It’s time for the 173rd 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 were some of the most surprising elites, gymnasts who were never expected to go beyond level 10?
Amelia Hundley. When she did elite, beginning at 12, everyone was kind of like, aww, cute, a little friend for Lexie Priessman, she’ll get a couple of years in as a junior and then go back to level 10. But then she kept improving and working her way to the top of the junior ranks and it was such a surprise. I’ll never forget Mary Lee Tracy at Pac Rims in 2012…someone was like “so, Amelia, huh?!” and she was like “I KNOW, RIGHT?!” Like, she had always been a good gymnast, but there was nothing about her that suggested she’d be a top junior. You could kind of tell by 15 that she was at her peak in terms of ability and probably would never be big on the senior scene, but even so, she was a more than competent senior-level competitor who made multiple national teams, international teams, and got to the Olympic Trials, so that was definitely a career that kind of came out of nowhere and surprised everyone. She had seven elite seasons by the end of her career, which is more than most could dream of. Totally insane and awesome, and she’ll always be my favorite for that reason.
Which level 10 gymnasts do you think would have made amazing elites?
I always hoped Alicia Boren would go elite, and same with Alex McMurtry. I remember at the Nastia Liukin Cup one year, she was awesome and I asked if she would go elite PLEASE and she said she was thinking about it, but I don’t think she wanted to put in the crazy extra hours that would’ve been required of her.
Are judges as strict with the layout full on beam as they are with the layout?
No, they don’t devalue it pretty much ever, which is odd because they emphasize the perfect layout form so ridiculously without the twist, which is silly because no skill is ever going to be literally perfect and that’s what deductions are for (and honestly, the deductions for the layout not being a perfect layout would probably be more costly than devaluing the skill). But with the layout full they’re like, meh, fully piked? No big deal. They’re definitely way more lenient there.
If an elite has to petition to drop down to level 10, does that mean Elena Arenas and Aria Brusch are done with elite?
Elena Arenas is still competing elite…if she did a level 10 this year it was probably just an invitational as practice, not her actually dropping down to level 10. Aria Brusch did drop down to level 10, though, which means she’s done with elite.
How much advantage do gymnasts really get from a ‘home’ crowd?
I think it helps with the motivation to have a few thousand people screaming for you when you compete compared to girls who aren’t from the host country who get polite applause. But I’ve seen girls with ‘home advantage’ completely fall apart, and girls with home advantage really feed off of the crowd’s energy and do their best performances ever. I liken it kind of to having a team surrounding you and screaming for you at college meets…it doesn’t make everyone magically better than usual, but some people really do take in that energy and support and are able to use it. This is especially true for people who are born performers…if you’re not really a ‘performer’ and are more in your head with the sport, you probably won’t be too affected by a crowd, but some gymnasts who look kind of lazy or sloppy in training when there’s no one around will really come alive in front of a crowd of people. It’s where they thrive, and so these gymnasts in front of a crazy crowd will have something extra pushing them to excel.
Why don’t we see more creative vaults in NCAA, like Morgan Lane’s or Rachel Slocum’s?
Most gymnasts grew up learning Yurchenko-style vaults because it’s part of many training curriculums, and for those who had the aim of competing NCAA, they would pretty much want to guarantee that they could perform a vault with a 10.0 start value, and Yurchenko fulls were just the way to do it. They’re kind of the go-to vaults for upper-level club gymnasts, and as coaches kept teaching them, younger coaches would learn their methods, and these were the vaults that just happened to become popular. Occasionally coaches would go for other entries, but I think most just stuck with what they knew.
Now that the Yurchenko full has been devauled and most level 10 gymnasts find a half or full step up to the 1.5 or DTY too difficult, we’re going to see more younger gymnasts trying to learn different style vaults so they will be more competitive as NCAA recruits. In the coming years, when coaches need vaulters and see 20 girls with decent 9.5 SV Yurchenko fulls and one girl with a solid handspring or tsuk, guess who’s gonna be higher priority? Slocum and Lane don’t really do ‘creative’ vaults. Outside the U.S., especially in smaller programs, these vaults are done all the time because they’re not as technically difficult to teach. Yurchenko vaults are easier to do, but harder to coach, though U.S. clubs have coaching Yurchenkos down to a science so they can basically churn them out like a factory. But in every other country, the kinds of vaults Slocum and Lane do are super common.
