It’s time for the 174th 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 have to ‘stick’ the landing for leaps on floor? Or do you just have to show control?
You don’t have to stick them…most gymnasts do leaps on floor in kind of running sequences where they’ll do a switch ring and then run out of it into the next leap, so all they really have to do there is land it well enough to continue into the next part of that series. For a leap that ends a sequence or is on its own in the routine, they have to show control, which essentially means sticking, since ‘control’ means landing without any steps or things like that which show that you lack control…but they don’t really call it ‘sticking’ and since leaps can continue on into other skills, there’s no hard and fast rule about having to land a leap a certain way. Just general control is what I go with.
How does the separation between all-around and event competition work this quad? The four on the team are supposed to be all-arounders and then you can have any number of specialists? This means that anyone from NCAA with a good vault can be selected?
Most teams will want teams of four all-arounders for the main team because qualifications are four-up three-count, meaning if you have a team of three all-arounders and a vault specialist, for example, you wouldn’t have four girls going up on bars, beam, and floor, so all three girls that do those events would have to count their scores, which is risky. Some teams will still use specialists anyway because they lack the all-around depth.
A country can earn up to two individual – individual, not specialist – spots. These spots can be either for all-arounders or event specialists, and each country will try to fill those spots based on the talent they have in the country. Using 2016 as an example, if there were individual spots then, the U.S. could’ve brought MyKayla Skinner as an all-arounder who could be a team alternate while also attempting to earn a vault finals spot, and then Ashton Locklear in the second spot to hopefully earn a bars spot. I think a majority of countries who earn two individual spots will go with specialists, since most countries don’t have a ton of all-around depth and all of their top all-arounders will be on the actual team, but I think the U.S. will definitely bring an all-arounder to serve as backup for the actual team as well as one specialist.
No one from NCAA ‘with a good vault’ will be selected.
What are the rules regarding the contesting of a score in NCAA and in elite?
The NCAA rules seem a little more wild west to me…there’s definitely a legit system in place but I don’t know what it is exactly, and I think judges tend to be more lenient with requests and how they’re timed whereas with elite, you only have a certain amount of time after receiving your score to turn your inquiry in…and with elite, there’s also a fee of a few hundred dollars. There’s no fee in NCAA. The other difference is that in elite, they can only contest the D score, but in NCAA, they can contest the start value, compositional requirements, and neutral deductions or ‘unusual’ performance occurrences…like falls where maybe the judge thinks a gymnast put her hands down on floor but she was actually just really low and didn’t touch, stuff like that.
How many more world and Olympic medals will Simone Biles need to win until she’s considered the best?
I think she’s considered ‘the best’ medals aside…like Larisa Latynina is a legend and the most decorated Olympic gymnast of all time but due to the limitations in the sport at the time she competed, she could probably do about 10% of the gymnastics Simone was doing last year. Latynina is still considered one of the best of all time for what she did during her time in gymnastics, but Simone could have retired the second Rio finished and despite being ranked 23rd for all-time Olympic medals, she still would be considered one of ‘the best.’
If you mean how many more medals will she need until she’s considered the most decorated, which is different from best, she’d need 13 more Olympic medals and 6 more world medals. Fun fact: Svetlana Khorkina currently leads the world medal rankings with 20, which she earned over the course of eight world championships. Simone is currently ranked third in terms of world medals, with a total of 14, and she earned all of those over the course of only three world championships! Simone is also the most decorated world gold medalist of all time, with ten golds.
Are there specific athletes you’re excited to see develop in the coming years?
There are lots of super young gymnasts in the U.S. who are super talented and have a ton of promise. By super young, I mean 11-12 and competing at a level that rivals some of last year’s Olympians from smaller programs, which is insane. Like, Sienna Robinson, Victoria Smirnov, Love Birt, Konnor McClain…girls like these might not have the most difficult routines and they make some mistakes, but all that aside, they show tremendous potential in many areas and I’m sure we could see them eventually get to a point where they’re super competitive within the U.S. None of them are really eligible until 2024, which is crazy…and it means they still have plenty of time to prepare.
If a gymnast accepts endorsements because of her gymnastics, could she still compete NCAA for a different sport?
