It’s time for the 179th 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.
In a previous Q&A, you said mistakes prior to a fall don’t count. Does that not apply to floor? For example, Mao Yi’s 2016 team finals floor exercise where she punches out-of-bounds and then slips and falls…is it still only a point off and a three-tenth penalty?
Yes. There is no deduction for punching out-of-bounds, only the penalty. The slip and the fall are just considered a fall, so the total for that fall would be just the one point, not a point for the fall and additional tenths for the slip leading up to it. Had she just slipped, she would’ve gotten tenths off, but since she did both, the slip is kind of negated and only the fall counts.
Do you think any other country than the U.S. could be the ‘world leader’ in gymnastics in the next years or decades?
In the next couple of years/quads, it’s possible that the U.S. won’t win as many medals as it has in the past couple of quads, but there’s no way any other team right now will jump ahead and have the kind of dominating success the U.S. has enjoyed since 2011. Maybe a decade down the line we could start seeing that shift, but the next few years, based on the current junior and developmental talent, will still belong to the U.S. women.
Could you ever imagine a gymnast performing a counter Kim over the high bar like a gymnast would in a Tkachev? Basically a Tkachev with a forward salto?
I always picture that and think it would be super cool, especially with the counter motion right after the hecht. The timing would have to be SUPER precise, though, especially because so many Tkachevs now are either too high with not enough distance, or too far back with not enough height…the gymnast would have to be able to get enough distance and height to clear the high bar for the front salto without smashing her face on the bar, but not go so far over that they complete the salto and then can’t catch the bar…so it would definitely be tricky, but it would be such a cool skill.
Do you think judges tend to give harsher E scores for a Yurchenko full compared to a double?
Well, yes, but not because they are trying to penalize the FTY. The reason gymnasts are doing an FTY instead of a DTY is more often than not because they’re weaker vaulters. If you watch most FTYs, many gymnasts barely clear the table with really weak blocks, and lack of height/distance is a huge deduction. Most gymnasts who do DTYs, though, can do those vaults because they have really powerful blocks, so they don’t get those lack of height/distance deductions that the majority of FTY vaulters get.
I’ve seen some really beautiful FTYs performed as expertly as Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney do their Amanars, and then I see the score and am like wait, this was only a 9.1 or 9.2 E score?! This should’ve been a 9.6 or 9.7!!! But then I go back and realize that the height/distance was nothing close to what the best vaulters get, and that’s where those mysterious deductions come in on seemingly perfect FTYs. And if they HAD that power, they’d be doing more than an FTY!
Do you think a female gymnast will successfully submit a Yurchenko triple soon?
No seniors are currently training the TTY, but Jay Jay Marshall, a U.S. junior, is training one and hopefully we’ll get to see her compete it someday! She had an incredible Amanar when she was 12, and though she had to kind of dial it back this year due to injury, she still showed super powerful DTYs this summer and I’d love to see her — or anyone, really — finally get a competitive triple.
Why does J.O. nationals have five or six national champions on each event? Do they have age categories? Is there a best ‘overall’ championships?
There are twelve age divisions at J.O. nationals, Junior A-F and Senior A-F, with Junior A being the youngest and Senior F being the oldest. The specific birthdates for each age division differ each year, but Junior A is usually girls around 10-11 while Senior F is around 18 or older. Each division has its own all-around, vault, bars, beam, and floor titles, so a total of 60 titles are awarded over J.O. nationals. They do not have a best ‘overall’ championships.
Do you know if Aleah Finnegan has any plans to qualify for elite?
As far as I know, she doesn’t want to do elite.
What is J.O.?
J.O. stands for Junior Olympic, which is the levels system in the U.S. Gymnasts compete at compulsory levels 1-5 (though most start at level 4, with the first three being kind of pre-team levels) and optional levels 6-10. It is entirely separate from the elite program, but a majority of gymnasts will have reached level 10 in J.O. by the time they’re ready to transition to the elite level (though a handful of elites, including Alyssa Baumann, have gone straight from level 9 to elite). Whereas most countries only have elite-track programs for competitive gymnasts, the U.S. has the J.O. track for gymnasts who want to compete but not at the extra expense/time commitment required by the elite level.
Was Elisa Meneghini training a G-rated full-in beam dismount and a double double on floor?
I didn’t ever see her training a full-in beam dismount, but she did compete a layout full on beam, which is also a G skill and that’s probably what you’re thinking of unless I completely missed that whole dismount situation…but I’m pretty sure she never did, aside from maybe throwing it into the pit or something. I’m also not sure if she trained a double double on floor…again, maybe in the gym, but it was never competition-ready.
Which country do you feel has the best floor music overall for its gymnasts?
