It’s time for the 202nd 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.
What is going on with Olivia Cimpian? Is she competing for Romania or for Hungary?
She’s competing for Hungary now but has to wait a year before she can compete. Luckily for her, she can still compete at invitationals and the year-long waiting period expires just before 2018 worlds. She won’t be able to go to Euros, but otherwise she really won’t be affected all that much by the move!
Why do men do multiple tumbling passes on the same diagonal? Do they not have a ‘use the whole floor’ requirement? Are they only required to have one non-tumbling skill?
For men one of the changes in the code of points for this quad was that there is no longer a limit on how many times a diagonal must be used in succession, but the whole floor must be used during the routine or there will be a 0.3 neutral deduction. So in previous quads, I think we saw multiple passes back and forth on the same diagonal because it was required, but now it’s changed so that the rule is more similar to the women where they have to use the whole floor.
As for non-tumbling skills, the only real requirement is that the gymnast must use elements from each of the three element groups (non-acro, forward acro, and backward acro) as well as a dismount from group one or two, and there is a maximum of five elements per group for the ten counting skills, so technically they can get away with doing just one non-acro skill, which is what the stronger tumblers will generally do so they can count the majority of their difficulty from big acro elements.
What is the NCAA rule of the leotard touching the apparatus?
I believe this is for beam (and maybe for floor too?) but basically the rule stating that the leotard must touch the apparatus is their way of enforcing choreography or movement during which the gymnast is down on the beam/on the floor. It’s similar to the low-beam choreo and low-floor choreo requirements in elite, which basically just state that the body has to be at different levels during choreography, which is why you see a lot of laying on the floor or getting low to the beam.
Who started the messy ponytail trend that everyone rocks in competitions now?
Messy ponytails have kind of always been a thing in NCAA (well…since I started watching over a decade ago, anyway!) but in elite somewhere around 2009 or 2010, gymnasts started going from straight and sleek ponytails to the messier styles, and by 2012 it was all the rage…though thankfully ballerina buns took over this past quad, which in my opinion looks classier…but to those who still want to rock the messy hair, go for it.
Can you please explain the difference between the Biles and a laid-out double arabian? Does it depend on where the twist is?
Yes, it’s all about where the twist is. The Biles is a double layout half-out, so the first layout and the first half of the second layout are both backwards until the twist turns the last half of the second flip into a front flip. The laid-out arabian double front has a half-twist before the two flips, so both flips out of an arabian are forward.
Are there any ballet skills/techniques not currently in the code that could be?
Hmm, not really? Nothing that would really be all that valuable. The only thing that annoys me about ballet skills in the code is that a fouetté turn can only ever be considered a sequence of A-rated pirouettes because the heel drops between each turn, so even though fouttés are much harder than A pirouettes, they’re not seen that way in the code, which sucks because no one ever does them (or a la secondes) and I think some gymnasts could make them really work within the context of a floor routine. But other turns and most leaps in ballet already exist in gymnastics in some sense…the only real difference is that in ballet you sometimes see more running leaps connected in a row, which wouldn’t really make sense for gymnastics since the connection value wouldn’t be worth anything. Most ‘skills’ you see in ballet are just connected bits of choreography that could work as gymnastics floor choreo, but wouldn’t have any value as actual skills.
On beam, is there a difference between a whip and a layout in the code?
No, there’s not at the moment, but there’s really no such thing as a whip on beam, since whips are no-handed back handsprings used to generate power into big acro skills and aren’t the same thing as a layout. A whip is lower to the ground and travels far, whereas a layout is high without much travel. There are no acro skills on beam that would require the power generated from a whip, but if someone were to do a legitimate whip on beam, it would be a new skill.
Have we ever seen any WAG gymnasts from Jordan?
Yup! Ruba Al-Daoud has competed for Jordan a couple times a year for the past three or so seasons, including at the Paris Challenge Cup this year, and several gymnasts have competed at meets in the Middle East but haven’t done any big international meets (like Lara Awwad, Tala Haddad, and Namaty Al-Hendi, to name a few).
Why is everyone doing wolf turns on beam? Did the D value get raised in the new code of points?
No, wolf turns were not raised in value…the only change in value for wolf turns on beam was taking the 2½ from an E to a D, which is why you now really only see doubles (worth a D) or triples (worth an E). But turns beyond single pirouettes are really hard on beam, so even though double and triple pirouettes (or L turns or Y turns) are worth more, most gymnasts prefer not to do them because they’re too difficult and not worth the risk. But with the center of gravity being much lower in a wolf turn, it’s easier to maintain balance and precision, so gymnasts looking for high-rated dance elements in the D/E range will turn to double or triple wolf turns over much harder pirouettes that are worth the same. There’s also very little that can be deducted in a wolf turn, so it’s kind of like a win-win-win skill…you get the difficulty, you get very little deducted, and there’s a low risk for a fall.
If a gymnast performs a skill that has never been done before at a national championships or another competition that is not worlds or the Olympics, how do judges value the skill?
The D panel most likely confers about the skill and then decides how to value it at that specific competition, though it might differ from what the women’s technical committee would officially rate the skill when they evaluate it at a competition where it’s eligible to be added to the code of points (like worlds).
Is Molly Frack still committed to LSU and planning on college gym?
After initially verbally committing to LSU in 2016, Molly changed her commitment to Auburn last month and will begin competing for the program in the 2019-2020 season.
Why was Gabby Douglas inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame twice in 2017?
Gymnasts can be inducted into the Hall of Fame both individually and as part of teams. When she was inducted in the Class of 2017, it was both individually and as part of the 2016 Olympic team. She had previously been inducted as a member of the 2012 Olympic team back in the Hall of Fame Class of 2013, so she’s technically been inducted three times in her career.
What’s the difference between a split ring jump and a Yang Bo?
A split ring jump is a jump in a split position with the back leg in a ring shape and the head released back while a Yang Bo has no ring shape but rather the legs are in an oversplit position with the head dropped back. In a split ring jump, the split requirement is just 180, but to reach the correct positioning in a Yang Bo, both the front and back legs have to be raised so that an oversplit is shown. Sometimes raising the back leg makes it look like a ring, but it’s not required to be in a true ring position, and the front leg must also go past 180. A split ring jump is definitely much easier than the Yang Bo, which is why you see so many of them compared to pretty much no Yang Bo jumps that I can recall in the past few years, even though they’re both rated D.
