You Asked, The Gymternet Answered


It’s time for the 186th 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.

Simone Biles said she and Aimee Boorman struggled through compulsories. That seems weird, since she has great basics. Do you think the compulsories in her years just didn’t play to her strengths?

I think having strong basics and being successful at compulsories don’t always go hand in hand, and also, Simone wasn’t always the gymnast she later became as a senior elite. She definitely struggled with lots of form issues as a younger gymnast, and while the compulsory skills are relatively easy, it could’ve been little things like being short on leaps, falling off beam, hopping on floor, etc. Also, things like ‘basics’ are like…good handstands and correct technique like straight arms on bars and legs together in tucks. Compulsory skills are easier than elite routines, but they’re still a bit beyond just the basics. It’s possible to have entirely strong basics, but still struggle with compulsory skills, especially if you’re nervous when you go to test compulsory.

I’ve heard people say gymnasts from smaller programs could make more of an impact internationally if they had better equipment/training conditions. How much impact can these factors really have?

I mean, I think it has more to do with the lack of strong coaches than the equipment itself, but for someone like Yamilet Peña who was training vault onto a mat with holes in it, or girls in Bolivia who have an open-air facility that makes the equipment basically soggy due to the humidity, it can be difficult to train difficult skills because it’s easy to get very badly injured on old equipment that’s falling apart and otherwise unsafe. If you’re trying to train a Yurchenko vault but you’re more concerned with trying to land on a safe part of the mat than with trying to get the vault around, it can be a major distraction when it comes to learning skills.

I heard that Sanne Wevers got to keep the beam after winning gold. Is that true that the event winners can keep the equipment?

Sometimes they do, yes. They probably have to inquire into whether they can do it or not but I’m sure there’s a way to go about trying to get that equipment if the gymnast who won gold really wants it.

Would Shawn Johnson have made the Olympic team had she not been injured?

I don’t think so. Obviously having a knee injury doesn’t help, but you could see in how she competed in 2011 that there was more to her not looking at her best than just fighting through a knee injury. Her bigger problem was that she grew a lot and had to come back and basically relearn all of her old skills with a new body after not training for two years. A knee injury would definitely hinder her coming back on power events, but on its own, it wouldn’t change the overall quality of her skills the way an extended break and a major growth spurt would.

Do you think there is a possibility of someone from the Canadian team upping the ante and pulling out a medal at worlds this year?

(I answered this before worlds/before Brooklyn Moors was given an all-around spot, but it was still in the queue until now, so I’m just going to leave my original answer since some of it was super prescient and it’s fun to see what I thought compared to what actually happened!)

I think Ellie Black could most realistically make it happen in the all-around. With a fully hit day, she’d be capable of matching most of the top all-arounders, and then if any of those gymnasts have mistakes — as always tends to happen — she could absolutely sneak in to make the podium. As for the others, Shallon Olsen won’t have a shot at a vault medal unless she upgrades back to the Amanar, but she should still somewhat easily make the final if she hits, and I’m really hoping Brooklyn Moors makes the floor final because her floor has it all. Isabela Onyshko apparently looked incredible at camp, so she’ll absolutely be in the all-around final and could also make the beam final but beam medals are always the trickiest so it’s hard to say if she’d be a contender. It really depends on what everyone else around her does, as long as she hits.

Do you make any money off this blog? You seem to be very popular in the gymnastics community, and you spend a ton of time writing these posts.

I make some money from ads and from supporters on Patreon, which basically funds my trips to cover meets! I spend a ton of time doing it, it’s like a second full-time job for me, but I have fun doing it so it’s all worth it.

Why does Shallon Olsen always have low E scores on floor? 

It’s just because her execution is generally pretty rough. She has a lot of difficulty, but her form overall is pretty loose and needs some attention (in both her tumbling and on things like leaps) before she’ll start regularly reaching the low to mid 8s. Her routine at worlds was great, though! Lots of improvement but still not enough to be super impressive.

How did Maria Paseka beat Simone Biles on vault in 2015? Her vaults were a mess?

