You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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Natalia Yurchenko of the Soviet Union

It’s time for the 189th 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.

Do you know who the first man was to perform a Yurchenko vault?

I can’t find anything about the first man to compete a Yurchenko-family vault, but think it happened shortly after Natalia Yurchenko first did hers in 1982 because I remember seeing them at subsequent competitions, relatively soon after she did it? It could just be that because so many did it at the same time after she debuted it, it wasn’t really notable enough to make it an historic moment for men’s gymnastics.

What would this connection — split leap + front aerial + straddle jump + split jump + side somi + Teza II + Teza — get in CV?

The split leap to front aerial would get 0.1, front aerial to straddle jump would get 0.1, no CV between straddle jump to split jump, split jump to side somi would get 0.1, side somi to Teza jump would get 0.2, Teza II to Teza would get 0.2, and there would be a series bonus of 0.1, so the total CV would be 0.8 for this series.

When Alla Sosnitskaya was performing on floor in the 2014 worlds team final, her competition number came loose. Is that a deduction?

No, it happens pretty often. I’ve seen them fall off completely before as well. As long as the gymnast starts the routine with the number on, it’s fine.

Is there something like a tucked pak, Jaeger, or Tkachev? Wouldn’t it be easier to transition into a piked Jaeger from a tucked one instead of a straddled one?

There are tucked versions of the Jaeger and Tkachev (the original Jaeger was tucked, actually, so ‘Jaeger’ means the tucked version technically but since the straddled Jaeger has been the kind of standard version of the Jaeger in recent years, we generally just say Jaeger meaning ‘straddled Jaeger’ and sometimes people don’t differentiate at all and just say Jaeger…though I tend to say Jaeger for straddled, and then differentiate when it’s piked or in a layout position. A tucked Jaeger is only a C skill and so most don’t even bother learning it…basically once you get the motion of a Jaeger in general, it’s easy enough to learn harder variations, so even though the leg position on a straddle Jaeger is different from a piked Jaeger, it’s really not all that hard to go from one to the other in terms of learning steps. The tucked Tkachev is also a thing, though I actually don’t think it’s in the code…but again, like the Jaeger, once you get the motion of the skill down, it doesn’t really matter what body position you’re doing…aside from needing a little more strength for a harder variation and a little less for an easier one, the motion over the bar is going to be the same whether you’re straddling or piking.

Do you know why Catalina Ponor never competed in the all-around, even at the beginning of her international career? Are there any other specialists like her at the top?

I think because when she came in, she was filling team spots and the team had stronger bar workers than her, they never had a reason to use her and she kind of got relegated to the position of doing every event but bars for the team. She definitely did bars at one point domestically, but because she kind of knew it was never going to be something they needed internationally, especially back in 2003-2004, she probably was like “cool, guess I won’t bother training this anymore so I can focus on my good events.” I don’t think she ignored bars from day one and refused to do them or anything, but sometimes it’s just how things work out.

What do you think of Elena Eremina’s method of avoiding two feet together in the corners on floor?

Do you mean the second and third passes where she kind of crosses one leg in front? I don’t think it’s anything super unusual or trying to cheat the code…I’ve seen other gymnasts do similar stances, like standing with one foot forward or behind the standing leg.

What would the D score be for this routine from Tatiana Gutsu in the current code?

She’d only get 1.5 in CR without any forward acro elements, her skill value would be 3.3 (GFEDCCCB), and her CV would be 0.5 (only the bhs loso loso and dismount series were worth anything) for a total of 5.3. If she added a front aerial, she’d boost her skill value to 3.5 by getting rid of the B skill and she’d get her full CR, so this same routine with a front aerial added would get a 6.0, making it one of the most difficult sets at worlds this year!

With the Mo salto, there is SO MUCH of a chance that the shins will touch the high bar during the somersault over. If they DO touch, is that a 0.5 deduction akin to hitting the feet on the bars?

Yeah, for sure. Basically whenever a part of your body hits the bar that isn’t supposed to, it’s similar to that 0.5 deduction when you hit your feet. I’ve seen legs hit the bar on a Tkachev that is subsequently caught, and something like that is similar and would also get 0.5 in deductions.

If Rebecca Bross had been able to get back in her 2009/2010 shape, could she have given Laurie Hernandez a run for her money for the 2016 Olympic team?

Hmm, possibly. I think Rebecca in her prime basically could’ve been a bars/beam specialist the team wanted but never got because everyone was either good at bars OR beam, but not a standout on both. I think Rebecca could have definitely been valuable over Laurie in that she would’ve had the kind of bars set they could use in the team final, giving Simone Biles a bit of a break…but then they’d lose a floor worker and they’d only really have Aly and Simone there so in that sense Laurie worked out perfectly for the two events she ended up doing. It could’ve been justified either way but I think Laurie still would’ve made more sense for the team final situation if they also wanted to bring Gabby Douglas and Madison Kocian as bars specialists.

