You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 191st 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.

If there were additional events on the women’s side, what do you think these could be? Do you think it would be possible to train more events? Has this ever been considered and would there be a practical way to try an expanded or different set of events?

The only time the women’s events have really changed was in the early generations of the sport up to the 1950s. In that period they would do rings, parallel bars, and group rhythmic-esque performances, with the uneven bars morphing from parallel bars, rings disappearing completely, and the group dances/rhythmic (called “portable apparatus”) performances transitioning more into what floor is today. But since the late 50s/early 60s, even though some of the apparatuses themselves have changed, there hasn’t been any talk about adding or expanding on events.

I think the kind of strength required for pommels and rings isn’t something the women are used to training so it would be hard to transition to these kinds of events, and I don’t have any strong feelings about wanting women to compete pommels, so the only men’s event I’d want to see them bring over would be high bar. But I’d want to keep uneven bars and add high bar, because they’re SO freaking different. Uneven bars can be more about fluidity and lines, and then high bar can be all about tricks and badassery. I think it would work super well if they added it in, though I definitely don’t think everyone would be successful at it.

Apart from men’s events, I’ve actually always wanted artistic gymnastics to include more of the trampoline and tumbling events. Can you imagine if Simone Biles got to do a power tumbling run?!?!?! I also love double mini trampoline and wouldn’t mind adding something like that. And then since we’re adding a tumbling event, we can also add an artistic event…and for THAT I’d 100% want to go with some kind of aerial routine, something super circusy performed on silks or whatever. I’d be here for that.

I definitely think it could be possible to train an additional event, and if it was something like high bar or a tumbling sort of event, they’re already training those sorts of skills on uneven bars and floor, so it wouldn’t be too much additional work to get used to new events. It’d be cool to introduce new events by making them optional and for an individual final only, not part of the all-around, so they can be phased in for current generations and then younger generations just starting out can begin training them from the start.

I thought Tisha Volleman’s vaults were better than Boglarka Devai’s at Euros. What do you think?

Pretty much everyone doing that Yurchenko double and Lopez combo was on such equal terms, it’s hard to say who was ‘better’ because like…Ellie Downie for example probably had the best vaults among those doing that combo, but her landings weren’t that great, so her landings defeated the edge she had against someone with a weaker vault but who had a better landing. With Tisha and Boglarka specifically, it was so close, and even if you can say Tisha’s was absolutely 100% better, it’s super hard for the judges to get every little difference in that split second during the vault itself. If there was a hugely noticeable difference then yeah, but it was really so close. That’s basically why every single gymnast doing a DTY in qualifications at that meet got a 14.4!

What’s your opinion on vault as an opt-in specialty event? It bothers me that the competitive pool is so much smaller because most don’t choose to learn a second vault. Should everyone be doing two, do you like it as is, or is there another way of going about it that you prefer?

I don’t mind it as is. I think there are far bigger problems with vault — like the deductions needing to be double what they are — than the finals situation. I do wish the competitive pool was larger and that more gymnasts opted to learn two vaults, but I do think that the majority of the stronger vaulters do end up learning two so they can compete for a finals spot so even though the pool overall is smaller, it’s like…more efficient if that makes sense, because the strongest vaulters are all part of that smaller pool.

To bring that further, someone like Madison Kocian would never medal on vault, so why bother forcing her to learn two and potentially be at a greater risk for injury just to make the pool deeper? And then if they started requiring that everyone does two vaults, they’d also have to require that everyone does all events to make it fair (like why should Madison have to learn two vaults but Maria Paseka be allowed to only compete vault?). Then you’re at a point where you’re forcing everyone to be an all-arounder, which is how the sport once was, but I think it’s harder for every gymnast to do that now that the sport is so much harder. It’s definitely a slippery slope to require two vaults, but I would like to figure out some way of increasing the depth in the vault field.

Is Seda Tutkhalyan training an Amanar? She crashed one in a video on Maria Paseka’s Instagram Story.

I think she’s been training one for a while but it’s one of those rare unicorn skills that we’ll hear about for centuries but never actually see. She had enough problems with her double, which is why we didn’t get the Amanar last year when we were originally expected to see it.

Why didn’t Kyla Ross ever upgrade her difficulty on floor?

She struggled with endurance and decided to focus on execution rather than increasing her difficulty, which would’ve caused far more mistakes and issues in her routine to make it worth it.

My favorite kind of connection on bars is from some kind of shaposh variation into a Hindorff or Church. Is there anyone who’s done that other than the Downie sisters?