Higher difficulty. It’s that simple. Maria and Simone both had Amanars, but Maria’s second vault was a Cheng and Simone’s second vault was a Lopez, giving Maria almost a point higher in difficulty than Simone, which Simone had to make up in E score. Simone’s E scores were sometimes strong enough, as she did lead ahead of Maria in qualifications despite having a 0.8 disadvantage, but Maria just ended up having some of her best vaults in finals so even though they still weren’t great, her average ended up about a tenth higher than Simone’s average. It’s almost impossible for most gymnasts to be at a difficulty disadvantage that wide and still come close to winning, so the fact that Simone was only about a tenth back is insane. It was similar with Maria and Jade Carey this year. Jade is clearly the stronger vaulter, but Maria had those extra four tenths in difficulty that put her over the top. When you’re so close, those tenths really make a huge difference.

What new skills do you think will end up in the code this quad?

This year we got the Ricna half, a double Y turn on beam, a Zuchold half, a stalder front tuck half dismount, an L grip to half-in double back…and Rebeca Andrade was planning on competing the double tuck full-in half-out but ended up being injured and unable to attempt it. I hope later this quad we finally get the Yurchenko triple and the handspring layout double full, and I’d also like to see a front triple full on floor, but don’t know how realistic that is.

Shallon Olsen did a last-minute submission of the Yurchenko triple at worlds but ended up not competing it. I also know of a gymnast who is training a double front full-out so I can’t wait to see if she can land that, because that’ll be awesome, and in the same vein I’d also love a double front pike half, and a layout double front, which probably will NOT happen but a girl can dream. What else…a double double beam dismount, a switch full on beam…these are turning more into my dream skills than skills I THINK will go into the code. 🙂

How many American women have competed in multiple Olympic Games?

Marion Barone (1948, 1952)
Kim Chace (1972, 1976)
Amy Chow (1996, 2000)
Dominique Dawes (1992, 1996, 2000)
Gabby Douglas (2012, 2016)
Doris Fuchs (1956, 1960)
Dorothy Dalton (1948, 1952)
Meta Elste (1948, 1952)
Muriel Grossfeld (1956, 1960, 1964)
Kathy Johnson (1980, 1984)*
Clara Lomady (1948, 1952)
Julianne McNamara (1980, 1984)*
Linda Metheny (1964, 1968, 1972)
Shannon Miller (1992, 1996)
Aly Raisman (2012, 2016)
Cathy Rigby (1968, 1972)
Kerri Strug (1992, 1996)
Tracee Talavera (1980, 1984)

*Even though the U.S. didn’t end up competing at the 1980 Olympics, they were expected to compete and had a team ready to go, so the members of that team are still recognized as members of the Olympic team even if they didn’t actually go to the Olympic Games.

I noticed a forward giant actually goes backwards and a backwards giant goes forward, in the direction the gymnast is looking. Who is responsible for naming these, and why are they mixed up?

Haha, this is a common misconception, and I didn’t really get it until I actually thought about it and the motion of the swing! It looks like giants go in the direction the gymnast is ‘facing’ but it’s actually the swing that would lead to forward or backward elements, if that makes sense?

It’s hard for me to explain. Like when a gymnast is doing ‘backwards’ giants, if she swings up over the bar, lets go, and continues flipping in that direction, she’d be doing back flips, whereas in a ‘front’ giant, if she swung up over the bar and continued flipping in that direction, she’d be doing front flips. Does this make sense visually?

It’s easier to picture with men’s high bar skills since they actually flip over the bar…so for a Kovacs (which is a back tuck over the high bar), they swing from a backward swing, release, back flip, and then catch. But for a Gaylord (a front flip over the high bar), they swing forward, release, front flip, and then catch in reverse grip. So it’s more about the direction of the momentum when they release than about which way their face is looking during the swing.

If the U.S. worlds team had been allowed to have juniors, do you think the team would’ve been different?

