had falls. Romania beat them on vault, beam, and floor in that team final, and Russia only beat them by half a point, so had Stefania Stanila stayed on beam, Romania would’ve won by half a point even with their huge deficit on bars because they overall had the better day. If anything, risking Iordache’s 7.2 beam could’ve hurt more than helped.
Can you give some examples of built-in deductions?
Yeah, so basically there’s a difference between form and technique. I always think of form as like, how the skill is performed at that particular time, and technique as how the gymnast performs certain aspects of skills based on her fundamentals/basics. A gymnast with really good basics will have all of the building blocks of the skill done correctly so she may lose a tenth if she has leg separation on a layout or something, but she won’t really lose anything beyond what was problematic with that one particular skill that day because all of the building blocks — the correct body positioning, extension, etc. — are done the way they’re supposed to be.
Any issues with the basics are generally just bad habits that gymnasts try to break and might work really hard on breaking in the gym, but when it comes time to compete, their hours of practice go out the window because their focus is elsewhere (like, maybe a coach will constantly remind a gymnast to keep her chest up on a leap, and she probably drills this all day every day, but then when she gets on floor she gets so wrapped up in the bigger parts of the routine that she ends up leaping with her chest forward because she’s not thinking about every teeny tiny detail and bad habits like these are super hard to break). Generally if you’re lacking the right basics on a skill, any skill progression beyond that initial skill is going to be done incorrectly…like if you have the wrong technique for a layout, you’ll have a lot of bad habits already built in once you move up to throwing a triple on floor, for example. So I call those bad habits “built-in deductions” because they’re the kind of thing that will literally always be there on a skill.
The best example because it’s easy to see is probably Simone Biles with her crossed feet on vault. Now, Simone has incredible basics on vault which is why there’s so little to deduct. Almost every ‘little thing’ that goes into being a good vaulter is done perfectly. But a trick she uses to keep her legs straight and together on this event is crossing one foot over the other, which makes it easier to hold her legs in the correct position. So she got into the habit of doing this, even though it’s not the correct technique for a layout…the legs have to be glued from top to bottom, with the feet together side-by-side. So she kind of sacrifices that perfect layout technique with her crossed feet because the crossed feet help her better hold onto her leg form, and no matter how perfect her Amanar is, she’ll probably always lose a tenth for those crossed feet, so for her, those are a built-in deduction for her.
Do you know what He Kexin and Yang Yilin have been up to?
Last time I checked, Kexin was finishing up her degree at a university in Beijing and working as an ambassador to help promote the 2022 Winter Olympics (which will be held in Beijing), and Yilin was studying at Beijing Sport University and trying to live a normal life after gymnastics.
How do new NCAA programs get started? Do they give out all 12 scholarships the first year and then recruit walk-ons for the next three? What is the last time a new DI program was started?
Hmm, I’m not sure how it would work out for D1 where there are 12 scholarships, but my guess is they would try to bring in transfers so they wouldn’t have a freshman class of 12. When Lindenwood started, they didn’t have 12 scholarships being a D2 school, so while the bulk of their first roster was made up of freshmen, they also had a couple upperclassmen thrown in, and they were able to kind of play with that in subsequent years, since they could bring in a greater number of non-scholarship athletes. I’d guess a D1 program just starting out would, in addition to bringing in transfers, have a number of walk-ons. I’m also thinking they wouldn’t have to give out all 12 scholarships at once? So in their first year they can have maybe five scholarship freshmen, two scholarship transfers, and then like ten walk-ons or something…and then in the second year they can bring in a few more freshmen with scholarships, and so on.
Why did MyKayla Skinner and Maggie Nichols’ form get so much nicer and cleaner when they got to NCAA? Even on simpler skills, there’s a noticeable difference.
In elite, to build difficulty, gymnasts have to sometimes chuck a large number of skills that they might not compete perfectly, but do them anyway because the difficulty can outweigh the deductions they’ll receive. So MyKayla Skinner would compete a Moors with some form issues because she was getting a million points in D value for it, and it was worth it. Like, MyKayla has great layout basics, but you wouldn’t know that from seeing her Moors because she sacrificed her layout technique in order to get the skill around. So taking out those big but not super clean skills is a huge part of it, and then also because the routines as a whole are shorter and made up of fewer requirements, the gymnasts can focus on perfecting a smaller number of skills. On bars, for example, in an elite routine there are 8+ high-level skills which takes up a lot of endurance, so form tends to suffer at times, but in NCAA where some bar routines have four skills max, it’s easier to physically get through it, and so more attention can be paid to making those skills better. An elite gymnast doing a Maloney in the middle of a packed routine might have major leg separation or bent knees or something if she’s struggling to get through other elements in the routine, but then she gets to NCAA and can probably do that skill perfectly because it becomes her focus, not just a random side skill in the middle of a bunch of other bigger skills.
Has there ever been an elite gymnast from Alaska or Hawaii?
Not that I know of off the top of my head but I obviously don’t know where every single elite was born. I actually went to a L10 meet in Hawaii once at a gym called Kokokahi and they had a bunch of awesome gymnasts, including some NCAA-bound level 10s! I don’t think Alaska has very many club gyms, so it’s funny that they have a D1 program while Texas has a million clubs and L10s but no D1 college…but Hawaii has a pretty good club gym scene and they tend to get a lot of lower-level elite hopeful gymnasts from Pacific countries like Australia, New Zealand, China, and Japan at their club meets as well as lots of good clubs from California. At the meet I went to, I saw quite a few future NCAA competitors as well as some young Japanese elites who are now regulars on the national level!
Do you think we’ll see a bunch of event specialists from smaller gymnastics programs now that they could have a shot at the Olympics through the apparatus world cups?
Possibly. The apparatus world cups are basically the hardest way into the Olympics, though, because the gymnasts have to win the entire world cup series. Only four gymnasts get spots this way — the overall winner of each event — so it’s actually still much much much easier to get to the Olympic Games as a weak all-arounder than it is as a top event specialist. Like, Teja Belak and Oksana Chusovitina are two really strong vaulters who are regulars on the world cup circuit, but only one of them can win the world cup vault title to secure an Olympic spot. I think the focus for a majority of gymnasts will still be getting in via an all-around spot.
For a specialist like Krisztian Berki on pommels or Eleftherios Petrounias on rings, it’s like a no-brainer that they’ll win their respective spots pretty easily…but too many events are so closely-contested, it would be too much of a risk to attempt to get an Olympic spot solely through an apparatus world cup, which is why gymnasts like Chusovitina and Belak are continuing to train in the all-around. Like, if Simone Biles comes back with the same level floor she had last quad where she was miles ahead of everyone else, she’d be a great gymnast to throw into the world cup qualifying pool, but most gymnasts aren’t so far ahead of everyone else that they can make that happen. Chusovitina could win the overall vault title and qualify, but what if Hong Un Jong also attempts to qualify that way and has her Amanar and Cheng? It’s suuuuper risky and the all-around is absolutely still the way to go.
Has anyone ever tried a front layout or a front tuck full on beam? What do you think these would be rated in the code?
Not that I can recall, although Oksana Chusovitina is working a front layout mount, but I’d think a front layout would probably be an F and a front full probably a G or H.
Did Aliya Mustafina’s vault from 2011 Euros where she got injured ever get scored?
Yes, she got a 15.375 which was almost seven tenths higher than any other vault in that all-around final. While destroying her knee. #JustAliyaThings
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Article by Lauren Hopkins