It’s time for the 205th 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.
Who is Nellie Kim?
In a nutshell? Nellie was a Soviet gymnast who competed in the 70s and 80s, known for being really innovative and a few steps ahead of most other gymnasts in terms of adding difficulty to her routines, in addition to also being really awesome and noted for her style.
In 1976, Nellie was the leader of the Soviet team at age 19, and came to Montreal for the Olympics where she and Nadia Comaneci were basically the OG Gabby Douglas vs Viktoria Komova. The two were expected to go head-to-head, and Nellie had a ton of success in Montreal, winning three gold medals while also becoming the first to compete a tsuk full on vault, but Nellie ended up being way overshadowed by Nadia when Nadia both won the all-around gold (with Nellie getting silver) and then also getting the first perfect 10 in Olympic gymnastics history (with Nellie getting a perfect 10 of her own like one second later).
Nellie came back to win two more gold medals in Moscow four years later, and she also won five world and two European titles while originating seven new skills named for her in the code of points. After she retired from gymnastics, Nellie began coaching and judging. She was named to the women’s technical committee of the FIG in 1996, was elected president of the technical committee in 2004, and last year, she was elected a vice president of the FIG. She also serves as president of the Belarusian gymnastics federation.
If we should focus on judges’ rankings of gymnasts versus their scores, does that mean when vault final judges go to score the second vault, they’ve pre-calculated what score the second vault would put the gymnast in?
No, not at all. First of all, if the judges were going to do this, they’d have to see both vaults from the gymnast, so pre-scoring a vault that hasn’t happened yet wouldn’t make sense because if she has an exceptionally good or exceptionally bad vault, their score might not make sense. Generally when judges rank gymnasts, they’re not pre-planning scores, but rather will use one routine — usually the first one up — as a standard by which they’re judging all subsequent routines. A really good Yurchenko full could get a 9.6 E score one day, a 9.4 the next, and a 9.0 on a third day. If someone else goes after and performs a vault that looks similar but with a large step or hop, judges would subconsciously think that this one will get a lower score than the first one, and they’ll take their deductions accordingly. If the first vault gets a 9.6, the second one might get a 9.3, but if the first one gets a 9.0, the second one might get an 8.7. That’s what I really mean by ranking…they use one routine as a measuring stick by which they judge other routines in the same competition.
Do you think the 2012 Russian team (without their mistakes in the final) could’ve challenged the 2016 U.S. team?
Probably not…it would’ve been closer but I still think the U.S. team in 2016 would’ve had the advantage, being considerably stronger on vault, beam, and floor…and actually the 2016 U.S. team was far stronger on bars than the 2012 U.S. team was, giving them even more of an edge over Russia than the 2012 U.S. team had. The 2012 Russian team had a stronger bars lineup than the 2016 U.S. team, but the U.S. was SO much better in 2016 than their own team was in 2012, so they’d be able to close the gap on that event considerably, and that event was all Russia really had against them.
Do you know any NCAA meets happening geographically feasible to NYC?
Rutgers is the closest in terms of D1 programs that sometimes have top 20 teams visit…their schedule this year seems a bit light but I’ve had good luck going to Rutgers meets in the past and getting some great competition. There are a couple of schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island that you can get to on day trips, like Bridgeport and Brown as well as a ton of D3 programs, and if you can make a slightly longer trip, you can get to George Washington, Maryland, New Hampshire, or Penn State, all of which occasionally have strong D1 competition, though those might require a full weekend away if you don’t like driving a ton in a single day.
Why are the Komova I and II both E skills on bars?
There is a transition cap on bars, meaning E is the highest element value transitions are allowed to be. In a perfect world, this cap wouldn’t exist, as it’s quite silly and prevents greater variety in skills, but for some reason the women’s technical committee thinks there’s no way transition elements should be harder than an E.
Do you think it’s realistic for Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova to come back to a similar level they were at before taking breaks?
On all four events, probably not. Considering that they weren’t able to get to that point last quad, matching where they were in 2012, the fact that they’re now six or seven years removed from their peak level in the sport with one coming back from endless back injuries and the other coming back after having a baby, it’s not going to be realistic to expect them to be in top form. But on bars, yes, I think both could definitely get back to what they were once able to do…and hopefully this will happen on beam as well for both, though I think it’d be a bit ambitious to expect them to get highest-level vaulting and tumbling down.