Yes. Amy Chow competed as a diver at Stanford, and I’ve heard of athletes who were professional baseball players but played football in NCAA programs (or vice versa). It’s rare, but possible.
Do you happen to have a video of Oksana Chusovitina training her front layout mount? What D value do you think it’ll be assigned?
I think she may have posted it on Instagram at some point but I’m not sure when. I’d say it’ll probably get a G…maybe an F, but I think a G is more appropriate given how ridiculously hard it is.
In the three-up three-count format, what happens if a gymnast is too injured to continue a routine? Does that country just finish last if someone is seriously injured on a first tumbling pass or early release skill?
I believe the rule is that if an athlete is injured in warmups, they can still sub someone in, but if it happens mid-routine, they’re kind of screwed and can’t do a ‘make-up’ routine or something. It really sucks and is a shame but I don’t think it’s happened much, if at all, in team finals? We saw it a couple of times in team qualifications last summer, with Ellie Downie having to leave floor mid-routine, but obviously with the four-up three-count format in quals, it wasn’t a huge deal because they could drop her score. But I’m pretty sure if it happens in team finals, they’re stuck with whatever score they get.
It would be interesting if someone from the U.S. team fell on a first pass on floor or something and got a score of 1.8 since they’re always a solid ten points ahead. Like, Laurie Hernandez got the lowest score on floor for that team, so let’s say she fell and got a 1.8, the team would get a 171.864, which would’ve put them in last, but only like, two tenths behind Brazil, which is so funny. For most teams it would be an automatic last, but for the U.S. they’d still be able to fight for like, seventh place! Hahaha.
What do you think about Kim Landrus and Danna Durante getting fired?
Sometimes programs need change, and if the administration feels like it’s necessary, it probably is, in many cases. I think Georgia is silly for expecting post-Yoculan coaches to do what she did, and I think they were definitely too quick to get rid of Jay Clark, but based on what I’d heard about Danna and how she ran that program, I’d say it was probably the best for that situation. She also at least got a solid five years in, and while there were some okay moments, it wasn’t a strong enough record to justify her continuing. With Jay, I think it was more shocking, because he made progress each year and it looked like maybe one or two years could get them back in contention, but with Danna it was so up and down each season, and there were so many problems internally, it just made sense.
I don’t know anything about the situation with Kim, because I thought she had a pretty solid record for someone not running a top ten program, but the team definitely started dipping…the program was always somewhere on the border of top ten, but in the last two years, was kind of struggling and not getting the scores they should be getting for that level of talent. They let her have a good amount of time leading the team, but were probably like why are schools like Washington and Denver and Boise State and Kentucky and Auburn and Missouri and Cal all on the rise while we’re stagnant at best? In that sense it’s more about maybe just needing a fresh perspective than anything Kim did wrong.
Why is MAG so much deeper and more competitive than WAG? Why is WAG more popular and well-attended? What can WAG do to reach the same standard as MAG?
I don’t think MAG is necessarily THAT much more competitive than WAG, aside from the top teams all being somewhat closer than it is in WAG, and that’s a recent development only because on the women’s side, the U.S. stepped up so much in terms of both difficulty and consistency that no other country is able to compete with them on a team level, whereas with MAG all of the top teams are basically at the same level and so it comes down to who has a better day. MAG doesn’t have a super standout team the way WAG does.
In general, both MAG and WAG used to be hugely competitive at the top, but then the new code of points came in and really separated the wheat from the chaff. Before, one fall meant no gold medal for a team that won every gold medal for five years leading up to that one meet, but now with the U.S. so far ahead in WAG, they could fall five times and still win because they separate themselves with high difficulty and generally clean/solid routines when they do hit. In MAG, lots of teams are busting out high difficulty, but no one is consistent enough to make themselves absolutely unbeatable. Japan and China have the difficulty to stand out a little more than the other teams, but aren’t always consistent enough to make it happen, which is why China — which had slightly more difficulty than Japan and Russia — got bronze and those two teams with great days were able to overtake the Chinese.
