You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 180th 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.

If an apparatus specialist qualifies first on vault in Tokyo, and two of the girls on the actual team also qualify in the top eight, will the two who make it to finals be the top two from prelims?

Yes, it’s the top two PER COUNTRY regardless of whether the gymnast is on the team or an individual competitor.

How can a team dismiss a scholarship athlete if it’s not a disciplinary or academic issue?

Technically they could be dismissed for ‘behavioral issues’ which would fall under a disciplinary dismissal. A gymnast who is whiny in practice, not a team player, sassy with the coaches, and difficult to work with might not break any rule violation, but someone like that or someone with a ‘bad attitude’ could be considered disruptive to the team environment, which falls under a behavioral issue. In 2003, Valorie Kondos Field dismissed Alyssa Beckerman from the UCLA team for her lack of enthusiasm in training, because according to her it was bringing the team down overall. Sometimes someone is just not a ‘fit’ for a certain program, even if she’s competitive and strong academically. It’s rare, but you do see it happen on occasion.

Is Katelyn Ohashi not competing elite anymore?

No, she hasn’t competed elite since 2013. She is currently going into her junior year at UCLA.

Why doesn’t Oksana Chusovitina compete Yurchenko vaults?

I don’t think she ever competed them, even as a teenager. Insert joke about teaching an old dog new tricks? I mean, she’s been doing a tsuk for literally 25+ years, so there’s no real reason for her to change. As a younger gymnast, she just probably had the same issue with Yurchenkos that many gymnasts have, which is the whole backward entry onto the table thing, which can be a little scary for gymnasts that don’t like back tumbling or who struggle with timing that entry correctly. Some gymnasts fear Yurchenkos even today, and can you imagine what it was like to learn one on the old horse rather than on the current table which is practically built for Yurchenkos? Lots of people got injured doing them, there was an article in the 80s about “are Yurchenko vaults really worth the risk?” with Mary Lou Retton speaking out against them because they were a “shortcut to high scores” (lol), the NCAA banned Yurchenkos because they were so dangerous, and Julissa Gomez died of complications related to a neck injury sustained while performing the vault in 1988. At the time Chusovitina was coming up in the sport, it’s very easy to see why she never bothered with it.

How many alternates will the U.S. send to Tokyo?

I think they’ll still send three, because if they end up using an individual competitor as a kind of ‘built-in’ alternate for the team, they’ll still need to replace that individual competitor.

Why was there no team final at European Championships this year?

The team final is held only every other year, in the Olympic year and then two years later. This quad, it’s an individual competition in 2017, team competition in 2018, individual in 2019, and team in 2020.

What is going on with Sydney Johnson-Scharpf? Why is she competing internationally but not going to camp?

She wasn’t on the national team this year and either wasn’t invited to camp or didn’t show up. The only international meet she competed at, the Reykjavik International Games, was an invitational, not a competition requiring an FIG license or gymnasts to be sent by their federations, so her gym was able to send her rather than the U.S. national team. Her results there are not considered part of Team USA’s results because she didn’t achieve them as part of Team USA.

How can Peng Peng Lee come back for another year?

Through a petition. Athletes are given five years to complete four years of competition in NCAA, but because she missed two full years of competition due to injury, she only got to compete three of those four years within her five years of eligibility. In extreme cases, the NCAA will let athletes have a sixth year so they can have all four years, and Peng’s case was an extreme case. She just had to petition for it, and hope that her petition would be granted.

Why did you say Laurie Hernandez was ‘lucky’ to make it through 2016? It’s kinda confusing because she made the team and won an individual medal?

I said she’s physically lucky to have made it through. She was fabulous last year, but I don’t think her body would’ve physically held out for much longer than it did. You could see her skills deteriorating on vault and bars especially, and she wasn’t ever able to get super strong tumbling on floor, partly due to her injury, but also because she had a big growth spurt coming and it was holding her back on that event.

If anything, this worked out perfectly for her, because she was able to put the majority of her focus into her work on beam, which is an event the U.S. needed most. She was able to step up with tremendous difficulty and phenomenal execution on that event, helping the team and winning a silver medal for herself in the process. But then almost as soon as the Olympics ended, she started growing fast, and I think if she had to hold on for even a couple more months had the Games been held in November or something, she would’ve barely made it.

