You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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The 2014 Romanian world championships team

It’s time for the 208th 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.

Can you explain in detail how Romania failed to qualify a team to Rio?

Yes. They’ve had depth problems probably since…I’d say the 2008 quad. But they’ve always managed to keep around some top gymnasts so it was never a huge issue if everyone remained healthy, which is why they continued to perform well as a team and individually up through the middle of last quad. They had about two dozen kids turn senior in the 2016 quad, none of whom had a ton of star power in the way Larisa Iordache did, but it was still a promising amount of depth and many of them were good enough to keep the team afloat with the help of some of the ‘stars’ like Larisa.

However, when some of these new kids showed up to worlds in 2014 and missed out on a medal (by literally tenths), the federation flipped out. They instantly blamed the kids, who, given how young and inexperienced they were, were fantastic, handled themselves well under pressure, and could’ve really grown into excellent competitors had they been given the chance. Their response was telling the press how awful these kids did, and that they needed to bring back Catalina Ponor and Sandra Izbasa ASAP to fix everything.

Sandra tried to come back but it didn’t work out, and Catalina came back but was injured going into 2015 worlds. With Catalina expected to be an automatic savior on beam and floor, many kids who showed talent on these events felt hopeless and ended up retiring in the lead-up to worlds that year, including Andreea Munteanu and Stefania Stanila along with many others who had once seemed promising but no longer wanted to train because they knew with Catalina back, there wasn’t a place for them on teams.

The team for worlds, given the circumstances, ended up being a decent one, but they had a disastrous bars rotation, counting multiple falls, and ended up placing 23rd as a team on that event…out of 24 teams. It held them back to 13th as a team, meaning they not only missed the team final, but they also missed automatically qualifying a full team to Rio — teams had to finish in the top eight at 2015 worlds to auto-qualify.

This meant the team had to go to the Olympic test event. With a team of Larisa, Catalina, Laura Jurca, Anamaria Ocolisan, Diana Bulimar, and Maria Holbura, this could’ve been an easy Olympic berth had they all hit. But Larisa and Laura both got injured, which was a huge hit to the team, and because every other strong new senior that quad stopped training when the federation gave up on them after 2014 worlds, they had to replace Larisa — capable of a 60 AA — with gymnasts who basically would’ve been weak level 10s in the U.S., and so gone was Larisa and her 60 AA potential and in her place was a girl who could hit a 53 AA on a good day.

Had the test event team hit, they definitely had the potential to challenge pretty much any team there with the exception of Brazil and probably also Germany, but they didn’t hit. Even Catalina, who was supposed to save everyone’s life, fell on vault, meaning they had to count an FTY into their total there which they couldn’t afford on top of a bad bars rotation and mistakes on both beam and floor. They ended up having the third-best beam and second-best floor totals with those mistakes, but they were dead last on bars and fifth on vault, when they should’ve easily been second on vault. And so they placed seventh overall at the test event when they needed to be top four.

So yeah. That’s how they failed to qualify a full team. A lot of people were shocked after the test event, but I wrote an article after 2014 worlds about how this was going to happen, and I was not surprised in the least when it did. It was sad to see the program go from one of the best in the world to completely falling apart, but there are ways to go about bringing in talent to add to the overall depth and they didn’t do that. They outright said that Catalina would take over for the girls who failed at worlds, which made all of those girls quit the sport at 16 or 17, before they were even close to reaching any kind of peak. They could’ve brought Catalina back to the gym without making any promises or insulting the other gymnasts, but they didn’t, and so they screwed themselves with the comments they made, because had they kept these girls in the gym as backups, they wouldn’t have had atrocious depth in 2016 and likely would’ve qualified pretty easily.

Do most of the elite gymnasts in the U.S. come from wealthy families? I’m sure that the many hours of training per week are expensive, plus travel to competitions and camps plus all of the gear like leotards, warmups, and grips must add up to a large sum of money? And some are home-schooled too.

If not necessarily wealthy, most families are definitely well-off. I’d say upper middle class. My family growing up was middle class and even just doing basic competitive level 4 put a huge dent in our finances, considering most of the activities we did (like participating on local sports teams or taking dance classes) were free or super low cost. Competitive gymnastics even at the lower levels is incredibly expensive. Elite is like ten times that. I know families who take out a second mortgage on the house to cover all costs related to elite gymnastics, so it’s a huge sacrifice for families that aren’t well-off. Some parents are obviously more than willing to make those sacrifices, especially if their kids show talent, and so taking out loans or working second jobs is nothing to them if it means their kid will have a chance to succeed. I know for my parents, watching me as a terrible level 4, they gently pushed me towards doing theater instead, partly because I was more successful there but mostly because it was free, hahaha.

How much time do you need to change your nationality, particularly if the country you’re changing it from doesn’t want to release you? Hypothetically, if Aly Raisman was afraid of USA Gymnastics treating her unfairly going toward Tokyo, how much time would she need if she wanted to compete for, say, Israel?

It depends on the country. I know for the majority of the gymnasts who have wanted to compete for Azerbaijan instead of Russia, Russia has released them pretty much instantly and Azerbaijan lets them compete instantly. But when Oksana Chusovitina moved to Germany for her son’s cancer treatment and decided to compete for them, while Uzbekistan released her, she had a wait on Germany’s side because she had to be a citizen for a specific amount of time before representing them in sport. If Aly wanted to compete for Israel, she’d be fine and eligible on Israel’s end to compete right away, but I can’t imagine USA Gymnastics releasing her right away to go through the change of nation process. It could be a year or more depending on the circumstances.