What were the problems at the 2004 Olympics that led to a change in the code of points?
In the men’s competition, the judges misidentified one of Yang Tae Young’s p-bars elements, raiting his routine out of a 9.9 instead of a 10.0. On top of that, Paul Hamm’s vault was overscored when he had a large mistake. The Koreans appealed after the competition ended, which was too late, which allowed Paul Hamm to win the gold while Yang Tae Young placed third, just 0.058 back from gold when he should’ve been ahead by more than half a tenth. The issues in the men’s all-around competition called into question the deficiencies in the FIG judging system, which discredited the sport in the eyes of the international sporting community. In response, the FIG immediately began discussing bringing an open-ended code into play, because a difficulty value assigned to every skill and combination of skills would help make start values less ambiguous, which would lead to fewer controversies and problems.
Do photographers need the permission of the athletes to post photos on social media or websites/magazines at meets?
No. I believe athletes all have to sign waivers at every meet they attend that states they’ll be on television and will be photographed. I’ve seen this at J.O. club meets in the U.S. as well so it’s applicable on every level, not just major international levels. I’ve never heard of a gymnast refusing to sign a waiver, though if they did refuse, I’d guess photographers and videographers would get some sort of notification letting them know they’re not allowed to publish the image of that person? The only time I’ve had a problem was at the WOGA Classic in 2010…I videoed the elite qualifier and the coach from Girls in Co-Op told me to take my YouTube videos down or she’d sue me. I took them down out of respect for her wishes, but checked with WOGA to see if they’d signed waivers and they had, so there’s no way they could’ve sued me for using their images because they literally agreed to it.
What skills should change value because they’re either too easy or too difficult for the current value?
I wish the double and triple wolf turn would be devalued by one letter each, with the double moving to a C and the triple moving to a D. Those are the only ones I wish would get devalued…but I wish the 3½ on floor was raised a step, and wish the cap for transitions on bars was removed so some transitions, like the Komova and the Seitz, could be raised.
How much does it typically cost to send a full team to worlds? Can a gymnast self-fund if the federation doesn’t want to send a team due to budget constraints?
It depends on how much the federation is willing to spend…some federations go all out while others really know how to budget the trip and end up making it super inexpensive. For full teams, coaches, and their entourage, hotel alone can be upwards of $20k for worlds, flights are probably another $10-20k depending on costs for that particular journey, ground travel and meals can be $5-10k, then there’s also the cost of renting a training gym if they arrive prior to the training halls opening (which many teams do), the gear for the team and coaches…some teams could be looking at upwards of $100k. But many smaller programs have nowhere near that budget and will only fund hotels for qualifications and book flights home before finals because the chances of their gymnasts making it that far are slim…these countries are definitely spending much less than the U.S. or Russia might.
If a federation doesn’t want to send a team because they have budgetary concerns, a gymnast can ask the federation if she can self-fund if she still wants to compete at worlds. I know quite a few gymnasts who have done this, and most of them don’t have the personal finances to make it more than a budget trip, so they stay in cheaper hotels further from the host hotel and make other decisions that will help them financially. And then there’s the Belarus example, when Belarus was going to pay to send two gymnasts to worlds, but then Artur Akopyan stepped in and asked if his gymnasts could compete for them, and Belarus said that they could have those spots if they self-funded, so the gymnasts’ parents funded the “Belarusian” team’s trip to Glasgow and secured an Olympic spot at zero expense to the Belarusian federation, a true win-win situation for them.
Has anyone ever done a quad turn on beam?
I’ve seen gymnasts practice a quad turn on beam, including Mai Murakami back in the day (and hers was great!) but I’ve never seen a gymnast compete one. Get ready for the cutest video ever…
Ella Douglas of Canada, who now competes for Michigan State, also trained a quad spin as well as a quintuple spin!
Why do gymnasts universally salute before stepping onto the floor? Is this a convention or is there an actual rule?
There’s a rule that gymnasts have to acknowledge the judges before a routine, signaling that she’s ready to start. The judges signal to the gymnasts that they’re ready to see the routine, either by holding a hand up or by flashing the green light, and gymnasts signal back. There is actually a penalty for gymnasts who fail to salute.
Can you jump out of all four tumbling passes to avoid a landing deduction even if it doesn’t give you bonus?
Yup, there’s no rule that states a gymnast can only jump out of a pass a limited number of times. They’d probably get some sort of composition deduction, though…judges would know they’re trying to avoid landing deductions by jumping, and they’d definitely apply lack of variety deductions (and I know some judges who might get extra strict on jump positions out of spite, in which case gymnasts are better off just landing the acro because a landing deduction on an acro skill worth a D or higher is much better than leg deductions and lack of variety deductions when you’re doing additional skills that add zero value to your routine).
Why do you think Catalina Ponor keeps trying to perform the ring leap and switch ring when they’re consistently not done well?
You could ask why does anyone keep trying to perform skills that aren’t consistently done well, because there are many worse things out there than Catalina’s ring skills…and the answer would be that at some point the skills were solid enough, or coming along well enough, to go into the routine compared to other skills they may have also tried that didn’t work as well. So for Catalina, at some point she was doing these skills in a way that made sense, so even though she eventually struggled with them and often had trouble with them in competition, they were in her routine as solid skills at one point and she probably didn’t have time to redo the routine construction since the season was already underway.
The Lopez vault is named after Mexican gymnast Denisse Lopez, but I can’t find any information or video evidence that she ever competed it. Do you know when and where she debuted it?
I believe the first time she competed it was at Cottbus in 2000…but it came out of the code as a named skill when they redid the code in 2005 for some reason, though I still refer to it as a Lopez. The coolest thing about Denisse was that she debuted this vault AFTER a five-year hiatus from the sport! After competing at Barcelona 1992, Denisse retired and then returned in 1997, winning the all-around at Pan Ams. She continued mostly as a specialist after that, though still did the all-around occasionally, and made it to the Olympics in 2000, where she qualified to the vault final (though she crashed both her vaults there, including the Lopez).