When did the U.S. become better than Romania on beam in terms of a three-up three-count team final situation? In 2014 was Romania still superior as they beat three hit U.S. sets with a fall?

It’s gone back and forth for several years now. The U.S. had a super weak beam team in 2014, while Romania had two beam stars in Larisa Iordache and Andreea Munteanu, but prior to 2014 the U.S. beat Romania in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Overall, the U.S. beam program is healthier than Romania’s right now, and was in 2014…Romania just looked like the superior beam program because they had two really strong routines that were able to outshine the three kind of mediocre beam sets from the U.S., but Romania literally ONLY had those two beam routines at the time whereas the U.S. could’ve subbed in a bunch of other girls to score similarly to the girls who ended up competing at worlds. I’d say the U.S. started truly becoming able to outshine Romania on beam as a program overall in the 2010 era, but obviously every year either team could have some sort of anomaly performance like in 2014 where the U.S. just happened to not be able to bring any strong beam workers compared to Romania, which had two of the best beam routines in the world at that moment (which is why it especially killed me that neither medaled that year).

What is an empty swing on bars? Why is an empty swing ‘bad’ and do giants count as empty swings?

An empty swing is a swing forward or backward without the execution of an element before the swing reverses to the opposite direction. It’s ‘bad’ because bars is supposed to be about fluidity. Obviously it’s almost physically impossible to construct an elite routine without any little breaks along the way, which is why gymnasts will kip cast to handstand between some skills instead of directly linking two more difficult skills, and actually doing two kip casts to handstand in a row would be penalized as well, though one is okay. Giants do not count as empty swings…giants are skills in the code of points.

Why do NCAA gymnasts salute in a ‘strange’ way?

The NCAA salute is kind of a tradition as a way to celebrate the conclusion of a great routine. I’m assuming it kind of started and then evolved into what it is now, which basically involves the girls bending back as far as humanly possible to celebrate. Peyton Ernst’s is the best! Her back flexibility is crazy.

Do you know what Elena Eremina’s D score would be on uneven bars in last quad’s code of points?

It would’ve been a 6.7. She gains back the half point in CR for having a D-level dismount, but then a tenth is subtracted because her piked Jaeger is a tenth more valuable this quad than it would’ve been last quad.

Are there any gymnastics-related charities you can donate to?

One of the greatest charities for gymnastics is the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation, which brings the sport to underserved urban youth. This is an incredible group of people and so many kids get the chance to do gymnastics because of them, especially in communities where many kids don’t have options for after-school activities.

In the U.S. there’s the National Gymnastics Foundation, which grants scholarships for gymnasts in several programs, like the Nastia Liukin Fund. Other countries probably have similar foundations…I know Great Britain does.

Many club gyms have their own fundraising efforts for their booster clubs, which help provide kids with scholarships, purchase leos and other expensive training-related costs, and also make money available to kids in need, like those who get sick or injured or experience the death of a parent.

You can also do a search for “gymnastics” on GoFundMe, where you’ll see projects for everything from helping individual gymnasts pay for things like travel costs (back when Maile O’Keefe wasn’t on the national team, she and her family had a GoFundMe account to get her to the developmental camps at the ranch) as well as fundraising initiatives for more serious things like paying for care after freak accidents, serious illnesses, and other things that come up that parents don’t expect. One of the current fundraisers on this site is to help Shilese Jones’ dad, a single parent who is too sick to work.

If a gymnast did a pak salto that landed in a way where they did a front stalder, would that be a new skill?

They could probably submit a pak to reverse grip or L grip, though I don’t know how physically possible it would be to catch that skill like that. If they can physically do it, sometimes the FIG differentiates between grips when catching skills…and I’m assuming in this case, it would be something they consider accepting since catching in reverse grip would make the pak much harder. I just think the issue here would be physically being capable of catching your full body weight in a reverse grip. Your shoulders might implode.

Is Simone Biles the only gymnast who does the Biles on floor? Why have other gymnasts not tried it?

In WAG, yes. It’s just rare in general to see double salto skills with half twists, which is why we also don’t see an easier double layout half-in, and why only one gymnast has competed a 1.5-twisting double tuck. Even though you’d think a skill with a half twist would be easier than a skill with a full, mentally it can be hard to wrap your head around doing skills with half twists, and then with half-out skills in back tumbling, you’re also turning a pretty straightforward pass into something that has a blind landing. There are lots of reasons that go into it, and I’m sure many could physically do a Biles or other half-in, half-out, or 1.5-twisting double salto elements, but mentally it really is tough to figure out.

