It’s time for the 199th 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 why Team GB isn’t Team UK and how these political distinctions work for international competitions? Could Puerto Rico send gymnasts to international events or do they fall under the U.S. umbrella? Are there other countries/states/places that are separated like this?
It’s technically the United Kingdom, and officially the team is the “Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Team,” but for branding they’ve used Team GB, which dates back to the first Games in 1896, when “GBR” became the country’s IOC country code. Keep in mind that this was in the height of colonialism during which the British Empire was in control of literally every country in the world, so back then “GBR” meant something different than it does now, so it’s less about accuracy now and more just like “well that’s how we’ve always had it SHRUG.”
There have actually been petitions to change the branding to “Team UK” because “Team GB” excludes and alienates the people of Northern Ireland, but the British Olympic Association said neither GB nor UK accurately describes the makeup of the United Kingdom’s team, because while GB excludes Northern Ireland, UK actually excludes the Isle of Man, Jersey, and other overseas territories. The most accurate name would be “Team Great Britain, Northern Island, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, and UK Overseas Territories” but that just doesn’t work as easily as “Team GB,” hahaha. #TeamGBNIIOMCIUKOT
For international competitions like worlds and the Olympics, the British team involves all of the above territories, but for invitationals and non-FIG meets, each country/territory can basically do its own thing. Like, Wales and Scotland send a lot of teams to invitationals, and then smaller international Games like the Commonwealth Games, Island Games, and so on also allow for the “Team GB” countries and territories to split up and compete as their own entities. At Commonwealth Games in 2014, Team GB was represented by teams from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, and Jersey.
The U.S. for the purpose of international Olympic competition does not include Puerto Rico, because Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are all recognized as independent from the U.S. despite being dependent territories. So Puerto Rico can send — and has sent — gymnasts to worlds and the Olympics on their own, and they have their own federation, though several of their gymnasts have trained in the continental U.S.
Some dependent territories for other countries have their own NOCs (like Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, and the Cayman Islands for Great Britain), but others (like the Faroe Islands and Macau, for example) aren’t recognized by the IOC and their athletes have to compete for their parent nation’s national team (so Faroese athletes compete under the Danish flag, and athletes from Macau would compete for China).
There are many other territories and national groups that are trying to become independently recognized at the Olympic Games as separate from their parent nations, and some actually are recognized as independent for the Paralympics, but not for the Olympic Games.
What is a Yurchenko double tuck? How is it different from a double-twisting Yurchenko?
The flight in a Yurchenko double tuck involves two back flips in the tucked position. The flight in a double-twisting Yurchenko involves one back flip in a layout position with two twists in that layout position.
Can you become a coach without being a gymnast beforehand?
Yup! I know of a few coaches who have never done gymnastics. Obviously you start out at a pretty low level, coaching rec kids and compulsory levels, but if you’re good at your job, you can definitely climb the ranks as you get more experience. Also, Miss Val has never been a gymnast and she’s the head coach of a national champion NCAA program so hey.
I feel like since almost all dismounts are backwards and require either a roundoff or back handspring into them, the new 0.2 CV is basically a bonus for a hard dismount. Isn’t it easier to just add difficulty value for the skill?
Yeah, you can kind of see it that way…I guess the point they’re making by doing it this way instead of just adding difficulty value is that the skill on its own isn’t worth an H or an I or whatever, but it’s the connection from the roundoff or back handspring that makes it more difficult. Even though there’s pretty much no way to do those dismounts WITHOUT one of those skills going into it, their point is that the skill itself is worth one thing, but the connection is also hard and worth some value of its own. In that sense, while part of the code isn’t requiring D+ dismounts anymore, this is a way to encourage gymnasts to upgrade their dismounts with the 0.2 kind of like an incentive.
Is there a special requirement in the U.S. to do four tumbling passes on floor?
No. I’ve seen plenty of juniors and weaker floor competitors compete only three passes. But the strongest gymnasts on that event do four passes because they have the ability to do so, and because it’s easier to build difficulty that way compared to trying to build difficulty with fewer passes but more dance elements.
Laney Madsen is half Bulgarian. Is she eligible to compete for them? If 2020 is her goal, that’s a more viable option.