How common is it for an athlete who goes pro to have their social media accounts taken over and completely run by a PR agency? Is it common practice for a sponsor to contractually obligate the athlete to maintain and update social media accounts?
It’s not at all common to have accounts completely run by PR agencies, though sometimes athletes with business managers will have them do that. Like, I’d say pretty much no gymnasts do this. Most of the time when they give over their accounts to agencies, they lose the voice and people can tell. From an advertiser’s perspective, it’s better for their atheltes to have a more unique voice because that’s what their fans want to hear. Athletes who are influencers given free products or a flat fee for a few posts sharing the product are generally contracted for a specific number of posts…like, we’ll give you ten pairs of Nikes in exchange for one tweet, one Facebook post, two Instagram posts, and one Instagram story. Other times, brands will send free gifts to athletes with zero expectation or requirement for them to post about them, but just with the hope that they’ll be happy with the gift and will post anyway. For those who are like, legitimately contracted as a Nike athlete and are sponsored and appear in commercials or print ads, they might have a clause in their contracts about posting on social media (probably something like, if we send you a gift, post a pic of yourself wearing the item) but it’s not always a requirement. Generally athletes who share pics of themselves at photoshoots wearing the gear are just excited to be doing a photoshoot and want to share it, haha.
How would you picture the ideal elite atmosphere for the good of the athletes? How would it improve a program’s results?
I don’t know if there’s an ‘ideal elite atmosphere.’ I think there are various ways that are proven to work, but it depends on the athlete and her personality. Like, not everyone would work well with Al Fong, but some gymnasts work amazingly with him. And while Simone Biles and Aimee Boorman were a literal perfect match, some gymnasts might not work with her. There’s no one set way. With that said, I guess the ideal elite atmosphere is literally one that is tailored specifically to that gymnast, which isn’t always possible to find and often coaches and athletes have to make compromises to work well with one another, so not every single elite gymnast will be in the perfect coaching situation for her, but when something does really work out super well, it creates athletes who aren’t only good at what they do, but who are mentally strong competitors as well.
How does the world cup system work? Who can go? How does one get invited? How do you know if it’s an all-around or apparatus cup? How many are held in a year?
Anyone with an FIG license sent by their federation can go to a world apparatus cup, and for the all-around world cups, there’s an invitational system based on how nations place at the previous Olympics or worlds. The FIG usually differentiates between apparatus and all-around world cups by calling them ‘apparatus world cup’ and ‘all-around world cup’ but for this quad, the only all-around world cups are American Cup, Stuttgart, and London, so you can assume any other world cup you see in other cities is an apparatus world cup. There are three all-around world cups each year and six apparatus world cups.
Why doesn’t Brestyan’s have any other elites on the national level?
Most gyms who have an elite aren’t going to have more than a handful of elites in their programs’ lifetimes, and that’s if they’re lucky. Some of the best level 10 gyms in the country are one and done when it comes to elites. These clubs generally train those few elites from the beginning of their careers, whereas the gyms that always have five or six elites constantly circling through could have kids that they train from the start, but more often than not they’re getting kids who trained at smaller programs until they reached a higher level and were like hey, elite could happen for me! And my gym has no idea how to deal with that or no desire to deal with the financial and logistical nightmares of having an elite. That’s when they seek out well-known gyms, and so a gym like Parkettes or Texas Dreams or GAGE will get kids coming to them specifically because they’ve gone as far as they can at their old club.
Do you know if Alexa Moreno is still training? Could Mexico get to the next Olympics?
Yup, she’s still training! She should be back either this year or next. Ana Lago and Elsa Garcia are still training as well. I’m not sure if Mexico could get to the Olympics as a full team…there are a lot of up-and-coming teams right now and they’re not really one of the most impressive in terms of depth, but you never know. They do have some fabulous juniors at the moment, like the Gutierrez twins from the U.S. (assuming they decide to represent Mexico internationally…they have dual citizenship I believe and could go either way because they haven’t yet gotten FIG licenses), Louise Lopez, and a few others. So if these juniors end up panning out and they’re able to continue to get strong performances from Moreno, Lago, Garcia, and a few other seniors, they could make it happen. But it’ll be tough!
Did Sienna Robinson move to Browns’ Gymnastics?
