Elizabet Vasileva of Bulgaria
It’s time for the 195th 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.
In watching a bit of rhythmic championships, I’m wondering if a rhythmic gymnast has ever transitioned from artistic or vice versa? Would it be easy or challenging?
A few have tried to make the transition, and some actually grow up playing around with both, though if they’re serious about doing it at the elite level, they have to choose between the two at a fairly young age. Most notably, the Bulgarian rhythmic gymnast Elizabet Vasileva transitioned from rhythmic to artistic a few years ago. She’s struggled with injury recently, but she’s hoping to get back into competition soon. She was slated to compete at the challenge cup in Varna this summer, but ended up not being ready in time. When I last saw her compete, her acro skills were a little messy (she just doesn’t show extension on anything) and she wasn’t super confident on beam, but she performed some gorgeous skills there, including a 1.5 scorpion turn, a ring leap into a scale, and a breathtaking mount (when she competed it at Varna in 2016, it took her 25 seconds to get through it…it was amazing, but unfortunately put her WAY over time).
If a gymnast rebounds at the end of a tumbling pass and tumbles immediately back out of the corner but only does one skill, does that count as another tumbling run?
No, it’s the same tumbling run. Many gymnasts actually do this, with the triple full into a punch front being most common.
Can all four gymnasts compete in all-around finals at Tokyo or worlds?
No, it’s two-per-country.
Could Ashton Locklear have gotten the triple L turn and triple Y turn on floor named at worlds if the U.S. were to let her go out on the floor and do the skills and nothing else?
Well, the triple Y turn is already named for Aliya Mustafina, so she wouldn’t have gotten that named either way. As for the triple L turn, she would’ve needed to perform a routine with the skill included — you can’t just walk out, perform a single skill, and leave.
Who are some of the most flexible elite gymnasts?
Hollie Vise and Peyton Ernst always impressed me with their back flexibility…I can’t think of anyone else who was similar in that they could literally bend in half backwards and often showed this off in routines to make it part of their aesthetic, which was always super cool. There are plenty who have great leap flexibility…actually right now Nina Derwael is one of my favorites in this sense because in her leaps not only does she show she’s flexible, but she also shows incredible extension through that flexibility. I’m also obsessed with Valeriia Iarmolenko’s flexibility and extension.
Do you have any predictions about who we might see at the Youth Olympic Games next year?
I can’t remember if they stuck to the rule that states a gymnast must be 15 to compete…which would include all of the 2003-born gymnasts. My definite picks right now would be Ksenia Klimenko for Russia, Giorgia Villa for Italy (or the D’Amato twins or Elisa Iorio, whoever’s looking strongest at the time, though Giorgia is definitely the top choice), Anastasiia Bachynska for Ukraine, Carolann Heduit for France, Quinn Skrupa or Emma Spence for Canada, Amelie Morgan for Great Britain, Zoja Szekely for Hungary…this is pretty much all I can think of for the big countries, and if the U.S. ends up sending someone, Leanne Wong or Sunisa Lee makes the most sense at the moment.
What do you think about the many U.S. gymnasts who have tried transitioning into the acting/singing world?
I don’t think it’s been ‘many’ of them that have done this, only a couple over the past 15 or so years. I think in general they’re just trying to capitalize on fame from the Olympics, but for most it was pretty clear their talent was in gymnastics, not in acting or singing, but it’s cool that they got the shot to take advantage of opportunities like that while they still could. I think they quickly realize that much like gymnastics, acting and singing both take extensive training and commitment, and so while a couple of guest spots on TV shows are fun, for the most part it doesn’t develop into anything further once their Olympic fame has kind of faded a bit.
Can you explain each of the Xcel levels in detail? What types of skill level do we usually see from gymnasts at those levels?
Here’s a list of the Xcel levels, the age requirements, the score requirements if necessary, and the similarities to J.O. levels. In addition to being less of a time commitment than J.O., the major benefit of Xcel is that gymnasts can compete optional routines at a much lower skill level than they can do optionals in J.O., which only allows gymnasts to start competing optional routines in level 6, which is quite advanced (most kids don’t make it past levels 4-5 so they only end up doing compulsory).
Bronze- age 5 or older, similar to J.O. levels 1-2
Silver- age 6 or older, similar to J.O. levels 2-3
Gold- age 7 or older, similar to J.O. levels 3-6
Platinum- age 8 or older, similar to J.O. levels 4-8, need a 31 AA at Gold level to qualify
Diamond- age 9 or older, similar to J.O. levels 7-9, need a 31 AA at Platinum level to qualify
Each event in Xcel has rules with skill options and restrictions for each level, like on bars, Xcel gymnasts can’t do giants until they reach Platinum, for example. For more details, you can check out the rules and the code of points.
