Göksu Üctas Sanli
It’s time for the 206th 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.
How many gymnasts do you know of have had success after having a baby?
There have been a few, with the most notable being Oksana Chusovitina, who has won world and Olympic medals in the years after giving birth to her son. Most recently, Göksu Üctas Sanli of Turkey has made a comeback after having a baby, and while she’s not in the category of potential world medalist, she still managed to get back pretty much completely to the level she was at before having a child, winning a world cup medal in her first meet back last summer and also winning beam and floor medals at the Islamic Solidarity Games this year, though she unfortunately got injured while training for worlds and ended up unable to compete in Montreal.
How do judges balance scoring and ranking in an event final? In Montreal it seemed like judges penalized Jade Carey more harshly for her artistry in order to rank her second compared to Mai Murakami.
I don’t think they really ‘balance’ anything. When people talk about judges ranking routines, it means they’re using one routine as a standard by which other routines are judged, so they’re not sitting there and saying “let’s rank her first and give her this score to put her there.” It means if a gymnast goes up and has a good routine with no steps on landings and gets a 9.0, the next gymnast who goes up and has a similarly good routine but has a few hops here and there might get an 8.5. I honestly don’t think Jade was penalized enough for her artistry on floor…her E score was quite high for floor given all of her potential for artistry and composition deductions. They could’ve taken about a point and a half just for artistry alone, but that was what she got for all of her deductions. But it didn’t really matter because her routine still should’ve been second based on how all of the other routines looked.
How many British gymnasts have competed or currently compete in NCAA? Do you think more will in the future?
There are usually quite a few each year. Right now, off the top of my head, Ruby Harrold is at LSU, Laura Mitchell is at BGSU, Polina Poliakova and Erin McLachlan are at Rutgers…there could be a few more but without going through every roster to pick out every name, those are the ones I can think of at this moment in time. Yes, there will definitely be more in the future. Abigail Solari is going to Cal next year, and Phoebe Jakubczyk, currently a junior, is going to Oregon State in the 2022 season, just as a couple of examples.
Do you think that beam judges at worlds were too harsh? Only one got a score above a 14, and very few got over an 8 in execution. Were they too picky, or were the gymnasts not good?
I think that the scoring was appropriate given the code and the kinds of routines we saw, but I think they were too harsh given that the E scores on other events weren’t comparatively tight. On vault and bars, E scores are always naturally going to be higher than beam and floor because routines are much shorter and there’s less to deduct, but even so the beam scoring was SO insanely tight, I’ve never seen it THAT picky before, even though the deductions they took were all legit. The highest score was actually a 13.533 from Tabea Alt in qualifications, not a 14, and the only gymnast to reach above an 8 E score was Pauline Schäfer.
Has Ioana Crisan been injured? Why didn’t she compete at the Swiss Cup?
I’m not sure why she got pulled from the Swiss Cup and honestly didn’t realize she was expected to compete, I must’ve missed that announcement. But either way, I haven’t heard of her being legitimately injured, so they could just be trying to prevent her from further aggravating a nagging injury or something.
USA Gymnastics finally named a new CEO. Any idea on whether they’ll keep the national team camps where they are currently held?
As of right now, the national team camps are still being held at the ranch. I don’t think they’re in a financial position to be buying new property now, so I think the ranch is the best option for the time being.
What was Elisabeth Seitz’s beam mount at the Swiss Cup called? What is the difficulty value?
Elisabeth’s beam mount is a jump to cross split, worth a C.
Say you have a gymnast who is also a contortionist. Can she use those moves while competing? Are they worth anything?
She could use contortionist elements as part of her choreography but they wouldn’t necessarily be worth anything in terms of skill value unless they fit one of the skill categories (acro, leap, jump, turn, etc) and are submitted to be recognized as a new skill. There are a few turns I could think of that could use contortionist flexibility, but even with turns, generally they don’t differentiate between different leg shapes…they really only differentiate between leg below horizontal, at horizontal, or above horizontal. I’ve wanted the scorpion turn to get recognized in the code, but it’s basically just considered the same as a Y turn because even though the leg position is way different, it’s still considered ‘leg above horizontal’.