The U.S. women are a little ahead of other programs in terms of difficulty, which sets them apart by a couple of points, but what really sets them apart is that they hit every routine at a high level. So the easy answer is that other teams have to either (a) add difficulty, or (b) learn to compete. If you look below the U.S. women in WAG, many of the teams are capable of around the same level. Russia and China are a little ahead of the rest of the pack in terms of overall program strength, but pretty much all of the teams in the 2016 final were within a few points of one another, the U.S. aside. That’s pretty competitive, even if it’s not as close as MAG.
The same countries lead the show for both the men and the women — United States, Russia, China, Japan, and Great Britain. In 2016, the top five for MAG and WAG were the same countries, just in different orders, and both team finals also had Germany and Brazil. So clearly all of these countries are putting forth an effort in both MAG and WAG, but with MAG, they’re not dealing with one over-arching unbeatable program stealing the show, so the team finals are able to be a bit more competitive. Before the U.S. first started getting dominant in 2011, the team finals were much closer, so now it’s more about the U.S. being an anomaly on the women’s side than anything else.
Since the perfect 10 scoring system was taken out of elite, which U.S. gyms have sent the most female gymnasts to the Olympics?
It’s not a huge sample size, but the gym with the most repeat Olympic team spots has been Brestyan’s with two gymnasts and three spots (Alicia Sacramone in 2008, Aly Raisman in 2012 and 2016). Chow’s and WOGA have both also had two gymnasts competing, with Chow’s sending Shawn Johnson in 2008 and Gabby Douglas in 2012, and WOGA sending Nastia Liukin in 2008 and Madison Kocian in 2016.
Why did the sheep jump get downgraded to a C? Will it ever get raised in a future code?
My understanding is that the technical committee didn’t like that gymnasts were doing it just to get a D value jump in their routines despite mostly doing it incorrectly. I think they’re hoping devaluing it while raising the value of other leaps and jumps will steer the gymnasts who really can’t do it from attempting it since now they’ll basically get deducted for more than it’s actually worth. It could get raised but we’ll see. I don’t think it’s a priority.
Could you design a four-person team lineup for Romania with their current available options?
Larisa Iordache, Catalina Ponor, Laura Jurca, and Anamaria Ocolisan with Ioana Crisan as an alternate. This would be their strongest bars team, they’d have four DTYs, and Catalina and Larisa could lead the way on beam and floor with the third score on both not a huge deal.
Can you explain the NCAA uneven bars requirements?
They have to include one flight element at a minimum of a C in the amended J.O. code of points (e.g. a Jaeger or a pak salto, both of which are D skills), a second and different flight element with a minimum of B (e.g. a straddle back, which is a B, or a toe shoot, which is a C), one lateral axis turn with a minimum of C (e.g. a giant full which is a D or a Bhardwaj which is an E), and a dismount with a minimum of C (e.g. a double tuck which is a C or a double layout which is an E). Because the ‘flight element’ doesn’t specify ‘single bar flight element,’ they can do a routine that has a Maloney and a pak, for example, but no single bar release and get away with it because the Maloney and pak are both transitions and flight elements.
Who is your favorite gymnast to have ever competed?
This is a tough one but…probably Lilia Podkopayeva? I was obsessed with her when I was a kid and she still holds up watching her today. I love gymnasts who are the total package, meaning they can show power, artistry, extension, unique beauty, all of it. I think she exemplified that a ton, and she was also an innovator in the sport. I really respected her as an athlete and loved everything she did.
For a new skill to be submitted, do you have to compete it, or land it? Like, at Rio vault finals would the triple Yurchenko be called the Hong now had she gotten the three twists around even if she fell?
You have to compete it at worlds or the Olympics without a fall. It doesn’t matter where you compete it — it could be qualifications, team finals, all-around finals, or event finals. So had Hong Un Jong landed her triple Yurchenko in qualifications but not in event finals, she still would’ve gotten it named, but she would’ve actually had to land the vault, so even if she got all three twists around but then fell, it wouldn’t count. When Victoria Moors was attempting to get her double double layout named, she fell on one attempt, in qualifications, but then hit it during the all-around final, so she was able to get it named in the code.
How many of the women from China’s 2016 Olympic team will be back for worlds this fall?
I think all of them are planning on being back for National Games, which are in September. I’d imagine if they stick around for that, they’ll stick around for worlds, since it’s like a week later. Wang Yan is all but a lock for worlds, Shang Chunsong and Fan Yilin are likely to fight for spots, and then Tan Jiaxin and Mao Yi are kind of on the outskirts right now but will likely at least attempt to make it.