Yes she did. It was a pretty recent move, too! I’m not sure what happened, but it could just be that at Salcianu, Maile O’Keefe is the reigning junior national champion and is clearly the star. It’s possible her parents felt like she needed to be at a gym with no other big name elites so the head coach’s focus could be on her…that happens sometimes.
Will Madison Kocian come back to elite?
She said she wants to. Since the team emphasis in 2020 will be on all-arounders, I doubt we’ll see her make the actual team, but I could see her vying for a specialist spot. That way her glass ankles wouldn’t have to deal with vault, beam, or floor, and she could put all of her focus and energy into bars. If she looks like she did in 2016 and was a legitimate medal contender, they could totally justify a spot for her.
What happened to Diana Bulimar?
She injured her knee roughly once a year last quad, and was never able to get back to her old level or ability because she was constantly having to go back and rehab and then start from scratch, repeatedly, all the freaking time. So she made it to the test event last year, and actually put up some okay scores, but was really nowhere close to her full potential which is definitely sad. She was absolutely one who could’ve gone on from London and become invaluable, but injuries completely ruined that for her.
I’ve seen the Gator chomp on floor, moonwalking on beam, a ‘death drop’ on floor…do gymnasts get deducted for these unconventional moves or are they allowed in NCAA?
They’re allowed! They’d also be allowed in elite, because there’s nothing specifically against anything like this in the code. But in NCAA, these things are more about team traditions and getting the crowd excited than any kind of like, artistry or originality. Every Gator gymnast does the chomp, every Utah gymnast holds up a U with her hands, Utah and Georgia always have one gymnast every year who does the moonwalk (when a senior retires, a gymnast in a lower class will inherit it from her and keep it for her whole career)…so they really wouldn’t play as well in elite because with the more individual-style competition, there’s no reason to have quirky little traditions that the home crowd will go nuts for every time. Like, if Team USA started doing an eagle wing pose in every floor routine, and their only team meets that year were in Canada and Italy, it would be super awkward with no one in the crowd who would really ‘get it’ whereas at college meets, the home crowd knows those traditions and often even does them along with the gymnasts and it’s a ‘thing.’
Do you think there would be a way to add an ‘originality bonus’ in the code for rarely-done elements? Or a deduction for a lack of originality?
Because there’s only so many skills, I think it would be difficult to put in some kind of lack of originality deduction. There are something like 250 gymnasts at worlds every year, and there aren’t anywhere near that many floor passes or beam acro skills or bars releases in the code of points, so no skill will really be ‘original.’ It’s cool to see someone doing a rarely-performed skill, but with a lack of originality deduction, everyone would start doing ‘rare’ skills, and then there are no rare skills left. So of the two options, an originality bonus would make more sense…but then you’re reworking the code of points because the rarity of a skill has no weight in terms of its difficulty, and execution is all deductions, not bonuses.
I guess they could create a kind of category for things like originality and artistry…and that would actually make more sense than taking artistry deductions in the E score now, because a ‘lack of artistry’ has zero bearing on how well a routine is performed. Like, a gymnast could perform a technically perfect routine and still get deducted for not being a good performer, which makes no sense. So I guess I’d be for having a D score that builds the difficulty, an E score that deducts for technical aspects, and then an artistry/originality score (the A score?) that adds to a routine’s overall score. A gymnast with zero artistry or originality gets a 0 in that column, but a gymnast who is a brilliant performer and has unique skills or composition could get up to 0.5 in her A score? I think that would encourage artistry and originality more than deducting for it as part of the E score, since gymnasts don’t always know what they’re being deducted for, and ‘lack of artistry’ simply becomes hidden away without them realizing how vital it is for them to make changes.
Is it morally/legally justifiable that a gymnast who is nowhere near legal decision-making age can have her NCAA eligibility taken away by her parents’ decision to accept gifts?
