You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Kunstturnen

Madison Kocian with coach Laurent Landi

It’s time for the 188th 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.

Is it true that Laurent and Cecile Landi are leaving WOGA to join the coaching staff at World Champions Centre? What will happen with the WOGA program?

Laurent and Cecile actually left WOGA at the start of the summer. They were looking for a new opportunity, so they left their jobs there and spent the summer exploring openings at other gyms. WOGA has always had a ton of level 10/elite coaches, including Tatyana Shadenko, Janelle McDonald, Ludmila Grebenkova, Ryan Roberts…I definitely saw a number of these at classics this summer (the Landis had already left WOGA prior to this summer’s meets). They have already moved on using these coaches to head their women’s program. As the Landis left WOGA, the girl’s head coach at WCC left, so in addition to Simone Biles needing a coach, the WCC women’s program head coach spot was open, and it was kind of kismet that the Landis were looking just as WCC was looking to hire.

Do you think the lighting in Montreal was the cause of many of the injuries?

I don’t think the lighting on its own contributed to injuries since most of the injuries weren’t spotting-related or sight-related. The lighting makes it super hard to see things like the beam or the bar especially when the mats are of a similar color, which is why I think the U.S. prefers their blue mats…I remember at the test event even without rough lighting, Houry Gebeshian said she could barely see the beam differentiated from the mats below which made it hard to hit. Since the equipment was also the same color as the mats in Montreal, that could definitely be the cause of some uncharacteristic mistakes or falls, especially with the guys on high bar, where several of them missed relatively easy Tkachev skills.

But the lights were kind of on a person-to-person basis in terms of how annoying they were, and many who struggled with them still were able to adjust and hit routines. And other gymnasts, maybe those used to training in conditions where the lighting is also horrible, said it didn’t bother them at all. I know for me, I was sitting along the sidelines by bars so any time I looked up, my eyes got blasted by the lights above the beam and I could barely see…but after a day or two I didn’t notice it anymore.

I can’t think of any falls that resulted in injuries that would’ve been related to the lights, except maybe a couple of those on high bar (Andrei Groza, Ruben Lopez). Most of the injuries were lower limb injuries that seemed more a result of the repeated landings on hard mats. Even with the two major floor injuries for the women, Vanessa Ferrari and Larisa Iordache, they didn’t get injured from the floor itself…with Achilles injuries, it’s basically caused by repeated pressure until they finally literally snap. With both of them having expressed pain prior to competing, I’d say the landings on the hard mats in the training gyms day after day probably got both of their Achilles to a point where when they actually injured them — Larisa on a timer, Vanessa on the punch out of her whip, both super simple skills — it was a result of those repeated poundings on hard mats.

Given that most of the other injuries came from landings on hard mats, I’d say that had more of a major effect than the lights did. I was talking to a coach about it and he said they were abnormally hard, as new mats generally tend to be. In one instance, a coach tried to bring an older, softer mat out, and was told no, that this was not allowed. If you’re dealing with ankle pain or knee pain already, repeated landings on new, hard mats will definitely contribute to injuries, so I think that seems to be the most realistic reasoning behind a majority of what we saw happen. Some injuries, though, were the usual we see with poor air-awareness or whatever, including a couple of knee injuries I saw on floor where a gymnast was still twisting into the ground. So not all of them can be blamed on Montreal. But because of the abnormal amount of repeated use landings, the mats are definitely partly to blame.

What does David Belyavskiy have tattooed on his arm? Do you know what it says?

I think it’s the Latin phrase “desipere in loco” which is a line of text from Horace’s Odes meaning basically that there’s a time and a place for doing something out of the ordinary, basically…the full line of text is “dulce est desipere in loco” which is basically saying that letting yourself get nuts for a second is really nice to do. In the literary work, Horace is saying to Virgil that you should mix wisdom with a grain of madness, and an interpretation is that occasionally, we should take a moment from our ordinary schedules and lives to do something daring or extraordinary.

Do you think Eythora Thorsdottir was underscored on any of her elements during qualifications at worlds?

Not really…she didn’t really have the best meet. I think had she hit her dismount a little better on beam, she probably could’ve made that final even despite many adjustments and a missed connection. Compared to other beam scores, I felt hers was fair. And on floor, she also probably could’ve made the final had she not taken her last pass with a big stumble fully out of bounds. Actually even just adding back her three tenths for that OOB mistake brings her to a score that would’ve had her just about a tenth away from the final, so had that pass been better both with the OOB and the landing itself, she almost certainly would’ve made it in over Lara Mori.