Why don’t we see any gymnasts doing the Mustafina dismount on bars, aside from Aliya?
Blind landing skills can be really hard to master, especially when twists are involved, which is why we also don’t see a lot of half-twisting double backs even though double tucks with a full twist are basically the most common dismount done.
How do you learn to rope climb?
It involves a lot of upper body conditioning, like pull-ups, as well as good grip strength. Pretty much any gymnast who goes through a conditioning program can learn to do it quite easily after going through progressions the way she would with learning actual skills.
Is there any way I can watch college gymnastics in Canada?
Most of the TV stations that these meets air on in the U.S. aren’t available in Canada, though there are generally streams available that you can probably watch if you use a VPN. I know people who stream the Pac 12 Network from their website using a VPN, but that aside, I don’t think it airs on television there. There are probably cable packages you can buy that have some U.S. channels but really, beyond that I’m not sure.
Do you know why Ragan Smith changed her floor music between podium training and the actual meet at the U.S. Classic?
The opening to her song had a tiny (like three-second) piece of music that turned out to also be part of a song with racist connotations. The Texas Dreams crew picked it because they heard it in The Dukes of Hazzard and thought it was the perfect intro, but after podium training people were letting them know that it was also part of some confederate song, so they worked their butts off to find something to replace that piece and ended up going with the Austin Powers intro. It was literally a three-second music change so nothing Ragan really had to get used to or that would affect her, but seriously kudos to how quickly and efficiently they all worked to get it swapped out once they learned of the origins of the original tune. It was literally done overnight between podium training and the competition!
Do you think it’s fair that beam and floor are the lowest-scoring events when those are the most difficult and exhausting at the same time? I wonder if they could give an extra easy composition requirement so all gymnasts could get a 0.5 difficulty boost, at least on floor.
I don’t think it’s fair, and actually really like your idea of adding an additional composition requirement that bars doesn’t have in order to make them balance out a bit more. The issue is with the E score; since vault and bars are so quick, there isn’t really enough time to take off two or more points worth of mistakes unless a routine is really bad, and so the strong bars gymnasts will get a 9.0 or better, with many vaulters breaking a 9.3, whereas the stronger beam and floor gymnasts can expect a mid-8 routine at best, with only a few passing a 9.0. The response has, for some reason, always been to decrease vault D scores, but it’s still never quite even, and I think adding an additional requirement to beam and floor that’ll give everyone who reaches it a 0.5 boost makes a ton of sense.
I recently went on Mai Murakami’s Wikipedia site and am wondering why it says that her world rank as of 2015 is sixth? Since when is there a world ranking in gymnastics?
That was her ranking in the all-around final at world championships, though that technically wouldn’t be her ‘world ranking’…just her ranking at that specific meet. There IS a world ranking system in place, though. Gymnasts who go to the world cup all-around and apparatus events are ranked using the world ranking system because these competitions culminate with a series winner each season, and so a gymnast who places in the top three on vault at three different apparatus world cups could end up being the series champion on that event with an overall ranking of first place. In the past, these were kind of pointless, aside from the fact that the overall series champions would be recognized with a trophy and a check, but in the coming years, world cup rankings will be used to determine a handful of Olympic qualifiers.
How far is the Italian junior team going to go? Could they win European and world medals?
I think they definitely could, especially at Euros. Worlds, they all still need a little work, though Giorgia Villa on a good day could be an all-around medal contender and they still have another year at the junior level to figure out beam and floor to make them more competitive as a team.
Who were the oldest and youngest competitors at U.S. Championships this year?
Love Birt was the youngest competitor at age 11 (she turned 12 in November), and the oldest was Ashton Locklear at age 19.
Is the possibility that worlds next year may be moved the reason no U.S. location has been announced for nationals yet?
No. Where worlds is held has zero effect on where nationals is held. I’m guessing they’re having problems with nationals due to sponsors pulling out which could also probably affect the arena situation. Anyway, it’s supposed to be in Boston, and hopefully they’ll confirm soon.