A few have trained and competed it…this year, Ellie Black did a Maloney to Hindorff and Rianna Mizzen had a Weiler to Weiler half to Maloney to Hindorff to Pak, and last year Louise Vanhille had a Chow to Hindorff. Becky Downie when she’s at her best actually does her Maloney into a Shang, with the Hindorff her backup, which is insane that her backup is harder than most gymnasts’ actual routines. And then several gymnasts do Maloneys into more basic no-frills Tkachevs, like Farah Hussein, Amy Tinkler, and a couple of the Americans (Riley McCusker and Maile O’Keefe, for example).

USA Gymnastics recently posted a routine of Shantessa Pama on bars from 2006. It was so unique! What is the name of the dismount? Would this routine be competitive now?

It’s like, a clear hip finished with her hips bouncing off the bar into the dismount like gymnasts used to do regularly in the 70s, except she spiced things up by doing a back tuck out of it. It definitely doesn’t have a name (at least that I know of, it’s not in any recent codes) and I’m wondering how the FIG would rate it…maybe a C? D at most? It’s not SUPER hard but just very unusual and super cool. Shantessa was the queen of the unique skills. The routine could be somewhat competitive today with a few small modifications.

Do you know if Jordyn Wieber is staying at UCLA for another year? I know she was technically a ‘senior’ but she didn’t indicate she actually graduated.

Jordyn graduated in June with a degree in psychology, but she’s staying with the team as the volunteer assistant coach (a step up from team manager, putting her on a path that suggests she may begin coaching at the college level as her career eventually).

Why do so many collegiate gymnasts jump from the low bar to the high bar? Do they lack those transition skills?

No, they don’t lack the skills…many low to high transitions are actually very simple. But the code in NCAA doesn’t require that they do low to high transition skills, so while some do them for connection bonus or to count the skill as their flight element, many who have more difficult skills elsewhere will just simply jump to high because they wouldn’t get any value anyway if they transitioned.

How much would Simone Biles’ standing double back be worth on beam?

I can’t imagine it being worth less than an H or an I, assuming it would be physically possible (which is doubtful considering no one can really stand it up on floor let alone on beam).

Two of my favorite 2024 contenders are Whitney Bjerken and Konnor McClain. Whitney doesn’t have high difficulty but she has great form, while Konnor is throwing huge skills but she still has seven years to go and might burn out. Do you think either could make it?

Anyone going for 2024 right now could either make it or not make it. It’s pretty much impossible to tell. So much happened between nationals and worlds for the U.S. women, and that was only two months. Seven years? Literally don’t even think about it. You’ll just drive yourself crazy.

Can you help explain Nastia Liukin’s overwhelming success to me? Her form on floor was crazy and her beam was always really slow. I don’t understand how her execution led to those scores.

Her form was bizarre on a couple of elements on floor (like her double front being cowboyed and crossed legs on her front double full) but overall it was a really strong and clean routine. I was baffled to see it medal, and I definitely didn’t expect that, but many gymnasts get things like extension and small issues deducted, things that really add up throughout a routine, and Nastia didn’t really get many of those ‘built-in’ deductions. Her form on those two passes amounted to a few tenths at best. I do think some of her routines — like her all-around routine in Beijing — were overscored, especially compared to how similar routines would be scored today…but at that competition specifically, it wasn’t that over the top in comparison.

As for beam, I don’t think your comment makes sense for the code at that time. Her connections weren’t especially slow and they always showed fluidity between one another…which like…moving slowly and having slow connections are two different things. She had a very fluid and very clean set, and while it didn’t have the crazy impressive big acro skills that some other routines had, she did her thing very well and got high execution scores because of it.

Why did Nia Dennis and Jazmyn Foberg retire?

Both basically had been injured and when it came down to choosing between an extra year of elite or going to college, they chose college. Many gymnasts make this choice. Because elite is so tough on you physically and mentally, when you have the chance to kind of take a ‘break’ by moving on to NCAA gym, most jump for that chance. I’ve known many elite gymnasts who grew to hate the sport, but then when they get to college, they rediscover a love for gymnastics. I think both Nia and Jazmyn were basically ‘done’ in terms of what they could do in elite anyway, so it made sense for them to move on, and they’ll be much happier in their new journeys.

I believe you said you don’t think Olympic teams will get smaller, but do you think there’s a chance they could get bigger again?

I hope so. There’s definitely a chance. It’ll just depend on what future decision-makers in the sport want. Bruno Grandi was all about fewer and fewer members on every team for whatever reason, and his boards and committees followed his rule, but I definitely think we could eventually see people on the business side of things who will be more in tune with the gymnastics community (and by that I mean the athletes and coaches and national governing bodies and people actively involved with the sport).