I think it would’ve depended on how things looked at the camp…I could see Maile O’Keefe and Emma Malabuyo both making pushes for the team, and I think Maile definitely would’ve made it, though Emma is kind of a maybe due to her consistency on beam…with Morgan Hurd looking the way she did at camp, I think it would’ve been a tough call for that second all-around spot after Ragan Smith, though I’m wondering if they would’ve taken Ragan’s nationals win into account at that point if she wasn’t looking as ready as the others at the camp?

Like, if the all-around spot was between those four and Morgan and Maile ended up having the best finishes, even though Ragan was the national champion, I think they might have overlooked her for a team spot, which would’ve been crazy! It’s never so tight that the national champion is at risk for not going to worlds but this year, had Maile and Emma been eligible and with Morgan coming out on top of Ragan at camp, it’s entirely possible that this could’ve happened. I don’t think the specialists spots would’ve changed, unless Gabby Perea was fully healthy because she legitimately could’ve won a bars medal, rendering Ashton Locklear kind of pointless in that sense. But Jade Carey definitely would’ve gone.

Do you know what happened to Madison Preston?

She had an injury and opted to medically retire rather than continuing. I think she’s still working with the team in a different capacity (like, volunteer coaching or moving mats or whatever the billions of UCLA team helpers do!) so that’s good that she doesn’t have to leave her team behind entirely.

What would have happened at worlds if Morgan Hurd hadn’t fallen in floor qualifications but had been two-per-country’ed out of the final? Would she have been let into the final after Ragan pulled out? How do you think she would have stacked up?

If she didn’t fall and got two-per-country’ed out, once Ragan had to withdraw due to injury, she’s no longer two-per-country’ed out, and Ragan’s spot would’ve gone to her rather than to the first reserve. With a pretty much fully hit routine, Morgan scored a 13.733 in the all-around final, so she would’ve been close to the podium in the floor final, but if Mai Murakami, Jade Carey, and Claudia Fragapane all hit the way they did, Morgan probably would’ve finished somewhere around fourth or fifth depending on how well she did. I think she would’ve needed mistakes from Claudia to challenge for the bronze.

Why do Ricnas and Rays get way more height than normal Tkachevs? Or is that just me?

I think generally because the gymnasts doing more complicated Tkachev variations tend to be stronger gymnasts in general, it creates a sort of correlation between more difficult variations getting more height than easier simple Tkachevs performed by weaker gymnasts? Like a gymnast with a low butt-scraper of a Tkachev probably isn’t going to opt for a Ray or Ricna when she can barely get it over the bar from a giant, but gymnasts with huge Tkachevs and the ability to upgrade the entry are likely going to have big toe-on or stalder Tkachevs as well.

Why isn’t the roundoff half-on layout front full named after Aliya Mustafina?

I never remember what happened in this scenario because I’m pretty sure she competed the vault successfully in 2010? But as I remember, Tatiana Nabieva was also competing and submitting this vault, in which case had they both done it, neither could get it named. I’m pretty sure both Aliya and Tatiana got their vaults downgraded to pikes in the final, in which case neither would have done it ‘successfully,’ but I’m also pretty sure Aliya got hers successfully credited in qualifications, while Tatiana did not, in which case the vault technically belongs to Aliya? I still call it the Mustafina personally.

What is the Yurchenko double back valued at?

It doesn’t currently have a value in the women’s code of points, but because it’s two flips rather than one, the jump up from the Yurchenko back tuck would be significant, I’d imagine. If a handspring front tuck has a 4.0 D score and a handspring double front is a 6.4, then we can guess that since a Yurchenko back tuck has a 3.3 D score, we could expect it to be around a 5.8-6.0, but given how physically impossible/risky it is, I could see it going up a tiny bit more than that. Not higher than the Produnova, but maybe a 6.2 max?

What does non-traveling alternate mean? Would they have flown Jordan Chiles in last-minute if she was needed? Is this the norm for worlds that are further than Montreal as well?