Are a la seconde turns a registered skill in gymnastics?

No; because the heel drops between each revolution, they’re basically considered to be multiple single turns with the leg at horizontal. Since these skills are only rated a B, doing multiple turns in a row won’t get you any connection value, so the few who end up doing them anyway are basically just doing them to get awesome points from judges who would appreciate that extra little bit of style. If I were a judge and I saw really gorgeous a la secondes in a floor routine, if I had taken like two points off in deductions, I would fully add a half point back just to be like “get it girl.” I’d be a horrible judge.

If elite women could train and compete high bar, what level of skill do you think they could reach? It’s not clear to me how the low bar limits their release skills.

Hmmmm, I think some of the more muscular upper-body girls (Brenna Dowell, Anna Li) could get a significant level of difficulty…like, Brenna once posted a video of herself doing two Tkachevs back to back for fun, and her second Tkachev got more height than a single Tkachev from most girls. There are a few Tkachev to Tkachev variations in MAG high bar (layout Tkachev to Tkachev, Tkachev to Tkachev half, etc) so I bet Brenna could do something like that. I think we could also see the Kovacs or Mo more often? I think part of the reason for not doing these on uneven bars is that if you fall, the low bar is right there to crash into, which could be super dangerous. Some of the more daring, gutsy girls could go for Kovacs variations that are harder (layout Kovacs, Kolman, Cassina) but I think many of the stronger uneven bar workers could at the very least get the Kovacs without worrying about a low bar being there (both limiting their swing and acting as a danger during a fall).

Would you, as a coach, go for a super solid team of level 10s and a couple of elites a la Oklahoma/Alabama, or would you go for a star-studded post-elite team like UCLA/Florida?

I like the way Oklahoma and Alabama get things done, to be honest. It’s cool to see star-studded teams, but it really doesn’t matter if you have a million Olympians and world medalists on your team if you can’t hit basic level 10 difficulty on a regular basis. In their first meet of the season in 2017, UCLA was nearly defeated at home by Arkansas, a team whose biggest elite was Braie Speed, whom you probably never heard of in elite. On that day, UCLA had nine former high-level elites, including three Olympians, competing. If I were recruiting, I’d approach elites and level 10s equally, because they’re all going to be doing the same thing at the NCAA level. I’d much rather have a super healthy level 10 with multiple J.O. national titles than elites who come to me often broken and mentally ready to be done. Obviously many elites are going to continue to be stars in NCAA, but many times I think the J.O. girls come in a bit more refreshed and ready to go, and they end up being major standouts at this level so I wouldn’t ignore them just to get a girl who happened to be on an Olympic or worlds team.

Why did Cristina Bontas downgrade her full-twisting double layout between worlds in 1991 and the Olympics in 1992? Did the downgrade prevent her from winning gold in Barcelona?

I don’t recall any reasoning for her to downgrade…probably because she just wasn’t hitting that skill as well and it wasn’t worth the deductions, especially as the downgrade didn’t affect her difficulty or start value at all. It definitely didn’t keep her from winning gold. Cristina had a noticeable error on her whip full through to double tuck, which she landed short, her chest angled down with a big step forward. In comparison, Milosovici — who got the last perfect 10 ever in Olympic competition for her routine in that final — was the stronger of the two.

Who was the Romanian national team coach in 2014?

I believe at that point it was Lucian Sandu and Cristian and Lacramioara Moldovan…they were also leading the team at 2015 worlds, but after they didn’t qualify a team to Rio, Mariana Bitang and Octavian Bellu came back.

When did Romania start using grips?

Ummmm I think I recall an online campaign to help them get grips to Deva back in 2009 or 2010 maybe? If I remember correctly, they had a bunch donated. Not sure if that’s why they kept using them, but I’m guessing if they got grips at one point and got used to them, they were probably like uh, yeah, I’m gonna use grips forever.

Why is Sandra Izbasa considered one of Romania’s biggest assets when she never does more than two or three events in comparison to their unsung heroes? In 2012, Catalina Ponor proclaimed “the main reason we got bronze was me and Sandra” when Larisa Iordache and Diana Bulimar contributed more scores to their total.

