It’s time for the 185th 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.
Does Kaitlin de Guzman train in the U.S. and compete for the Philippines? How is this possible?
Yes, she trains at Metroplex and competes internationally for the Philippines. Tons of gymnasts do this. Most smaller international programs will allow gymnasts to train at their home countries and just fly in for competitions because these gymnasts help out with team depth. They don’t really need them around all the time at local gyms…they just are in communication with the gymnasts, and then maybe the international gymnast will come train with the team for a week or so leading up to the meet, but for the most part it’s not that necessary. Gymnastics is an incredibly individual sport so when it does come time to put a team together, it’s easy to pull in people from different locations, whether that’s different clubs across one country, or different gyms around the world.
Why do the U.S. juniors seem to be stronger than the seniors?
Mostly because the senior field in the post-Olympic year is always decimated. The juniors kept training straight through the last Olympic Games because those Games had nothing to do with them, whereas a good chunk of the seniors fell off between last year and this year. When a team loses 15+ gymnasts at the senior level, obviously it’s going to decrease depth, and it makes the junior depth and strength at the top look much greater, but the juniors lost only the handful of gymnasts who moved up into the senior ranks, not a whole quad’s worth of athletes. These juniors have to be super strong right now because they’re the next generation getting ready to rise up.
Are there rules regarding where the arms must be on a stuck landing or is it a stylistic choice?
There are no rules…it basically just has to be something that makes sense for what you’re doing during that skill in terms of showing control. On floor, most tend to stick with their arms up kind of like a salute, but it wouldn’t be wrong to stick with arms down or to the side, and some gymnasts who stick a skill might have arm choreo out of that stick, especially on beam or if they go into a jump or leap on floor. The only time it would be a deduction is really when the gymnast is showing a lack of control, like they wobble their arms around to help keep their balance on beam or they throw their arms forward to stop momentum or something.
Are gymnasts required to perform a turn on floor exercise? If not, why does every gymnast do one?
A full turn on floor is not part of the composition requirements (CR) and so a gymnast who doesn’t do one won’t lose 0.5 from the CR part of the D score. However, they would get a composition deduction as part of the execution score, because part of the structure/composition of floor includes “a rich and varied selection of elements from different structure groups in the table of elements.” The different groups include leaps/jumps/hops, turns, hand support elements, sideways/forward saltos, and backward saltos. A routine that completely ignores the turns group would definitely see a composition deduction, so given that a full turn is relatively simple for even the weakest dancers, it would be silly to just not do a turn and potentially get a large deduction for weak composition.
Will Ericha Fassbender still be part of Florida’s team?
No, she is no longer part of the team.
What is a good coach to gymnast ratio in elite?
I’d say for one coach, three or four is probably a good limit? Two or three per coach is probably best, but it depends how much support the coaches have. For instance, a head coach might have six elites, which seems crazy, but there are probably at least two assistants behind the scenes that you may not see or realize is around helping out.
Do you ever imagine how it would have been like for UCLA to have both Simone Biles and Jordyn Wieber on their roster?
All the time. Drool.
Why do some gymnasts wear wristbands on their feet/heels during practice?
Usually when I see this it’s for bars so they can help protect their feet from when they inevitably smash them against the low bar while they’re swinging on the high bar. They also use elbow/knee pads.
Would it be valued highly on floor if someone were to compete two big skills with back handsprings in between, like power tumbling?
The issue would mostly be a lack of space, but also, if someone could manage to physically do two sets of roundoff back handsprings into two big skills, indirect connections like that aren’t really super worth it? A roundoff + back handspring + double arabian + roundoff + back handspring + double pike would be A + A + E + A + A + D, so they’d get the 0.1 for the A + A + E and another 0.1 from the A + A + D, but that E + A to connect the two would be 0.2 so doing those two passes combined is worth only 0.2 more than doing them apart, which totally isn’t worth killing yourself for. If you instead did the roundoff + back handspring + double arabian into a punch front tuck and then later the roundoff + back handspring + double pike, you’d get the same value as doing the two combined, and you also wouldn’t die/run completely off the floor mat into the stands.
Why wasn’t Jade Carey discovered sooner? If she was good enough for elite, why not do it earlier?
Many gymnasts don’t reach a high level early on. Jade was a pretty weak level 9, and didn’t even make level 10 until she was almost 15. Most top elites are level 10 by the time they’re 10 or 11, and at 15, they’ve already been elite for several years. In her first year in level 10, Jade began to really stand out on vault and floor, but struggled as an all-arounder and didn’t make nationals. But I think her coach/father realized how talented she was on her two strong events, and so he started working with her on developing big skills, and then as her confidence grew at that level, she was able to compete well at the national level.
It took her until age 16 to get to this point, which is a super late bloomer in the sport of gymnastics, but it’s also great because most girls who are at a super high level at 12 or 13 end up burning out by the time they get to the senior level, whereas Jade is already pretty much grown physically, and can both physically and mentally handle a high level of gymnastics better than a younger girl would. Her dad was really smart for realizing that her strength on vault as a level 10 gymnast last year could be beneficial to the U.S. team this year, and so they continued to fine-tune her skills there and on floor, and despite her having zero elite-level experience or really any elite path focus at all, the national team staff saw how valuable she could be, and bam, she’s at national team camps.