In individual worlds, the alternate is generally “non-traveling” because they can’t really be substituted in unless it’s like, right before qualifications, and at that point, if you do have an injury just prior to qualifications, your alternate might not be the right person to take that injured athlete’s spot. Alternates can only substitute in qualifications and in team finals, so at an individual meet, alternates are mostly irrelevant, since you don’t need a replacement to still go on with the competition. And if someone like Ashton Locklear got injured prior to qualifications, having Jordan there to substitute her on events she wouldn’t have factored into as a contender wouldn’t have really been worth it. I think had Ragan Smith been injured prior to qualifications, they likely would have flown Jordan in…like at Euros this year when Georgia-Mae Fenton got injured prior to qualifications and they flew in Alice Kinsella. But generally alternates for individual meets are just kind of a formality.

Why do some of the Russian gymnasts end up competing for Uzbekistan? Is it a coincidence that they all have dual citizenship there?

I don’t think a ton of Russian gymnasts end up in Uzbekistan specifically, though there is a lot of transition from Russia to former Soviet states in general because even though the Soviet Union is long gone, there are still many connections between them. With Uzbekistan specifically, Oksana Chusovitina competes for them because she is Uzbek and with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan became her home. Daria Elizarova wasn’t Uzbek but was able to get her nationality changed and represent the country for a little bit.

The two biggest countries that take on ex-Russian gymnasts right now actually seem to be Azerbaijan and Georgia, though, with Georgia doing some great recruiting as of late, getting Julia Rumbutis from Sweden last quad, and this quad, they’ve nabbed Polina Borzykh, Anna Subbotina, Maria Butskikh, and 2014 world vault finalist Alla Sosnitskaya from Russia as well as the Georgian-born Lali Dekanoidze, who lives and trains in the United States where she is a really strong level 10 (and she was fabulous at EYOF this summer!).

Can I propose that we have “hedgehog” as a nickname for Eremina because of what happens when you put her name into Google Images?

Hahaha the first time I googled Elena for a photo on a post featuring her, it was all hedgehogs and I was like what is happening, I LOVE IT. We should definitely call her hedgehog.

Are the ‘Americas’ grouped together for the continental championships in 2020? Why aren’t they split into North and South America?

Basically because it wouldn’t make any sense to have a “North American Championships” when there are roughly two countries that are internationally competitive at the highest levels, which isn’t fair when you consider how many European nations are represented at their continental meets. Combining North and South America makes the event more competitive, leading to a higher level of talent that can qualify into the Olympic Games. The Pan American Gymnastics Union has always combined both Americas, and even combined, Pan Ams are generally far weaker as a continental meet than Euros.

If the two continents were separate, it would be even more unfair when the continental meets in Europe and Asia would have really tough competition to earn spots whereas the two American continental meets would have a far lower threshold. I actually think they should throw Australia and New Zealand into the Asian Championships continental meet, because they’re literally the only two countries in Oceania with gymnastics programs. I’d imagine the continental qualification allowance doesn’t apply to them (will have to double check on this) but in that case, it’s unfair that they’d be left out, so they definitely should get to join Asia.

It’s also probably important to note that this isn’t just for gymnastics…it’s for all sports! That’s why the Olympics have five rings — Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and…the Americas. Any continental qualifier for the Olympics has Pan American competition, not just gymnastics, because that’s just how the organization is set up.

Why did Canada have Brooklyn Moors do the all-around instead of Isabela Onyshko?

Isabela was dealing with a strained muscle and didn’t really feel fully prepared, which was too bad, because she apparently looked really strong at the camp in July, which is why she got a spot on the team to begin with. But Brooklyn did a fantastic job as her replacement, finishing much stronger than she has been so far this season! I can’t wait until she continues to gain confidence on beam and gets more numbers in with her big handspring front full vault upgrade…she’s going to be such a star for Canada.

The mood of the arena at worlds was so dramatic with the lighting and the crowd all dark. It gives such a different vibe as a spectator and I would imagine for the gymnasts as well. Do you have any idea why this might be?