How do you stay so up-to-date with gym news around the world, even in smaller international programs? Do you have any sources that provide info? Or do you read and research? I’m so impressed!

I follow each national federation around the world via their websites and social media accounts and local news. I have some sources that provide info, including federation heads and organizers of local competitions who email me information about their meets, but that’s more rare…and in fact, sometimes I’ll cover a little-known invitational or something out there, and after the fact I’ll get an email from the organizer asking how I knew about them! This happened with a couple of meets last year, and it’s nice because I can then build relationships with these organizers or federation members so I can become aware of future competitions without having to really dig for them. But really, reading and researching is how I find out about most, and it also helps that gymnasts post when they’re at competitions on social media…I can scroll Instagram and notice a bunch of Czech gymnasts taking photos at a meet, and that will prompt me to check out their federation website to see that they had an internal test competition for Euros or something. It’s a lot of work, not gonna lie, but I love following as many competitions as I can!

During worlds in 2015, what happened with Brenna Dowell and MyKayla Skinner not being used in the team final? Brenna fell and wasn’t used, but Gabby also fell and was used.

I was actually surprised that Martha Karolyi didn’t initially name only five gymnasts to the team because after it ended up working so well in 2011, and given that she had stated that she liked testing the Olympic five-person team

How does one train or physically do a whip? Do gymnasts learn whips before layouts?

It would depend on how the gymnast is progressing through skills…I’m not a coach but remember progressing from cartwheels to aerial cartwheels as a kid, so I’d guess progressing into a whip comes after learning continuous back handsprings and back tucks…and possibly even back layouts. With layouts, I could see coaches wanting gymnasts to master those first because if they learn whips first, when they later move on to layouts, the layouts might end up looking really arched or whippy, but a gymnast could definitely progress to whips before layouts if she has all of the other foundational skills down.

Can you think of any gymnasts who are/were able to do both extreme power vaults (the Produnova) and more intricate vaults (the Cheng)? Do you think we will see a gymnast who can do both a Produnova and a Cheng or Amanar anytime soon?

Pretty much anyone who does a more ‘intricate’ vault and has a lot of power can do extreme power vaults. In terms of learning it, the Produnova would be pretty easy for pretty much anyone who does a Cheng, for example, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be safe which is why most of the more skilled vaulters go for vaults like the Cheng instead of the Produnova. The Produnova is only ‘harder’ because it requires more power, power which most of the strongest vaulters absolutely have, but because the vault requires such exactness in the air, it leaves little room for error, and so a slip of the hand on the table or poor rotation throughout could literally lead to death, whereas for the more ‘intricate’ vaults, the worst that would generally happen is knee/ankle injuries when mistimed. That’s why most who could easily do a Produnova, like Simone, don’t bother, because it’s not worth the risk when there are other safer vaults. Generally the only ones who try the Produnova are those who struggle mastering the more complex vaults, but who want big start values and decide it’s worth the risk. I think if we saw a truly skilled and powerful vaulter like Simone, the Produnova would be AMAZING. But it’s not worth it for most of them because they can do vaults with nearly the same difficulty with great execution and without getting killed.

After rewatching Aly Raisman’s 2016 Olympic Amanars in slow motion, I recognized that she does a quarter pre-rotation on the table before blocking. Is that common? Is there a deduction for doing so? Do you think she could land an Amanar if she wasn’t beginning her rotation early?

There are definitely quite a few gymnasts who begin rotating their twists super early for Yurchenko vaults in general, not just Amanars. I believe they take deductions based on the degree of turn that comes early? I believe she’d get somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.1 or 0.3 off depending on how many degrees early the twist came. If someone were to do a half twist early, they might just end up calling it a Yurchenko half-on. You see that sometimes with handspring vaults and tsuks, where someone doing a handspring starts twisting too soon and then they end up calling it a tsuk. I’ve never seen it with a Yurchenko getting called a Yurchenko half-on though. I don’t think anyone’s ever been THAT early with the twists on a Yurchenko, but a quarter twist would definitely get a deduction.

Do you think that if Rebeca Andrade hadn’t gotten injured, she would have been a contender for gold in the all-around and vault finals, considering the gymnasts who competed?

Yup, for sure. All of the injuries at worlds were rough but anyone who was a legitimate medal contender who got injured hurt especially badly because they really could’ve changed the medal standings.

Does Jade Carey signing her NLI mean she’s decided not to continue with elite or try for Tokyo?

No. She can always defer if she decides to continue trying to make elite teams, including the Tokyo team.

What is going on at British Gymnastics? Lots of stories, and Catherine Lyons tweeted that it’s ‘all coming out now.’ Could this have a negative impact on the potential future world/Olympic medalists?

I don’t know about British Gymnastics in general, but I know with Catherine’s gym, her coach was abusive toward gymnasts for years and was finally fired recently. My guess is that’s what Catherine’s tweet was about, but I don’t know of any major issue within BG itself aside from perhaps being lenient on Catherine’s coach? So far, everything within their federation seems relatively unaffected overall so I don’t think it’ll impact any of the potential upcoming medalists.

Why don’t more U.S. gymnasts compete one-armed pirouettes on bars, like the Chinese?