Which are the current gymnasts you think would be more successful with a 10.0 code? And which gymnasts from the past do you think would be successful in the current code?
A lot of smaller program gymnasts who have simpler routines but do them very well would be great in the old code…more specifically, Pauline Schäfer would’ve been a goddess, Deanne Soza, Asuka Teramoto, Flavia Saraiva…there are definitely many who would have their current status in the world order elevated a bit in a non-open-ended code (in addition to all of those who are successful in the open-ended code, like Simone Biles, and basically anyone who is at the top of her game in the sport). As for those in the old code who would be successful now…Tia Orlando for sure, Elena Produnova, Tatiana Gutsu, Simona Amanar…these were the first who jumped to mind.
Did Ragan Smith attend the final national team camp of 2017? How severe was her injury?
Yes she did. I haven’t heard anything specifically related to her injury in the last month or so but I think she was actually pretty much okay. If it was the Olympics, she maybe (probably!) would’ve risked it, but given that it was just an individual worlds, it wasn’t really worth it for her to continue on a busted ankle and get injured even further, especially because she wouldn’t have been competing in top shape with her ankle like that…so she would’ve risked it for like, fifth place or something, which definitely wouldn’t have been worth it. But she seems to be training and doing skills again so I think she’s mostly fine and am glad she and her coach had the sense to withdraw even though it meant not getting to make a dream come true on the world stage. Not every coach would’ve withdrawn an athlete in that condition (and I think there were a few gymnasts competing for various programs in worse shape).
Why wasn’t Ashton Locklear at the national team camp in November?
She had shoulder surgery and won’t be training at a competitive level (or doing anything other than conditioning, basically) for several months.
When Lauren Mitchell stuffed her leap series in the 2011 world floor final, how much of a deduction would she have received for it, given that it was a very noticeable mistake? Her save was awesome though!
She would’ve lost the difficulty for the skill she missed, but she wouldn’t have lost any connection value because there are no bonuses for a leap series like that, and since she had a leap series earlier in the routine, she wouldn’t have lost the CR for the leap requirement either. Really, she only would’ve lost the skill itself, and because she turned the skill into basically a fancy turn/choreo bit, her execution really didn’t suffer either. That quick thinking was great because had she tried to go into the leap and only hit 90 degrees or otherwise ended up having a super messy leap, she would’ve gotten heavily deducted for it, and instead she came out just fine with the mistake. It’s the kind of happy accident Jordan Chiles had on beam this summer with her messed up wolf spin turning into a wolf to a triple turn…you shoot for one thing, make a mistake, and you fix it in a way that makes you look like a badass.
What is the story behind NBC dropping Elfi Schlegel for Nastia Liukin? Is there any chance NBC will get another commenting team or change the style of the current team from focusing on the top athletes and emphasizing/promoting drama over skills and history?
There’s no ‘story.’ Contracts end and aren’t always renewed, especially when a network wants to spruce up its programming. Nastia when hired was five years out from winning the Olympic gold and had lots of fans and people who would tune in and know who she was and want to watch her, whereas no one in the U.S. really knows Elfi at all and wouldn’t be like “oh it’s Canadian Olympian Elfi Schlegel!” when they turn on the TV. They wanted to make a change, and the recognition factor with Nastia was a big reason for bringing her in over renewing Elfi’s contract. I think the current team will also face contract situations in the coming years and they may either decide to renew or not, depending on what they want from the team. I doubt Nastia will be on the outs anytime soon, and Tim Daggett is also likely to stick around for a while as well, but I could see them rethinking Al Trautwig (slash I think he’s already either out or on his way out with John Roethlisberger having been in his seat at recent meets).