I think the organizers must have really liked how the Glasgow organizers set things up in 2015, where the competition was more theatrical than sporting event. I prefer the typical sporting event setup, especially when the organizers get a bit too crazy with things like lighting and other aspects that can truly affect how the gymnasts compete. Some had problems with the lighting in Montreal, others said they barely noticed it, and lighting wasn’t really the cause of the injuries (that was the hard mats in the training halls as well as the landing mats in the arena) but it was still really difficult to deal with for many in a competitive environment, so it should’ve been fixed the first time an athlete complained (like at one of the world cups earlier this year where the lighting was super dark on the first day but then after complaints that no one could see the apparatus, they fixed it). I guess they choose to style a competition a certain way based on an aesthetic they want, and it’s definitely cool to have fire and crazy lights I guess…but athlete safety should always come first.

What if gymnasts who fell during an individual event final weren’t allowed to medal, no matter their score?

I mean, in theory it sounds okay, but logistically it could lead to issues especially because there are some routines that are incredible aside from a single fall, and there are other routines with no falls but that are so otherwise messy and rough that they’re actually not better than the routine with the fall. Falls are clearly the largest mistake which is why they’re worth the most, but a single fall doesn’t negate the other good work an athlete has done on an event. There were some hit beam routines at worlds that got scores in the low 6 range because even without falls they were SO bad, and there were routines with falls that got around a 7 because aside from the fall, they were generally strong. I don’t think one large mistake should be so detrimental that it takes someone out of the podium race while literally dozens of not-as-large mistakes are forgiven.

Do you know what Kenzo Shirai says as he salutes before each routine?

I don’t! I’ve never really seen him say anything (I haven’t really been close enough to see his face haha) but even if I could see, I don’t speak Japanese so I don’t think I’d get it either way. Maybe someone can help us out in the comment section

Why wasn’t Alyona Shchennikova selected to go to worlds after she won the U.S. Classic? Do you think leaving her out was justified?

Yes, it was justified. The U.S. Classic has never determined a worlds team, especially one in which none of the top all-arounders are competing (or competing at full strength). There’s a reason she won that meet but then placed eighth all-around at nationals, when all of the top girls were closer to full strength. Generally, most top gymnasts are below 75% prepared at Classics, somewhere around 80-85% prepared at nationals, and then closer to 100% by the time they get to the worlds selection camp and worlds. Alyona, meanwhile, was basically at 100% at Classics while everyone else was still at 75%, so it was cool to see her win, but it was just bad timing/peaking for the season.

You don’t want to be ready at the end of July. You want to be ready at the end of September. Those two months make a world of difference, and if we were judging Morgan Hurd on her Classics or nationals performance, when she was at just 75%, she wouldn’t have made the team. Instead, the team is selected as close to worlds as possible, so someone like Morgan who didn’t seem ready two months out ends up being the most ready the week prior to worlds. Had Alyona shown she was one of the top at camp, she would’ve been on the team.

How can a WAG gymnast get the Yurchenko triple named if it’s already being performed in MAG?

Generally skills are named for the originating men and women. Many skills from prior to the 90s still are known by the men’s name only for the most part (like the Tkachev) with the Yurchenko the one women’s skill name that has kind of carried over to the men’s side, but with many skills in the past two decades, both men and women get it named.

The Yurchenko 2.5 was first competed in Sydney 2000 for both the men and women, for example, and so it’s named the Amanar for women and the Shewfelt for men. But with many other skills on vault, floor, and bars/high bar, the men tend to get it first and then the women get it later on…like the handspring double front, which was named for jorge Roche in 1980, and then also named for Elena Produnova on the women’s side in 1999. Even though Kenzo Shirai was the first to successfully compete the Yurchenko triple and get it named, when a woman finally does it, it’ll also get named for her.

You also have to remember that men’s and women’s gymnastics are two disciplines of gymnastics with separate technical committees and a separate code of points. Some more broad terms cross multiple disciplines of gymnastics, like leaps that share names between rhythmic and women’s artistic (a ring leap is common to both), tumbling elements that share names between tumbling, trampoline, and MAG/WAG (a barani is always a front half no matter what discipline you’re doing), but for the most part when considering getting skills named, MAG and WAG are literally not the same thing, which is why the same skills done will get different values and names between the two.

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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26 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. I think the Aliya/Nabieva vault scenario might no longer be a problem considering that Mae Fenton and Derwael both got the Ricna half named for them.