The Chinese are pretty much the only ones doing one-armed pirouettes at this point, and they don’t just do one-armed pirouettes, but FRONT one-armed pirouettes, which are worth a lot. The Americans have other ways of building value, however, and without killing their shoulders. The Healys and Lings that the Chinese compete literally destroy shoulders. Since they’re the most difficult pirouettes but pirouettes have a D cap, all of their super difficult and body-destroying skills are only worth an E. There are plenty of other ways to build up difficulty that don’t involve multiple shoulder-killing E pirouettes, so most countries (not just the U.S.) try to use other methods.

Is it physically possible to do a one-armed pirouette with a stalder, toe-on, hip circle, or Weiler entry?

Yes it is. It just hurts a lot and most people who want to keep their shoulders intact won’t really be going after ways to tear them apart, and this would definitely do that! 

Since pseudoephedrine was not on the banned substances list between 2004-2010, and since then its use has only caused ‘reprimands’ by the IOC, do you think Andreea Raducan should’ve gotten her gold medal back?

Yes, absolutely. I thought back then and I still think now that taking away her gold was absolutely ridiculous, especially because she had a documented health reason for needing the medication. The fact that they took it off the banned list shortly after disqualifying her just added insult to injury. So unfair.

In the gymnastics community, is there any general feeling that the 2000 vault controversy should’ve been handled differently for the athletes? If so, how?

I think most people tend to agree that they should’ve stopped the competition and started it fresh on another day, since merely giving gymnasts the chance to vault a second time didn’t really fix the situation, as many gymnasts who fell on vault let that fall stick in their minds as they continued on to other events. I know with scheduling it’s hard, especially with all of the broadcasts happening with the meet, but the best solution for the athletes would’ve been to stop it completely and start over, even if that meant messing up schedules. It should’ve been about the athletes’ best interests. Unfortunately, it never is.

A Chinese Taipei gymnast Lee Chih Kai won the Universiade pommels final with a routine mostly composed of Thomas flairs, and the local media kept talking about how unusual it is. Are they really that special on pommels? Do you think his score of 15.3 was inflated since he was competing in his home country?

From what I remember, I’d say he was slightly overscored, and probably because he was a medal contender at home which is rare for Chinese Taipei so they were probably like YAAAAS and just were more lenient than usual haha, though he’s gotten some big international scores elsewhere for good routines. But yes, it’s unusual to construct a routine mostly using flairs in general. Like his entire routine is nonstop which is pretty much never done. For clarification, some people when referring to flairs in general say “Thomas flairs” even though a “Thomas flair” is a flair with side support…so he wasn’t just doing side support flairs, but he was doing a routine full of flairs and they just probably referred to them as “Thomas flairs” but meant the general term “flairs.”

Which is rated higher or more difficult on beam, the Patterson or the full-twisting double back? Are there others that are equally as difficult?

Both are rated the same, a G, and there are no other dismounts as difficult as this. Just as a side note, both the piked and tucked full-twisting double backs are both rated a G even though the piked position is def a bit harder. Morgan Hurd is training it as a pike and her first flip is basically laid-out! I’d love to see someone actually compete a double layout off beam but I think it’d take someone super tiny AND powerful (hi Simone?) to get the rotation around.

What do you think were the biggest reasons (team selection, who went for what events, injuries) for the U.S. performance at the 2000 Olympic Games?

I honestly think the biggest problem was morale, especially after Morgan White was injured and they chose the alternate in a kind of bizarre way. A lot of the gymnasts on that team felt like they were treated poorly and kept in the dark about a lot of things, this was before there was any sort of centralized training and regular camps so none of the girls knew each other well and their coaches had a lot of in-fighting and drama, and then adding on top of that the fact that some of them were dealing with really terrible circumstances, namely Jamie Dantzscher…it just wasn’t a great atmosphere and that really contributed to all of the issues they had with their performances.

I’m new to gymnastics and have been watching old meets on YouTube. The 1992 Olympics seems to be the only time that teams were separated during compulsories. I liked it! But I must have been in the minority because it never happened again. I thought it did a good job of making sure routines were judged fairly, but the downside is probably that it took away from the team. Is that why it never happened again?

I never even thought about that before (slash can’t remember the last time I willingly watched any compulsory events hahaha) but that’s a really cool observation and if I had to guess, it would be exactly as you assumed, to make things fair in qualifications…it also takes out the strategy aspect of a team competition that many coaches like to use (putting someone nervous last so she can build on the confidence of her teammates who go before her, putting the best last so the score builds) so compulsory would have been less subjective in a way.

Logistically I’d imagine it was annoying for coaches and teams, and you’re right in that it takes away from teams working together and building momentum, so there were definitely pros and cons, but apparently we might get something similar at worlds and the Olympics in the future, with teams competing as one in the final, but swapped back and forth in the order (so if USA and China are in the top group, a U.S. gymnast would go first, and then a Chinese gymnast, and then a U.S. gymnast, and so on) which is…interesting. Many are definitely complaining about the lack of momentum and building on the previous efforts, which I’m sure could hurt many programs.

Why was there no world championships in 1998? Were the Goodwill Games essentially equivalent?

I always assume it was because the Goodwill Games happened (which were a big deal and yes, probably essentially equivalent though in the past they’d had GGs and worlds in the same year) but also before 2005, there was really no rhyme or reason to worlds? 2005 was when the current format started (individual in the post-Olympic year, then two team years leading up to the next Games) but prior to that it was just kind of like…two in one year? Cool! None at all? Why not! A worlds just for event finals? Might as well!

Do you know what the programs are like in countries that aren’t the Big Four? Do they have semi-centralized programs or are they more like the U.S. was prior to the ranch?

