It’s time for the 177th 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.
Would a J.O. level 10 routine with a start value of 10.0 also have a start value of 10.0 in NCAA? Is it different for each event?
It depends…the codes are basically the same and generally gymnasts can go straight from level 10 without having to really make any major changes to their routine construction, but there are some subtle differences related to the worth of certain skills. Generally, though, I think some skills end up being worth more in NCAA than they were worth in level 10, so it’s super rare/unheard of for level 10s to have to come into NCAA and learn more difficult skills. The only major difference right now is that a Yurchenko full is still worth a 10 in level 10, but it was devalued last year to a 9.95 start value in NCAA, so gymnasts are now starting to learn a bigger variety of 10 vaults at the J.O. level to make recruitment easier.
Is Simone Biles the first gymnast to grab the beam or fall during an Olympic beam final and still win a medal?
That I can think of, yes…maybe back in the day it happened, or maybe I’m just forgetting something, but I can’t recall any other beam final routines that medaled with a major mistake. That being said, grabbing the beam is only worth 0.5, compared to a fall on or off the beam, which is a full point, so there’s a huge difference between the two and she definitely wouldn’t have medaled with an actual fall.
Whitney Bjerken hasn’t specifically endorsed any products. Has her channel affected her NCAA eligibility?
No…having a YouTube channel in and of itself isn’t enough to affect eligibility, though it depends on how the NCAA looks at it. They have lots of rules and lots of exceptions to those rules regarding eligibility, so I’ve heard of some athletes who weren’t granted scholarship money due to monetized YouTube accounts, but others have still been allowed to receive scholarships, and then there are those who have made more of a compromise, being allowed to have monetized accounts but only if the channel had nothing to do with their sport. Also, generally accounts like that are okay until they commit, but once they sign a letter of intent, they can’t continue.
Before Ashton Locklear’s back injury, was she promising on vault or floor?
She never actually got to do either at the elite level so it’s hard to say. I’ve seen her train several floor passes over the years and she was a very clean twister…and as a level 10 she had some great work on floor. I don’t remember any of her vaults being incredible or anything like that, but had she been able to continue vaulting past 2013, she probably could’ve made some improvements to both her difficulty and execution, enough to make her a solid all-arounder today.
Do you think Laurie Hernandez took a break because she thinks it’s the best way to stay healthy all the way to Tokyo?
I think she took a break because she spent her entire life training in gymnastics and once she reached the Olympics, her ultimate goal, she had no reason to keep pushing past it. Taking a break can help with longevity from one quad into another, but it’s not guaranteed that she’ll come back near the same level after a one or two year break.
In the 2012 quad, Alicia Sacramone took a year off from competition, Shawn Johnson took two years off, and Nastia Liukin took three years off, but none of them made the team. In the 2016 quad, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney pushed right from one quad to the next but hit their peak before Rio, whereas the two who took a two-year break ended up making it.
The timing of a comeback is a person-to-person thing, not a hard and fast rule, and if you reach a physical peak, it doesn’t matter how much time you take off.
Why were only certain gymnasts part of the Super Six trophy ceremony at NCAA Championships? Do those who worked hard all season but weren’t there not get trophies or rings?
I don’t know what the rule is about how many people can be on the floor at NCAA Championships, but there are definitely rules that limit participation on the floor compared to the regular season, where literally everyone who’s part of the team can be there. Only those on the floor for the competition get to go up on the podium to get the trophy, but everyone who is part of the team gets a trophy/ring, even if they’re not physically on the floor during the competition.
I follow Whitney Bjerken and I’m curious, because she’s been going to the developmental camps at the ranch. How does TOPs work? There’s an A, B, and Diamond team. How are girls chosen to be on each team? Do the developmental camps have anything to do with this?
TOPs is a talent recognition program that looks at physical abilities rather than skills. The goal of TOPs is to identify gymnasts with the physical capabilities to go far in the sport and reach the elite level with the right coaching, and it’s focused mainly on strength, conditioning, and flexibility. TOPs gymnasts can be at a variety of levels, and usually start testing around level 6.
In the summer, gymnasts aged 7-10 are tested on physical abilities at the state/regional level. The 50 best seven-year-olds in the country are named to the Diamond team based on physical abilities only, and they don’t go to national testing. But those aged 8-10 who pass physical abilities at the state/regional level (the top 100 at each age for a total of 300) get invited to the national TOPs testing in October, where they do the same physical abilities testing as well as basic skills testing.
From there, a total of 50 gymnasts aged 8-10 are invited to attend the national TOP training camp in December as part of the TOPs A team. This group is considered the TOPs national team. An additional 50 gymnasts aged 8-10 who don’t make the national team are also invited to attend a training camp as members of the TOPs B team, but these gymnasts have to pay their own way to the camp, and the Diamond team is also invited to attend a camp at the ranch.