A lot of gymnasts commit to colleges and then end up not attending due to going pro. What effect does this have on a program?
It actually doesn’t happen often (like, five times a quad MAX is pushing it, and only two who committed in the 2016 quad went pro) but when it does happen it’s generally with enough time for a program to look into other options. Like when Simone Biles decided to go pro, it was two years before she was expected to join UCLA, and Miss Val was probably like “nbd, I love you, enjoy yourself, I have literally 700 gymnasts on my roster and am pretty sure I can find someone to give a scholarship to.” Anytime a gymnast verbals to a program, the program runs the risk of her changing her decision before actually signing the NLI, so I don’t think coaches get too attached until they have that signature. Post-NLI signing, it’s super rare that gymnasts will go pro or transfer schools so it’s not generally a big deal.
Daniela Silivas posts a lot of footage of her very clean and talented daughter on Facebook. If she’s going to make it in elite, could she compete for Romania instead of the U.S.?
Yeah, I think she could probably get citizenship pretty easily if the team wanted her to come in and compete. It would just depend on whether the team would take an outsider…some programs, like Russia and China, don’t put gymnasts on the national team if they’re not part of their training system. Romania at this point is probably desperate and would welcome any outsider, especially one that is actually Romanian with a legend for a mother, but I know some countries would be against having gymnasts come in who didn’t come up through their program. But yeah, again, in this situation I think it could happen.
I’ve seen different junior competitions this year, like Gymnix and EYOF. I’m thrilled about the Americans and Italians, and the Russians were great at EYOF. Do you think this Italian team will outlast the quad?
I hope so! It’s hard to say because you never know who’s going to get injured or peak too early or just not end up working out for whatever reason, but I think if Giorgia Villa, Elisa Iorio, and the D’Amato twins stay healthy and can upgrade beam and floor a bit, those four could very well be the Italian Olympic team in 2020 with the way they look at the moment. Life sucks, though, so I’m sure there will be some drama that comes up and maybe only half of them will end up making it work out, but based on how everyone looks right now, those four have tons of potential and if they stay healthy and upgrade well, we could see good things from them in the future at the world and Olympic level.
Is it possible to learn a split as an adult?
Yes! I got my splits back as an adult, which isn’t the same as getting them for the first time, but it had been at least a decade since I was regularly stretching for them and I got them back just by stretching and working hard at it. There are actually a lot of iPhone apps that help with stretches for splits, and if you do the stretches on a daily basis and keep at it, you’ll definitely be able to get there. I do ballet regularly in adult classes, and I’ve seen many adults make progress toward getting splits, including reaching them completely. You really just have to keep at it daily, though, because it’s easy to lose that flexibility if you take time off.
Similar to what Japan has done with Kohei Uchimura, do you think Simone Biles should get a specialized training plan as she makes her comeback to keep her healthy and safe? Maybe she’s only required to compete at nationals and worlds, and doesn’t attend as many camps?
I could see that happening…though she generally has looked healthy enough in the past that she wouldn’t really need to be concerned unless she began to notice various nagging injuries in training that she thought might hinder her progress in the sport. But it’s definitely possible (and she definitely has the clout) for her to say “I’ll come back, but I’m only training six months out of the year and will only compete at classics, nationals, and worlds.” That’s basically what Alicia Sacramone did in her comeback…she knew her body and knew she’d never be able to go to Jesolo and the spring camps because she needed the time from worlds until the following summer to rest her body and train only in a limited sense. She’d literally take months-long breaks from training actual gymnastics skills, though she’d still condition, because she wanted to limit the risk of injury. But if you’re always generally pretty healthy, like Simone has been, there’s not really a need to do that and if anything, that limited training and limited time at the ranch probably hurt Alicia in the long run…with not going to the ranch regularly, it’s harder to show the national team staff what you can do, so you really have to be at your very best at the two domestic meets in the summer whereas if you’re at camp every month, the selection committees will know what you can do beyond what you do at classics and nationals.