Compare her to Maggie Nichols, who you could see reaching her physical peak at worlds in 2015. Her body was at its maximum potential in Glasgow, and it was great that she got some world-level success there, but as soon as she came into 2016 at the American Cup, you could literally see her body being like “nope, this is too much for me!” and it was clear she wasn’t going to make it to Rio, even if she hadn’t gotten injured.

You can’t always control a gymnast’s physical or mental peak, and sometimes gymnasts will burn out before they’d like to. In Maggie’s case, she burned out maybe ten months earlier than what was ideal, and there was nothing she could’ve done to stop that. In Laurie’s case, she was able to get to the Olympics before burning out, but if she had to wait much longer, I don’t think her body would’ve been able to stay at that level. So she’s lucky in the sense that the timing of her physical peak let her get to the Olympics.

What were the two vaults McKayla Maroney usually competed?

She competed an Amanar and a Yurchenko half-on front layout full, colloquially called a ‘Mustafina’ because she was the first to compete it at worlds in 2010, though she never officially got it named for her.

Why do some eponymous skills named after Chinese gymnasts use both the first and last name whereas non-Chinese skill names are only known by the last name? For example, the “Li Li” instead of the Li.

It could just be to differentiate it in case there’s another gymnast with the same last name, even if that gymnast doesn’t have a skill named after her. Like, if Brooklyn Moors gets a skill named for her in the future, we might call Victoria’s skill “the Victoria Moors” and Brooklyn’s skill “the Brooklyn Moors” to differentiate so people know what you’re talking about. Or it could just be that this is what people started calling it and the name stuck. Like, the Shaposhnikova is the official name for that skill, but everyone over the years shortened it to “shaposh” and now young gymnasts who don’t know who Natalia Shaposhnikova is have no idea that “shaposh” is a piece of someone’s last name.

Did Stanford change their academic acceptance requirements? There were girls at J.O. nationals this year who were Stanford commits for 2018 and later.

There were commits for the 2018 season because this is the 2017-2018 school year, and so they would’ve signed their letters of intent for this season back in November 2016 (or in the spring signing period, still before J.O. nationals). Stanford doesn’t currently have any commits for beyond that, whereas other schools have commits going all the way to the 2021-2022 season, which is insane, but that’s how the game is played.

When people ask questions about specific level 10 gymnasts or lesser-known gymnasts from the past, do you always know who they are off the top of your head?

It depends…most of the gymnasts from the past I generally know, or have at least heard of, and even if I’m not super familiar with them I’ll usually know their names. If someone is a top level 10 who is pretty dominant and has been over the past few years, I generally know who she is, but lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about random level 10s who happen to be YouTube or Instagram stars and I don’t know who any of them are. Sometimes I’ll get a name like “will so and so make it to the Olympics?!?!?!” and I’m like “who??” and I look them up and it’s like a ten-year-old level 9 with a 33 AA, aka someone who wouldn’t be on my radar in the slightest, haha.

Why were one-handed pirouettes more popular in earlier quads compared to today?

I think it’s just because with so many other difficult bars skills, it’s not worth it to do something so difficult when gymnasts can do a two-handed skill that’s worth the same. The Healy/Ono/Ling style skills are all rated E, but so is an inbar full, which is difficult in its own right, but as a regular grip element, it’s inherently much easier for most gymnasts than any of the reverse grip elements, let alone the reverse grip elements requiring you to turn on one hand.

Did McKayla Maroney delete her social media? What has she been doing? Has she released any music yet?

She deletes it on occasion but always brings it back eventually. She’s still apparently working in music, but seems to want to keep her life separate from gymnastics at this time, and hopefully people will respect her for that.

I understand why gymnasts use chalk on their hands and feet, but why do some put it all over their legs? Is it on purpose or does it just end up there?

Usually you see this when gymnasts are doing salto skills where they have to grab their legs during the salto, like on a tuck or a pike. I’ve actually seen gymnasts’ hands slip from their legs while holding these positions, which causes them to lose the shape a bit, so while they chalk their hands for this, it’s easier to hold on if their legs are chalked as well.

Is there a deduction for doing two kips in a row on bars?

Yeah, this is basically called an empty or intermediate swing, which gets a deduction of 0.5.