There’s a mix. I think a majority are more club-based, and for many smaller programs with only a few elites, there might be one or two really strong clubs that every top gymnast goes to, and these clubs kind of become the national training centers. And the smallest countries really have nothing…just a federation in name, but everyone does their own thing in terms of training/preparing and then just uses the federation’s okay when signing up for FIG competitions.

Is Ksenia Afanasyeva planning a comeback?

I don’t think so. After her illness and giving birth she hasn’t been in the gym in almost two years, so it would be a big surprise to see her return, especially now that depth is building up. No one is where she was at her peak, so if she did come back she’d probably be welcomed with open arms if she got back to her top level, but since she’s not an all-arounder and at best would have about two or three events, she probably wouldn’t make the Olympic team outright and would have to hope to go as a specialist in an individual spot.

I recently rewatched the 2008 American Cup and I noticed that all of the American girls had long ponytails whereas now everyone wears their hair in a bun. Is this just the current trend? Is there something in the code requiring it?

There’s nothing in the code that regulates hairstyles but trends do come and go and many international gymnasts (and U.S. gymnasts) still wear ponytails or other non-ballet bun hairstyles. After the 2012 quad, Martha Karolyi was basically like “I’m disgusted” re: the hair situation and so she made a rule in the U.S. stating that gymnasts had to have their hair neat and presentable. Some went back to tidy ponytails, but for those with super long hair (which was many of them) they went for neat ballet buns because ponytails at their length would’ve actually been dangerous!

Is Vanessa Ferrari the heir to the Ferrari automobile fortune?

No! Hahaha. Ferrari is a fairly common last name in Italy.

Do you think if Aliya Mustafina or Viktoria Komova both made a successful comeback this quad, it will cause some young gymnasts to retire?

I don’t think so. Russia isn’t like Romania in the sense that they no longer matter to the team if they’re not a returning star, because Russia is smart and knows that if either of their big stars end up not working out or getting injured, they’ll need that depth and they know this, and so they continue to treat their non-stars as if they’re still contenders even if they don’t end up that way. In Romania, they’re like “you sucked at worlds so guess what? Catalina Ponor’s coming back to take ALL THE SPOTS FOREVER” and all of the girls are like “well bye” and then it’s the Olympic test event and everyone’s injured and they have to take the equivalent of U.S. level 10s. I’m still PRETTY BITTER about this if you can’t tell! But I do think Russia is pretty good and smart about wanting to keep those who might be B team, but could step up and take the place of an A team kid if needed.

Do elite gymnasts in the U.S. buy their own leos or does USA Gymnastics give leos to them? What about at Olympic Trials?

They buy their own leotards for competitions except for those who get national team kits (usually national team members after nationals, plus whoever is added at the ranch) and then at Olympic Trials, they get to pick a design/style that they want to wear from the national team line and they’re given the two they want for that competition. But otherwise, they’re responsible for purchasing their leos from the day they first step in the gym as babies up until they make the national team (and national team members buy their own leos that they wear to classics and nationals with their clubs).

Does any gymnast have eponymous skills on every apparatus? Who is the closest?

Hmmm, good question…I don’t think so. Nellie Kim has skills on vault, beam, and floor, Oksana Chusovitina has skills on vault, bars, and floor, and Svetlana Khorkina has skills on vault, bars, and beam. I think this is it for those with three skills, and I can’t think of anyone that has four. Chuso totally needs to make up a beam skill ASAP and get it named.

How does an NCAA gymnast get recruited? What if you don’t live in the U.S.?

Coaches recruit at major U.S. competitions like level 9 and 10 national meets as well as the elite competitions (there’s nothing like walking into a bar at nationals and seeing every single NCAA head coach). Coaches reach out to club coaches and teammates of the gymnasts to let them know they’re interested, and the gymnast can give them a call back letting them know if they’d be willing to set up an official visit in the future. The process usually begins in middle school for the top elites and level 10s in the U.S., but schools always have spots open up so gymnasts who might not have been top recruits that early can feel around when they’re 16 or 17 and see who might have an opening for them. International gymnasts basically reach out to the schools they want to attend and let them know they’re interested. Most coaches are either familiar with them already, or look up their routines and results online to see what they can do and whether they’d be a good fit. Many international gymnasts get regular NCAA scholarships, but others will go through grants or other funds (or just pay outright) to cover the costs of their education so they’re basically a walk-on in that sense.

Is the relationship between walk-ons and scholarship athletes weird and awkward?

No, not at all. The only distinction is that walk-ons don’t get scholarships, but in the gym and on the competition floor, they’re all valued the same and no one is ever cliquey or exclusive or making non-scholarship athletes feel bad, especially because many walk-ons end up being super productive for their teams.

How many scholarships do D1 schools offer every season? Are they all full scholarships? Do some offer more than others?

NCAA programs have 12 scholarships each season and they’re all full scholarships. Obviously a scholarship at Stanford might be more valuable than a scholarship at a lower-tier academic school that doesn’t cost as much, but the main thing to know is that everyone gets their entire education paid for, including room and board as well as books/supplies.

Is ‘lines’ just code for the skinny body of a gymnast?

No. Some people might use it that way, but someone with good lines can have any body type. A gymnast with good lines has strong extension throughout her body, with no pike in her hips, straight legs and arms, and pointed toes. There are plenty of ‘skinny’ gymnasts who have loose knees and floppy feet and bent elbows and there are plenty of more muscular gymnasts with excellent extension and great lines. I think a lot of the time people confuse ‘great lines’ for ‘skinny’ because sometimes when you have someone with really muscular legs, it’s harder to see that extension, and so leaner gymnasts are more often called gymnasts with great lines because it’s easier to see their lines if their muscles aren’t as bulky. But I know plenty of more muscular gymnasts with fabulous lines.