Of course, the problem is that they want to get a greater international representation, but I think five-member teams was a good compromise, because about two-thirds of competitors would be part of full teams, and the remaining third was non-team gymnasts, which I think is fair. With six-member teams it was more like 75% full teams and 25% individual, so I can see the reasoning for wanting to change that, but with four-member teams, it’s basically half and half, which doesn’t really work because the team final becomes a second all-around competition, not a team competition. Why not make the sport fully individual if that’s the case? But five was a good balance that supported both sides of the argument and I hope the FIG eventually gets people who realize this.

If they can figure out a way to talk to the IOC about expanding the number of gymnasts allowed to compete, then yes, six and seven member teams would be awesome, but part of the problem is that WAG is limited to 98 gymnasts. The FIG can only do so much within that constraint, and so they jump from different priorities depending on the quad, but I think they just need to figure out the best option and stick with it. It’s far too confusing for people who want to try to follow the sport but are blindsided by new rules and formats every time they turn the TV back on.

How small would a gymnast need to be so that they’re completely unaffected by the low bar while swinging on the high bar? Has there been an elite that small? Could that gymnast do men’s high bar releases? Are you in favor of taking the bars further apart to make those releases possible?

With the bars spread at their maximum distance of about six feet, given that your arms above your head are extended and hanging onto the bar and adding at least another foot to your body’s span, I’d say gymnasts around 4’6” or smaller would be safe? There are many junior gymnasts who are under that height and I’ve definitely seen some of the wee ones struggle with transitions (specifically toe shoots) because they’re just too small.

Men’s high bar skills don’t just require momentum from giants, though…to do big high-flying releases they also need a crap ton of strength, and the men also benefit from the kind of rail they have, which is steel instead of wood and works along with their momentum to kind of help them out, and it’s almost half the diameter of the uneven bars (and thus easier to grasp). Smaller gymnasts who can clear the low bar on their swings do have an advantage in not hitting the low bar with their feet, but that definitely on its own wouldn’t make high bar skills easier for them.

If you could move one MAG event over to WAG so that each had five, which would you choose and why?

I would go with pommels, if only because whenever I talk to gymnasts and ask them which MAG event they’d most want to do, they all SHOCKINGLY go with pommels. I think it’s just because it’s so different from what they’re used to doing…but yeah, a few will say high bar, but a majority say pommels and I think it’s so funny. So I’d give them what they want…though if they actually HAD to do pommels, I don’t think they’d want to do it as much as they think.

Are gymnasts deducted for their landings for leaps?

Yes they are. As with tumbling, they’re judged on things like control and awareness and adjustments and all of that good stuff that happens with landings.

Can you explain how the U.S. men’s national team works?

The senior national team is selected twice a year — at the Winter Cup and at P&G Championships, which are generally six months apart. The program coordinator gets to determine the criteria for who gets chosen, and the procedures are posted online before each competition. It basically depends on how many spots they’re trying to fill and how many they want to fund but generally it’s a certain number of top all-arounders who are named directly following the competition, and then based on the needs of the team, the program coordinator decides what spots still need to be filled and they determine within the next day or so who else to add. If all of the all-arounders are high bar superstars who suck at pommels, for example, they’ll probably decide not to add a high bar specialist to the national team but might choose a couple who excel at pommels. You can generally find the selection procedures for MAG available here when applicable.

Has there ever been an alternate who went on to make the Olympic team?

Yeah, many times in history. For the U.S. women specifically (because I’m guessing that’s what this is referring to because it generally is haha) it last happened in 2000 when Morgan White got injured and Tasha Schwikert came in as the second alternate to replace Morgan.

Is there any female gymnast who comes close to Kenzo Shirai in terms of twisting?

Not really. I can’t think of anyone who is a particularly good twister both in terms of being able to quickly and cleanly twist. Although I guess Kenzo is really just quick, not particularly clean, but hmm…yeah, I can’t think of anyone right now I’d see and be like “she NEEDS to do a quad on floor!”

What is the release requirement for bars in J.O.? Is there a same-bar requirement?

I believe the only requirement for releases in J.O. is one C (or higher) release and one B (or higher) release, but neither has to be same-bar which means ‘releases’ also includes transitions, which is why some level 10 gymnasts will fulfill this requirement by doing two transitions, though most will generally do a same-bar release and a transition as their skills.

Did you watch Marlene Bindig’s floor from German nationals? What do you think of it?