What is the impact on an NCAA program to have a gymnast commit to the program and not end up attending?
Well, this usually only happens with verbal commits, and most programs are used to it and still have enough time to recruit someone else prior to having to get all their ducks in a row. Things like this always happen, sometimes super last-minute, where a scholarship spot opens up, and there inevitably will almost always be someone ready and willing to take them up on the spot. Last year, a scholarship spot opened up at SEMO in the fall of 2016, and a New Zealand gymnast Mackenzie Slee happened to be looking for a program, so she was able to come in December of that year to begin competing only weeks later!
Do you have any plans to publish your book series in other languages?
I would like to! But I’d need a translator. I’m good at translating things from a few other languages into English, but doing the reverse of this is really difficult so I’d need people who were native speakers of the language to do it for me. Any takers? 🙂
Is Bellu still part of the Romanian program? I think he was a big part of them not qualifying in 2016. Agree? Disagree?
He is officially no longer in charge of the program, with Nicolae Forminte taking over after 2016. He was definitely part of them not qualifying in 2016, but by the time he came back into the picture, it was kind of already too late. He was responsible for not really being there as a support system in 2016 (didn’t he refuse to even go to the Olympic test event?!) but he wasn’t responsible for what happened in 2014.
Their problem is largely in development, and transitioning gymnasts from the junior to the senior level. They need a complete overhaul of the development program if they want to succeed at the higher levels, but unfortunately the people in charge only look at short-term fixes, like when they said the solution to 2014 worlds would be bringing back Catalina Ponor and Sandra Izbasa. Had that succeeded, and had everyone been healthy, they probably could’ve had a team medal in 2016, but the fact that they had so little depth is the actual reason why they couldn’t succeed even when they lost gymnasts like Larisa Iordache and Laura Jurca for the qualifier.
Had the U.S. or Russia or China lost two top gymnasts, they still would’ve easily qualified and probably medaled…just look at the U.S. in 2011. They lost several gymnasts who were expected to make the team, and the five who remained, all first-year seniors except for Aly Raisman who had only a year of experience, ended up winning gold. Russia was in a tough spot in 2014 with many top gymnasts out of commission, but still managed to pull off the bronze. Romania needs to realize that their problem is so deeply ingrained in the foundation of their system, and while the changes they need to make won’t result in immediate change for 2020, if they start now with revamping the development system, they could definitely be back in business by 2024.
If a U.S. elite doesn’t make it to nationals, do they have to re-qualify to elite the next year? How does that work?
Yes. Once elites get their compulsory scores they never have to re-qualify at the compulsory level again, but if gymnasts either don’t make nationals or fail to get their qualification score for the following season at the current nationals, they have to get their elite optional score again the following season. They can do this either at a national qualifier or at verification at the ranch.
Was it standard to train two families of vault in elite in the 90s? Gymnasts didn’t need to perform two different entries to get into the event final, but the final did require vaults from two different families, and all eight finalists were ready for it.
I think the gymnasts definitely prepared for it, at least those who expected/hoped to make the final. I don’t think the majority would make the final and be shocked that they got in, so they definitely planned for it being a possibility.
Why do you think so few college gymnasts major in the arts?
I’ve heard that in many programs, the coaches actually require that gymnasts major in something like kinesiology or something sports-related where the coach knows the program and the requirements so the athletes can all take the same classes and know what’s expected of them and come out with good grades. This isn’t the case at every program, and even in the programs that try to keep everyone together have gymnasts who are like hi, I’m here for four years and then have a whole future ahead of me so I’m just gonna major in something I want to do. But as for the majority who DO actively choose a major going into science over the arts, based on a bunch of interviews, many gymnasts who grow up dealing with injuries and going to physical therapy and getting surgery develop a respect for these professions, and generally like going into these fields, maybe to help future gymnasts someday.
I’m curious about your thoughts on low beam choreo. Do some gymnasts get deductions for being super basic and unimaginative?
Yup! Many gymnasts actually get deducted for these types of faults on beam. Like floor, beam has artistry deductions and they’re applied pretty liberally. I think most gymnasts have the intention to do more creative or fluid routines, but then they get too much in their head about hitting big skills and the choreo kind of takes a backseat to everything else they have going on.
If a gymnast over-rotated a vault and did a front tuck out of it and landed it, would it be just considered a normal vault?
No, it would be considered a fall.
Has any man ever attempted or trained a roundoff half-on double front vault?
It’s in the code of points but I don’t believe it’s named for anyone. I can’t remember seeing one in recent years, with the tsuk double tuck and double pike more popular likely because the double salto backwards is much easier to land and control than the half-on into the double front.
Do you think Canada is on the rise? With Ana Padurariu becoming a senior, and then a healthy Ellie Black, Shallon Olsen, and Brooklyn Moors, could they be a top team?
Absolutely! They have the potential to put together a really awesome team this quad, and they will actually have a good amount of depth going forward which is the best sign of a healthy program. I think Ellie, Shallon, and Brooklyn all proved at worlds this year how strong they can be, and once they add Ana next year while also still being able to count on Isabela Onyshko, Rose Woo, Jade Chrobok, and Brittany Rogers should Brittany stick around, they’ll definitely have quite the worlds team next year!
Why/how did Georgia-Mae Fenton lose 0.6 in difficulty at bars finals in Varna?
I didn’t see her qualifications routine so I can’t compare the two directly, but based on other routines she did this year, for her second series she only did the Maloney to clear hip to Ricna instead of the Maloney to clear hip to Ricna to bail to toe shoot, and she also only dismounted with a double tuck instead of a full-in. My guess is that the easier dismount was planned in Varna, because she also only did a double tuck in Paris, but missing the bail and toe shoot is what made the biggest difference in her difficulty, since she’d lose the 0.4 for the bail and then 0.1 for the connection. I’m not sure where the other tenth would’ve come from, so it’s possible she had another connection in her qualifications routine that she didn’t do in finals? But it’s hard to say for sure not having seen her qualifications routine.
What do the red icons indicate next to a few names on the rosters of Florida and UCLA?