I’ve seen people say that Aly Raisman will be blacklisted if she comes back because of her speaking out about Larry Nassar. Do you think that would be the case?
No, I think it would be fairly obvious if Aly came back, was consistently the best or top three on various events, and didn’t make teams. If anything, with all that’s going on with USA Gymnastics and the Larry Nassar backlash, they’d want to do everything they can to make themselves seem like a good and fair organization, and if they blacklisted Aly and didn’t put her on teams even though she was getting top scores, there’d be hell to pay. No way would they put themselves in that position.
I can’t find Emma Malabuyo’s results from 2016 nationals. I know she competed; do you know how she did?
Emma competed only on day one. She hit a good set on floor in her first event of the meet, but then underrotated her DTY on vault and strained a ligament in her knee, so her coaches opted to have her withdraw rather than risk the injury and make it worse.
How is Ragan Smith doing? Will she be able to come back for the American Cup?
She’s doing well considering the injury, but I don’t know if she will be competition-ready in time for the American Cup. I can see her waiting to bring back full routines for a later point in the season rather than getting ready early for American Cup and having to peak again later in the year for worlds. She’ll also have to beat other gymnasts at camp to get the second American Cup spot, since Morgan Hurd got the first one, and she could have a lot of competition this year, so my guess is they’ll hold off on having her at full strength right away.
Were Yurchenko loops devalued or banned, or have they just fallen out of fashion?
They basically just kind of fell out of fashion. Given the complexity and risk of the skill, they’re not worth all that much, which is a shame because they’re a really creative way to get into low beam choreo…but while we still see them occasionally in NCAA, they’re all but nonexistent in elite and I think it’s mainly because with a timed routine, when you’re trying to build as much difficulty as possible while minimizing the risk, Yurchenko loops just don’t fit the construction all that well in an efficient way.
In 2012 team finals, did Anastasia Grishina pull out of beam in the middle of the competition? If so, do you know why?
I’m pretty sure the intended lineup for beam in the team final was Aliya Mustafina, Viktoria Komova, and Ksenia Afanasyeva…I think Anastasia had higher beam scores than Aliya generally, but thought they found Aliya to be more reliable on the event? I’m 99% sure if they made a lineup change like that in the middle of the competition, they would’ve received a penalty for changing the intended lineup, so if Anastasia was originally supposed to compete beam in the team final, they must have changed it before the final lineup was due.
Obviously a gymnast has to walk onto the floor from ‘out of bounds’ to start her routine, but when is the precise cut-off for when that becomes out-of-bounds? If she starts her opening pose too close to the line and her heel goes out, does she incur an immediate deduction?
The moment is when the routine begins, signaled by the beep before the music. If her opening pose is too close to the line and her heel goes out after the beep, it’s a penalty for going out-of-bounds.
If an element needs to be rated C or higher to be named in the code, why are there B elements with names?
These elements were either named before that requirement existed, or they were once a C element that got downgraded. Also, Nellie Kim at one point went through the code and added her name to a bunch of skills (bless her!) so some of those could be her skills.
Did they change the rules where elements can only be named if they’ve been submitted at worlds or the Olympics?
Yes…elements can now also be named at world cups, which creates so much more opportunities for gymnasts from smaller programs who might not ever get to compete at worlds or the Olympics!
You’ve talked about how much you love Amelia Hundley because she was a surprise elite. Is Laney Madsen in the same field?
No. Amelia was a surprise in that she was clearly a very strong gymnast, but no one expected her to go very far (meaning national team and multiple international assignments) at the elite level because Lexie Priessman was supposed to be the ‘star’ of CGA and who Mary Lee Tracy seemed to put the most attention into when the two were very young (like age 12). Amelia was like the tag-along gymnast who started out with average scores and rankings at the national level while Lexie was the one everyone called the future Olympian, but then Amelia got stronger and more consistent and while she never had big, flashy routines, she was always near the top of the rankings from about age 14 and beyond. It’s always cool seeing gymnasts go from middle-of-the-pack to really stepping up and coming into their own, and Amelia ended up spending seven seasons at the elite level, making it to Olympic Trials where she placed ninth, and getting somewhere around ten international assignments in her career, including winning a few Pan Ams Games medals in 2015. She went from being a kid you’d expect to do a season or two as a junior before going back to level 10, and instead she became one of the strongest gymnasts in the U.S. program during her tenure in the sport. Laney has a different story, and it’s cool to see her go from first picking up gymnastics to qualifying elite within a couple of years, but she’s not a ‘surprise standout’ in the way Amelia was.