Can you help me understand what has happened to Shang Chunsong this year?

She came back early in the season on bars, but struggled a little with her elements and had freak falls in two of her routines. She didn’t get injured on either but just didn’t seem prepared at all on that event, and on beam and floor, she just didn’t get back to the level she was able to reach last year. She showed up at National Games hoping to get a spot on the worlds team, but none of her events seemed very promising and she wasn’t in the top three on anything. So nothing really ‘happened’ but it can be hard to take an extended leave from the sport and then come back at the same level, especially if you’re not getting regular competitive experience. I was hoping she’d stick around longer, but after National Games, it seemed her retirement was legitimate, at least from the national team. I’m wondering if her provincial team would be able to keep her in the gym and training, and then when they bring her to nationals, the national team could see she was still beneficial assuming she got her skills/routines back in working order?

Why wasn’t Kytra Hunter on the worlds team in 2010?

She just wasn’t consistently in the top three on anything and had no standout events that weren’t already being covered by others on the team. She was fourth in the all-around, fourth on her two best events, beam and floor…fourth is a hard place to be when choosing a team because even though you’re one of the best in the country, you wouldn’t be a top choice in a three-up three-count situation on literally anything, so you’d be going to worlds just to do qualifications, which isn’t generally something the U.S. team wants.

Alicia Sacramone was a lock for vault and beam, Rebecca Bross was a lock for the all-around, and Aly Raisman was a lock for all-around, beam, and floor. That left a serious need for bars and floor gymnasts. Bridget Sloan, Mackenzie Caquatto, and Chelsea Davis looked strongest on bars at camp, and both Mackenzie and Chelsea (who were battling over who would get the final team spot and who would be alternate until Chelsea got injured, giving the spot to Mackenzie) could also do the all-around if needed, and then Mattie Larson had consistently out-performed Kytra on floor at nationals and at camp, so she got that spot. In hindsight, Mattie ended up really struggling, and we probably all know why at this point, which is kind of devastating…but she was looking much stronger than Kytra going in and it wasn’t a surprise at all that they ended up taking her.

Why have some skills, like some of Svetlana Khorkina’s, been removed from the code when there’s no safety concern?

I honestly don’t know. There are a few random skills that just disappear every now and then, for seemingly no reason. My guess would be that they’re no longer popular or done often, or they no longer fit the current trends in the sport? But the rumor is that Nellie Kim wants to have the most eponymous skills in the code and so removes the skills of others randomly haha.

Why do some elites swing their arms before leaps but others don’t?

It’s probably just how they were trained/the technique they picked up that helps them do the leap. It’s not really physically necessary to do, but sometimes a physical action serves as a mental reminder for many skills and I think that’s the case for this one.

What were the CR and CV in the 2001-2005 code? What did it take to have a 10.0 start value on each event?

This code of points put the base score at 8.8 if all requirements were met, meaning the gymnast had to make up 1.2 points in bonus (connections, harder skills) if she wanted to reach a 10.0. Connections weren’t super valuable and were harder to get than in previous codes, which is why scores dropped significantly from the previous quad. They also had a “Super E” category of skills that came with 0.3 in bonus, which are now skills that would just get rated as F or higher as elements.

In this code, only six vaults were out of a 10.0 start value — the Amanar, the tsuk 2.5, the Yurchenko full-on layout full, front handspring full-on front layout, a handspring randi, and a Produnova (most of which had never been performed by a woman before).

I don’t have a copy of the code from this period so I don’t know what all of the credit requirements and connection values are off-hand but hopefully this at least gives you an idea? And I think generally the requirements have been similar for quite some time with things like transitions and same-bar flight on bars, leaps and an acro series on beam, and so on.

Why do gymnasts like Larisa Iordache try E-rated spins when they get devalued 90% of the time and when they could do a more consistent D spin?

One of the mysteries of the universe. It’s probably because they think they’re training it well in the gym and are hoping to compete it as well as they train it so they can get that extra D, but it just never works out for them in competition. Or maybe their D spins aren’t cute either, and they’re like well, if I’m gonna do some messy turns no matter what, I might as well do the harder ones.

Why did the U.S. men’s team bring six team members to worlds when the women only had four?

For an individual year, the men are allowed to bring six gymnasts and the women are allowed to bring four. They base it off of the number of events in each.

Do you think Laney Madsen might try to compete for Bulgaria?

It wouldn’t be that surprising if she did…they have a pretty bare-bones program, so it’s not like they’d turn her down, and they’ve had another U.S. gymnast, Jessica Hutchinson, represent them internationally as a junior which has been beneficial to them (her mom is Bulgarian gymnast Sylvia Mitova so she has a connection to the country, as does Laney, who is half Bulgarian for those wondering).