It’s actually a little ear! If you click it, you can hear the athlete pronounce her name, which is helpful for media covering the sport and wanting to say their names correctly. Other schools have pronunciation guides with names spelled phonetically, but this is even better because you can actually hear how the athlete says it.
It seems like floor music is frequently recycled. Why is that, with so much music to choose from? Have two or more top level gymnasts ever had the same music during a competition? Could it be a negative if the judges liked one routine over the other?
I think gymnasts sometimes hear music and think “I wanna do that!” In elite, most try to keep it original, but in club meets it’s funny because when a popular elite makes a floor song even more popular, suddenly a million club kids are using the same music next season, which happened with Jordyn Wieber’s music in 2012 and Laurie Hernandez’s music in 2015. The only time I’ve heard two gymnasts in the same final use the same music was at the American Cup last year when both Mai Murakami and Carlotta Ferlito had bits and pieces of Christina Aguilera’s “Burlesque” which was funny. I think if someone with one song went up and really sold it, with amazing choreo and a fabulous performance, and then the next girl who went up with the same song kind of muddled her way through, it would definitely make a difference in the second girl’s artistry score.
If you were an elite looking for a coach, based on everything you know, where would you turn?
Probably Brestyan’s, Texas Dreams, or wherever Aimee Boorman is at that moment in time. A lot of this is based on my personal preference/coaching style in addition to just knowing good things about all of these gyms and coaches, so Brestyan’s might not be best for everyone, but it’s the situation I’d want to be in.
Why do you sometimes see a Nabieva on bars but you never see a layout Tkachev even though they theoretically should be easier?
I think with the layout, the toe-on into it really helps with momentum because they’re able to use their feet to kind of push off of the bar, and they also start in a bent body position and can extend into a layout, which is easier than swinging fully through their arms and releasing already in a straight layout position. I think the majority of toe-on skills are harder than just swinging through a giant into the skill, but in this case a toe-on might actually be easier.
Have any female gymnasts competed the Ray dismount aside from Elise Ray, Shawn Johnson, Jordyn Wieber, Tan Jiaxin, and Wang Yan?
Not that I can think of! I think this pretty much covers everyone. Also I totally forgot that Jordyn did the Ray when she was younger! I feel like she had a million different bars dismounts and always forget that the Ray was one of them.
Do you think that the movement of snapping the legs together helps Maria Paseka lift higher off the vault table?
Yeah, definitely…it’s certainly a technique that works for her.
How do Pan Ams work? Are they part of the larger Pan American Games held every four years or are they separate? When it is a team or individual competition?
Pan Am Championships are separate from the larger Pan Am Games, hosted by PAGU and for gymnastics only whereas the Games are hosted by PASO and are a multi-sport event. But you can think of this as similar to worlds being hosted by the FIG every year and then the Olympics hosted by the IOC…they’re not directly connected, but they work together in that the Championships act as a qualifier for the Games. Pan Am Championships generally have an individual-only competition in the Olympic and post-Olympic year, and then a team and individual competition in the mid-quad year, which serves as the qualifier for the Games, which are held a year before the Olympic Games.
When successful gymnasts like Simone Biles “come back” how does it work? Can she just say she wants to go to the next national team camp?
Yeah, she can let the national team coordinator know that she’s training again and update them on when she’s ready to return to camp. The national team coordinator can either invite them right away or ask them to take some time before committing at that level, and sometimes might request a video of their progress before having them come by.
What is a better hand position on vault when doing a Yurchenko entry? Women usually put their hands closer together but I noticed the men have wider gaps between their hands. Does it give them a better block?
It’s actually more about the arm position than the hands. The better blocks on vault have narrow arms close to their ears with their elbows straight, so whether the hands are wider apart or closer together, as long as the upper arms are narrow and tight, the block works. I think hand distance is just a personal preference…having them too far apart can actually lead to elbow hyperextension, and I think most coaches would advise blocking with the hands closer together, at shoulder width or just slightly further.
What does Japan do differently that they have female gymnasts that last for more than two quads?
Many countries have gymnasts that last for more than two quads. I think the only reason the U.S. doesn’t is because there’s so much competition, it’s rare to see someone in her mid 20s being able to contend against someone who’s 16. But with weaker depth in many smaller programs, veteran gymnasts are often given incentives to stay to continue to help the program, and in the case of Japan specifically this quad, they are hosting the Olympic Games in 2020 and so a lot of veterans want to stick around to try to make that team just because it would be a special moment to end their careers in front of a home crowd where they could be favored to win a team medal. Gymnasts like Asuka Teramoto and Mai Murakami have been solid for the program since 2011 or 2012, so to have them get to go out in the glory of their home Olympics would be super special for them and it’s why they and some other older gymnasts, like Natsumi Sasada, want to keep going.
Any idea why Max Whitlock wears a little flap of tape on the middle finger of his right hand when he competes on pommel? Is it protective?
I feel like I heard him saying something about it being lucky or something? Am I fully making this up? I just googled it and can’t find anything about it being lucky so I probably did invent that at some point lol. It’s going to drive me crazy, I literally remember him telling a story about this but maybe it was in a dream. Like many events where the hands are grasping bars, tape helps protect the hands as well as keep them from slipping, but I feel like that flap that sticks up has some sort of story. But again, this could just be something I made up and it’s just there because that’s how he happens to tape it.
It seems like most tsuk vaults involve a quarter turn onto the horse. How were these performed before they redesigned the vault, since the old horse wasn’t shoulder-width?
It was performed more like a half-on for the most part, or somewhere in between a quarter and a half, which is allowed (most tsuks are somewhere between a quarter and a half). Because it was narrow, when they hit the table from a side angle, they kind of angled down in the entry so that their hand facing in the direction they were vaulting was on the table whereas the other hand was down on the front side of the vault if that makes sense. Whenever I see Oksana Chusovitina vault now with her super low block on tsuks, I always think it’s because she learned to vault on this kind of table where she basically had to block half off the front of the table rather than on top.
What exactly are artistry deductions? Do coaches take any measures to avoid them, such as ballet classes or more direction? Do you have any examples of gymnasts with almost no artistry deductions and those with close to the maximum?