Have you heard any updates on Ksenia Afanasyeva’s health?
As far as I know her health issues aren’t a problem right now. She had a baby and seems to be doing well but I think her gymnastics career is pretty much done, since she wouldn’t be likely to make future Olympic teams in the four-person formats.
Is there a reason FIG hasn’t abolished the use of paper numbers? It seems silly with all of the technology today.
My guess is they don’t know what to switch to? There are the ugly spray-on leg numbers used in college occasionally, but that’s not really ideal. I think when I was on Gymcastic we were talking about gymnasts having small chips sewn into their leo sleeves or something that they can wave past a sensor when they come up to the podium that’ll display their name, country, and number on the score screen, which would be really awesome and hopefully will be something we see in the future.
What happened to Ariana Agrapides after 2014?
She decided to retire from gymnastics for a bit after her 2014 elite season, and was doing track for a while, and then she moved to Premier Gymnastics a couple of years back and competed level 10 for them in the 2017 season. She’ll be competing at Iowa for NCAA beginning in the 2019-2020 season.
Do you know how the training of the Romanians was during the 1985-1988 quad? They showed more artistry and elegance than any other Romanian team before or after that period.
Hmm, not specifically related to why they’d have more artistry and elegance, no…maybe it was just an athlete thing? Sometimes there just happen to be collections of athletes who come in and happen to have similarities and that makes it look like the program itself was responsible for those things but it just was a random happenstance that these athletes all existed on the same team at the same time. Like, not every Dutch gymnast is a magical fairy of beauty and elegance and if you look at entire clubs and the national program overall it’s not something they’d be known for, and yet the 2015-2016 season just happened to have five or six gymnasts with these qualities that made it look like the Netherlands churns them out like on a conveyor belt at a factory. There definitely could’ve been someone at the gym in that 1988 quad who was responsible for bringing out that artistry in those gymnasts, but I think generally when artistry especially is a quality of a gymnast, it’s a lot more to do with who she is than with any training she received!
Some NCAA gymnasts take more than four years to get their degrees, even though they only compete for four. When this happens, do they still have a scholarship for the last year or semester?
I’m not sure how this works exactly, but my guess is that since student athletes get four years of full tuition and room/board covered, this actually means they get their full college education covered. Gymnasts and athletes in general who don’t take full course loads during competition season are only technically having two or three courses paid for in those off-seasons, so even though they take a bit longer in terms of carrying it over into another semester, it’s still the same amount of money to cover their full degree and so they’re allowed to extend for a semester or two even though their athletic career is over. It’s still the same value and number of credits whether they finish in eight semesters or nine, aside from having that extra room/board, and it’s probably expected that most student athletes will take longer to complete a degree.
Is the double piked arabian overscored on floor? In the tuck and layout positions, the full twist is given the same value as the arabian, but a full-twisting double pike is an E while the arabian is an F.
They don’t really base the arabian values on what the full-in values are because they’re vastly different skills. For the full-twisting double backs, both are worth an E because both the double tuck and the double pike are worth Ds, and so when both add a full twist, it makes sense that they’d both continue to be given the same value. A double tuck and a double pike in backwards tumbling are both pretty much the same level of difficulty, and some actually find the double pike easier because of the leg positioning going into the landing. Arabians and front tumbling in general are a different story, though. A tucked double arabian is much easier than a piked double arabian, and so they mark the difference between the difficulty levels of each skill by bumping the pike up one letter value. If anything, the double arabians are judged similarly to and compared to double fronts, but they generally don’t have anything in common with double backs, and it’s not really productive to wonder why arabian skills aren’t given values on the same scale that double backs are.
If you redshirt a year, do you still get a scholarship? What happens in the additional year? Did Peng Peng Lee get a scholarship for six years?