Hmmmmm…I tend to really enjoy the floor music from Belgium, because it’s unexpected and fun. Lots of songs you’d recognize but wouldn’t really know what they are, which gets people super into them. I was watching an episode of Mad Men once and was like “omg, Axelle Klinckaert’s music!” which was my favorite. Their artistic program apparently ‘borrows’ a lot of routine ideas from acro, but hey, that’s fine with me if it means they’re bringing something fun and interesting to the table. I have similar feelings about France…they tend to be super enjoyable on floor as well, and same for the Netherlands. Of course, these are my personal favorites. If you enjoy a different style, you’ll probably have other favorites!
Would it be far-fetched to assume that gymnasts who train in the same gym develop similar body types?
That’s not really a thing. Someone is going to have her body type regardless of which gym she goes to. People always think all WOGA gymnasts look the same because their past two Olympians — Madison Kocian and Nastia Liukin — had similar body types, but if you look at their elites over the years, most are incredibly different in terms of how they look. Rebecca Bross, Katelyn Ohashi, Briley Casanova, Alyssa Baumann, McKenzie Wofford, Sam Ogden, Sophia Lee, Audrey Davis…there are more differences in here than similarities, and that’s the case for most gyms, because everyone is built differently and no style of training will change someone’s build.
There’s a reason the most successful gymnasts of certain gyms tend to have similar body types, and it’s because that coach knows how to best train gymnasts of that body type, which is why gymnasts like Aly Raisman and Alicia Sacramone were successful for Brestyan’s while Nastia and Madison were successful for WOGA, despite all of the other different body types that exist at both gyms, but Brestyan’s didn’t cause Aly and Alicia’s body types to be one way, nor did WOGA for Nastia and Madison.
Could you please explain how the points system works at the world cup series?
Each ranking in each final is worth a certain number of points. For the world cup apparatus series it’s as follows:
|1st place||30 points||7th place||12 points|
|2nd place||25 points||8th place||10 points|
|3rd place||20 points||9th place||8 points|
|4th place||18 points||10th place||7 points|
|5th place||16 points||11th place||6 points|
|6th place||14 points||12th place||5 points|
…and for the world cup all-around series it’s as follows:
|1st place||60 points||7th place||30 points|
|2nd place||55 points||8th place||25 points|
|3rd place||50 points||9th place||20 points|
|4th place||45 points||10th place||15 points|
|5th place||40 points||11th place||10 points|
|6th place||35 points||12th place||5 points|
For the apparatus world cups, the overall series winner on each event for 2018 and 2019 combined gets a nominative spot at the Games. At the end of the series, the gymnast’s top three rankings will be added together. Pretend I competed on beam at four world cup events in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons. Because I’m amazing but super inconsistent, I placed 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 10th. My 10th place finish would be dropped, so you’d add up my points from my top three rankings — 30 + 20 + 16 — to get 66 total points. Meanwhile, say beam queen Sanne Wevers competes at three meets in these two seasons and got 1st place each time for a total of 90 points. She would be the overall series winner and would get a spot in Tokyo, and me? I would not get a spot, and thus I would cry.
For the all-around world cups, the qualifications go by country rather than by gymnast, so no one single gymnast has to go to three world cups. This year, for example, the U.S. had Ragan Smith’s first-place ranking at the American Cup earning 60 points, Morgan Hurd’s third-place ranking at the Stuttgart World Cup earning 50 points, and Victoria Nguyen’s second-place finish at the London World Cup earning 55 points.
This combination of gymnasts would’ve earned 60 + 50 + 55 = 165 points, which would’ve been the highest overall all-around world cup series points ranking for 2017. In 2020, the top three federations based on their total points from the world cup all-around series will earn non-nominative Olympic spots, meaning the spot will belong to the federation rather than to any specific gymnast.
As a side note, the all-around world cups in the Olympic year are only open to gymnasts from the twelve qualifying teams. Once these teams are determined at 2018 and 2019 worlds, invitations go out to the federations inviting gymnasts to the world cups, meaning each of the 12 countries that qualify full teams will have the opportunity to qualify an additional all-arounder not part of the team. Conversely, a country can send literally any gymnast with an FIG license to the apparatus world cups, with no invitation process necessary.
What happens to gymnastics equipment after the Olympics?
It’s usually sold and/or donated to programs that need it. There’s generally a ton of equipment between all of the training gyms and everything, and so I believe some of it is donated as goodwill to help out struggling programs, but the rest is made available for purchase. Rio had eight sets of equipment. I know the Christchurch gym in New Zealand purchased one full set for $125,000 NZD (about $90,000 USD), and I think Ukraine was set to receive some equipment as well. In 2012, a bunch of local clubs bought up a lot of the London equipment, and it’s the same story for many competitions at the international level.
Is Kylie Dickson the first gymnast to compete at J.O. nationals AFTER competing at the Olympics?
