It’s time for the 184th 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.
What is Daria Elizarova’s story? I first saw her competing for Uzbekistan in 2010, but now she’s in Russia. What’s going on with her?
As a junior, Daria was a huge star in Russia. She looked like she was going to be a major contender for the 2008 Olympic team, and won the junior all-around title at 2006 European Championships. But then, as the case is for so many, she got injured, was only named alternate for the 2007 worlds team, and then despite getting a spot on the 2008 team initially, had to give it up due to illness.
She continued competing following Beijing, but ended up not really being in contention for major teams in Russia, even though she actually had some good results. Since the Russian program didn’t really seem to want her around, she asked if they would release her so she could compete for Uzbekistan, and the Russian program let her go. With Uzbekistan, she won the bronze on vault at the 2010 Asian Games and also competed at worlds under the Uzbekistan flag in 2010 and 2011, placing 48th all-around in 2011, Uzbekistan’s best finish.
Because Uzbekistan had a full team at 2011 worlds, they got to send two gymnasts to the test event. Uzbekistan sent Elizarova and Luiza Galiulina, the latter of whom is from Uzbekistan and won the Asian Games bronze medal on beam for her country in addition to competing at the 2008 Olympic Games. Elizarova got the higher score at the test event, with a 51.565 to Galiulina’s 50.832, so it was really close, and Uzbekistan decided to send the Uzbek girl, not the Russian transplant.
So it was another “so close, yet so far” moment for Elizarova, but to make matters worse, in the training leading up to London, Galiulina was drug tested and the IOC found that she was taking the diuretic furosemide. Galiulina said she had been medicated for an illness in June and then took medication for a heart condition in July, but she was banned from competing in London and Uzbekistan couldn’t replace her that last minute so they ended up having no athletes competing that year (the FIG later banned Galiulina for two years, so she retired and is now performing in a traveling circus).
Elizarova didn’t want to retire after her ordeal in 2012, but with Oksana Chusovitina changing her nationality back to Uzbekistan following the 2012 Olympics, it was clear Chusovitina was going to get the 2016 spot and so Elizarova changed her nationality back to Russia, spending all of last quad competing at a strong level, though not quite strong enough to make major teams (like worlds or the Olympics). She did get to compete at Universiade twice, though, helping them to team gold both years (with an incredible floor routine this year!) and she won the vault bronze in 2015.
At last year’s Voronin Cup, Elizarova won the all-around and beam titles, and said she was looking forward to major upgrades this year to continue being competitive for Russia. She’s definitely not a frontrunner for world teams if everyone’s healthy, but you never know what could happen, and she’s a more than capable backup on several events.
When a gymnast receives the Longines Prize for Elegance, they usually receive a check and a watch. For gymnasts like Kyla Ross, are they allowed to keep either and still maintain eligibility?
She could accept prize money if the amount was equal to or less than the cost of expenses for the competition, but I don’t think she could accept the watch. I think there’s some kind of exception to the prize money rule that lets athletes accept money for medals earned? Which is why Simone Biles made bank at worlds before she decided to go pro and was still able to maintain eligibility. But I don’t think the Longines prize would count in that respect.
How useful is TOPs for identifying future gymnasts? How many go on to become elite gymnasts?
I mean, since there are some 200 TOPs gymnasts each year and a much smaller number of elites, not every TOPs gymnast will end up qualifying. TOPs gymnasts are so young, and by the time they reach the age at which they can qualify for elite, many have for whatever reason opted to not go that route if they’re still in the sport. But that has no bearing on the success of the TOPs program. Just because those gymnasts didn’t want to train 40 hours a week or got injured didn’t mean the program didn’t work. Every member of the 2016 Olympic team came up through the TOPs program, and pretty much every club in the country with the exception of only a few (like GAGE) go through TOPs. It’s incredibly successful for picking out kids who have the physical talent required for elite gymnasts, so again, even if not every kid ends up actually going elite, they probably could go elite if that’s what they wanted.
If a gymnast has a combo on beam and almost falls and grabs the beam in trying to land her second skill, does she still get the CV, since she didn’t fall?
I think the rule is that as long as there’s no fall, the connection value is counted if the two skills were fluidly connected…so grabbing the beam is okay, but falling onto the beam wouldn’t be.
Jade Carey said she is working on a Moors. How far do you think she can go with her skills? Do you think she could make the worlds team and medal?