It’s legally justifiable, but I honestly look down on parents who make exploiting their kids on social media a priority over their futures. As a former child actor, I had the opposite of stage parents and had to force them to take me to auditions and stuff, and they were like “can’t you just go to school and play outside like a normal child?!” and I hated it so much then because I wanted to be famous and they really limited me basically by being good parents and not forcing me to be a little performing monkey, but now am so grateful for their groundedness because throughout my entire career I was surrounded by the craziest parents who cared more about their kid being ‘the best’ or booking a show or whatever than about anything else. One kid I knew was so destroyed by her mother’s incessent need to shove her in a spotlight that she became a heroin addict and dropped out of school at 17, having reached her peak as an actor by 13. This mother then tried to shove her younger daughter in pageants, and locked her toddler son in an adjoining hotel room while getting changed between routines, and he went out onto the balcony to play but then fell off and died. Then she had MORE daughters and turned them into pageant queens. That’s the worst example I’ve seen personally, but it makes me hate all parents who put stupidity ahead of their kids’ well-being. I’m not saying every parent who tries to make their kid ‘Instafamous’ is that negligent, but like…come on. Why do you need to make your kid famous? Like, what is missing in your life that makes this something you prioritize? There’s a fine line between helping a child explore her talents/gifts in healthy ways and forcing your child to be your prize pig, and many parents so grossly cross that line. After seeing so much of it first-hand, child exploitation is something I literally can’t deal with, and again, not every one of the accounts is that extreme, but there are some where I’m like…yikes. Make it stop. Sorry, I got a little personal there for a sec, but like, for real. This enrages me to no end.
Did Aly Raisman or McKayla Maroney commit to college before going pro?
Aly committed to the University of Florida before deciding to go pro, but McKayla did not commit anywhere.
What do the different lettered divisions at J.O. nationals mean? Is A the top division?
They’re only age divisions. There are 12 divisions, Junior A-F and Senior A-F with Junior A being the youngest group and Senior F being the oldest. The breakdowns take how many gymnasts of each age are competing into account so if there were 50 gymnasts born in December 2001 (and 200 gymnasts born in 2001 total) and then only 50 gymnasts were born in all of 2002, they would set the age divisions accordingly rather than by year so that there aren’t a million gymnasts in the 2001 group and then almost none in the 2002 group. It changes year to year based on the birthdates of the gymnasts competing though it usually ends up being roughly (or close to) a six month spread for each group. I can’t find the age divisions for 2017, but here’s 2016, so you can see clearly the Junior B group represents nearly a full year because there aren’t a ton of gymnasts that age competing level 10, whereas the Junior E through Senior D groups only represent about four or five months because there are a ton of level 10 gymnasts born between 1998 and 2000.
I’m struggling to figure out what an inbar skill is. I’ve found an inbar stalder and an inbar pike online, but not an inbar. Is there such a thing?
Generally when people use the word ‘inbar’ it refers to an inbar stalder (which is probably also what you’ve found with the term ‘inbar pike’). An inbar is basically just a piked stalder, and it’s kind of somewhere in the middle between a stalder swing (with the legs in a straddle and the chest bent down through the legs) and a sole circle swing (with the legs together, feet on the bar, body bent down in a pike). Because that can be kinda difficult to picture if you don’t know what it is, picture a sole circle swing (also known as a toe-on) but where the feet clear the bar. Lots of Russians have really good inbars in their routines.
Why do most gymnasts plateau and only a few are able to pull ahead of the pack?
Everyone has a natural physical limit for the skills they’re able to perform. Even some of the best, most talented athletes in the world can be limited in some ways. In every field there is always someone who is slightly ahead of everyone else, because that person has a combination of natural talent and work ethic that no one else has. Not every gymnast can physically handle the current difficulty max that a top gymnast might handle, but once in a while you get someone who can physically make it happen while also having the talent/work ethic to get it to a place where it looks good as well. But that’s rare.
When gymnasts travel to compete, do they fill out a travel visa or a work visa?
I believe they do a travel visa.
Has Emma Kelley qualified elite? Is she going to Classics?
Emma Kelley has not qualified elite. She went to a qualifier in 2016, but didn’t meet the cutoff score so she wasn’t able to move on to classics. She hasn’t competed at all this year, I don’t think, not even at level 10, so I’m guessing she was either injured or had something going on that made her take this season off, but either way, she’s still not an elite.
How and where is Emily Gaskins training? The U.S. Classic roster says she lives in Florida but trains in Cincinnati.
Technically her hometown is in Florida, which is what they list for her city, but she doesn’t live in Florida while training in Cincinnati. I can’t remember if she stays with a host family or if one parent goes up with her, but either way it’s something like that where they’ve worked it out so that she can train in Ohio while her family (or most of them, anyway) stays in Florida. I believe she originally left CGA because she missed being home and wanted to train in Florida, but I’m glad to see her back with Mary Lee Tracy…she was doing much better there gymnastically! Hoping for good things from her this weekend.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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