Where will U.S. Championships be held in 2018?
We still don’t know yet. Normally they announce at least a year in advance but they haven’t made any sort of announcement yet and are probably still trying to work out logistics. I’ve been wondering if the issues with Larry Nassar have affected their relationships with various arenas and vendors, which could be why it’s taking longer than usual to lock something down. I’ve heard Boston as a rumor, which would make sense because congress is in Providence, so fingers crossed for me personally because that’ll be nice and close. 🙂 #ItsAllAboutME
You said previously that the Ukrainian women only were a power in the late 90s because they still benefited from being part of the Soviet Union. But why would they still be a MAG power if that was the case?
Why has Japanese MAG been a power program but WAG hasn’t? Why have the U.S. WAG been killing it but MAG hasn’t? Not every MAG and WAG program in the same country is going to be at equal levels. With MAG, Ukraine is lucky to have several gymnasts who excel at certain events, so even if they don’t have endless depth, they can generally put together strong enough teams to make it into finals at the Olympic or world level, but the program itself isn’t exactly thriving. WAG has a lot of really promising talent at the top just like MAG does in Ukraine, but many of the gymnasts end up getting inconsistent as they get older, and then they eventually leave the sport (there have been at least five gymnasts in the past few years that I’ve been really excited about but then they ended up not working out). Ukraine absolutely has the talent to put together a WAG team that could make the top 16 going into the Olympics this quad, but will they stay healthy enough and consistent enough to last that long?
Can you explain what the charges are related to Twistars? Are they against John and Kathy Geddert? The club? Has all support for Twistars diminished because of this?
Basically the accusations are that the environment and culture at Twistars gave Larry Nassar the means to abuse kids in the facility because the coaches/staff didn’t have enough measures in place to make sure that didn’t happen. It’s the same as why Martha Karolyi and the ranch are considered culpable in these civil suits. In many cases, because John and Martha didn’t actually abuse kids, they might not be held responsible by the courts and actually, in civil suits, literally anyone part of these programs is often named as a defendant, all the way down to a receptionist at Twistars or a janitor at the ranch, though the majority of these people will end up being crossed off as proceedings go on (so Kathy is likely named as a defendant but could be one of those who ends up not being actually sued). But since John is the owner of Twistars and Martha was the national team director, they’re the most prominent in terms of those held responsible for what went on at their facilities. With John, a lot of what he did and didn’t do is questionable, and based on some things I’ve heard related to the civil suits, I’m wondering if he did or knew more than just ‘unknowingly facilitate’ Larry’s access to kids, which is what most of the others are responsible for.
Is there a team that can beat Oklahoma?
Yeah, pretty much any of the top teams can, but the difference is that Oklahoma knows how to put it together in the team final and the other teams don’t, or at least haven’t been able to in the past couple of years. Florida and LSU both had a really strong shot of doing it this past year, and were capable of scoring in the same range as Oklahoma, and a bunch of other teams — like UCLA — also had the talent, but they just aren’t as consistent or solid when it matters the most.
How many elites in the U.S. who competed at nationals but didn’t make Olympic Trials in 2016 would be able to make teams in other countries?
Literally all of them! Either as members of full teams or as individuals. The lowest-scoring competitors at U.S. nationals last year would have been valuable competitors for many other teams. Think of it this way — Kylie Dickson didn’t even qualify to U.S. nationals in 2015 because she missed out on the required score, and she was brought in to qualify Belarus to the Olympic test event that year, which she did with an all-around score of 51.633, which was below the required score to qualify to U.S. nationals. She also qualified Belarus to the Olympics with a score of 50.798, a score that any of the gymnasts at U.S. nationals in 2016 would’ve been able to easily attain, so basically the U.S. national requirements are stricter than the requirements to compete at the Olympic Games!
What is a punch double front tuck worth as a tumbling pass?
It’s an E pass whether the gymnast punches into it or whether she does it from a front handspring or front layout or any skill that precedes it.
Any word on when your next book will be out? The first two were perfect 10s!
Thanks so much! I was (and still am optimistically) shooting for mid-December but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to work out with my publisher. So now I’m hoping for February. Fingers crossed!