Say two gymnasts tied on floor in Olympic event finals with a 14.5. Gymnast A has a 5.5 D and a 9.0 E, and gymnast B has a 5.6 D, a 9.0 E, and a 0.1 penalty for going out of bounds. When breaking the tie, do they take the ND from the E score, giving gymnast B an 8.9 and gymnast A the lead? Or is the ND truly separate?
The ND is truly separate. The E score is the first thing they look at when breaking a tie. If the E scores are both the same, as in this case, next up is the D score. Since the gymnast with the 5.6 has the highest D, she wins the tie break.
Why is the Nabieva a G skill like the Mo salto and the Def? What makes it so difficult?
Mostly because the amount of strength it takes to clear the high bar while doing a layout hecht is insane, and then when you add the toe-on going into the hecht, it makes it even more difficult because you can’t generate the full momentum you’d get from simply swinging around the bar. It’s definitely going to be easier for kids to learn a Nabieva than a Mo salto because the progressions from easier Tkachevs up to the Nabieva help out a lot, so in that sense it’s not hard. It’s mainly just hard because of the physical effort it takes to whip one out.
Why are skills removed from the code of points?
I don’t really know the reasoning behind why some skills are removed, aside from the banned ones. It could just be that they clean up every once in a while and see, like, oh no one has done this random beam mount in 20 years, we might as well get rid of it. I think it also happens if like, at one point they decided acro skills into scales were single skills but then they later determine it’s two separate skills, they’ll get rid of those or something…but yeah, sometimes it seems super arbitrary and isn’t always technically based!
What was the goal of changing the 0.8 deduction for a fall to a full point between the 2008 and 2012 quads? Did they change the other deduction values?
I think it just made it harder for gymnasts or teams to win with a fall…I don’t particularly remember winning with falls being a major complaint in the 2008 quad, but as gymnasts began increasing difficulty, it became easier to win with a fall (or more, as the case may be for some). Making the deduction larger helps combat that, if only slightly, and attempts to emphasize execution over difficulty, though in an open-ended code like this, there’s always going to be someone who is SO good, one fall won’t really matter. I don’t remember if other deduction values changed…and I don’t have access to the old code to check. But if they did, it was probably for similar reasons.
Who was the family on the cover of Inside Gymnastics last month and why do they warrant a spot on the cover?
You’re probably talking about the Bratayley family, which is their YouTube name…their last name is LeBlanc and their daughter Annie is a level 9, I think? I guess they have some sort of YouTube fame status and are really popular with kids, so even though the daughter isn’t really, like, a gymnastics standout or anyone we need to be keeping an eye on…they sell magazines to kids who love the family for more than that? So it had to have been purely a financial decision to feature them. Not something I’d do, but hey, hustlers gotta hustle.
Do gymnasts have any awareness of who they’re competing against at international competitions? Do they follow the sport or just compete in it? Would they compete differently if they knew their competition more intimately?
They do have some awareness and know who their main competition is…like, Simone Biles knew she had to beat Maria Paseka and Hong Un Jong on vault, Madison Kocian and Aliya Mustafina knew they were going head-to-head on bars, etc. But most elite gymnasts don’t follow the sport super closely and don’t know everyone they compete against, especially if they only meet up once a year at best and aren’t in the same qualification subdivisions. The two girls from Excalibur who went to Rio last year for different countries weren’t in the same subdivision and they barely got to see each other, so if there’s that much of a separation between teammates and friends who know each other, you can probably imagine that the U.S. team won’t be spending a ton of time hanging out with other teams they never get to see, which makes it hard to get to know who everyone is. So in the sense of ‘knowing their competition,’ yes, they know how they need to compete against the gymnasts who will present the biggest challenges to them, but they don’t go in knowing everything about every single gymnast who might be a contender. Many gymnasts want to not think about gym once they leave training every day, so they’re not like, super fans watching YouTube videos and geeking out. But SOME are like this, and I love them the most because you can tell while everyone who does the sport has an insane passion for it, the ones who have the passion for competing while also being huge gym nerds are just like, the best people ever.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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