Yes I did. I really liked it and she is a fabulous performer. I think Germany has a lot of fabulous artistry on floor…they just need the difficulty to match!

Are there any gymnasts like Simone Biles or Svetlana Boginskaya with tragic stories in their pasts?

Yes, there are plenty of gymnasts with sad stories or stories where they were very ‘rags to riches’ in a sense. But most you don’t really hear because they’re not the top competitors with their stories being aired on primetime television so it’s hard to always know who comes from a ‘tragic’ background.

What’s going on with Sydney Johnson-Scharpf? She competed in Iceland but then dropped out of the Challenge division at Gymnix. Is she injured again?

She had an injury that kept her from competing at Gymnix, and then had pneumonia which kept her from being able to train at a high level going into nationals this summer, which is why she didn’t do much. She was great in Iceland…a shame she just always seems to be injured. A few days ago she actually smashed her face on the high bar while training a Ray so now her eyes, nose, and lips are super swollen. I don’t think she’ll ever catch a break!

Who is a better vaulter, Simone Biles or McKayla Maroney?

I personally think McKayla is a better aesthetic vaulter, but I think Simone is probably capable of performing greater difficulty at a stronger level, mostly due to her power and ability to control that power. I go back and forth on how I’d rank them if they both stuck Amanars, but I think I’d give it to McKayla.

Why are so many elite gymnasts committing to less prominent NCAA programs, e.g. Gabby Perea to Berkeley, Adeline Kenlin to Iowa, and Sunisa Lee to Auburn?

Mostly because they like those programs or have some sort of connection to them. Cal is on the rise and has one of the best academic programs among schools with NCAA gym so it makes sense for Gabby as someone who can stand out as a gymnast and also focus on academics (which are lacking at a majority of top programs), Adeline is from Iowa and her decision to go there is probably because she wanted to remain close to home or because she grew up a fan of that program and always dreamed of going there, and Sunisa is almost certainly going to Auburn because her coach at Midwest is twin brothers with the Auburn head coach, so I’m sure she trusts her coach and his family and wants to stay with the Grabas in some form. I remember when Alexis Vasquez chose Denver over bigger gym programs and everyone assumed it was because she wanted to be a ‘star’ there compared to bigger schools where she’d be one in a pack, but her mom was like “nope, she wants to go there because it was the best fit for her.” It doesn’t matter if a program is a top ten gym school or not — that’s not always the deciding factor for many gymnasts.

Who are gymnasts who would have benefited from competing in a different quad’s code of points?

It’s hard to say for sure…there are many European gymnasts currently competing that I would’ve liked to see compete in the late 80s or early 90s just from an aesthetic standpoint (or because their routines remind me of old school routines) but I can’t think of anyone who I’m like “she belongs in 2008!” because I don’t think the codes differentiated THAT much between quads. There are many gymnasts competing currently that I wish we could see in a 10.0 code, and there were many gymnasts who competed under the 10.0 code who I wish we could see now…but there’s no one specifically I can think of who would have been better from one quad to the next.

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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33 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Patricia Moreno of Spain comes to mind when asking about the best twister in women’s gymnastics. The girl pretty much walked into her triple twist and even flares it out for her final tumbling run.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If this includes alternates becoming Olympians before competition started, GB’s Laura Jones was named to the team in 2008 but had to drop out shortly before the team left for Beijing due to a slipped disc. She was replaced by Imogen Cairns.

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  3. I think Andrade was actually planning a super difficult Olympic program before her 2015 ACL tear — I heard she wanted the 1.5 twisting double back, quad twist, 2.5 to front full and a full in which would’ve been insane! But I think that was a unicorn routine and didn’t have a chance of happening even if she remained healthy, it would’ve been a slight possibility if you replaced quad twist with triple. But I think she was training the quad in some capacity before she tore her ACL.

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  4. Pama’s bars dismount is a hecht to a back tuck, the same dismount used by 1978 world AA champion Elena Mukhina. Further trivia, if you like watching Pama’s, take a look at Ma Yanhong, who added a full twist. And for the person interested in tragic stories, Mukhina’s is a good one to read up on, though that tragedy was not before her gymnastics career.

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  5. Re: Small gymnasts on bars. Chelle Stack was like that early in her career. Mary Lou Retton (who was commentating at the time) was in awe that she could swing bars “without having a body break.”

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  6. With Vault, Lauren, what about making AA gymnasts do two vaults to complete in the all around? Team All Around could still be one vault per gymnast, but to be considered for the individual all around, you would have to do two vaults.