She’s definitely eligible to compete for them if she has citizenship, which she should be able to get since she has a parent who has citizenship. It’s a way more viable option…there’s no way she could make it as a U.S. competitor at this point. Actually, there are a couple of Bulgarian gymnasts, as well as a Bulgarian American gymnast, who are stronger than her and could probably get a spot over her, but it’s definitely going to be easier that way than trying to make the U.S. team.
Can gymnasts perform skills with either arm or leg leading? Or can they only do it by leading with the right/left?
Yup! It’s a personal preference kind of thing. Everyone has a side that “feels” better, basically. When I do turns in ballet, my left leg is a better standing leg than my right, for whatever reason. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to it, but it could just be out of habit or how early rec coaches taught certain elements, or even just what naturally feels better. I literally have zero clue why left is my preferred leg to turn on, and preferred direction to turn, so I’m sure most gymnasts can’t explain why leading with a certain arm or leg is easier for them.
How many teams do you think will earn all six spots to the 2020 Olympics?
I think probably around four or five will get all six spots? It’s hard to say because we don’t know what a country’s depth will look like in 2019 and 2020, but based on how countries look at the moment, I think maybe 10 or so could get one extra spot, but I do think a very small percentage will qualify both spots.
Why don’t we see more triple or double twist dismounts off bars?
They’re just not really a trend. When you have one skill that’s pretty popular, coaches get used to having their gymnasts doing these more popular skills regularly, so you always have the super common skills and then the super rare unicorn skills. It’s a natural divide for pretty much any category of skills. I saw a double twist at one competition this year, I forgot from whom, but it had rotation issues and was a bit messy…I feel like when you have a dismount like that where the lateral rotation has to be super accurate to get credit, many wouldn’t want to do a double twist with the fear of ending up short and getting it downgraded or something, whereas with a double salto skill, you can fall, but you generally wouldn’t get the skill itself downgraded unless you truly botched it Courtney McCool style or something.
Do gymnasts get deductions on bars for finishing a handstand before they are directly on top of the bar?
Yes, it would be a short handstand and would generally get between 0.1 or 0.3 off depending on how short it was…and a fully horizontal “handstand” would get 0.5 in deductions.
How does switching athletes at the Olympics work, like what happened with Roza Galiyeva and some other substitutes in 1996 and Svetlana Khorkina giving her vault final spot to her teammate in 2000? How can countries just switch athletes around?
It’s shady, but there are loopholes that make it legit. Federations can say the gymnasts who made it got injured, and since their own gymnast who didn’t make it was a reserve, or would’ve qualified if not for two-per-country, they’re technically next in line when the first gymnast drops out.
To use real-life examples, you can’t just replace the gymnast who qualified with anyone you want to throw in. When Ragan Smith got injured and had to miss the floor final at worlds this year, the U.S. couldn’t just be like “yay, let’s put Morgan Hurd in!” because Morgan didn’t qualify in a spot that would’ve put her in contention for the final. Ragan qualified first, Jade qualified third, and Morgan qualified 32nd, so when Ragan was injured, the spot had to go to the first reserve, Ellie Black. But had Ragan qualified first, Jade third, and Morgan seventh, getting two-per-country’ed out of the final, once Ragan got injured and withdrew, Morgan would be back in the picture and could take Ragan’s place.
Usually what we see with these swaps is something like the gymnast who is expected to make the final has a bad day and finishes ninth or something, whereas the gymnast who gets into the final has an unexpectedly good day and qualifies ahead. If the gymnast who missed out is a medal threat and the country REALLY wants her in and she qualified in a position that could make her a replacement for the girl who got in over her, the federation can swap out the girl who made it for the girl who didn’t.
This happened with Alice D’Amato and Elisa Iorio at EYOF this summer, which is a great example because Elisa was a major threat for gold, but JUST missed out on the final, whereas Alice kind of snuck in. They knew Alice wasn’t likely to medal whereas Elisa was a gold threat, so they took Alice out and put Elisa in, and what do you know, Elisa won gold. I talked about this a couple of days ago in response to a question that asked for my opinion about swapping gymnasts in, and this example in particular is a scenario that makes me be like “okay, I get why countries would want to make the swap in some instances.”