Do you think the WADA scandal with Russia is damaging to the gymnasts or do they not really notice?

I don’t think they pay super close attention since they’re focusing on competitions and just trying to do their jobs…they know what’s going on and probably wonder if it’ll affect them but it doesn’t preoccupy them or distract them. They continue training like nothing is happening because that’s what’s best for them mentally.

Why was the number of skills on bars reduced from ten to eight, and why is there no decent bonus reward for doing three or four connected acro skills on beam?

The number of skills on all events (except vault obviously) was reduced from ten to eight after the 2008 quad in an effort to balance out difficulty and execution. Everyone complained when Vanessa Ferrari won worlds in 2006 because she came in with crazy difficulty and was able to use that difficulty to cover up her mistakes. By reducing the number of elements, they put an emphasis on doing fewer elements more proficiently so that execution would become the focus. As for the bonus, I don’t know why they don’t encourage more connected acro skills, especially when there are gymnasts who can do four or five. I mean, each skill on its own would at least get that CV from one to the next, so a four-skill series could conceivably get about 0.4-0.6 or so in bonus realistically, plus the series bonus for three skills, but I think four skills connected should have a 0.2 series bonus.

Do you know the name of Bai Yawen’s floor music from Chinese nationals last year?

Yup! It’s “Marco Polo” by Loreena McKennitt.

Do you think Romania will ever get good enough again to compete with the U.S., China, and Russia, like the good old days?

Check back with me in like 2024. They need to rebuild the foundation of their program if they want to contend as a top program again, and so any little strides they make with the current generation could get them to a decent competitive level, but the bigger overhaul they make will affect kids who won’t turn senior until about eight years from now so hopefully if they make these longer-term changes instead of thinking solving an immediate team problem is the best solution, which is what they’ve always done in the past, they could one day get back to a stronger level.

I love gymnastics and both of my kids are in gymnastics classes. However, gymnastics programs in developing countries are grossly underfinanced and in serious need of equipment upgrades. Do you have any advice on acquiring more affordable gym equipment?

I don’t…I’ve never been a coach or a gym owner or even a parent of a gymnast so I don’t know the kind of cost that goes into it aside from googling and seeing that vaults are like, thousands of dollars. I don’t know if there are companies that make SAFE affordable gym equipment for elite-level athletes. Sometimes programs will donate used but still safe and functional equipment to struggling/underfunded programs around the world to help out, but that aside I don’t think there’s any way to make equipment inexpensive and still have it pass all of the requirements and checks that make it safe for athletes.

Was Nastia Liukin lowballed in the 2008 uneven bars final? Was Beth Tweddle also lowballed to give China another medal?

I don’t think she was lowballed but I do think the tiebreak was unnecessary and wish she would’ve also gotten a gold. I don’t think Beth was lowballed either, and have never given it that much thought because I always thought the ranking was pretty much correct…it never stood out to me as being shady or benefiting the Chinese.

Is there a beep at some point before the end of a floor routine? Sometimes I can hear one that doesn’t sound like it’s part of the music, like in an event final when nothing else is going on.

No, there’s usually only one before the routine starts…I can’t think of hearing one near the end of a routine. Since floor music is timed to meet the requirements, it’s not like beam where they need a warning…though MAG floor gets a warning when they’re getting close to the end. (Edit: apparently WAG also has a beep but in my eight years of covering elite gymnastics and entire lifetime of watching it prior to that I have never once heard it which should tell you something about me and how good I am at noticing things.)

What are your thoughts on the worlds four-way tie for bars gold? Do you think that was the correct ranking?

I mean…I love ties but I do think it was a little ridiculous that the judges couldn’t separate any of those routines by a tenth, a hundredth, or even a thousandth of a point. I guess they used the execution scores to kind of rank them, and they were all pretty similar in terms of execution…but I think if I was judging, either Fan Yilin or Daria Spiridonova would be out. I was actually surprised to see Yilin get on the podium because I didn’t think she would but then…difficulty. I kind of thought the same thing this year, like, oh she had little things that were going to hold her back but then you see her difficulty and it’s like OH, that’s how she does it. I probably would’ve had…maybe Viktoria Komova first, Madison Kocian second, and Yilin third, that way Yilin’s D still saves her a bit, but her E would hold her back. I definitely wasn’t feeling Daria’s routine.

Why are swing down and feet-landed skills rated the same? Even though you have to be right on with both, it seems like a swing down would be easier because you have more time to complete the somersault or a twist before the landing and are starting from one position and landing lower down.

You have more time to complete the somersault, but it’s much easier to land on your feet than it is to catch a swing-down skill, and also even though a swing-down gives you more time to complete the flip, pretty much no elite gymnasts on beam are worrying about if they’ll have enough time/space to do simple acro skills like back handsprings, tucks, pikes, and layouts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone come up short on any of those but layouts (two-foot layouts, stepouts are usually fine), and even with layouts, if you are short, you can always just pike down a bit. Needing time to complete the skill isn’t really a concern and doesn’t factor at all into the rating of an element that lands on feet compared to a swing-down. Like, I don’t think anyone realistically would say “I’m going to do a Korbut instead of a [insert acro element] because I’ll have more time to flip.” In fact, most stay away from swing-downs because if you’re off even slightly, it’s harder to save than a skill you land on your feet!