I know elites have been criticized in the past for having routines deemed ‘too NCAA’ but I was wondering your opinion of gymnasts moving toward more modern music like Rebeca Andrade with her Beyonce music?
I like a lot of the more ‘modern’ pieces if they’re done well. I think the main difference is not that NCAA is ‘modern’ but that NCAA is very party/techno, which I don’t really love in floor routines. There were a few pop songs at worlds this year and some of them worked pretty well, but I think a lot of the techno beats and remixes in NCAA are terrible and would definitely not want to hear them from elite competitors.
I’ve heard of front stalders and the same with clear hips, but are there ‘front’ toe-ons and inbars?
Yup! A few gymnasts do forward toe-on skills, like both of the Downie sisters, but the only forward inbar I’ve seen was from U.S. junior Anya Pilgrim this summer. They’re more rare, I think because that piked position you have to be in for a toe-on or inbar is harder to do going forwards, but they’re very cool and I hope someone gets the forward inbar in the code soon!
Is Trinity Thomas committed to a school yet?
She’s still deciding between programs but hasn’t yet committed. I’ve heard of one of her possible choices, and I think it’d be surprising because it’s not currently a top school, but if she were to end up there it would be a great renaissance for them and I low key hope it happens!
Who is your favorite elite gymnastics commentator from the U.S. and from anywhere in the world? Who is your favorite NCAA commentator?
From the U.S., probably Kathy Johnson Clarke commentating NCAA…I love how balanced and chill she is. Elsewhere in the world, I really loved Mitch Fenner, who passed away from cancer last summer. I’ve also really enjoyed listening to Liz Chetkovich the few times I’ve heard her.
Do you know of anyone who is rumored to join LSU in the next incoming freshman class (2018-2019)? They have two scholarship spots to fill.
I actually don’t know of anyone, since Christina Desiderio decided to come into the program a year early. There are four expected to sign for the 2020 season, so perhaps one or two of them will come early, but no one signed NLIs this year so unless we see some in the spring signing, they might not have a freshman class, which would be weird. Though I’m sure someone will come up who’s looking for a good fit! It always happens.
Do you see Australia improving in world rankings with Mihai Brestyan as head coach, or do you expect it will take a lot longer to improve the program?
I think his biggest concerns should be about boosting up the action on the developmental side of things, which means there might not be results from what he’s doing for another five years or so. Immediately, it’ll be hard for him to improve things right away because he’s not coaching the gymnasts, he’s just managing them at the national level, but part of his ‘managing’ is going to involve him revamping the entire system and that starts from a much lower level than the senior national squad. I definitely think five years is the minimum for major changes in terms of improving world rankings.
What is your favorite event to watch if done well?
Bars, absolutely! I love that it’s quick and to the point, with every skill meaning something. I do like really super freaking well done beam and floor, but it’s so rare to see someone who takes advantage of every second they’re out there for those routines. With bars, I like that there’s no room for random movements between skills, because it makes a greater number of routines worth watching intently. With beam and floor, I definitely tune out during some performances in the moments where it’s between acro/dance skills and they’re just doing choreo. If the choreo isn’t engaging, I get bored quickly, but that’s not something that generally happens on bars.
Do you think Simone Biles could become a medal-winning powerhouse bar worker under Laurent Landi’s tutelage?
Most likely not. She’s already the gymnast she is, and it’s unlikely that her strengths will change just with a coaching change. He might clean her up a little there or work on alternate routine constructions, so we might see some improvements, but I doubt he’ll turn her into a legit bar worker.
I personally loved the event finals leotards for the Canadian and American gymnasts at 2017 worlds. Do you know who designs them?
For the Americans, it’s GK and Under Armour, and I believe Jagwear does Canada’s national team leotards.
Do you know if Ana Padurariu is planning big upgrades for her senior debut? Do you think she’ll beat Ellie Black at Elite Canada?