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    • But then what about a gymnast like Shang, who’s not a bad AA gymnast but struggles on vault? She was already injury prone as it is, and making her do two vaults would compound that problem and could potentially have hindered her training the other two three that she did so well. I do wish there was more depth on vault, but there’s no good answer to enforce it more.

      Liked by 1 person

        • That’s actually the sort of thing I had in mind when I asked this question… like, gymnasts who aren’t ace vaulters would probably be able to do lower grade vaults anyway, and it seems like that would show more mastery of the apparatus than just one. (Like imagine if you only had to do one really big beam skill…?)

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    • No thanks. Overscoring in vault is already making gymnastics ugly to see , imagine having only good vaulters in all around. No thanks!

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    • The vault the way it is , is already injuring plenty of gymnasts. Look at this year Worlds….
      If you make little gymnasts more like pressure and the risk of injuries will only get higher. Focusing in giving even more advantage to the vaulters ( more that thay already have) will only increase injuries and it will increase dopping for sure!
      I don’t think one apparatus is more important than others, nowadays, bring good in vault is already the “most important”, to be all arounder, thats not how it supposed to be.. They are crushing good beamers and bars girls. It will only make the sport worst , more dangerous, more toxic and less interesting to see.

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  7. I’d say that Mao Yi, Shang Chunsong, and Mckayla Maroney are probably the best female twisters. Shang is messy, but she pulled around a quad. Mao is probably the best of the best in terms of cleanliness and number of twists, with Mckayla right behind, let’s also not forget pre-injury Nastia Liukin, doing a three and a half and wrenching a quad and stumbling backwards into Valeri’s arms.

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    • Yeah tiny Nastia did get pretty damn close to a quad twist. I mean the fact that she even had the confidence to attempt it at a comp (and not explode both ankles/knees) shows you that she was right there in terms of landing that quad.

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  8. I definetly think all gymnasts should have to two vaults. That could also help with the deductions if you averaged the d scores and then kept both sets of deductions.

    Madison Kocian would only nee to learn two vualts if she wanted to vualt. She could always just do bars just as Paseka just does vault. After all they don’t let Paseka just do two skills on bars so why should just learning one vault be okay?

    I also think it would be good for vault to be more than just a single skill. because for all the other events you have be able to do multiple skils well, where as with vault it is five seconds.

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    • Kocian is an all arounder though and always has competed AA when she could. Hell, she did AA in quals at worlds in 2014 and placed top 15 with a major mistake on her best event. Not to mention that she placed 5th at US nats last year doing a damn FTY, finishing behind her fellow olympic team members which just happens to include 2 OLY AA champs and an AA silver medalist. She’s more than bars. Another example, Nina Derweal, yes bars, but also highest AA finish ever for her country at 2017 worlds.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha yeah! Or, in terms of strategy, I missed the “get the clean vault in the bag and then go for the gnarly big score” sort of planning… and all the other strategies that you used to see when it was best of two scoring. Averages seem cool too and might lead to more strategic vaulting.
      …then again that might be obviated by the open-ended system anyway, but not in a team comp!

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  9. I’m wondering how many gymnasts did two vaults during quals this Worlds? I wasn’t paying attention to that…and also, in general, what percentage of the gymnasts at any major comp compete 2 vaults, aiming to quality for the vault final?

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  10. I also think that gymnasts should be required to do two vaults. Barcelona all around final comes to mind, the duel between Shannon Miller and Tatiana gutsu. They both had to be perfect in order to keep the pressure on the other one. It was amazing to watch. I agree with the other comments, it would only make someone who wanted to do all around learn two vaults. I think it would clean up a lot of things too because it would show who is a greater all around gymnast.

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    • But they didn’t have to do two vaults in 1992. Both Miller and Gutsu did just ONE vault – a Yurchenko full – they just did it twice in a row. In the 1992 AA, they took the best score and threw the lower score out. By 1996, this was still the procedure for team finals, but in the individual AA they at least averaged the two scores, although you were still allowed to do the same vault twice. So really there’s not that much difference from how it is today: if you wanted to medal in event finals, you’d need two good *different* vaults, but to be a top all-arounder, you only needed to train one.

      I personally think doing the same vault twice and throwing out a score is way sillier than doing just one vault. At least the way it is currently, everything you do for the judges counts! There’s no, “eh, that one sucked, but it doesn’t matter because I can try again.”

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  11. Wow, what a get for Berkeley in Perea! Obviously we don’t know what will happen to her as a senior but she could be a huge deal for that team. I wonder if she wants to study computer science (for which Berkeley is top-notch)?

    Liked by 1 person

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