Do you think Aly Raisman will make another comeback for Tokyo?

She’s saying she’s going to, and if Aly says it, I believe it…and I believe she’ll make it, too.

Why do so many gymnasts do the same skills as the other gymnasts? Nabievas and Mo saltos are rare, but you see lots of Jaegers.

Nabievas and Mo saltos are about nine billion times harder to do than a Jaeger. To put it into perspective, some kids are learning Jaegers at nine or ten, and even the best elites in the world struggle with Nabievas and Mo saltos because they’re unbelievably difficult to do, carry a lot of risk not worth the skill value, and it’s hard to do them cleanly and consistently. Nabievas are becoming a bit more common now (and by more common I mean like five gymnasts in the world have ever competed them) which is great, but most would rather do a release element worth a bit less and just connect it into another element to get the same value but in a way that doesn’t have as much risk or as much to deduct.

What is Angelina Simakova’s new beam mount called?

Most refer to it as a candle mount, probably because the gymnast ends up looking like a candle? Haha. But technically it’s a back handspring to grasp the beam in a chest stand. It was really popular among British gymnasts for quite some time, and then a million Canadians started doing it last year.

Is there a difference between someone being a ‘developmental team member’ versus being a ‘developmental camp attendee?’ Is the developmental team a thing, or is this just something proud parents are putting in their kids’ Instagram bios? Once a kid has been invited to a developmental or invite camp, what would cause them to not be invited again? Some kids go monthly while others attend a few times but then stop.

The developmental team camp is for gymnasts who are on the developmental ‘team’ which is a thing and includes gymnasts who are more established and ready to compete at the Hopes and junior elite level, like Lilly Lippeatt and Ui Soma last summer. The invite camp is more for younger gymnasts directly from TOPs who might not be old enough or prepared enough for elite yet but want to start thinking about it, or those who are a little older who are looking to try Hopes or elite but are brand new to the system. Last summer, some invite camp attendees included Alicia Wendland, who hadn’t yet started qualifying for elite but probably will in the next couple of years, and then also Sydney Morris, who was a bit older at 13, but was new to Hopes last year. An important distinction is that developmental team kids have camp fully funded, whereas invite kids have to foot the bill.

My guess is that if kids go to the team or invite camp a few times but don’t return, it’s because they realize they might not want to do elite. Like, that’s probably the overwhelming reason why they don’t return. One of the biggest purposes of these camps is to help kids figure out whether elite would be a good fit. They might have the right physicality and fit all of the strength/flexibility requirements laid out by physical abilities testing, but making the jump from there to being able to do elite-level difficulty and handling the pressure and commitment that comes with being elite is a totally different story. Many personally realize that it’s not the kind of commitment they want to make to the sport, with higher J.O. levels and NCAA a more realistic outlook, and working with the national team staff will also pretty much inform them if elite is something they can handle in terms of skill level.

I’ve noticed a huge increase in leotard variety in 2017. They all seemed to be variations on the same patterns/swirls, but this year it seems there has been more experimentation with different cuts and colors, and they seem more similar to NCAA style. Even the new national team kit seemed more outré (you know, by national team standards) relative to previous years. Have regulations changed in the new quad? Has there been some other catalyst (new fabrics or manufacturers)? Was the tendency toward more conservative leotards a Martha Karolyi thing?

I think in the past many just went with basic GK designs and picked their own colors which is why we saw so many of the same leos on everyone. Since then, I think they’ve been given more freedom to actually create designs and patterns, and also it helps that not everyone is going to GK anymore…Ozone is becoming bigger, Plum is getting out there, and those who ARE working with GK are making their styles more unique. The national team leos also underwent a change post-2012 because the brand shifted from Adidas to Under Armour, and I think even though GK was still working with Under Armour on the national kit, the new Under Armour leos were distinctly different from the previous styles.

What happened to Sadia Wilson? She was touted as the next big thing in 2012, a gymnast to put Bermuda on the map, but after Bermuda withdrew her from the Junior Pan American Games in 2014 she seems to have disappeared.

I think the talk about her being the next big thing was probably because she won golds at the Island Games in 2013. In general this competition isn’t very well-attended and so it’s not strange to see someone from a small program do well (Bermuda also picked up a bunch of medals there in 2016 and the only major international competitor at this meet was Tara Donnelly of Ireland, who was representing Isle of Man). After her success at Island Games, she wanted to represent Bermuda at the Olympics, and so her family moved her to the UK to train at British clubs but then there was that drama in 2014 with Bermuda not wanting her to travel with her British coach, and I guess that caused a rift between her and the program in Bermuda.

I think she returned to training in Bermuda shortly after, however, but I haven’t heard about her since. It’s too bad she never got to represent the country internationally anywhere following that Island Games, but I was thinking in addition to the drama with the Bermudan federation, since she reached the senior level in 2016, she really had no way to qualify to Rio as there was no one at worlds in 2015 to qualify a test event spot, and since Rio was her goal and she had no way of getting there, maybe she decided not to pursue high level gymnastics anymore?

Where is Anastasia Dmitrieva? Is she still on the national team or even training?

She was still training in 2017 and competed at domestic competitions last year but just wasn’t at a high level. She is no longer on the national team, though, and I haven’t seen her post any training pictures in the past…six months probably? So I’m guessing she’s done officially. But you never know with Russia.