Haha, I think so! Super bizarre but kind of cool.
What are the rules in the U.S. about athlete eligibility for those who compete elite for other countries? Does this affect J.O.?
There are no rules that cause this to affect NCAA or J.O. eligibility. A gymnast who lives and trains in the U.S. but has dual citizenship and competes for a country that’s not the U.S. would have zero issue getting a college scholarship or competing J.O.
Why did Nastia Liukin insist on doing her 2008 bars dismount in 2012 when she could’ve done literally anything else?
I don’t know. Sometimes gymnasts who know they aren’t going to make a team or whatever use personal victories like hitting a difficult dismount as their reason for competing. I know Rebecca Bross that year struggled with her Patterson, but she told me at trials that she knew she wasn’t making the team and so her goal became to just hit her routines without any falls, with the Patterson being her biggest victory once she hit it. Also, Nastia’s dismount actually looked great when she did it on its own, without being in the context of a full routine. She was probably optimistic that she could hit it, but it’s incredibly different to hit a dismount on its own in the gym than it is to hit a dismount at the end of a taxing routine. She could’ve done something different, but probably just didn’t plan on it until it was too late. It’s not like you can casually just throw a dismount you haven’t trained.
Why is forward tumbling so much harder than backward tumbling?
It’s the positioning of the body/how it opens up in the air and on the landing as well as the blind landing itself (being unable to spot the ground while in the air) that make it difficult. Also, you don’t get as much momentum out of a punch or a front handspring than you do out of a roundoff back handspring, so the power going into front tumbling is generally not as great, which is why you rarely see a gymnast competing a front 2.5 or a double front pike when a back 2.5 and a backwards double pike are practically compulsory for most elites.
How much does it cost to train elite? Are there ‘scholarships’ for families who can’t pay?
It can be as costly as around $50k/year in the U.S. There aren’t any ‘official’ scholarships or anything, but many gyms with athletes who may struggle financially will help promising gymnasts stay in the gym because it benefits them/their clubs to have a high-level elite athlete on the team. Also, if the gymnast reaches the national team in the U.S., she gets a national team stipend of about $2000/month to help defray expenses, so that’s not really a scholarship but more of a reward for being someone who could contribute to the team internationally, but it definitely helps those who have struggled financially in the past.
Is there any update on Giorgia Villa?
She came back to training after surgery this summer, and decided she was ready to compete bars at this past weekend’s Italian Championships, becoming the bars champion despite being just 14 in a field of seniors!
Do you prefer the perfect 10 scoring system or the open-ended code, and why?
I prefer the open-ended code because it’s a far better way to gauge quantitatively how strong a gymnast is. In NCAA, and prior to adopting the open-ended code in elite, it’s practically impossible to rank gymnasts when there’s no way to differ between ‘good’ and ‘outstanding,’ whereas in the open-ended code, you can reward the gymnasts who go above and beyond.
There are definitely some built-in problems with the open-ended code, like gymnasts who win medals based on difficulty alone (or worse, gymnasts who medal with falls or major mistakes), but it’s rare that this happens at the highest level, and when it does happen, it’s just a testament to how weak the rest of the field is more than anything.
In NCAA, nothing made me more annoyed than seeing Florida gymnasts without same-bar releases getting perfect 10s week in and week out with the same exact routines (Maloney, pak, giant full, full-in or double layout, literally three gymnasts in the lineup had this exact routine at one point) while someone doing insane difficulty like a Ray or a full-twisting double layout gets a 9.975.
I also think the ‘perfect 10’ system inhibits innovation, and while it does encourage strong execution over chucked skills, routines inherently won’t be as exciting or as difficult. I’m someone who loves extremes. Last quad in the U.S. I loved MyKayla Skinner for going balls-to-the-wall with tricky and exciting skills, but I also loved Kyla Ross for keeping it simple but beautiful. Simone Biles was like the perfect combination of these two, and she perfectly encapsulates what the sport should be under the open-ended system, and if everyone could just get on her level, that would be great, thanks.
Can you explain how the Olympics will work in 2020? Is there a limit on athletes per country who can qualify to event finals? Can the four athletes on their country’s team still qualify for event finals?
The 2020 Olympics will be two-per-country. A ‘country’ is both the team gymnasts and the individual gymnasts from that country, so whether someone is competing as part of the full team or individually in qualifications, only two from that country will make it to finals, and all gymnasts on the team are eligible for all-around and event finals. Let’s say 2016 used the 2020 rules and the U.S. brought Ashton Locklear as an individual competitor for bars. In qualifications, Madison Kocian gets a 15.866 and Gabby Douglas gets a 15.766 as part of the team, but Ashton gets a 15.833 as an individual. Madison and Ashton would qualify to the bars final, and Gabby would get two-per-country’ed out.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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