It depends on whether the school has an available scholarship. If a program has four seniors leaving and only three scholarship freshmen set to come in, rather than try to recruit for a fourth freshman or someone looking for a transfer, they’ll just leave that spot open for the gymnast who is redshirting, but if the program has four seniors leaving and four incoming freshmen, it could leave the redshirt gymnast without a scholarship coming into the next season, in which case she’d have to fund herself. I would say more often than not, it ends up working out, but I’ve heard of situations where athletes have been left without scholarships when redshirting.
Do you think some of the front tumbling dismounts on beam could be upgraded? Like a double front half, a front two and a half, or a piked double arabian?
I think we could see a piked double arabian, especially from someone like Aly Raisman who has mastered both that skill on floor and the tucked double arabian beam dismount…please come back just for this, Aly! Most of the front skills that aren’t arabians in general are harder because they can’t have a roundoff or a back handspring into them the way backward skills and arabians do, so when they just punch into skills, the power they have is way less which is why even just a double front on its own is super impressive (and should be worth more!!!). I could see someone REALLY skilled at front tumbling getting a double front half and a 2½ would also be cool…but before these happen I think we need more mastery of the double front and the front double full on their own.
Do you have reasons for not answering questions? I submitted two about six months ago that were never answered, but some I submitted more recently were. Should I resubmit them?
The only time I don’t answer questions is if they’re duplicates, if they can be reshaped and added in with another similar question (like if one person asks about if Simone Biles is coming back and another person asks about who will coach Simone Biles during her comeback, I’ll just answer the second question with my answer to the first question by being like “Simone is coming back coached by Laurent Landi” rather than answering both with the same exact info), if they’re inappropriate or irrelevant to the sport (asking why so and so hates someone else or why someone doesn’t follow someone else on social media), or if I somehow don’t see the question…I check my spam filter pretty regularly and try to not miss anything but I get as many as 50 questions a day at times and some are bound to get lost in the shuffle.
Is Katarzyna Jurkowska-Kowalska still competing? I really want to see that gainer double named after her.
Yes, she is! Poland decided to not spend money sending a team to worlds this year, but Katarzyna wasn’t really at full strength anyway, so I think the plan is to get everyone healthy enough for a full team at worlds next year. Katarzyna only came back on beam this year, winning the silver medal at Polish nationals with a fall and then making the final at Cottbus in November where she placed fourth with an excellent routine…she’s just way downgraded at the moment. She’s definitely expected to lead the team this quad, and now that world cups are eligible for getting skills named, I’m hoping she can show up at one of them early in the season, bust one out, and finally get it in the code.
Do you know why Laurie Hernandez isn’t returning to MG Elite?
She had problems with her coach following the Olympic Games (I won’t get into details because it’s not really appropriate without knowing every detail of the situation but her coach had various passive aggressive social media posts that were screencapped and circulating on tumblr that kind of suggested their relationship wasn’t where it once was after Laurie’s post-Rio fame) and so she decided to look into different coaching situations for her comeback because it would’ve been awkward to return to MG Elite after everything that went down.
Would men’s teams have six athletes in 2020 and women’s teams have just four? What about worlds in 2018 and 2019?
No, both men’s and women’s teams only have four athletes in 2020, and both men’s and women’s teams only have five athletes in 2018 and 2019. Kind of silly, considering the men have to cover six events with only four guys, which means basically everyone has to be a super all-arounder.
Has anyone ever done a release connected to their dismount on bars? Do you think it would be possible?
I guess someone could do a Tkachev between the bars into an immediate dismount like a double back or something, but with so many opportunities to pick up connection value elsewhere, it’s not really worth it to risk not getting enough air time due to weaker momentum directly out of a release, which could potentially lead to a fall or a bad injury. I’d say a release into a D dismount would have to be worth at least 0.3 to be worth it, and even then it’s something only a few would even attempt.
If Simone Biles competed her Amanar and Cheng in NCAA, would she score a perfect 10 if she stuck?
Yes. Easily. Based on some of the DTYs that got 10s in the past few seasons, Simone would easily get a 10 with a stuck Amanar or Cheng.