The biggest measures taken against incurring artistry deductions are hiring artistry coaches to help gymnasts express themselves through the routines. Between that and having a choreographer who really knows what she’s doing in terms of choosing music appropriate for the gymnast and choreographing it to make it an appealing, interesting, and creative routine, that’s pretty much all they can do to help. Ballet helps more with things like extension and poise, not so much with the stylistic aspects that would get artistry deductions. People seem to think that ballet means artistry but it actually has nothing to do with it.
I think gymnasts like Lieke Wevers, Nina Derwael, Axelle Klinckaert, Claire Martin, Simone Biles, and Brooklyn Moors have been some of my favorite examples of gymnasts with strong artistry and almost no deductions on floor, whereas gymnasts who need the most help in that area…among the bigger names, probably Zsofia Kovacs and Jade Carey were the biggest names this year in terms of those who generally do well on floor but really lose a lot in the artistry department.
Did Vanessa Zamarripa compete at nationals in 2010 for UCLA? Why?
She was a gymnast at UCLA when she began training her Cheng vault and thought she might be able to make the worlds team that year. So rather than go back to her club and have her club coaches take her to elite competitions, she asked the UCLA coaching staff if they’d coach her in elite and they agreed, which is why when she went to classics and nationals in 2010, it was with Miss Val and a whole UCLA entourage. It was definitely cool to see, though really the Cheng was the only thing she was able to use to stand out at the elite level, though her other vault was only a Yurchenko full so there’s no way she would’ve medaled at worlds. With Alicia Sacramone already locking up the vault spot, Martha Karolyi basically told Vanessa to keep working on it, though Vanessa opted to not try again in the following years.
Can you explain how the D score works? How do you convert from letters to numbers?
Basically each skill is awarded an element value with A being the lowest and I being the highest (the only event with H and I skills are floor, though…bars and beam both max out at G). Each of these letters is assigned a numeric value, with A worth 0.1, B worth 0.2, C worth 0.3, and so on down the line with each skill level gaining a tenth higher than the last one. A gymnast counts eight skills in her routine, and so if a gymnast has one E, five Ds, and three Cs, her total would be 3.4. On top of that, a gymnast is also awarded 0.5 for each of the requirements, for a total of 2.0 if she reaches all requirements, and then there are connection bonuses when a gymnast performs a combination of skills on bars, beam, or floor, with each of these generally worth either 0.1 or 0.2. The skills, credit requirements, and connection bonuses are all added together to get the total D score.
How do you keep up with all the latest gym news? Can others follow events that aren’t televised?
I follow each federation’s website and social media accounts. Often smaller events will live stream on YouTube or Facebook, or their media teams (or people in the crowd) will upload videos to YouTube so it’s easy enough to just search the gymnasts you want to watch and sort by most recent to see if people have uploaded anything from whatever meet is being held that weekend.
Why is Ashton Locklear considered controversial?
She was generally well-liked in 2016 and even had people flipping out when Madison Kocian got the Olympic bars spot over her, but then during the presidential election she Snapchatted a photo of the results on her TV screen with a caption like “yay” or something when Donald Trump won, and this made a lot of people upset with her. I was talking to a coach about this and they were like “Ashton is literally the least political person alive and probably knows zero percent of the reasons why Trump is problematic,” which is kind of what I figured and why I generally separate the gymnasts I watch from the opinions they tweet. Most teenagers aren’t politically or socially aware (I for sure wasn’t), so I don’t know why people freak out when gymnasts say something…some of them do have a good mind for staying up to date with current events but the majority are largely ignorant of the world outside of their gyms.
I definitely saw people giving Ashton a lot of crap on social media because of this, and then others were just mad because she made the worlds team with a low-difficulty bars set, but there really wasn’t anyone else in the country who could’ve challenged for a bars medal, so they literally just went for the one who had the best chance because if everyone hit in that final, no U.S. bar workers had a chance of getting a medal. Ashton would’ve come closest and maybe could’ve medaled had she hit and others fell, but it really just wasn’t a year for the U.S. to count on getting a medal on bars, and so Ashton got the spot because she was closest to being that person.
Gymnasts tend to be clean-cut. Are there any “bad girls” in the sport?
Not that I can think of. At least not in the U.S. There are lots of girls in smaller programs who are a little more “bad” in that they drink and smoke and party and stuff, but most of them aren’t major contenders and just kind of happen to be really good at the sport within the context of their country, but gymnastics isn’t their life the way it is for the American elites who are around the same age.
At the Olympics, do judges get to attend the opening/closing ceremony? Do they stay in the village or at a different location?
Yes, judges can attend the opening/closing ceremony. I believe they stay in the village. Since each federation brings its own judge, that judge most likely stays with the other credentialed members of the federation like the coaches, administrative staff, medical staff, and whoever else travels with the team.
I know that on floor arabians are considered forward elements and can be used to fulfill the forward tumbling credit requirement. Does the same apply to arabians on beam? What about Onodis?
I believe an Onodi is considered a backward element on beam, but I’m not totally sure…I’ve never seen it spelled out which acro skills are forward and backward for the purpose of fulfilling the front and back skill requirement. An arabian is now considered forward on floor for WAG because even though the entry is backward, the saltos are forward…but in MAG it’s considered backward. I would guess if they’re following the WAG rules, an arabian would also be forward on beam but since logic isn’t always something the code is fond of, I’m not sure if the same rule would apply.
Are the same skills rated equally in WAG and MAG?
No. Most skills in WAG would be considered easier in MAG because the men are generally capable of a higher level of difficulty overall. A double back on floor, for example, is a D in WAG but it’s only a C skill in MAG…and a triple back in MAG is an H but if someone did it in WAG it’d be so much harder than any other skill, they’d probably have to create a J element!
Is a Jaeger to Pak combination possible?
Yup! I’ve seen several gymnasts perform a Jaeger to Pak…this year, Ksenia Klimenko of Russia, Kim Bui of Germany, and Ellie Black of Canada all competed it, and Jessica Lopez of Venezuela had one in Rio, to name a few.
What is the story with the female gymnasts from Macedonia? Have they competed lately internationally?
I haven’t seen any female gymnasts from Macedonia compete in at least the last five years, if ever. I believe they have some MAG athletes but no one I can think of who competes for WAG.
Are gymnasts allowed to stand in the corner before their passes now?