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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30 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Re: the tucked Pak question, Oksana Omelianchik basically did that in her bars routine on the old set.

    Yes, FIG does like to remove skills randomly, like the double illusion on floor!! I’m super bitter about it. But if the Nellie thing is true, I love it! I love finding out these random petty things among the decision makers, like how Martha just wanted to be all, “you think we have weak bars NOW???”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaha yes! People tend to think that every decision made in this sport comes from a place of meaning or whatever but I think there’s so much pettiness and nonsense behind so many decisions, and it’s so funny to find out little hints about what these may be. The Martha thing killed me. She could’ve brought literally anyone she want in that fifth spot last year…but she’s like nah, yall said my team was bad at bars so GUESS WHAT, hi, I’m bringing the best bars team I can possibly put together. It’s too bad Ashton Locklear and some of the other stronger bar workers didn’t have full AA sets because she fully would’ve brought four bar workers and Simone if she could have.

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      • But if she wanted to say “f**k you” to the people who said the team was bad on Bars, wouldn’t it have made more sense to bring Locklear, who beat Madison at all but one competition, and hadn’t anywhere below a 15.5 pretty much all season long? Locklear has the same d score as Gabby, but better execution. Ashton seriously could’ve gotten 9.3-9.4 execution considering the crazy inflation during Rio.

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  2. What exactly do you mean when you say “we all probably know why at this point” regarding Mattie struggling at 2010 Worlds? Why did she struggle? I was unaware there was a specific reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She had a freak mistake on floor in team finals and missed a composition requirement (I believe she missed a punch front out of a pass and didn’t have a front salto), and then also fell later in the routine. Everyone gave her a lot of flak about it because she could have easily fixed the cr problem by throwing a front aerial in her choreo and didn’t seem to know she needed to (although her face after the routine indicates otherwise). To top it all off, Russia only won by a couple of tenths, making Mattie the official scapegoat for the team silver.

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      • Actually it was a bigger problem that that, by not doing the punch front she missed 2 composition requirements, front tumbling and a connecting tumbling pass (which was a floor requirement in that code). Just adding a front aerial would still have left her missing 0.5 in CR. Losing those 2 CR and her fall on her double pike caused her to lose 2 points.

        That said, it is really sad to think that her performance coulf have been affected by the abuse she suffered in camp. But hey, the US WAG system is the best of the world and eveybody else should be jealous of its depth! (Lol)

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      • JESUS. Poor Mattie. That is a tragedy, *especially* considering the aftermath (she was blamed for the loss of the team gold by EVERYONE). She was a stunning floor worker.

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      • Thanks for filling in the blank. But I’m really sad it was this. As soon as I asked I was like…please let it be a horribly timed growth spurt or something.

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    • I would like to add that in the article provided by Maggie, Mattie says she had NO IDEA she was being molested until 2016 when Larry Nassar’s first abuser came out publicly with her allegations. Only then did Mattie realize what was going on. Therefore, I think it’s impossible for the abuse to have affected her team final performance.

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      • You can definitely not know you’re being abused and still have it affect you subconsciously, and some of the girls who got this ‘treatment’ from Nassar still felt creeped out and ashamed because of it even though they didn’t know it was abuse, so it definitely could’ve factored in to her mental state at that time. She seemed to have a lot of issues that affected her into her collegiate career, so if she was already dealing with struggles mentally, that ‘treatment’ definitely could’ve affected her even more even if she didn’t really realize the extent of what was happening.

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  3. Appearently, Nataliya Yurchenko wasn’t the first person to compete a yurchenko vault. There’s this fairly unknow guy called Victor Levinkov who did it at Soviet Nationals. You can read about it on Nataliya Yurchenko’s website, her coach was inspired by this guy to get her to learn it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was another Soviet gymnast called Elena Veselova who competed it at the 1982 Coca Cola International in London.

      Re guys doing it – I recall Vitaly Sherbo being one of the first – maybe around 1990? I remember seeing a pic in IG and my thought was “ah, so guys are doing now as well.”

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  4. Hutchinson is actually a 3rd generation gymnast: her grandmother is Maya Blagoeva, who competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics. Now I really hope Jessica makes it representing Bulgaria – it would be so cool to have a grandma, mom and daughter all olympian gymnasts!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. For this question: “If a gymnast did a pak salto that landed in a way where they did a front stalder, would that be a new skill?” Monica Shaw did that way back in 1991. It was so cool.

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  6. I loved seeing the answer to the question about gymnastics charities, because it’s something I’d also been wondering. Thanks for all your work answering these.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. London Phillips of SCATS competed the “Biles” way back in 2005 and also competed a 1.5 twisting double tuck like Rebeca Andrade was planning on submitting this year/competed before.

    Liked by 1 person

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