I think she’s definitely one with huge potential for the worlds team considering she has two vaults that are rated the highest combined difficulty in the world. I think tumbling on floor looks rather easy for her, even when she’s doing difficult skills, so I have no doubt that she could eventually get a Moors! It’s crazy that in her first year as an elite she was able to not only compete super high difficulty, but for the most part, do it well enough to earn high execution scores. She definitely has more that she can do that we haven’t seen yet.
Do you know why Zhu Xiaofang wasn’t selected for the Chinese worlds team? She has gorgeous lines on beam, won the gold on the event at Chinese nationals, and could have a chance to medal at worlds. Is she a candidate for next year?
Xiaofang is actually retiring this year with the National Games her final competition. Yes, she won beam at Chinese nationals, but that was months ago, and it was in a field that didn’t include Luo Huan or Liu Tingting. She only has a 5.9 D on that event and her highest score this season was a 14.167 in that event finals routine back in May. Several other seniors all have higher D scores than her, including Tingting with a 6.6, Huan with a 6.0, and Wang Yan with a 6.3. Both Tingting and Huan have outscored Xiaofang’s top score multiple times this season, including internationally, and considering they’re both generally the top senior all-arounders, they were easy options for worlds spots.
Xiaofang’s only shot to get on the worlds team was as a bars/beam specialist, but Fan Yilin got the bars specialist spot and Yan got the beam (and vault/floor) specialist spot because they both outperformed Xiaofang at this week’s National Games. Xiaofang’s top score of 14.167 was the 79th best score in the world this year, which is awesome when you consider some 6000 gymnasts have competed beam so far in 2017, but when you’re looking at who could reach the top three and medal at worlds, 79th won’t get her close unless multiple gymnasts with greater potential and higher average scores this season fall.
What have the ‘American Belarusians’ been up to this season? Is Belarus planning to send them to worlds again?
They’re both done with elite. Despite saying that competing in 2015 “wasn’t about them, it was about helping Belarus become better!!!” they actually both retired as soon as their personal goals were achieved, never visiting the country, let alone the training centers (which they said they were going to do so they could “inspire” the local gymnasts). Alaina Kwan began competing as a freshman for Kentucky last season, where she did a few lackluster vaults never scoring above a 9.775, as well as one weak floor routine, earning a 9.575. Kylie Dickson returned to level 10, placing 19th in the senior F division at J.O. nationals, and she’ll begin competing as a freshman for Alabama this coming season.
Why is artistic gymnastics more popular than rhythmic? Why doesn’t rhythmic have event medals at the Olympics?
It depends on the country…in some countries rhythmic is vastly more popular (and more successful!) than artistic. But in countries where artistic is more successful, there tends to be more popularity, which I think is natural. Like, in Russia where both artistic and rhythmic programs are successful, they’re somewhat equally popular (though I’m pretty sure rhythmic wins out), but obviously if you’re in the U.S. or another country where the rhythmic program is nowhere near as successful as artistic, you wouldn’t really know this. Worldwide, artistic has been around as an Olympic sport for nearly a century longer than rhythmic, which wasn’t really a gymnastics discipline until the early 1960s and it took another 20 years for it to come into the Olympic Games. That could be why there’s only an all-around/group all-around competition at the Olympic Games…it could just be that the discipline is still relatively new (it’s only been an Olympic sport for 30 years) and so it was taken on as a kind of limited discipline and never really evolved past that?
Which gymnasts have submitted new skills to be named this year?
No one has submitted any skills yet. We probably won’t get this list until a couple of weeks out from worlds.
Has Ashton Locklear turned pro?
Ashton decided not to go to Florida, where she originally committed, because her injuries wouldn’t make it possible for her to compete every week. Because she’s not doing NCAA, she can accept prize money and endorsements. She’s not one who is out there with huge deals and things like that, but she was able to get paid for the tour last year, and if she goes to worlds and medals this year, I could see her getting some more interest.
Let’s say a gymnast does a whip + whip indirectly connected to any E skill and then her other seven elements that count are all D elements. Would the score be a 2.8 from the Ds and then another 0.9 for the A+A+E CV or would only the E count in addition to the CV?