It’s a pretty rare path and I wouldn’t recommend it to most girls who want to be elite. With Jade, it was all about being in the right place at the right time, happening to find herself and her strengths just when the U.S. team happened to need those strengths.
Do you know why Jordyn Wieber decided not to pursue the Olympics in 2016? Had she been healthy, do you think she would’ve done better in the Olympic year? Could she have qualified to the all-around?
She basically just didn’t want to. She no longer had the passion to be in the gym training at a high level, which can be very lonely and obviously a crap ton of work for four straight years with the next Olympic Games not a guarantee. She gave it a shot in 2013, but realized she no longer wanted to do it, and wanted to move on to college like a ‘normal’ kid her age. The thing about Jordyn is that aside from being one of the best gymnasts in the world, she also grew up in a family that made sure she got to experience ‘normal’ life by going to a regular high school, spending time with friends, etc. For some kids, elite is everything, but Jordyn knew what else was out there and when she knew it was time to end her elite career, she knew there was more out there for her that she’d rather be doing. Very smart on her part, rather than forcing herself through another brutal few years only to have the Olympics as a ‘maybe’ and then have to start college at 21 or 22 when most of her peers were finishing it.
Whether or not Jordyn was healthier in 2012, she absolutely had a shot at qualifying to the all-around. Her not making it had more to do with the all-around depth on the U.S. team than anything she could have done better. An injury didn’t help, obviously, but she was still performing at about her strongest aside from a few small mistakes that everyone had. She had a poorly-constructed beam routine that didn’t get everything credited, and she had teammates who were so close to her in terms of their own all-around scores, it could’ve gone either way in London and the way it ended up was totally out of her hands.
What happened with the judging on Jordan Chiles’ beam routine at nationals?
I believe they credited her with a wolf turn and a triple turn, and then deducted her for a wobble at the end of the triple turn. I’m not sure whether or not they were given a connection value but yeah, basically, she turned a big mistake into a difficulty bonus which is hilarious and awesome.
Do judges deduct for incomplete triple twists into punch front elements?
I think they can (and usually do) deduct for the triple being short, but in the new code, they can no longer devalue those skills if they go into a punch front, which I think is kind of silly? Like, if a triple full is a quarter short and still gets credited as a triple because it has a punch front out of it, but a triple full just a few degrees short doesn’t get credited, I think that’s kind of bizarre and it encourages dangerous skill chucking out of scary triples.
Why do so many female gymnasts cross their feet in twists on floor, but not men?
Crossing feet helps with the aerodynamics of a skill while twisting, so gymnasts who struggle getting a skill around because they lack the power or height or torque will end up crossing their feet to help them along. That’s why you usually see the messy legs on bigger twisting skills, like triples on floor for women, but the same gymnasts won’t have those problems on simpler doubles. Because men generally have more power, you won’t see them need to cross their feet/legs on twists, and the same goes for the stronger of the women. But then men doing the crazier twisting skills — like Kenzo Shirai — also will cross their legs on occasion if they feel they need that to get around.
Do you think Gabby Perea would’ve been a top contender for the national title this year if she hadn’t been injured?
Yup. She, Maile O’Keefe, and Emma Malabuyo all would’ve gone head to head and definitely would’ve filled out the podium as the top juniors in the country.
What is the top women’s elite club in the U.S. at the moment?
It depends. There’s no one club that’s like, reigning supreme at every level. There are multiple top clubs that fulfill different needs for different gymnasts. I’d say Texas Dreams is a top club based on its ability to have a constant stream of strong elites at the junior and senior levels. That’s super hard to do, maintaining a large group over a long period of time, but they seem to always have something in the works. Plus, they have the senior national champion and the junior silver medalist this year, which is crazy. I’m also really into Everest right now as a really strong club, WOGA continues to be strong despite several coaching changes in the past few years, and then clubs like GAGE and Parkettes and CGA that have been around for decades and are still going strong, even if they don’t always have world or Olympic team members.
Is there a website where the average fan could purchase videos from past competitions?
I don’t know of any where videos can be purchased, but just go to the USA Gymnastics youtube channel. They have literally dozens upon dozens of old meets up as full broadcasts.
Why do China’s seniors usually fizzle out after three or four years?
Most tend to just retire once they’ve reached a goal and then realize they won’t be able to make teams anymore because they want to move on to university and careers, and it’s not like the U.S. or other countries where they can have lives outside of the gym as there are no real high-level training centers outside of the provincial and national team gyms. There aren’t any club gyms in China, so they can’t really go to college all day and then go to practice after. Their life is either gymnastics or not gymnastics. If they stay with gymnastics after just a few years as a senior, it’s because they’re going to continue making teams. Otherwise, they tend to just move on.
Do you know if Rebecca Tunney got injured again before she decided to retire, as she was on the roster for a world cup but replaced shortly after?