They can stand in the corner, but “excessive preparation” which generally means a pause longer than two seconds incurs a one-tenth deduction, and there’s also a deduction for a lack of variety for corner choreography, so if a gymnast just walks into the corner and stands there before each pass, she could get as many as three tenths off total for that.
What is Peng Peng Lee studying if it’s her sixth year in school?
She graduated from her undergrad program this past summer, so I’m guessing she’s taking grad school classes at this point? Gymnasts have to be enrolled in an academic program to compete in sports, so she has to have some kind of coursework going on even though she already has her degree.
How does the Hopes program work exactly? How can a gymnast qualify? How many end up being elite?
Hopes is a program for gymnasts aged 10-13 who are considering going elite but don’t quite have the routines or the experience yet. Gymnasts can go elite as young as 10 if they want, but sometimes the younger juniors might not feel ready for that commitment/pressure right off the bat, so they opt to try Hopes to see if it’s something they’d want to consider doing in the future. Gymnasts qualify the same way they qualify elite, by going to national qualifiers and earning scores that qualify them to the Hopes Classic held at the ranch. The top 18 gymnasts in both age groups (10-11 and 12-13) qualify to Hopes Championships, held at the same time as the U.S. Classic. If the gymnast doesn’t want to continue, she can drop back to level 10, but those who do want to continue to elite can attempt to get their elite qualifying scores the following season, and some Hopes gymnasts get invites to the national team and developmental camps as well.
When wee gymnasts are first learning bars releases, do they learn all three of the major types (Tkachev, Gienger, and Jaeger)? Or does their coach choose one for them to learn initially, and then they have to learn another one later if they want to put a second in their routine or change to a different release?
They mostly just start with drills, maybe for all three, but more commonly for one or two. From doing drills they can see which releases they might be best at. A gymnast might start drills for a Tkachev and a Jaeger at the same time but get her Jaeger faster than she gets her Tkachev, or vice versa. It all depends on the gymnast, her strengths, and her coach’s strengths. If they only end up training one release at the start of their higher-level optional career, they can later learn a second release via the same process to add another release to their routine, but for the most part that goes a bit faster than learning the first release went because they’re a bit better at grasping how to gain skills more quickly.
What do you think about the French gymnastics’ evolution these last few years? Do you think they can expect a big progression in 2024 just like the British gymnasts had in London 2012?
It would be cool to see but it’s hard to say now because while we have gotten some incredible French gymnasts in the past few years, 2024 is seven years down the line which means many of the girls contending for teams in 2024 are only about 9-12 right now. If their development goes as well as some of the current top girls has gone, then they could hopefully come together to make the team final. But again, it’s really hard to say…the British team and their success in 2012 was definitely not something I would’ve predicted knowing what I knew in 2005, Beth Tweddle aside.
Is Elisabet Vasilieva still an elite gymnast?
Yes. She’s still training and hopes to compete in the future but has been dealing with injuries and setbacks. Hopefully we’ll see her in 2018!
What would happen if a coach submitted an inquiry and while reviewing, the judges noticed another mistake? Could they deny the inquiry and lower the score?
No, the score is final, and the inquiry is just to take a look at the specific skill that the gymnast brings to their attention — they don’t go through the entire routine again and re-judge it. Gymnasts filling out inquiry forms have to write out what they think was missing, which is why not every gymnast who gets a lower-than-planned-for D score immediately inquiries to demand that it gets raised. They have to say “the side aerial to split jump should have been credited” but for all they know, maybe that WAS credited.
What does #SIP mean in the context of Oklahoma women’s gymnastics?
It’s their team theme and slogan for the 2018 season. Someone told me what it meant a few months ago but I don’t remember…something like Sooners in Preparation? That’s not it but it’s some slogan like that.
Does bars have a rule like the “five acro, three dance” rule for beam and floor? Or could the D score be, say, all release moves with no transitions or pirouettes?
Bars has requirements that say a gymnast has to do a transition from high to low, a full pirouette, different grips, and a same-bar flight element, but that aside there’s no rule that they have to do three releases and two transitions or whatever…that part of the construction is up to them as long as they hit all of the requirements.
Do any gymnasts do a back-to-back pass like Dominique Dawes?
No, not anymore. There’s nothing in the code any longer that would make it worth doing two tumbling lines back-to-back so there’s no point in doing one.
It seems that gymnasts no longer do four skills in a row on beam like was popular in the 90s. Do you know why not?
Like the question above, there’s nothing in the code that would reward four skills in a row like there was in the 90s. Gymnasts don’t do it because without any bonus for doing four in a row, they’d be doing an insane risk for zero value.
Do you think beam (and maybe bars) D scores could break 7 this quad?
I could see beam getting up there, but likely not bars. When both events lost the 0.5 CR for the required D dismount, bars basically lost 0.5 per routine with nothing really making up for it, but beam came with a whole bunch of additional connection bonuses and a new mixed series bonus that could get gymnasts to really high D scores, realistically in the high 6 or low 7 range, though since connections are the bulk of those super difficult routines, gymnasts will have to be insanely fluid and solid at those routines. Liu Tingting had the potential for a 6.6 routine this year, but she only reached her full D score once and on average was awarded a 6.0, with two D scores as low as 5.5 and 5.7 at worlds where judging was way harsher.
Why do you think the FIG is so harsh on evaluating two foot layouts on beam but not layouts with a full twist or even a gainer layout dismount that most perform pretty piked?
I think because it’s not so much about piking down, but rather about the leg position. A layout is an E whereas a layout stepout is a C, so when a layout is getting downgraded, it’s usually because the leg positioning is closer to a layout stepout in the air in addition to it being piked down. And they don’t fully downgrade it, but rather just make it so that it ends up being the equivalent of a D skill, which is still more than they’d get if they were doing a layout stepout or a back pike. The layout full, I think they’re just lenient with it because it’s hard to maintain a perfect layout shape while doing a full twist, but with the gainer layout I have definitely seen several downgraded to a gainer pike, which is just a single letter downgrade. The layout getting downgraded is just a bit more involved because it’s not quite a pike or a layout stepout, but it’s not quite a layout either, so they make it a D skill to kind of balance it out.