Regarding the Tkachev variations, are the clear hip, toe-on, inbar, and stalder entries easier or more difficult to learn than a regular Tkachev? Do girls learn the routine Tkachev befor learning one from a different entry?

Generally a Tkachev from a giant swing is the easiest to perform, though it really depends on what the gymnast is best at. Like, for most gymnasts, it’s easier to do a toe-on Tkachev than an inbar Tkachev, but Ana Padurariu told me that she kept missing her feet on her toe-on skills, so her coach was like “let’s just have you do inbars” and that’s why she had an inbar piked Tkachev at 12 even though it’s literally the most difficult Tkachev for most gymnasts, aside from the Nabieva. So a gymnast with a really nice stalder swing might just start learning Ricnas right away after doing the more general Tkachev progressions from drills, but I think the majority learn the routine giant swing into the Tkachev before getting fancy with entries.

Has Aly Raisman retired? With her coach now in Australia, who would she train with if she came back for 2020?

She is reportedly still planning on coming back, and has said that she would be able to work out training with Mihai Brestyan when he’s at home (he doesn’t live in Australia, but travels back and forth) but Silvia Brestyan would be her official coach who would travel with her to competitions and train with her while Mihai is away.

I’m continually surprised that the NCAA eligibility rules for female gymnasts have yet to be challenged legally on the grounds of gender discrimination. Female gymnasts have the dilemma of choosing either NCAA OR pro, while athletes in any other sport get a double payout: NCAA scholarship, then pro. This is a clear monetary loss based on gender. Has there been no effort to change the rules for female gymnasts?

Very true, and I’ve never looked at it like that before, but it’s definitely fitting. There have definitely been petitions in the past but no widespread movements to change the rule overall. It’s always been my opinion that anyone whose maximum earning potential comes before they reach college age should be able to go pro and then go to college after, as long as they don’t stay pro during that time in college, and then they can accept money/endorsements again after college if the money is still out there. I’ve never once agreed with the “college or pro” choice gymnasts sometimes make at 13 or 14, and I think it’s ridiculous that girls like Chellsie Memmel, Jana Bieger, and Rebecca Bross who made literally no money as “professional” athletes weren’t allowed to compete in college. I mean, for ANYONE regardless of how much money they make it’s a ridiculous rule, but for those who were lower-level earners it’s even worse because they mostly didn’t even earn close to what a college education would be worth.

Do all of the elite gymnasts at Texas Dreams have to be coached by Kim Zmeskal and Chris Burdette? What happens to gymnasts who want to go elite but who aren’t selected by them?

They’re the two elite coaches at that gym, but they also have other high-level coaches who do level 10 and help with the Dream Team situation. They don’t really ‘select’ elites based on who they want to see at that level, but rather whoever fits the criteria (via TOPs testing, skill progression, making developmental camps, etc) can go elite because they have what it takes to be elite. If someone is a 16-year-old level 10 who doesn’t compete well and barely has all of her skills and she wants to go elite but they don’t think she’s an appropriate candidate, then they’ll probably say no to someone like that, and in that case, it wouldn’t be likely that most gyms would take her on as an elite. But they generally have kids early enough to know whether they can physically/mentally handle elite, and wouldn’t turn someone down for any reason other than that kid not being ready.

Why doesn’t MyKayla Skinner put a full-twisting double layout in her floor routine instead of the Moors when she’d only lose a tenth in difficulty and would gain more in execution?

For some people it’s actually easier to do the double double than a full, because with two twists happening over two flips, it’s easier to wrap you mind around it in a way? That’s why Victoria Moors did the double double…she literally couldn’t mentally figure out a full-twisting double layout. You see that a lot in gymnastics, where kids end up doing more difficult skills because those skills come more naturally to them than the easier skills.

Have a question? Ask below! Remember that the form directly below this line is for questions; to comment, keep scrolling to the bottom of the page. We do not answer questions about team predictions nor questions that say “what do you think of [insert gymnast here].”