She definitely has some upgrades planned! I’m not sure if Ellie will do all four events at Elite Canada…she sometimes takes it easy there, so even if she does do the all-around I wouldn’t expect her to be in top form with all of her difficulty. But given that Ana outscored Ellie at nationals this summer as a junior, I could see Ana beating Ellie at the senior level…it’d be a close competition if they both hit, though!
What MAG gymnasts are you most excited to see progress over the next quad? Do you think Yul Moldauer has a chance to be an all-around gold medal contender if he continues to improve? Is this the end of the road for Sam Mikulak?
Yul is one of my favorites and I’m really excited for his potential in the future. I don’t know if he could be a gold contender, at least not with the depth we should expect especially from China and Japan, but he’ll definitely be able to improve on what he’s already doing. I’m excited for Kenzo Shirai to continue his rise as an all-arounder, and I love Milad Karimi and want him to be a big deal for Kazakhstan…which he already kind of is, but I think he could seriously be a star in the future once he gets a bit older. Marios Georgiou is another young favorite of mine, and he’s still just getting started, so I’d keep an eye on him in the future too!
I understand FIG enacted the two-per-country rule to promote diversity, but it doesn’t make sense to have the 29th best gymnast in qualifications compete against gymnasts who will outscore them by 5-7 points. It sacrifices competition for diversity. Do you think they’ll ever go back to three-per-country and up the number of gymnasts in the final to 36?
I don’t think they will because they don’t seem to understand that three-per-country with 36 in the final is actually the greatest way to account for diversity, because they’re not actually concerned about diversity even though they pretend to be…they’re more concerned that gymnasts from the same program will sweep a podium, which to me is silly because like…shouldn’t the best gymnasts in the world win the medals for being the best gymnasts in the world? It’s nuts to me that we reward people at the freaking Olympics who aren’t actually one of the top three in the world. I’m all for three-per-country and 36 in the all-around finals but I highly doubt this is a priority for the FIG.
I’m confused about the rule for Pac Rims requiring the presence of at least three juniors on the team. Last year, the U.S. team was entirely senior. Did they change the rules?
I believe the rules changed for 2016, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to bring a team of all seniors…slash since it was held on U.S. soil and organized by USA Gymnastics, I’m pretty sure Martha Karolyi was like “hi, if we’re hosting this shindig, we’re doing what I want.” Apparently for Olympic years, countries can send full senior teams if they want, but in non-Olympic years, teams have to have at least three juniors.
What is happening with Riley McCusker? She’s still not back at camp.
She’s still injured and it’s unknown when she’ll be able to return to high-level training.
I would love to go to worlds in 2018 or 2019. Any advice on when and where I should get tickets? Any general advice about attending worlds in terms of travel?
It really depends on when the organizers release tickets for purchase. For 2019, I’d say they should be available about a year in advance or something like that, that’s how it generally tends to be in the west, with Glasgow and Montreal selling out pretty quickly in recent years. But in many non-North American or European countries, the process can take much longer for some reason…I know Nanning didn’t go on sale until a couple of months prior to the meet, which had people freaking out, so I could see Doha not having tickets available super early. In terms of travel, I’d look for a hotel or Airbnb somewhat close to the arena since you’ll spend the majority of your time watching gymnastics, and I’d plan for a few days pre- or post-worlds to explore and see the city you’re visiting, because during the actual competition you’ll be kept so busy, you might not get out as much as you’d like.
Why didn’t Axelle Klinckaert compete in Montreal?
She wasn’t quite back from her knee injury at that point. She’s been easing her way back into competition with the hope of being ready for Euros and worlds in 2018, but worlds this year would’ve been pushing it and since she wouldn’t have been a medal contender, they decided to hold her back.
Are there any updates on Gabby Perea’s injury?
As far as I know things are going well for her. Her ankle injury last summer was minor, so she should be back in the all-around early in 2018 unless they decide to hold off on having her come back at full-strength on all four events right away.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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