Do you think Ragan Smith could have made the Olympic team if she competed then how she looked this year?
No, I think it still would’ve been Laurie Hernandez in that spot. Ragan was great this year, but Laurie showed that she could contribute big scores on any event while also looking confident at the highest level of competition. As strong as Ragan was this year, and she did show improvements between last year and this year, she still wasn’t quite at that level where Martha Karolyi expected her Olympians to be.
If there was a team competition at worlds this year, who do you think would’ve won?
The United States. As an overall program, they’re still the best. But Russia would’ve been a super strong challenger, especially if they brought along a team with better balance instead of doing what they did for worlds, which was to bring two one-event specialists leaving them with only their all-arounders for beam and floor. A five-person team including everyone who competed in Montreal plus someone like Maria Kharenkova could’ve been awesome.
Do you think Jade Carey will ever do bars?
She might. She was actually quite good as a level 10, but in her rush to get her elite routines ready for this year, she just focused on the events that would make her most valuable to the team going to Montreal, which was vault and floor. I think she could easily get together an Aly Raisman kind of bars set and get through it cleanly enough to make her an all-around contender in the future, but we’ll see if she ends up trying to get an elite bars set.
How do the top eight skills on beam work? Are composition requirements included in the eight?
It’s just the eight highest-difficulty skills that count, and if composition requirements are lower-level skills than the eight highest-rated skills, then composition requirement skills don’t count, so that’s why you see a lot of A+A jump series for the 180 dance connection CR, and why you see a lot of A pirouettes for that requirement. It means a gymnast will often have far more than eight skills in her routine, and I’ve actually seen some routines with as many as 17 skills because gymnasts will do a lot of lower-level skills to build up connection bonuses in addition to doing A skills to fulfill the CR.
Is there a realistic upper limit for the workable size of an NCAA women’s team roster? Is there a point at which available practice time on equipment let alone lineup spots become too constrained?
I would say around 16-20 is ideal, though some teams have more than that. Practices can be worked out so that the number of gymnasts on a team doesn’t make a huge difference, especially because on larger teams so many gymnasts are specialists, and also you can have half the team conditioning while the other half works routines. But I think 16-20 gymnasts is good number to have a healthy amount of depth while not also eating up tons and tons of resources related to the budget.
Has Morgan Hurd committed to an NCAA program?
Yup! She has verbally committed to the University of Florida for the 2019-2020 season.
What have been your favorite leotard trends in the U.S.?
I really liked the super simple and athletic leos from the 2004 quad, as well as some of the sportier leos that carried over into the next quad…the 2007 worlds team final leos were my JAM. I’ve loved a lot of the prettier/sparklier leos since then, but nothing does it for me like those simple red Adidas leos. The 2004 red leo also killed me. So good.
When did the hair ribbons become popular in the U.S.?
They kind of were popular from day one in the modern era of the sport! Women in the 60s and 70s were mostly all wearing bows, especially with that 70s yarn bow fad carrying over from real life into the sport (just watch any Brady Bunch episode to see what I mean). Scrunchies kind of took over beginning in the 80s and really hit peak ridiculousness in the 90s (SHANNON!) and then in the 2000s to the present day, it’s kind of been a mix of scrunchies and bows depending on the gymnast.
Which other websites are considered part of “the gymternet?”
Lots! The ones I follow most are the Balance Beam Situation, Gymcastic, Gymnovosti, and The Couch Gymnast, but there’s a ton of blogs out there (many of them named after skills haha) that update occasionally with some interesting features. And Tumblr has a huge gymnastics community…I know these aren’t really ‘websites’ but I feel like big overarching websites are more rare whereas more personal blogs are pretty common.
Do you think the Romanian women’s team would have had a better chance to regain their former glory if the federation had found a way to hire Mihai Brestyan instead of Nicolae Forminte?
We’ll see what he can do with Australia, but as I’ve said in earlier answers, it’s not so much about the one man (or woman) in charge and what they’re doing right this second with the current team. It’s about the developmental program. At this point my dog could take over and it wouldn’t really matter because the current state of the national team is going to be this way until these girls retire. Right now, it’s all about building the foundation for the future, and while this won’t result in immediate results for the 2020 Games, by 2024 we could start seeing a difference. But if they keep ignoring the future, which they’ve done for the past decade, they’ll never get any results.
When will Alla Sosnitskaya and Olivia Cimpian be able to compete at international FIG competitions for their new countries?
Alla can basically begin competing as soon as her change-of-nation request goes through. I believe she put feelers out to see what the process would be like and the Russian federation said they’d release her, but she hadn’t yet decided what to do at that time. When she does decide, she’ll basically have an immediate release. But because the way Olivia’s worked out with the Romanian federation reluctantly releasing her, she had a one-year waiting period before being allowed to compete for Hungary. Thankfully, she’ll get to compete in time for worlds, though she will miss Euros next year.
Why do some countries hold combined junior and senior nationals?
Probably just because many of them who do it this way have team aspects to the competition, so it’s easier to have everyone just go at once in the same all-around division as well. A majority of nations split into junior and senior divisions, but China and Japan don’t and I think it’s largely because team events are often a big component of their meets. Plus, it’s kind of nice to see everyone scored on the same sort of level at the same time so you can see how juniors stack up to seniors on the same playing field.
I recently watched Kim Zmeskal’s old floor routine and really enjoyed the triple whipback series. Why don’t gymnasts perform whips today?
There are quite a few routines with whips, though they’re just not all that popular in the U.S. for whatever reason. They’re not worth a ton, and a triple whipback series wouldn’t have any additional value in a way it once might have, so gymnasts instead focus on series and combinations that DO get them value. Now, the most popular whip sequences involve either a single whip directly into a skill (like a whip to a triple full) or a whip whip indirectly through to a double back or something like that.
If some of the top international elites in the past few years were to do NCAA, which teams do you think would be good fits for them and why? Specifically Aliya Mustafina, Larisa Iordache, Shang Chunsong, Viktoria Komova, and Yang Yilin.