Is there a reason Chris Waller has never become an NCAA head coach? I assume it’s because he loves working at UCLA, but one would think he has the experience to helm another program if he wanted!
I think because he has his own gym, Waller’s Gym Jam, that he runs with his wife while coaching the girls team, that’s kind of like his main job and UCLA is just a really really awesome side hustle. He probably could be a head coach of an NCAA program, but that would mean uprooting his life and selling his gym, which he obviously has way more invested in as an owner, and that wouldn’t really be worth giving up for a head coach title. Maybe when Miss Val retires eventually he’ll be in consideration to take over UCLA’s program? Assuming Jordyn Wieber doesn’t become Miss Val 2.0 which I’m pretty confident she’ll do.
What inspired the two-per-country rule and what would abolish that rule? It seems relevant when you have Soviets sweeping the podium but I don’t think aside from maybe the Americans sweeping in the all-around that it would be an issue anymore.
With the Soviets literally making up entire event finals back when they had six-person finals, they scaled back to two-per-country in event finals and three-per-country in all-around finals to open it up a bit more to other countries, but it was actually the 2000 Olympic all-around final that led to the two-per-country all-around final, because in Sydney, it ended up being three Romanians sweeping the medals in the all-around. I think it would be incredibly rare to see event podiums swept by individual countries in the current competitive atmosphere, but the U.S. definitely could sweep the all-around…just look at the all-around qualification results from Rio.
I personally think the all-around should be three-per-country with an overall field of 36, or there should be a clause that states it’s two-per-country unless a gymnast finishes in the top five or within a point of the top qualifier into the final, which would put her in medal contention. I get the need for diversity in finals, but two-per-country doesn’t really create that AT ALL because the small program gymnasts are too far back in the qualification standings to end up taking those spots, which end up almost always going to gymnasts who are part of full teams but fall in qualifications…and if their country is strong enough to qualify a full team, why do they need a loophole to make a final? They should be qualifying on their own merit, and it’s borderline ridiculous that Gabby Douglas couldn’t compete in the all-around final in 2016 despite finishing third and in medal contention, whereas Carlotta Ferlito, Vanessa Ferrari, and Sophie Scheder — all members of top ten programs — got to take advantage of the two-per-country rule simply because they all fell in qualifications.
Anyway, I obviously have a lot of feelings about this rule, and hate it, because they pretend it’s ‘for diversity’ in finals but that’s not even close to what it accomplishes, so they’re sacrificing competition from the best in the world and not getting anything in return.
What do you think of Danusia Francis’ comeback? Do you think she’ll find success? How far do you think she can go? Do we see an Olympics in her future?
I think it’s great that she’s coming back! I hope it’s at a strong enough level to contend for an Olympic spot. Assuming Toni-Ann Williams wants to attempt to qualify for Tokyo, it’ll be these two competing against each other once again, so it’ll be interesting to see if Toni-Ann could make it happen again, or if Danusia can make herself stand out ahead of Toni-Ann. That’s what she’ll need to do if she wants the spot…simply qualify ahead of Toni-Ann at worlds in 2019. Assuming she does this and finishes high enough in the rankings to fall into an individual all-around spot, she can make it to Tokyo!
Which colleges do you think will improve on their nationals finish for the 2018 season? Which ones will fall in the standings?
I’m hoping this will finally be UCLA’s season to get back on the map as a consistent top three program. I think this could also be Kentucky’s year to make nationals, and see them definitely rising in the standings, and I have a feeling that this could be Stanford’s best year in a long time if everyone ends up working out/not getting injured. As for those that could fall…LSU is a little iffy having lost three significant contributors. They do have some stellar gymnasts left behind, though, and some incoming freshman have the ability to make an immediate impact so I’m not really worried about them but I could see some other programs stealing their thunder for a bit. They should still remain a top five team pretty easily, though, so they won’t really have a drastic fall. And all of the borderline teams that made nationals last year like Washington, Oregon State, Denver, Georgia, and Nebraska…I don’t see them falling, necessarily, but I do see them having to work super hard if they want to get back to nationals this year, given that there will be a lot of competition for the top 12 and it could come down to just a couple of tenths between them and someone else who could pull it off.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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