I mean, you can’t really listen to Catalina’s proclamations as representative of the entire Romanian program. She also said that she single-handedly was responsible for any success they had last quad even though she was only around for two major meets and Larisa had run the show winning multiple medals across three world championships (and lest she forget, she failed to help qualify them for the Olympic team, so I don’t know how she considers the test event a ‘success’). Historically, Sandra is considered one of the country’s biggest assets because she’s a two-time Olympic champion and four-time Olympic medalist, and is one of Romania’s most-decorated world and Olympic medalists of all time who has also contributed scores to multiple Olympic team medals.

In 2006, Vanessa Ferrari got gold at worlds. If Nastia Liukin and Chellsie Memmel were competing, do you think Vanessa would still win?

I think it would’ve been much harder for Vanessa to win, but I can’t say “yes, they absolutely would have won” because it’s impossible to say how they would’ve competed on that day. Chellsie beat her by a little over two tenths in qualifications, and Nastia was capable of higher scores than Chellsie based on the routines she had at nationals that summer, so yeah, if they were both competing and had good days as well as Vanessa having a good day, they probably could’ve come out on top. But again, it’s impossible to say for sure what would’ve happened.

Why does men’s NCAA use elite scoring but women’s use the perfect 10?

Men’s NCAA is connected to elite, because many elite competitors are still in college competing for NCAA teams, and the NCAA season coincides with the elite season for several meets (like Winter Cup). Since MAG NCAA and elite are more closely intertwined, they keep scoring the same at both levels, and actually MAG J.O. scoring also uses elite rather than the perfect 10. For women, elite is super separate from both J.O. and NCAA. J.O. and NCAA are seen as more intertwined, so they keep scoring consistent from one to the next. With MAG, you can think of it as J.O. leading to NCAA leading to elite for most gymnasts, but for WAG it’s more like J.O. leads to NCAA, and elite is an entirely separate branch.

I think some people would like to bring elite scoring to the NCAA and even J.O. levels, but since NCAA is so popular among fans, many NCAA coaches see the elite scoring system as a turn-off for what has become a very fan-friendly event. They think it’s more important to keep fans interested than to make scoring systems uniform across the different levels, which makes sense, especially since in NCAA, perfection is emphasized over difficulty and fans like to see the best routines get the top possible score. It definitely wouldn’t be as exciting for fans to get super excited about a routine and then be like “13.3???” Like, what does that MEAN?

So yeah, the reasoning for keeping the perfect 10 for NCAA (and thus J.O.) is less about the sport and more about symbolism if that makes sense. I’m kind of torn between the two, because I love the whole symbolic 10 but I also hate that there’s no way to differentiate a good routine from a great routine in NCAA. That’s more an issue with the deduction system than with the perfect 10 system, though.

Is NCAA a U.S.-only thing?

Yes, for any sports, though many other countries do have sports and similar governing bodies for sports at the college level. For gymnastics, Japan’s university system is fantastic. They have a couple hundred gymnasts competing at the college level, which is intertwined with their elite program, and helps create a solid amount of depth within the country’s elite program. Two of the country’s top elite gymnasts, Mai Murakami and Asuka Teramoto, are both on their college’s gymnastics teams, and so they represent their schools at student championship meets and compete at Universiade while simultaneously representing Japan at major international meets.

Recently there have been lots of Tkachev variations from a toe-on, clear hip, or stalder entry. Is it possible to perform Jaeger variations from a Weiler kip or Endo?

You can’t really swing down from a Weiler kip directly into a Jaeger, because the moment where the release happens is different from where the moment the release happens in a Tkachev, but you do see more intricate skills connected to Jaegers even if they can’t exactly do these connecting skills as entry skills. For example, many of the Chinese will do a Healy or Ling and then swing down into a Jaeger, and I’ve seen an Endo full to Jaeger, Endo to Jaeger, Weiler kip to Jaeger, etc

Why don’t more American gymnasts do piked Jaegers and Tkachevs?

I think plenty of them do piked versions of skills? There were many juniors this year doing piked Jaegers on bars, and just looking through my live blog of senior U.S. Classics from this summer, ten girls did piked Jaegers. As for the piked Tkachev, quite a few girls do them and many of their variations, like the Church and Downie.

What would the D score be for Nastia Liukin’s routine in Stick It?

She did a toe shoot, inbar half to Ono to Endo half to stalder to layout Gienger, Pak, toe shoot, and double layout. In the current code, she’d get a 2.0 CR, a skill value of 3.0 (EEDDDCCB), and a CV of 0.1 for a total of 5.1. Sounds low, but for a movie routine, seriously, that’s much higher than many go for!