But I also feel like it sucks because the whole point of qualifications is that the person who had the best day on that particular day should be the person who gets the finals spot. That’s literally what gymnastics is about — being the best when it counts. It sucks to see legitimate medal contenders miss out on finals, but that’s life. And life sucks. Just kidding. But for real, half of the battle of winning a medal is hitting both in qualifications and in finals, and it’s super unfair for some gymnasts to get to ride into the final on their teammates’ success while other gymnasts in those finals had to actually earn their spots.
What is an ‘inbar’ skill? What makes them harder so that people like Ashton Locklear have to ‘get them back?’
An inbar skill is a swinging element where the gymnast swings around the bar in a piked position in which her feet clear the bar. Gymnasts can also swing around the bar in a piked position with their toes ON the bar, called a toe-on, but the piked position in an inbar is MUCH deeper, and that body position can be hell on your low back. Because Ashton was generally dealing with back pain, inbars were always hard for her, but she had them in her routine in 2016 to boost her difficulty. This year, she downgraded them to toe-ons so they’re similar but easier, both physically and in terms of what they’re worth in the code, and she was hoping to get them back before worlds, but just physically couldn’t do the skill without being in tons of pain.
Why do gymnasts like Sunisa Lee want to go to college very early in their career? She turns senior in 2019 and wants to go in 2021 so she’ll only have two senior years. Can she change the year she goes to college?
When gymnasts commit to college, they commit based on the year in which they graduate high school. But that doesn’t mean they have to attend college in that year, and many will defer for the Olympics. But since she will be able to try for the Olympic Games prior to entering college, she wouldn’t need to defer college and can just begin competing in NCAA the year after she tries for Tokyo…unless she decides to defer until after 2024, which is rare, but happens (Bridget Sloan going for 2012, MyKayla Skinner going for 2016, and so on).
Most elites in the U.S. who don’t go pro don’t get many years competing at the senior level because the majority want to start college at an age that makes sense, usually around 18 or so. Since you don’t become a senior until 16, it doesn’t leave you with much time to compete at the senior level, and this has been the case for literally every elite who has done NCAA ever, with the exception of the few who defer for several years.
Why didn’t East Germany’s success in the sport carry over after they reunified with West Germany?
As East Germany fell, so did their culture of systematic doping of athletes. The DDR had a state-sponsored doping program known as State Plan 14.25 that forced athletes to take performance-enhancing drugs, sometimes without their knowledge, giving them an advantage in international competition. Manfred Ewald, the head of the DDR’s federation, began the state-endorsed doping program in 1974. It led to major victories across all sports, but at the expense of at least 10,000 athletes having their health abused, with 10% of them suffering serious physical and psychological damage.
But the second the wall fell and the DDR ceased to exist, the state-endorsed doping programs that existed along with it died out as well. The West German sports federation took over when the East and West merged, and with athletes no longer being given PEDs, the East German athletes who kept competing after reunification may have had a little bit of continued success, but the program itself wasn’t breeding super-athletes as the East German program had been, and so they kind of just saw a natural decline.
Is the following routine possible: inbar (D) + inbar full (E) + Komova II (E) + Church (E) + Pak (D) + van Leeuwen (E), inbar half (D)+ layout Jaeger (F), Ono (E) + Healy ½ (E), Fabrichnova (F)? If so, is the D score of 6.7 correct?
I might kill the gymnast, but it’s possible! I think it would actually be a 7.0, though…I went through it super quickly but got the 2.0 CR, 4.2 in skills (FFEEEEEE), and 0.8 in CV. Pretty much all of those connections are worth a tenth with the exception of the Komova II to Church, which would be two tenths.
Was Alicia Sacramone injured in 2010? Why didn’t she compete floor?
No, she was just coming back slowly and decided to start on vault and beam so she wouldn’t have to rush into doing a floor routine. It was smart, she was very successful in 2010, and I think had she started with all three at once she maybe would’ve struggled a bit, especially since it takes longer to build up endurance for a high-level floor routine than it does to get back on vault and beam.
Often when gymnasts ‘stick’ landings their feet don’t move but they take an extra bounce to absorb the impact of the landing. Does this count as a real stick?