The TOPs camps are five-day training sessions that give athletes and coaches the opportunity to work out with the national team staff, addressing technique, progressions, and training programs to implement at home, with the goal being that these programs will put the gymnasts on the right path to elite.
Developmental camps are different from TOPs camps, and include gymnasts at a higher level (level 9-10) and age group (around 9-13). These camps are held regularly throughout the year, and are invite-only, with the gymnasts receiving invitations based on performances at level 9 Eastern and Western Championships and level 10 Junior Olympic National Championships.
Some of the older TOPs gymnasts are also selected for developmental camps based on how they looked at the TOPs national camps, and most gymnasts invited to developmental camps are preparing to attend elite qualifiers either at the Hopes or Junior Elite level depending on what they’re individually ready for.
Essentially, TOPs is the first step to becoming an elite, though it’s not mandatory. It just helps recognize gymnasts at early stages of their careers. The same is true for the developmental camps. Sometimes gymnasts might not be strong when they’re younger, and so at 8-13 or so, if they’re not doing well at J.O. meets and didn’t make it through TOPs testing, they’re not really brought up as potential elites in the eyes of the national team staff. But if these girls end up blossoming at a later age, they can attend an elite qualifier and reach the elite level despite not going through the TOPs training or developmental camps.
Does the new individual qualification system mean it’ll be harder for gymnasts who turn senior in the Olympic year to qualify for the Olympics?
Yes, for sure. Those in countries that qualify full teams just have the problem of making their country’s team, but those hoping for an individual spot are in a bind, with most of the nominative spots given away at 2019 worlds. They basically have to qualify through world cups or continental meets, where there are only a limited number of spots remaining, so it’ll be far more difficult than it will be for gymnasts who are eligible for 2019 worlds.
Why does the gymternet hate Gabby Douglas?
I have no idea. Because she beat Viktoria Komova in London? Because she has a life outside of the sport and doesn’t always attend gymnastics-related events when her former teammates do? Because the bigger you fly the harder people want you to fall? I don’t always love her gymnastics, but people literally hate her for no reason, which blows my mind. They pick apart every little thing she does or doesn’t do, but let the same transgressions slide for everyone else. I can’t think of any singular thing she did that makes people hate her, so my biggest guess is that people are jealous of her and her success because it happened to eclipse the success of another gymnast they liked.
Since Svetlana Khorkina’s gainer layout full isn’t in the code of points, could another gymnast get it named? Would it be a G? Without the twist, what would the value be?
Yes, another gymnast could get it named, and yes, I think it would be a G. A gainer layout without the twist is in the code, and it’s a C.
What type of financial and time commitment do you need to train as an elite? Does the college scholarship make up for all of the money spent?
The time commitment is usually around 30-40 hours a week in the U.S., and the financial commitment could be as much as $50k a year, depending on the gym. With a college scholarship being worth basically around $50k a year as well, it ends up being about an equal payoff.
Have you heard anything about Dipa Karmakar since Rio?
Yes, she took some time off and then in training, she tore her ACL, having surgery in April. She’s still rehabbing the injury, so she won’t be at worlds this year, but she’s looking forward to Commonwealth Games in 2018, where she’s a favorite to win the gold on vault. She’s getting rid of the Produnova for now, probably because there is a new rule in the code of points that says any double salto vault will be downgraded to a single salto if the second flip isn’t completed, which would mean pretty much all of last quad’s butt-grazing Produnovas would be heavily downgraded and are no longer worth the risk. Instead, Dipa is focusing on learning a Rudi, which she’ll compete alongside her tsuk double instead of the Prod.
What is the skill at 3:30 called?
This is a belly beat, a common skill when the bars were closer together, up until the mid to late 80s when wider-set bars were adopted in order to accommodate more release elements. Now these skills would be almost impossible even for the tallest gymnasts out there.
How do connection bonuses work in NCAA? Say someone’s routine starts at a 10.0 without any connections. Would her start value go up to a 10.4 if she adds them?
No, any additional connections or higher-valued skills beyond getting to the 10 start value are just extra skills with no added value. But gymnasts do them anyway and go above and beyond because it leaves a lasting impression with the fans and the judges. Officially, a gymnast like MyKayla Skinner with basically elite difficulty on floor doesn’t get any special bonuses from the judges for her additional difficulty, but if she has a tiny hop on a landing out of a double double, judges are going to be more lenient with her than someone who takes a similar-sized hop out of a front layout or something simpler. In the absence of an open-ended code of points, gymnasts have to find other ways to stand out, so they continue doing more than what’s required of them even if it won’t really add anything to their start values.