Why would Larisa Iordache throw a double double in 2015, but not in worlds qualifications when she had the potential to qualify to what would’ve been her and Romania’s only event final?

She had just come back from injury a month before worlds after having missed nine months. Considering she had all of the trouble she had in qualifications at worlds, including on floor, it wouldn’t have been the smartest decision to throw a double double. Also, Romania started on floor in that qualification round. It’s not like Larisa knew before she even competed a single event that she was going to have mistakes on most of her events and miss out on event finals on beam, or that her teammates would also miss finals.

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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17 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. I was chatting to some of the Romanian camp and they said Larisa had been having trouble with her Achilles for quite a while, a suspected partial tear, but she didn’t get medical attention and just sort of hoped it would be OK. And then it snapped at the worst possible time. Vanessa too had double Achilles surgery last year, so I think these two incidents were genuinely bad luck, with the mats maybe having an impact. Any idea why softer mats were refused?

    Ugh, Catalina Ponor is such a bad sport. I’ll miss her gymnastics but I won’t miss her attitude. She basically blamed her performance in quals on Larisa’s injury, which is like…I understand how stressful it is to see something like that, but plenty of gymnasts have gone up after other gymnasts were seriously injured and then nailed it. So arrogant to state that the 2012 bronze was down to her and Sandra, too. I don’t know how Larisa ever put up with her.

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    • Yeah, if Catalina is like that in training too, then props for Larisa. She must be very patient. I probably would have thrown Catalina out of the window multiple times by now if I would be in Larisa’s place, also for all the shady/arrogant comments after and before the Olympics. A little bit of modesty is never wrong, someone should tell Catalina about that. However, she’s retired and we should move on from this drama.

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      • Yeah – we got some brand new mats at my gym about a year ago now and they are still SUPER hard, even with several hundred rec kids and a couple dozen team girls using them all the time. FIG really needs to either add standards for the foam/softness/reactivity of competition matting or they need to find a way to incorporate a softer sting mat into the landing areas of VT/BB/UB and start allowing them for floor again. And by “softer sting” I mean like that TumblTrak teddy bear mat with the memory foam. (That thing is the only reason I still have ankles at all, lol)

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  2. Even more than having to avoid the low bar on uneven bars, it’s the bars themselves that make a big difference. I train both uneven bars and high bar– giants on a single women’s rail (no low bar) are still much harder to get around than on a high bar, due to the larger size of the rail and increased friction on your hands. This makes it that much harder to build up the speed/power needed in giants to do a Kovacs/multiple Tkatchevs on unevens.

    Also, while the high bar can be very bouncy, it takes LOT more force to generate that bounce compared to uneven bars. You’re right that the more muscular, “power bars” gymnasts would probably be the most successful on HB. I could see the smaller, lighter gymnasts really struggling to generate the power they need to do big skills.

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    • Wow, that’s a super-useful explanation – thanks so much. I’m guessing the “bounce” of the uneven bars takes some of the power and speed out of the giants?

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  3. Sandra Izbasa was a good AA for Romania standards. She was not as good as Larisa but in 2012 she finished 5th in the AA, not too bad for someone who is considered a specialist. On team finals, she usually contributed everywhere and would have the highest scores on VT/FX so in my opinion, she was more important to Romania than Diana Bulimar ever was. She wanted to come back in 2015 but only for VT/FX but because of Catalina’s inability to do bars Sandra’s was at obligation to also train bars if she wanted to make the team and so she gave up.

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  4. With uneven bar releases: depending on the gymnast’s height, the placement of the low bar can affect where they have to tap and the body shapes they can make during their giant (deep pike or straddle or Russian tap to miss on an outside giant, having to hold a more drastic hollow for longer coming up on an inside giant). Since so much of effective release work is based on timing the tap exactly right, a gymnast who is limited in where she can tap is also limited in what releases she can realistically perform. But more importantly than that, the high bar is much slimmer and more flexible, so it gives a lot more spring to releases and it’s easier to catch and hold onto than the wooden UB rails (which most gymnasts cannot fully close their fingers around even with dowels – makes peeling really easy if you’re a little bit off).

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    • Catalina never blamed Larisa because of her poor performance, she said that she felt terrible for her and that it was hard to witness and then have to go up, knowing her own Achilles problems, and knowing that the nations hopes then fell on her shoulders. She then went on to actually blame herself for not calling on her experience to drain out whatever outside thoughts or pressure she let get to her.

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