If it just looks like a small bounce in place where their feet don’t really leave the mat but their knees on the landing look soft and a little bent but then bounce into being straight (does that description make sense? lol) then yes, it’s a stick.
What are your tips for watching multiple events at once if it’s your first time going to meets in person?
Just try to take it all in and enjoy! If there’s someone you really want to see, try to get your hands on a start list so you can track them and make sure you don’t miss them, but in general, even though it’s four events at a time, there are always one or two events that draw the most attention, especially if there’s an announcer being like “NEXT UP ON FLOOR IS SIMONE BILES.” The emcees definitely help you through by pointing out what to follow. It can feel a little overwhelming and no, you’re not going to see every single skill that happens in every single routine, but just try to pay attention to whatever you can and have fun! Also, sit in a place where you can see the whole arena so you’re not constantly whipping your head around. It might mean sitting further back or on one of the sides instead of in the center, but overall it’s preferable.
Why are standing front tucks getting more popular? They have the same value as front tucks with a couple of steps into them, and it’s harder to get height without the steps.
I don’t really think I see any standing front tucks on beam? Pretty much every front tuck I see is a punch out of a little run…can you give me an example? I can’t think of literally anyone who has done it from a standing position, unless it’s like, out of a skill that precedes it, and even then I’m having trouble racking my brain for an example. But you’re right in that it’s harder than a punch front tuck while being worth the same, so if it IS happening, it’s a bit silly. Unless, of course, it’s easier for that particular athlete…maybe she can’t run on the beam? I feel like I remember a gymnast saying that she felt comfortable flipping on a beam but the hardest part for her was running into a roundoff before her dismount, which is hilarious to me.
Has there ever been a gymnast in a worlds or Olympic vault final who didn’t compete a Yurchenko?
Yes, many! In the final at worlds this year, Wang Yan did a tsuk double and a Rudi, and Ellie Black and Oksana Chusovitina both did a handspring layout full and a tsuk 1½.
What is your favorite floor routine ever done by an American?
I know I’ll get hate for this but probably Aly Raisman’s 2012 routine. It’s more about the spirit of the routine and the memory of her finishing off the floor rotation in the team final sobbing her face off, and obviously her tumbling. Yes, the choreography, blah blah blah, but at least she did some actual traditional choreo as part of it, and I don’t care that it wasn’t brilliantly artistic. It led to so many great moments in the sport.
I have similar feelings about Carly Patterson’s routine in 2004…and I loooooved Laurie Hernandez’s routine in 2012 and low key wish she could’ve saved that music/choreo for 2016, maybe updating the choreo a little bit but GOD that routine was fabulous. I liked her 2016 routine, but I think it was my least favorite of hers, honestly. Though I always enjoyed watching her, and while Simone Biles’ routines weren’t my favorite stylistically they were obviously insanely good in all aspects. I was recently rewatching one of her Rio routines and really saw her tour jeté full for the first time and was like DAMN, it wasn’t just the tumbling, she could do it all.
As for those who haven’t been as STRONG in the sense that they’re not leading the pack on this event in international competition but who still had enjoyable routines, I always enjoyed Amelia Hundley and Emily Gaskins a ton, Polina Shchennikova, I like the creativity and individuality in many of the Texas Dreams routines, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, Madison Kocian, MORGAN HURD obviously, I loved Rebecca Bross’s routine in 2009/2010, Sabrina Vega was always magical, Cassie Whitcomb had some great stuff…and watching Hopes this summer, there were SO MANY excellent and artistic routines. So I hope they stick with that and end up being ones to watch in the coming years.
How much say does an elite gymnast have in choosing her floor music? Are they allowed to help remix or produce it?
It depends…a young gymnast with not a ton of insight who isn’t on the national team will probably just have her coach and/or choreographer choose the music, but gymnasts who are well-known in the sport for having a certain style or kind of routine and who know themselves a little better as performers might have more of a hand at choosing their own music. Like Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas…they were definitely all at a point in 2016 where they could be in on the decision with their coach, choreographer, and the national team staff. They might not say “I want THIS as my music!” but their entourage probably suggests a few options and they have a say in what the choice ends up being. And internationally in smaller programs, I know a lot of gymnasts who choose their own music because they’re kind of the ones in control of their careers.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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