Do you think Martha Karolyi thought Laurie Hernandez could possibly beat Aly Raisman in 2016 and wanted to guarantee the spot for Aly? We all know the abdominal strain was not true, as Laurie was apparently surprised and devastated by the decision.
No, I think she knew Aly was the strongest all-arounder aside from Simone Biles and felt Aly would be the best choice for that role. I think Gabby Douglas was the one who kind of got slipped in over Laurie, as she was the weaker all-arounder all summer, but you can’t bring the reigning Olympic all-around champion to the Olympic Games and not have her do the all-around, so Laurie definitely lost out to Gabby getting that kind of automatic all-around spot, and THEN to Aly for being the stronger of the two. But in the end, Aly and Gabby both performed really well, and Laurie would’ve needed around a 15.3 on bars to beat Aly, and the way her bars looked at that point, there was no way that was going to happen. I don’t think the abdominal strain was a lie, I just think it was the excuse they gave for her not getting a spot. She probably was more than willing to compete through whatever pain she was dealing with, but they needed a reason to say she was unable to do bars since she came in as one of the top three all-arounders in the country and suddenly wasn’t getting an all-around spot.
Do you think there’s any hope of Al Trautwig being replaced in the near future?
I think they seem to be slowly phasing him out by bringing in John Roethlisberger, which would be cool. He’s a great asset to that commentary team with his knowledge and passion for the sport.
Can you explain the difference between elite compulsories and optionals?
Compulsories are used in the U.S. as a way to test the basic skills for each event. The skills aren’t hard at all, and gymnasts have been doing the majority of the skills in elite compulsories for years, but the objective is to do them as perfectly as possible to show you have the foundations to handle higher-level elite skills. Gymnasts who want to compete elite in the U.S. only compete compulsory routines in the initial stage of elite qualification, so if they pass compulsories on the first try, they never have to do them again. Optionals are the routines they construct with their coaches and would compete at the elite level.
Do you think Sydney Johnson-Scharpf has any more to offer than what we’ve already seen from her?
At the elite level, at this point, I don’t think so, at least not in terms of her skill level. Her whole thing where she competed two different floor routines at nationals this summer was so freaking extra and brilliant, so that counts as “something more to offer than we’ve already seen” in my book. I’m glad that while she has kind of reached her peak in terms of her skill level, she is still showing that she is a badass in other ways.
MyKayla Skinner’s Cheng always looked better than her Amanar. Why wasn’t that her first vault?
For some reason the U.S. gymnasts tend to always do their Yurchenko vault first and then their optional second vault next. I don’t know why this is…probably because the Yurchenko vaults are usually more consistent even if they’re not necessarily as clean? They’ve been doing the Yurchenko vaults longer and have more experience doing them, so they want to count those vaults for their all-around scores and then use the newer vault as the second vault because even if they score higher on it, it might be the riskier vault in competition.
You always hear about McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross being best friends and going to gym together. Which gym did they both start at and when did they switch?
McKayla and Kyla both trained at the National Gymnastics Training Center in Aliso Viejo until they were about 8 or 9, and then they moved to Gym-Max, where Kyla continued to train until she went to college, but McKayla moved to AOGC after nationals in 2009.
Has anyone ever mounted the beam with a roundoff back tuck with a full twist? What’s the most difficult roundoff entry mount competed on beam?
Yes, this is the Garrison mount, which is worth an F and was named for U.S. gymnast Kelly Garrison. A few have trained and competed it since then, including Casey Jo Magee, who began training and competing the mount after finishing her NCAA career at Arkansas, which is when she decided she wanted to try going elite. The most difficult roundoff entry mounts are the layout full, which Natsumi Sasada competed at one point, and the Arabian, which is named for Tina Erceg, a Croatian gymnast who competed a couple of quads ago (though she’s probably just as famous for her tuxedo leo at worlds). Both of these are G mounts, and Lieke Wevers actually began working on the Erceg this year.
What the heck were the world professional gymnastics championships? Why didn’t these Americans in the late 90s compete anywhere else?
This meet was supposed to be kind of like a cross between an actual gymnastics competition and an entertaining event for spectators. It was like a less stressful competition and was meaningless in terms of how someone ranked in the world order of the sport.
The scoring was different (they scored routines out of a 100), the gymnasts could choose what they wanted to compete, they had something like $50,000 in prize money (each gymnast competing could fight to pick up a piece of that depending on how they finished), and they were able to do more creative routines with fewer big skills so they could focus on entertaining. They basically wanted to make it a big spectacle event for TV without the strict codes and rules, getting the crowds more involved and making it more like a showcase than a legitimate competition.