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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20 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Could you really see that Maggie Nichols’ body was starting to give up in early 2016, and “she’d have never made it even without the injury”?? How – what gave it away? That whole time I still thought she was a main contender…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t see the issue of burn-out in the same way Lauren does either, especially for Maggie Nichols who was hampered by a substantial meniscus injury after the American Cup. Most American gymnasts are not at their best at the American Cup because it’s literally their first competition of the season (barring National Team Camps), and they have a substantial amount of time to go before they need to be at their best later in the season. Even Gabby Douglas looked rough at that competition and she was far from done physically that season. Who could say for sure Maggie wouldn’t have improved enough given time and health, like Gabby? Heck, Maggie looked better at Trials than the American Cup and that was with very limited training time because of injury. Looking shaky at the American Cup is not a sign of burn-out but a consequence of how early in the year it is (see Ragan Smith and Riley McCusker this year, especially Ragan who was not in her prior Olympic year caliber by any means).

      Also, I wouldn’t equate burning out with “no longer at the absolute physical peak”. I think burning out has a psychological component of mental fatigue, dissatisfaction and lack of motivation, making major mistakes (in life, not just routines), self-destructive behaviors, etc. I wouldn’t consider Oksana Chusovitina “burnt-out” of the sport just because she can’t do some of the same skills that she did 25 years ago.

      Like

      • Peaking isn’t about downgrading skills. It wasn’t Maggie’s downgrades at American Cup that stood out. It was seeing her ability to do certain skills decline. Maggie had a much better American Cup in 2016 than Riley did this year, but it was a different kind of ‘weak’ for Riley. She wasn’t ‘burning out’ mentally or physically. She just happened to mentally meltdown at that meet. With Maggie, it wasn’t about how she COMPETED, but how she LOOKED PHYSICALLY. Major difference. You literally can’t even compare the two lol. Just looking at Maggie every day in training, it was clear she was struggling with her ability on skills that were once easy for her, and that her body was just not as able to handle it. Seeing her at American Cup in training, actually, I said to a reporter next to me “I hope she doesn’t do her Amanar because she’s going to get injured.” It really wasn’t shocking that she did get injured a couple months later. Her body could absolutely no longer handle an Amanar, and it’s kind of irresponsible that she was still doing one, just like it was irresponsible that Laurie was doing a DTY last summer. Compare that to Aly, who isn’t the cleanest on an Amanar and has tons of deductions, but physically, she can still handle it, just like lots of athletes who can chuck huge skills can physically handle them even if they don’t look great. It’s because their bodies can handle those skills. Has nothing to do with looking good or bad or whatever. It has to do with the pounding a person’s body can manage.

        Also, you can physically burn out in a way that’s different from mentally burning out. Someone who is no longer as strong as they once were but who can still physically compete at a high level is clearly not physically burning out. But gymnasts who reach a certain level and then physically can’t handle elite anymore are a different story. Some gymnasts’ bodies are made in a way that they can handle elite skills/routines for an incredibly long time. Even if they decrease the difficulty or number of big skills they’re doing, they’re still physically able to do a lot. Other athletes’ bodies can’t hold on for that long for a variety of reasons, and there’s no way of controlling when that peak and subsequent physical breakdown will happen.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow, that’s a lot of behind-the-scenes insight! If what you’re saying is 100% accurate, then it’s pretty impressive what she did manage to pull off at Trials.

          Like

    • Yes! At worlds I thought “this is about all her body will be able to handle” in terms of skill level, and thought at worlds that maybe if she kept up that level she’d be able to hold onto it until Olympic Trials, but then when she came in at American Cup, it was clear she had lost so much between worlds and then, and it was also clear at American Cup that she’d be an alternate at best. The injury obviously didn’t help, but injury or not, she was basically long past her elite peak.

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        • I actually had a conversation about it with Dvora Meyers and we were like gutted because we had seen it before and could totally see it with her. I kept trying to be like “BUT she could blah blah…” and Dvora would be like “Nope. It’s not happening.” Hahaha. Even though I could see it, it wasn’t any easier to accept!

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  2. My favorite thing Alyssa Beckerman ever did was tell the New York Times she was going to become a human rights attorney because of her experience of ….not making the Olympic team

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Do Amy Tinkler and Claudia Fragapane have a lot of built-in deductions (bent knees, lack of amplitude on leaps) or is it just their body types that make it look like it? Also, do you think that british coaches know how to make the most out of these body types? Since both of them and the Downies have similar bodies (short legs and big upper body).

    Like

    • Yes! They do have plenty of built in deductions! Their form is quite messy. Yes, they have a different body type that isn’t super elegant but there are plenty of gymnasts with muscular body types with good form, such as Rebecca Bross.

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