Only eight skills total count. The A skills are part of the E pass, but they are all separate skills, so she would only count the seven D skills and the one E skill for a total of 3.3 for her element values. The A+A+E CV would be separate from the element values and would be 0.2. If she did the A+A+E pass and then all other A level skills, then the A+A+E pass would be worth 0.7 for the elements and an additional 0.2 for CV, making that one pass worth 0.9 total, but if that pass is part of a routine with all other elements counting higher than A, that pass would be worth 0.7 of the total D score.
If Tabea Alt competes the skills she did this weekend, would her transition skill be rated a D like the Zuchold? And her dismount? Do gymnasts who have skills not in the code have a better chance of making a worlds or Olympic team?
A Zuchold with a half twist done to handstand could probably get a D or E rating, but the problem is that the few who have attempted this skill haven’t been able to catch it in handstand, and so the FIG rates that a C. Think of it like a bail to handstand being worth more than an overshoot. As for the stalder front tuck half dismount, I think it’ll be a C or a D. The toe-on version is a C, if memory serves, with the toe-on front layout half a D…so it’ll just depend on if the technical committee sees a stalder entry into that dismount more difficult than a toe-on entry.
As for trying to get a skill named, no, it generally doesn’t make a difference for athletes trying to make a team. If Germany had more depth and Tabea wasn’t the top all-arounder literally guaranteed to make this team, and had other gymnasts out-performed her this season, they would’ve made the team for that and Tabea’s new skills wouldn’t have secured her a spot.
I just noticed that pretty much the entire Florida freshman class has the same major. Are college athletes encouraged to select certain majors?
Some coaches actually do push gymnasts toward certain majors, usually ‘exercise science’ or whatever. I’ve heard of some coaches who select classes for their gymnasts, and who make sure none of their classes are too hard so they don’t have to focus too much on school…which is hilarious to me? Because NCAA gymnastics is four years of their lives and then they have to use their majors to move on to grad school and careers and everything? Like if they’re going to leave school with the goal of coaching or something, then cool, but it seems limiting. Not all schools do this, but I think some coaches prefer seeing all of their athletes in the same classes so they can kind of all have the same schedules and responsibilities and stuff.
What happened to Emily Little at nationals?
She under-rotated one of her passes in floor finals and landed kind of horrifyingly on her head. I think it was her opening pass, a full-twisting double layout, if I remember correctly? It was a really scary fall, and her neck injury ended up being worse than anyone thought at first. It’s been three months and she’s only just now getting cleared to exercise again.
Is North Korea sending anyone to worlds this year? Is Hong Un Jong retired?
Nope, no MAG or WAG gymnasts will compete. Guessing it’s mostly due to political tensions, which kind of sucks for the gymnasts. I haven’t heard anything about Hong Un Jong retiring, and North Korea does have a team beyond Hong, so even without her, they’d still have gymnasts to send both in MAG and WAG, which is why I think it’s more political than anything else.
What do you think about the Olympic gymnastics arenas? Which are the best according to their styles, seating capacity, etc?
Hmmm…there haven’t been any I’ve been super wild about? Actually, I loved Beijing’s, all aspects of it. The only one I physically went to was the Rio arena and it was like…from a media perspective, it’s one of the worst venues I’ve been to, haha, but I can’t speak to it in terms of how the athletes experienced it.
What’s the difference between a Kasamatsu and a Tsukahara vault?
The difference is how the gymnast twists off of the table. In a Kas, there’s a right-handed approach to the table and then the gymnast continues to twist right off the horse (or there’s a left-handed approach and the gymnast continues to twist left). In a Tsuk, the approach and the twist are opposite (a right-handed approach onto the table and a left twist off, and vice versa). The other thing you should know is that with a Kas, a full twist is implied, so a Kas full actually has two twists, whereas just a Kas has one twist, compared to a Tsuk, which is more straightforward (a Tsuk full has one twist, a Tsuk double has two).
Most gymnasts, MAG and WAG, actually do a Kas even if we call them Tsuks. They differentiate between a Kas and a Tsuk in MAG, but in WAG they’re the same exact thing in the code of points. It’s also nearly impossible to spot the difference when they happen as quickly as they do in real time, so I wouldn’t be worried about which direction the twist is happening off the table. Just chill and know it’s probably a Kas but everyone’s gonna call it a Tsuk. When I asked Jade Carey about her Tsuk double, she was quick to correct me and say it’s actually a Kas full, but guess what Jade? Almost every woman doing a Tsuk double is actually doing a Kas full, and IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER!
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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