I don’t think there’s that much difference stylistically between colleges that makes any of these make me think “so and so has to go here!!!” but I’ll try my best. I’d like to see Viktoria with some Miss Val choreography at UCLA, and she’d fit their whole “former elites come here to break their bird bone glass ankles” vibe, and Yilin is actually a grad student at Minnesota right now so maybe she can spruce up their program with her awesomeness? Otherwise…I feel like all of these gymnasts would be out of place in the SEC with the exception of maybe Larisa, who would probably rock a techno dance mix. Aliya seems like she’d hate every aspect of NCAA gymnastics, but I could see her working well at Oklahoma. And Chunsong…maybe Stanford? Because she can’t vault but she can put together some interesting combos on bars and beam.
Has Nikolai Kuksenkov retired?
Nope! He actually competed at the Swiss Cup this year as Daria Spiridonova’s teammate. He competed p-bars and pommels there, and while neither routine was out-of-this world, he did well enough for himself, though he and Daria didn’t move beyond the first round due to Daria’s bars and beam mistakes.
Do you know what Stella Savvidou’s injury is and what her timeframe is for recovery?
All I know is that her hand is somehow injured? Thumb maybe? And that she’s not currently putting pressure on it. Her recovery time is currently unknown.
Is gymnastics a pretty clean sport when it comes to drugs? Besides steroids and other peds, has any gymnast been busted with illegal stuff?
I’d say for the most part, yes, it’s pretty clean. Yuri van Gelder of the Netherlands has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, but him aside I don’t know of anyone who has been in real trouble, at least not anyone super prominent.
How was Catalina Ponor’s beam routine downgraded at the Szombathely World Cup?
Her intended D score was a 6.2, and she technically hit all of the sequences that would get her there, but some were a little slow. I wouldn’t have credited her Kochetkova to straight jump full, which means she’d lose a tenth plus another tenth for the series bonus as it was part of a mixed triple series, and I also wouldn’t have credited her Onodi to split ring jump, which is another two tenths…and the additional missing two tenths probably came from her switch ring jump and switch ring leap getting downgraded. Her back leg on both was rough. That’s six tenths right there, so it makes sense that she got a 5.6 D instead of her intended 6.2. I didn’t see her qualifications routine, where she was given a 6.0, so my guess for that routine is that her connections were quick and thus credited, but neither ring elements were credited.
What happens if someone competes a skill at worlds that has already been competed before but isn’t currently in the COP? Do they need to submit the skill?
No, even if it’s not currently in the code it still has a value, unless it was taken out for a reason, like no longer being considered a skill (like the Liukin, because acro skills into scales are considered connections now, not single skills).
Did Margzetta Frazier do an original dance skill in the world selection camp videos when she started a wolf turn but transitioned into another dance move?
No, it was cool, but it’s just choreography out of her double wolf turn, not a dance skill. Definitely more creative choreography than just standing up out of it, though!
How come gymnasts who weren’t named to the U.S. national team still attended the selection camp for worlds?
They generally invite at least ten gymnasts to the worlds selection camp just so they can see all of their options in case girls who made the national team a month earlier aren’t at the standard they once were. It’s rare that a non-national team gymnast will end up beating someone for a team spot, but it happened in 2015 when Bailie Key had a bad camp and Brenna Dowell, who didn’t make the national team that summer, had a great camp to make the worlds team over Bailie. In that case, the gymnast is added to the national team at camp.
Is there any particular reason the gymnasts stand in height order when lined up at camp? What do they say in unison to the national team coordinator?
It’s basically just a way to organize everyone so they all have their lineup spot and everyone isn’t clamoring to figure out where to stand…they all just know where their spot is. They say “Thank you Martha, coaches, and national staff. Goodbye.”
How does a student-athlete qualify academically to Stanford?
She has to meet the academic requirements that any other Stanford hopeful has to meet, which is generally a rockstar GPA (the average for those admitted is a 4.18 GPA on a 4.0 scale meaning basically everyone has an A+ average), top test scores on the SAT, and other standout accomplishments, like academic awards and programs attended while in high school. Obviously being a high-level gymnast is an accomplishment in itself, and so a gymnast with a 3.9 in high school might get in over a non-athlete with a 4.1 or something, but generally the requirements are quite steep and I know of an Olympian who wasn’t academically admitted because she failed one class in high school even though she was…a freaking Olympian.
What is the TOEFL?
The TOEFL is a language exam for foreign students who want to attend U.S. universities so they can show they understand English enough to succeed in an academic environment in the U.S. I’ve heard they’re pretty easy to pass, though, and actually had a roommate in college who spoke almost no English but she was an engineering grad student from China who was basically a genius in her field so her inability to understand the language didn’t really matter.
Are Filipino gymnasts successful?
I know of many Filipino-American gymnasts who are successful, but the country’s elite program isn’t much of a standout. For a comparison to other Southeast Asian teams, at this summer’s SEA Games they placed fourth behind Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, though in recent years they’ve been trying to bring in U.S.-born gymnasts to compete, like Ava Verdeflor, Kaitlin de Guzman, and Lizzy Leduc. Kaitlin, whose mom was a gymnast in the Philippines, finished seventh all-around at the SEA Games this year, while Ava and Lizzy, both of whom went to WOGA, finished fourth and sixth at the SEA Games in 2015 and Ava also represented the country at the Youth Olympic Games in 2014. Ava is now in college and I think she’s done with elite, but I’ve heard Lizzy wants to keep competing for them in the hopes of getting a spot for Tokyo 2020.
It seems odd to me that we don’t see more double-twisting dismounts on bars compared to floor given the incredible height gymnasts get from their swings. Am I wrong?
You’d think it’d be easier but remember that they’re swinging from their arms and so even though the height looks pretty great, they’re not getting the set into the dismount that they’d get from doing a set into a pass on floor. It’s similar, but I think a majority of gymnasts get a bit more power on floor even if the height is slightly better on bars.
Do you think Elena Produnova could have been as dominant as Simone Biles in an open-ended code?
Yes! Absolutely. Well, maybe not as dominant as Simone but probably close. She definitely would’ve killed it in an open-ended code.
If a gymnast does four or more skills in combination on beam is there an overlapping series bonus?
No, it would still be one single series bonus for the three skills, though they would continue to get credit for each individual connection if they’re valuable, which is why you sometimes see four or five in combination.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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