It’s time for the 178th 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 think Shawn Johnson choked in the Olympic all-around final?
No, I don’t think she ‘choked’…she still had a great day despite not looking as good as she usually did on some events, but ‘choked’ implies multiple large mistakes that took her out of the running for a medal. She still won silver, and even though she came in from qualifications ahead of Nastia Liukin, the two went back and forth pretty much all year: Nastia won American Cup, Shawn had the higher day one nationals score, Nastia had the higher day two nationals score, Shawn won both days of trials, Nastia won a camp after that, Shawn led in Olympic all-around qualifications, and Nastia won the all-around.
Like…people for some reason thought Shawn was the greatest thing since sliced bread and the media literally paid no attention to Nastia, but the two were so close all season and it really wasn’t shocking to see Nastia win. The two were capable of the same thing, and Nastia just happened to have the slightly better day on the one day it counted out of the eight times they competed against each other in 2008. It’s like when people slept on Aly Raisman as a capable all-arounder in 2012 and focused only on Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas, even though Aly wasn’t far behind them at all.
Do you know why Kim Landrus got fired as the head coach of Illinois?
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 did Shang Chunsong have an extra back handspring + layout stepout in her beam routine? She could’ve taken that out and her D score wouldn’t have been affected, so why add the extra risk?
Possibly just as a backup flight series in case she didn’t hit her actual series? Or like, if she was off on some other element or connection, she had that in there to count the C layout I guess? Looking back it’s definitely kind of weird and pointless, not adding any skill value or connection value, so my only guess is that she struggled with other elements and just wanted something in the routine as a reliable backup she didn’t have to think about in case she missed something elsewhere.
Why isn’t the front handspring onto the springboard vault being done in elite gymnastics? It would open up a new vault family.
For some reason it’s basically a ‘banned’ entry in elite, which seems bizarre to me, because it’s not particularly dangerous, at least any more so than some other skills. It would definitely create a whole bunch of opportunity in terms of more variety on vault.
Do you think Oksana Chusovitina will retire if/when she medals for Uzbekistan? Or do you think she’ll keep going until she physically can’t?
I think she’ll keep going until she physically can’t. At this point, medaling at worlds or the Olympics is going to be incredibly difficult just based on the current level of depth in the world, so she’d really have to upgrade or fix her form to medal at that level, but I honestly don’t think the medal aspect is why she sticks around. She seems to really love the sport, and at this point, it’s how she earns her living and is basically all she knows, so she probably figures as long as her body can handle it, she might as well keep going. When she retires at the tender age of 65 I low key want her to move in with Svetlana Boginskaya and work as her assistant at Svetlana’s pizza place.
Aside from a couple of gymnasts, we haven’t seen Romania do any double front tumbling. Is this a sign that they need more variety in coaches? Or do they just stick to more consistent tumbles?
I think they need fewer ‘compulsory’ style skills. Some countries have the skills that basically everyone is doing, like with Romanian the full-in on floor is the big one, in Russia it’s the piked Jaeger on bars, in China it’s a triple to punch front, in the U.S. it’s the wolf turn…and so on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially because the more coaches teach certain skills, the better they’ll end up looking…but coaches also can’t get stuck in doing this because then they ONLY know how to teach those skills, and while Russia, China, and the U.S. all know how to coach variety in addition to their ‘everyone does it’ skills, Romania doesn’t really have that.
Like, in the U.S., the tumbling level is easier on floor for juniors, but even so, not every single junior does the same easier tumbling. If a gymnast is good at front skills, maybe they’ll have her do a Rudi or something instead of a double tuck, but in Romania there are just so many girls doing the same exact things, you have to wonder if the coaches just don’t know how to look beyond their limited scope. When they come across kids who might not be good at doing tucked full-ins, those kids get pushed aside instead of the coaches being like “okay, so-and-so can’t do a full-in, but maybe she can do an arabian?” Every kid has different strengths and I feel like Romania wastes that opportunity of creating variety by not exploring beyond the ‘compulsory’ skills that they give everyone regardless of their strengths and weaknesses.
What was going on with the scoring at worlds in 2006? Pang Panpan got a 14.8 with a fall on beam, Beth Tweddle got a 14.7 on bars with a fall, and hit floor routines were scoring around 14.5. Was floor just scored more harshly that quad?