Americans in the late 90s competed at more than just the PGC, but since this competition was a good way for professional gymnasts to make some extra cash, and since gymnasts who had already retired from the sport could come back and compete as well, it was where you’d see a majority of the well-known Americans show up since there was something in it for them beyond making teams. Americans who wanted to make worlds teams and other international teams still had to compete at the regular events with real routines, though.
The last time a PGC was held was 2013, I think? That competition pitted teams against one another — a U.S. team versus an international team — and it’s where Nastia Liukin, who ‘coached’ the U.S. team, famously screamed “it was a Deltchev!!!” when the judges thought Brie Olson performed a Gienger. At this PGC, we saw a few retired elites, like Jana Bieger, as well as some retired NCAA gymnasts who no longer had to maintain eligibility come back to earn some cash, like Olson and UCLA’s Vanessa Zamarripa, both of whom graduated that spring. I wish they’d do them every year, if only because it’s a great way to get a little more cash flow to the gymnasts.
Who was the first American gymnast to perform the Amanar?
Do you think there should be a deduction for ‘cowboying’ tucked saltos? Can you think of a gymnast in recent history who didn’t cowboy a little?
There is a deduction, but there’s only so much they can take from it, usually 0.1 or 0.3 depending on how far apart the knees are. The best non-cowboyed double fronts were from Ivana Hong, in my opinion…her knees were glued. And Brooklyn Moors’ knees look better in her double front half-out than most gymnasts look on just a double front.
How does judging work? Does every judge give a score and then it’s averaged? Do they drop the score from a judge that is from the performing gymnast’s country?
For the execution score, there are six judges who take deductions for general faults, specific apparatus faults, and artistry faults. The highest and lowest of these execution scores are dropped, and the remaining four scores are averaged. They don’t drop a score if the judge is from the gymnast’s country, because even though those judges would seemingly want to give that gymnast a higher score than usual, at competitions like world cups, worlds, and the Olympics, judges have to follow the code with their deductions and if they don’t, they can be investigated. Most judges who reach that level and are representing their country don’t want to jeopardize their standing with the FIG by showing favoritism to the gymnasts from their country.
Is Giorgia Villa back training yet? Do you have any news about her?
Yes, she’s back training and is doing really well. She actually returned to competition on bars at Italian Championships just five months after her Achilles injury, and she won the bars title both at nationals and at the final Italian Serie A two weeks later.
Do you know what tumbling Shawn Johnson would have performed had she competed floor in 2011 as she originally intended?
I’m not sure, I never saw her training anything aside from a dance through. I’d imagine she’d either do passes similar to what she competed in 2008, or maybe a step down if she wasn’t ready for her exact level of difficulty.
Do you have to do all-around to make the U.S. national team?
No. The top six all-arounders automatically make the national team at both the senior and junior levels but then the national team coordinator decides if anyone else should be on either team based on what they showed at nationals. Generally for juniors, it maxes out at those six unless someone missed the competition due to injury and could only compete one or two events, as was the case with Gabby Perea this year. But for seniors, if someone is a specialist that is likely to make a major international team coming up, they’ll get a spot, like Ashton Locklear and Jade Carey did this year.
What happened with the Spanish WAG program? They consistently made finals in the 1990s and early 2000s but then didn’t even qualify a full team to the test event last year.
The new code really screwed with them, as it did with a lot of teams who were able to get by in earlier quads with clean, solid gymnastics but who then couldn’t make the difficulty requirements work for them in the open-ended code of points. The last time they had a full team at the Olympics was 2004, and while they held onto a good team ranking in 2006, where they placed 8th, after that you could see them dropping pretty quickly, going to 15th in 2007, not qualifying a full team to 2008, and then continuing to struggle after that, placing between 12th and 18th as a team at worlds between 2010-2015. Unfortunately, finishing 17th in 2015 meant they were one spot away from getting a full team to the test event for 2016. The Spanish gymnasts continue to have some of my favorite routines, but it’s really hard for them to keep up because when they DO add difficulty, they struggle, but when they don’t have difficulty, they can’t contend with stronger teams.
When do the schedules come out for NCAA next year?
They come out beginning in September with many not finalizing until December or so. If you check now, though, pretty much all of the big schedules are out.
Do gymnasts get bonus connection for skills not included in the top eight skills?