Have a question? Ask below! Remember that the form directly below this line is for questions; to comment, keep scrolling to the bottom of the page. We do not answer questions about team predictions nor questions that say “what do you think of [insert gymnast here].”

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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55 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Anybody know why Lee Chih Kai wasn’t at worlds? I was expecting him after the Universiade.

    Also there totally are beeps in women’s floor. At 1:20 (ten seconds left).

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  2. Re: Changing citizenship to compete–
    Annia Portuondo had to wait for Cuba to ‘release’ her, which they wouldn’t do (and she became a US citizen as a result of her marriage and moving to the US, not in order to compete). As a result, she could not compete at the 2002 Worlds. By 2003, she was a citizen of USA long enough that she was able to compete internationally, even without Cuba’s ‘approval’. Of course, she blew out her knee at Worlds that year =/

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  3. I always leave comments in the submission box by mistake, it’s a curse. Sorrryyyyyy

    Just meant to say that Chuso could probably compete for Germany as soon as she was a citizen but would have been required to complete a certain number of years’ residency in Germany to get citizenship. I believe in her case it was 3 years, which is the minimum for someone who has no German parents/grandparents and wasn’t born in Germany. 8 years is the standard although you can get it reduced (by, say, marrying a German – but even if you’re married to a German citizen you need 3 years’ residency).

    In other comments – MAG routines definitely have a beep 10 seconds before the end, because obviously without music it’s harder to tell how much time you have left. But paradoxically I feel like there’s also a beep before the end in rhythmic routines?? No idea why.

    Also The Skating Lesson was dishing RUMOURS about Afan (take with massive pinches of salt obviously). Apparently 2013 Universiade was when Russia’s whole Sochi doping-machine-strategy was tested, and there was a suggestion that the brief appearance of the Afanar at that comp might have had something to do with it. They was also pretty suspicious of her having such bad kidney problems.

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    • This was the video you’re talking about in case anyone wants to see!

      It’s a long video but worth it. They dissect the culture in figure skating and gymnastics, talk about doping and abuse and are promising an interview with Alyssa Beckerman that should be interesting.

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  4. Sometimes I notice beeps in WAG floor and sometimes I don’t. I have no idea if there’s some sort of standard or each comp decides whether to put it in or not? As you said, it’s not really needed because of the music.

    So Catherine Lyons was at Europa, right? Was the coach named or is it one of those open secrets?

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  5. UGH GRRRRR RAHHHHHH SCREW YOU ROMANIAN GYMNASTICS FEDERATION!!! Imagine a team with Larisa, Munteanu, Stanila, Jurca, and Bulimar/Ocolisan where they not only hit, but they also grew as competitors and gained new skills. A lineup of VT: Stanila, Jurca, Iordache UB: Jurca (Reliability), Stanila and Iordache BB: Bulimar, Munteanu, Iordache FX: Stanila, Bulimar, Iordache would not only challenge for podiums, but that team has the potential to get fairly close to the USA. That beam lineup would challenge for the top spot. Their bars also aren’t bad at all, and Ocolisan/Bulimar are perfectly viable alternatives. GRR THEY HAVE (HAD) SO MUCH POTENTIALLLL

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    • YES! but if each of these gymnasts were to improve and peak by Rio, I 100% pick Ocolisan over Bulimar, due to the fact that she has a DTY (ok didi 2013 euros, but I mean a lasting DTY), better bars (2015), ok beam, good floor. My line up would be vault: Stanila, Jurca, Iordache, (Ocolisan)
      Bars: Jurca, Stanila, Iordache, (Ocolisan)
      Beam: Jurca, Munteanu, Iordache, (Stanila)
      Floor: Ocolisan, Stanila, Iordache, (Jurca)
      With this line up there would be 4 DTYs to help fend off a potentially disastrous bars line up, great potentially 4 14+ bars sets, a beam rotation with 3 really clean back tuck fulls, a kinda laidout full, 3 back layouts, need I say more😍, and on floor they would yet again have 4 sets capable of going 14+. I’d say a team of these talented young women, if at peak and healthy seriously could have challenged russia for silver in Rio, and its sad that instead of being potentially 2nd-4th in 2015, that due to the RGF they placed a pitiful 15th place. And of course if either of them were injured they could have been replaced by Bulimar, Holbura, Butuc, etc.. Who would have also developed by Rio and would have been a replacement capable of reaching around 3rd-5th at the olympics which is much better than what they got. Its really sad how a bunch of adults fucked in the brains messed up one of the gymnastics world powers. Rant over.

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      • GRR they SO didn’t need Ponor! UGH imagine if Ocolisan had Laurent Landi or one of the Russian coaches for bars! And imagine if Munteanu would have been recognized for having one of the best beam routines in the world and putting up a 15.2 in the TF. But the reason I put Jurca on floor in TF is because she’s so reliable. Ocolisan might have a higher scoring potential, but Jurca could be counted upon to hit a routine in a high pressure situation, leading up to higher scoring routines from Stanila and Iordache. I’ll miss you, Romania.