There were plenty of hit floor scores in the 15 range in 2006…including some that got close to 16. I think in general, floor tends to be the lowest-scoring among the four events. It’s true now, and it was true then. It’s harder to build a high difficulty score on floor than it is to build one on bars or beam, and there are a greater number of places judges can deduct from, so while average E scores for strong bar routines tend to be around a high 8 or even a low 9, on floor it’s about a half point lower on average. Also, gymnasts with major difficulty/ability like Beth Tweddle on bars or Pang Panpan on beam are going to have high scores with falls, just like Aliya Mustafina could’ve scored around a 14.9 on bars with a fall last year whereas for someone like Aly Raisman on that same event, that would’ve been a reach score.
If we don’t see anymore double layout + front tucks on floor because the opposite direction rebounds don’t get CV any longer, why do Chinese gymnasts and Eythora Thorsdottir do triples to front tucks?
I don’t think there’s any rule I’ve ever heard of about opposite direction rebounds not getting CV on floor. The code says “connection value can be awarded for indirect acrobatic and direct acrobatic, mixed, and turn connections” but there’s nothing about opposite direction rebound, which is why it’s okay to do a triple to a front tuck.
If a junior competes a new skill successfully would this get named for them?
No, she has to compete it at worlds or the Olympics…though I think if she did it at the Youth Olympic Games that would be the one exception because it’s technically an Olympic competition. Ana Padurariu was the first gymnast to compete the inbar piked Tkachev, back when she was 12, but she can’t get it named for her because it entered the code of points unnamed when Sophie Scheder and Kelly Simm did it in competition at worlds in 2015.
Was AJ Jackson’s floor overscored in the 2017 NCAA semifinals? I counted at least four tenths in landing deductions but she got a 9.925.
Yes, it absolutely was. Definitely one of the more obviously overscored routines of this season for Oklahoma. But hey, it happens all the time all over the country, so if everyone else is going to overscore, is overscoring even an issue?
What was the turn in Latalia Bevan’s floor at British Championships worth?
She does a kind of fouetté into an à la seconde, but unfortunately it’s not worth much because the heel drops between each turn. Even though she rotates four times, it’s basically just four connected single turns. Also, all of the turns would be A level turns, since her leg in her à la secondes is below horizontal, so while there is a B+B turn connection for turns done on the same leg with a demi plié between them, her turns are A+A+A+A, which isn’t worth anything. Even so, as a fan of ballet, I love fouttés on floor, and she’s probably doing them not for the value, but rather to enhance her artistry/performance. It works! She’s a gorgeous performer.
I’m still in awe when watching Shawn Johnson’s beam routine not only in terms of its difficulty but how consistently she did it perfectly. What are your thoughts on her beam work?
I love it a ton. I remember this one angle from her beam routine in Beijing where she’s doing her flight series and the camera is positioned at the end of the beam where she landed her layout…it was always so freaking satisfying to see her just BAM her feet down at the end of that layout, and that’s what I loved the most. But in general, her beam was freaking fabulous, and I’ve been waiting for another beam worker like her for so long. There are tons of amazing beam workers out there, amazing in different ways than Shawn was amazing, but none that were like she was.
Is the J.O. system with levels 4-10 used in other countries? When did the system originate? Do any countries have totally different pre-elite competitive systems?
No, the J.O. system is a product of USA Gymnastics, though with the success of this system, other countries have adopted it or have tried to emulate a similar levels system. The system originated at the end of the 1980s, and it’s not really a pre-elite system…the pre-elite track in the U.S. is actually more like compulsory J.O. (up to level 5), TOPs, developmental, Hopes, and then elite, and so once a gymnast on the elite track from a young age reaches optional J.O. (level 6 and beyond) she’s competing in the J.O. system but so are thousands of other girls who are not on the elite track.
The J.O. system is more about giving gymnasts an option to compete that isn’t the elite track, whereas most other countries don’t have that option at all, with every gymnast that goes into the sport either expected to do gymnastics for fun at a basic recreational level, or go on the elite track, with no in-between. The reason why the U.S. elite program is so successful, though, is because with 100,000 kids in the J.O. program at any given time, any one of those kids who doesn’t originally think to go on the elite track can end up being someone who excels in the sport and can easily make the transition to elite, so while there are only about 100 elite gymnasts in the U.S., literally anyone who goes into the competitive J.O. program can technically make elite a goal even without being on the elite track from a young age.
In other countries, if gymnasts don’t show promise for the elite level by age ten or so, they kind of just stop training, which is detrimental to these programs. With such a huge dropoff between the early stages of training up to the elite level, they have only a small number who end up going forward as competitive gymnasts, meaning they have a super tiny pool to choose from once these gymnasts reach the age for international competition. But if for some reason every single senior elite in the U.S. retired all at once, the national team staff could easily scout the 2000 or so level 10s out there to see who could come in and get elite-ready routines, whereas if entire senior teams retired in other countries, the programs would be entirely dead because there is literally no one else.