  2. I’ve read that Kenzo Shirai appears to be saying “Hai, ikimasu” before he starts his routine. I think it translates roughly to “OK, I’m going now” or “Here I go”. Might be incorrect, since it was based on lip-reading a YouTube video, but it makes sense as a personal ritual before he performs.


  3. For the forward vs backward swing question, similar to your answer, but I once read an explanation that helped me. (I can’t remember where.) It basically said imagine the bar isn’t there, and then what type of “flip” would that be? If it looks like a back layout, it’s a back giant, front layout, front giant.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I sent in the giant question. Thanks for the explanation. I can understand why they chose to name it that, but it seems very dumb to me. A giant is an entirely different skill from a Gaylord or a Tkatchev or any other release, so I don’t think one element should be named after another element that comes after it, particularly because flipping skills don’t always follow giants.


        • No, but that’s not what we’re talking about — we’re talking about the direction of the giant itself. It’s not named after the direction of a flip, it’s named after the direction in which the swing goes. I used the Gaylord and Kovacs releases to show you the directions in which the momentum of the giants is going. Regardless of whether there’s a flip or not coming out of the swing, the direction of a backwards giant is still backwards, and the direction of a front giant is still forward, even if it looks reverse based on how their faces are looking. The giants aren’t named after elements that come after them, that was just me trying to help you visualize the actual direction they go in.


  4. For what Kenzo says, I know many of the Japanese competitors, both male and female, say “Hai” as they salute. Technically it means “Yes”, but is used as a form of “Yes, I’m here”, acknowledgement. I know during school role calls, students will use it as a response to their name being called. From some of the videos I’ve found, I’d say he says that every routine. However, he’s also saying something else. In the floor fx routine in Cottbus in 2015, it looks like he may be saying “Ikamas” afterwards (may have the wrong form of the verb here), which is literally “I go.” According to my husband, who knows more Japanese than I do, it’s used like “I’m going.” At the Montreal floor final, it also looks like he says something before the “hai”. That I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a mess it would hv been I f mallie and emma were also in the selection for worlds for a worlds w team final that would be ok I guess?

    What would next yr worlds team look like? 5 total? Hoes the specialists role will figure in?

    Liked by 1 person

      • I think next years worlds will be crazy, all the best juniors around the world are all senior next year with the exception of Astafyeva, Klimenko (RUS), the Italians and Sunisa Lee. For the US everyone’s expecting Mailie and Emma for AA with Simone assumed to come back next year and get the top slot. I don’t see Perea making it just because of so many injuries so quickly, and a growth spurt just about due to happen. McCusker might come back at full strength next year, Ashton can squeeze in if she gets her in Bars and more consistency on Beam. I think Ragan and Morgan can push into the AA past Mailie and Emma if they’re healthy, and that would really mess up the specialist spots. I also think people are sleeping hard on Olivia Dunne, Dunne is so strong, I really think she could put herself as one of the leading us women.


    • YEP hahaha. With some I’m like HOW on earth do you even clear the bar!? Some come dangerously close to actually hitting the bar and I’m like eeeeeeek maybe try a new release haha.


  6. I thought I saw Jordan Chiles at Worlds during the qualifications round on the floor helping out with the girls. I am almost positive that was her in the video. Can you confirm?


    • No, she definitely wasn’t there…maybe it was Ashton? Even if Jordan was physically in Montreal (which she wasn’t), she wouldn’t be allowed on the floor as an alternate.


  7. Hmm, it’s not letting me click to reply directly to you, Lauren.

    So I just went back and rewatched Dominique Moceanu’s fall off bars at 1995 nationals about five times, and I see what you’re saying now. I still think I wouldn’t have named them like that, though. :p


    • Hahaha I know it’s confusing. Trust me! I was like “this makes no sense” for quite some time. But yeah, it does *technically* make sense even if it’s not all that clear to the naked eye.


  8. Hi Lauren,

    Love your site. Would it be possible to put the name of the gymnast underneath their picture at the top of your articles? I often find myself wondering who they are, especially if they aren’t from the more well known countries. Thank you!


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