I don’t think she was injured (not a career or season-ending injury, anyway). I think she just wasn’t at the level she was hoping to be at in time for that world cup, and decided she wanted to retire.
Which pre-open-ended code gymnasts do you think could have achieved difficulty required to be successful in the open-ended code?
Lots! Lilia Podkopayeva, Simona Amanar, Svetlana Khorkina, these are the first three who came to mind, but really, there are dozens I think could’ve made the transition to an open-ended code.
Who will the new U.S. seniors be next year?
Gabby Perea, Maile O’Keefe, and Emma Malabuyo are the big ones, and others who made an impression at the elite level turning senior next year include Adeline Kenlin, Olivia Dunne, Kara Eaker, Audrey Davis, Grace McCallum, and Shilese Jones. Others who competed elite this year who will also turn 16 next year include Cael Bixler, Sloane Blakely, Corinne Bunagan, Brooke Butler, Jaylene Gilstrap, Olivia Hollingsworth, Madeleine Johnston, Carina Jordan, Emily Lee, Deiah-Marie Moody, Tienna Nguyen, and Madelyn Williams.
The double double and the full-twisting double layout are both rated H. Do you think one is easier than the other?
It depends on the gymnast. Gymnasts who don’t twist as quickly but who are powerful could probably have a better time with the full-twisting double layout, but gymnasts who struggle to maintain a stretched body position in a skill or who twist quickly but don’t get the height needed for a double layout with a twist would be better doing a double double. Some gymnasts also find one twist per flip mentally easier than one twist happening over two flips, whether a full-in, full-out, or half-and-half.
Is there one Olympic WAG team that stands out to you as being closest in terms of friendship?
I think the 2012 and 2016 teams both seemed really close at the time they were competing, even if they’re not all BFFs right at this moment. In 2012, the girls on that team were the first generation to fully come up through the new camp system having been in place, and I think they benefitted from that bond better than other teams in the past. Even for the 2008 team, despite having been around for the entirety of the camp’s existence, it wasn’t as set-in-stone as it had been at the beginning, and there was still this feeling of like, individual competition comes first, and the team comes second. I think the biggest changes made over the years were about having a team mentality, and now for literally every gymnast, the team is the number one thing they fight for. That makes for a much stronger feeling of ‘friendship’ and togetherness.
What is the tie-breaking procedure for world cup rankings which award one Olympic spot per event and one Olympic all-around spot for the top country? For example, in 2017, the U.S. and Germany tied in the all-around.
I’m not sure…I didn’t see it in any of the rules. It could just be that they’ll go by scores or something like that? That’s my guess. If two countries tie for the third spot based on points, they’ll probably total the all-around scores from the meets and whoever has the highest combined gets the spot…I can’t think of any other way they’d go about it.
Do you think McKayla Maroney would’ve competed the Yurchenko triple if she had continued gymnastics?
I know she wanted to. It’s possible we would’ve seen her go for it, but knowing Martha Karolyi, it only would’ve happened if the vault was super consistent and polished. If it looked like Hong Un Jong’s did last summer, I highly doubt Martha would’ve let her go for it in competition, whether domestic or international. I could see if it looked okay in training maybe letting her do it for one day at classics or something, but yeah, if she had it down as a strong vault option, there’s no reason why she wouldn’t have competed it.
What are people referring to when they say gymnastics was a ‘disaster’ in the U.S. in 2000? Was there just a lack of depth or talent?
I think ‘disaster’ refers to the general atmosphere. There wasn’t really a lack of talent or depth, but rather a horrible environment that the girls trained in when coming together as a team. The ranch was in its early stages but there was no cohesion, and no coming together for a common goal; instead, it was a bunch of coaches with egos competing against each other which made it super hard for anything productive to happen. It was a tense and unsupportive environment for the gymnasts going into Sydney, and so the gymnasts made lots of mistakes, which was too bad, but the one good thing to come out of it was that people finally realized things needed to change.
Are Leanne Wong and Kara Eaker committed to colleges yet?
Do you think the new qualification rules for Tokyo will make world cups more popular?
I don’t think there will be too much of a change for the apparatus world cups, because only the overall series winner for each event gets a spot, which amounts to four spots for the women. These will basically be a last-ditch effort for those who missed out on an all-around spot at worlds, and so while we may see a few more than usual, the only gymnasts who will earn spots this way are ones that actually have the D and E to win their events. I think the all-around world cups will become more popular in that countries who get invites will want to start sending their stronger gymnasts instead of sending B or C team girls or just ignoring their invitations completely, and so something like the American Cup will actually be more competitive and more fun to watch.
Why do gymnasts do double turns with the leg below horizontal on floor? Wouldn’t the extra turn invite more deductions?
Generally it’s so they can link turns. If you see a double turn that’s not linked, it’s most likely because it was meant to be linked but it didn’t end up happening. It could also be that full turns are relatively easy on floor, and so a gymnast who is strong at turning and wants to add a little something extra into her routine will just do a double because it works for her choreography, she looks better doing it, or whatever other reason she might have. Like, fouettés have basically zero value on floor, but occasionally a gymnast will do a series of fouettés anyway because it adds a little something extra.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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