I know China is starting to build a program that’s more similar to the U.S. and tries to bring in kids who genuinely enjoy competing for fun, not because they want to be future Olympians, and Canada’s levels program is similar to the U.S. in that gymnasts can compete on a high-level but non-elite track up through high school. With many countries, resources, population size, and funding is a huge problem, so it’s not exactly as simple as being like “let’s start a J.O. program!” but I think for wealthier countries, it would be a hugely beneficial option to expand the growth of club programs separate from the national program so that J.O. competition could help them get greater depth.
Do you think Great Britain will be able to keep improving next quad and challenge for more international medals? Will the juniors and new seniors keep up with the current standard of the team?
We’ll see. Last quad, Great Britain had so many super talented new seniors able to come up and fight for spots whereas this quad, so far there isn’t anyone in the junior field who stands out as much as girls like Ellie Downie, Amy Tinkler, and Claudia Fragapane did…as well as the many talented new seniors last quad who didn’t make the Olympic team, like Gabby Jupp, Tyesha Mattis, and Catherine Lyons, to name a few.
That depth last quad was insane, and they just don’t have anyone like that at the junior level expected to come up and kill it, or not yet anyway. There are some good gymnasts, like Maisie Methuen, Georgia-Mae Fenton, Taeja James, and others on the rise, but as they look right now, they’re definitely not capable of making major teams at the senior level, whereas in 2013, it was clear that several of those juniors would be taking over the senior field fairly quickly.
The good thing this quad is that so many of last quad’s strongest seem to be sticking around…I think the entire 2016 team, minus maybe Ruby Harrold, has plans to forge on into 2020, so they’ll be a strong foundation and then anyone who’s able to come up from the current crop of juniors or young seniors could add to that depending on how much they improve. So the British team is still in a good place going forward, but they’ll definitely need to rely on some veterans for a few years to stay there.
Do you know how serious Becky Downie and Georgia-Mae Fenton’s injuries are?
Neither was super serious. Georgia is already back in competition, having just finished up at the world cup in Varna this weekend, while Becky had surgery and recently returned to training bars, though obviously will have to skip world championships this year. I think Becky’s goal for her return is Commonwealth Games in 2018, while Fenton will be fighting for a spot on the worlds team this year.
Do you think Aly Raisman would’ve competed all-around in college had she gone? Would her bars have been okay if she simplified the skill level?
Oh yes, absolutely. I’ve seen elite gymnasts with far weaker technique/ability on bars than Aly go on to become top all-arounders at the NCAA level. They might not become bars wunderkinds or anything, but they improve so much once they simplify. Brandie Jay comes to mind…she actually became an incredible bar worker in college after dealing with lots of form issues in elite, and MyKayla Skinner also cleaned up her bars tremendously to become one of the best all-arounders in the country. Aly’s bars were much stronger than both of these in elite, and actually, given her issues, she eventually found an elite routine/skills that worked for her in a way that made her bars not really a problem. Like, every all-arounder has a weakness, but Aly’s weakness was far less weak than most other gymnasts’ weaknesses, which is kind of awesome considering her early bars routines were really super rough.
If Sandra Izbasa hadn’t fallen at the end of her floor routine in London, what medal do you think she would’ve gotten?
Had she been awarded her full difficulty, hadn’t gone out of bounds, and hadn’t fallen, I think she would’ve rivaled Aly Raisman for gold. Like, it would’ve been super close. That was an incredible routine until the final pass. I still would’ve given gold to Aly and silver to Sandra, but it would’ve been one of those things where they could’ve been 0.033 apart or something.
Why do men’s grips have three holes while women’s only have two?
I always confuse this, but I think high bar grips have three holes and rings grips have two, but with a huge dowel. There are some brands that make grips with three holes for women, and I’ve heard older gymnasts (college-aged) tend to prefer these, because they give you a bit extra security/stability. They allow for a light grip on the bar, with the athlete’s weight basically fully supported on the dowel and the wrist buckles, giving the palm of the hand minimal contact with the bar and causing less friction.
The size of the high bar could also play a part into why three holes are standard for men…the diameter is much smaller than the diameter of the uneven bars (like, almost half the size), so I could see that coming into play, but I’ve never done/held a high bar so I’m not sure how! It just seems like it could be a thing. 🙂
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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