Yes, even though the skills won’t count toward their top eight, the bonus does count, which is why on beam you’ll sometimes see routines with 15 or more skills, many just simple A or B skills, because those skills are used to beef up the difficulty through connections. This is a tricky strategy, though, because if a gymnast relies totally on connections to build a D score but has a shaky routine and doesn’t get any of her connections credited, she can end up going from a potential 6.5 D down to around a 5.5 D, which is what happened to Liu Tingting a few times this year.
Where is Nia Dennis?
Nia Dennis retired from elite to begin her career at UCLA, where she is currently a freshman.
What does podium mean in gymnastics? I don’t see anything that looks like a ‘podium’ when I watch gymnastics.
The podium is the surface gymnasts compete on at major international events as well as U.S. domestic meets. It’s a raised surface meant to be kind of like a platform stage taking the gymnasts up a few feet from floor level. They’re aesthetically nice to look at on a competition floor, and while they’re not necessary for a competition (in fact, only a few countries actually use podiums for domestic meets) many meets will opt to use them because they just look a little more presentable in a large arena. The podiums do make the equipment a bit bouncier, so in that sense it provides better landings for gymnasts’ bodies than the hard concrete surface would under equipment not on a podium, but it also means gymnasts have to train to get used to podium equipment because it could mean that the bars and beam are a bit more wobbly or bouncy than they might be on a regular floor.
What was the reaction from the gymternet when Brenna Dowell was named to the worlds team over Bailie Key? What do you think of the whole situation?
Most people were shocked and surprised. As a huge fan of Brenna, I personally was shocked and surprised. I later found out Bailie struggled at camp whereas Brenna was a rockstar, and that’s what the decision came down to. That’s usually how they’d choose teams — based on how the girls look as close to the competition as possible — and while it didn’t work out that year, mainly because Brenna ended up dealing with a lot of nerves at worlds after the issue with her floor music, in most years it works brilliantly, and it’s how Morgan Hurd became the world champion this year. If they made the decision based on nationals, Morgan wouldn’t have made the worlds team, period, but because she showed up at camp looking better than ever, beating everyone else there, she earned a spot and it proved to be a smart decision.
Is it possible for a turn on beam or floor to get ‘upgraded’ rather than downgraded?
Yup! Same goes for mistakes on vault and bars as well. Brandie Jay ‘accidentally’ competed a DTY instead of her Yurchenko 1.5 in NCAA once, which was hilarious and awesome, and some gymnasts who make mistakes on skills often actually train to over-rotate them so they can get credit for bigger skills than they were planning, which is why Simone Biles would submit a Weiler full on bars just in case she messed up her Weiler half, and this is also why Jordan Chiles ended up getting credited with a much higher-valued turn on beam than she was going for when she spun wildly out of her wolf turn at nationals.
Do you know who the long-haired blonde woman Martha Karolyi sat with at the Olympics was?
Probably Rhonda Faehn? I can’t think of anyone else who would’ve been there with her. Rhonda is the Senior Vice President of the women’s program and works hand-in-hand with Valeri Liukin. They balance each other nicely.
Is there something like a double twisting double pike? If the judges don’t credit a double double layout because it’s too piked, could they give them credit for a double double pike? Or just deduct the execution score?
Basically it’s not really physically possible to twist in a legit piked position, so even when you see a piked full-in, you either see the twist happen just before the first flip, or you’ll see that the first flip ends up being pretty open because aerodynamically, an actual pike just doesn’t twist super well. So there’s no such thing as a legit piked double double (meaning that it’s two flips with one twist in each of them) and we probably won’t see one submitted. If the leg/hip form in a Moors is so loose that it goes beyond execution deductions, they’d downgrade to a tucked double double. Both Victoria Moors and MyKayla Skinner just got deductions for their leg/hip form, though, not downgrades.
How many deductions can a gymnast receive for leg separations during an uneven bars routine? Are gymnasts like Elena Eremina heavily penalized for this kind of mistake?
For each skill that has a leg separation, there can be a deduction. So for example, if a gymnast does a giant, a toe-on, a stalder half, and then a piked Jaeger, and all four of those elements have leg separation, all four of those skills would get a deduction. I’m pretty sure the majority of Elena’s deductions come from her leg separation, though she’s lucky because from the side angle, judges can’t always see it every time, and also Elena has cleaned up quite a bit so it’s not so bad anymore. Basically if you’re going to have a repeated flaw on bars, minor leg separation is better than something like short handstands, because the judges can see handstands so clearly from their POV, whereas leg separation is definitely hard to gauge.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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