Are Romanian coaches getting even worse at coaching?
I don’t think they’re getting worse, I think there’s just a fewer number of good coaches as the older ones are retiring and no one else is really stepping up into coaching roles. In other countries, we’re seeing former gymnasts come in and begin coaching, but in Romania, gymnasts are either leaving the sport behind entirely or are jumping ship and moving to other countries.
Do you think if Gabby Douglas upgraded last year she could’ve beaten Aly Raisman for the second all-around spot in Rio?
Yeah, they were close enough as it is, and a couple of tiny mistakes from Aly could’ve made things really difficult for her. With an Amanar and a couple of bars upgrades, Gabby absolutely could’ve taken the second all-around spot. Also, Simone Biles was insane last year/quad, but I think Gabby on her best days in 2012 could’ve contended with Simone and given her more of a challenge. Simone was probably the stronger of the two compared to Gabby at her best, but there would at least be a more exciting fight at the top!
Why have many British gymnasts changed their coaches? The Downies, Sam Oldham, Amy Tinkler…
For a variety of reasons. The Downies stayed at their gym but their coach got let go. Amy moved on to a new gym because she wanted to live in the London area so she could take advantage of opportunities to make money, which would’ve been hard had she stayed at home, because it would’ve required her to travel back and forth, taking away from training time. I hadn’t heard anything about Sam’s gym change, so I’m not sure.
Why was Martha Karolyi so determined to have Gabby Douglas on the team in 2016?
What I heard was that after all of the nonsense about the 2012 team being ‘awful’ at bars, she wanted to show the world that she could have a good bars team, and so when it didn’t really matter who ended up taking the fifth spot on the Rio team, she basically had to choose between a second vault medal from MyKayla Skinner, or proving to everyone that the U.S. was stronger on bars than any other program. Having a weak bars team was kind of a chip on her shoulder, so I think she liked that she could send a team that could win two bars medals and get the highest team bars score in team finals.
Even though Gabby ended up not medaling on bars, the team still had the highest team finals score by three tenths over Russia, so in a year where the U.S. team was guaranteed gold, that was like her own little personal victory. A medal on vault from MyKayla was statistically more likely than a bars medal from Gabby, so to me, it seemed silly that they didn’t want to capitalize on that, but hey. You could justify either of them and the team still would’ve won, which was the ultimate goal. They could’ve taken the weakest girl from trials and the team would’ve won, so really, it didn’t matter who went in that spot, so Martha was able to beef up the bars lineup and be like “wait, WHO’S bad on bars??” That’s a level of petty I can appreciate as someone who has made similar decisions in my personal life.
There’s also the marketing aspect of taking the reigning Olympic champion to a second Olympic Games. Gabby made history in doing this, and it was super appealing to USA Gymnastics and the USOC. With a huge gap ahead of the rest of the field, that level of flexibility allows for marketing decisions to reign over strategic ones. There were several marketing decisions made in the last quad that were kind of out of Martha’s hands, even though everyone just assumes Martha has the final word. She didn’t always!
What happened to Vanessa Atler? Why didn’t she make the Olympic team?
She just had a pretty rough downfall in her career beginning in 1999, struggling a ton with consistency, moving gyms, getting injured, showing up out of shape and unprepared for worlds, having two ankle surgeries, moving gyms again…all of that happened within the span of about six months. In 2000, she underperformed at nationals and then had a veritable meltdown at trials, placing sixth, but being left off the Olympic team because the selection committee thought if she couldn’t hit at home, there’s no way she would’ve been able to hit in Sydney. Heartbreaking, really.
If a level 10 gymnast decides to go to a college near her home that doesn’t have gymnastics, can she continue competing level 10 until she graduates college? Indefinitely? Or is there an age limit?
Yeah, gymnasts can compete in the J.O. system for as long as they want. Most retire by 18 because they move on to other things in life, others move from the J.O. system into adult gymnastics (there are plenty of club teams across the country that compete under the NAIGC umbrella, and they even have their own nationals), and some stay in J.O. a little while longer. It’s rare, because some do just want to move on to other things/not have to work out 20+ hours a week, but there have been women in the country who compete in the J.O. system into their 30s and 40s in the 18+ age division.
Are there any Amanars in the works for the U.S., or some other vault that’s not a DTY?
Not that I know of at the moment, though I’m sure some of the gymnasts with DTYs have the goal of eventually moving up to an Amanar. Like Margzetta Frazier. She has a DTY now, but competed an Amanar at the American Classic, and likely wants to bring that back for next year so it’ll be easier for her to get a spot on the worlds team.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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