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        • The things I loved about the new Romanians from 2013-2015
          Stanila- DTY, great bars for a romanian (so consistent like wtf?!), really nice bhs tuck full, fun floor routine.
          Ocolisan- great DTY, great romanian bars in 2015, good floor
          Munteanu- literally everything except her bars. She made me appreciate c elements on beam like that johnson tho. Also while everybody praised Iordache’s beam, out of the 6 combined beam routines done by iordache (4) and munty (2) at worlds, only one of Iordache’s beam routines scored higher than her 8.9/15.2 and still munty got shit on
          Jurca- consistent, great DTY, greatttttt bars, solid beam, fun floor (the clap)
          Zarzu- nothing
          Iridon- that one time she hit bars it was a fun time

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        • Also, Zazu had nothing to offer the Romanians in 2014. She’s useless on bars and beam. She has a DTY, but it’s a sloppy tucked version, and they had three stronger DTYs from Iordache, Stanila, and Ocolisan. Her floor was decent, but again, Iordache, Stanila, and Munteanu.

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  6. Khorkina also used to have an element on floor I think. It was a weird jump off one leg, 1.5 twist to land prone type thing. Also I can’t remember if she was the one to originate the popa to prone.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really want Aly Raisman to make it to Tokyo, but I honestly think that there’s no way she’s coming back if the USAG doesn’t satisfy the changes that she wants to see, and honestly, the system is so broken that I don’t know if they’re ready to make all of those changes in time for 2020.

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  8. Have many American gymnasts switched nationalities? I feel like if you had an opportunity to do so, it would be the obvious choice because the US has so much depth. I mean, a lot of American who don’t make World and Olympic teams ever would be the best in another country. If Aly came back, and decided to represent Isreal instead of the US, wouldn’t she basically guarantee her self a spot at the Worlds and another Olympics without having to compete against the strong up-and-comers in the states? If Laurie comes back, could she compete for Puerto Rico? I don’t know, I’m intrigued, that would be cool.

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    • How do you even do a change of nationality? Would they just contact the governing body of that country, or do they have to find a gym and coach and go through the system to be noticed?

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    • Laurie got majorly shafted by the 2 per country rule in Rio. She would have comfortably qualified for the floor final and the all around, for example, if only she hadn’t been American. I would totally understand why someone like her would choose to compete for another country, especially in her case where she has a legitimate Puerto Rican heritage. A lot of the Irish gymnasts are actually from Northern Ireland and UK citizens by default, but choose to compete for Ireland because Team GB has so much depth now. Gymnasts who wouldn’t ever have a hope of making a national squad in the UK have gone to Worlds and Olympics representing Ireland. Making the US team has a certain prestige, though, and I guess that’s why a lot of gymnasts want to make that team rather than representing a less prestigious federation.

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  9. it is not that simple, at least in Israel.Aly can’t just say ok I want to be an Israeli now. the bureaucracy is.terrible in Israel they make it so difficult for even their own athletes.I am not sure Aly would gain anything from it

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    • I distinctly remember following the London Olympics that the Israeli Olympic committee said if she ever wanted to compete for them she would be welcome.

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      • Yup, this is correct, and probably why that person asked the question! Israel seemed to really want her to compete for them. While I’m sure not any random person can just show up and compete for another country, in cases like these she’d probably have citizenship expedited. Also, another U.S. gymnast was adopted into Israel’s program within the last year or so (Shailee Weiss, who lives and trains in Florida), so it’s clear they’re more than willing to bring in athletes from outside.

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  10. “During worlds in 2015, what happened with Brenna Dowell and MyKayla Skinner not being used in the team final? Brenna fell and wasn’t used, but Gabby also fell and was used.”

    For the above question, I just wanted to add to Lauren’s answer that MyKayla Skinner actually wasn’t a part of the 2015 Worlds Team–she was an alternate, so this is why she wasn’t used in the team final.
    Also in replacing Brenna on bars, the US still had three other gymnasts (Maddie, Gabby, and Maggie) that, at the snap of a finger, could hit a bar routine 10/10 times and score highly, so the US chose not to risk using Brenna and decided to put up 3 more consistent athletes on bars.

    Gabby’s fall on beam in qualifications was a different issue. Aly, Simone, and Gabby were the team’s strongest beam workers. Gabby’s fall was a fluke, I don’t remember her having a single beam fall that whole season. Their only other options to replace Gabby were Maggie Nichols or Maddie Kocian, who had much lower start values than Gabby and could not score anywhere near Gabby’s beam score if she hit. So the US coaches decided to trust Gabby’s track record and keep Gabby in the lineup.

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    • Skinner could have been used in the final if Marta had wanted her to and she was part of the team. They changed the rules on substitutions about 5 years ago and that’s why there was 7 people on the podium in recent team championships. This is the exact rule Italy used in 2015 when they had Vanessa compete in qualifications and then she was substituted for Mariani in the final.

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  11. “It should’ve been about the athletes’ best interests. Unfortunately, it never is.”

    This could be applied to so many different topics. Now with everything coming to light and the egregious inaction by USAG and MSU, I sincerely hope this changes.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Bela started “Olympic Training Camps” at the beginning of 2000 and they were held regularly all year. Morale was obviously a huge issue in 2000, for many reasons, but I don’t think lack of meeting/knowing the other gymnasts was one of them.

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    • It was! The camps during that year were where this contention started. There was a lot of in-fighting between coaches from different clubs who weren’t used to working with/taking instruction from other coaches. Gymnasts from different clubs were pitted against each other, there was zero “team” feeling at these camps, and it was nothing like what it eventually became. Now the camps are all about seasoned coaches showing newer elite coaches the ropes to continue to expand the elite program into new clubs, which is why a gymnast like Simone can come up with a coach with zero high level coaching experience and win four Olympic golds. But it took quite a while to get the camps to be like this, and even in the 2008 quad there was still a lot of animosity from experienced coaches. Those early pre-Sydney camps were probably worse for the team and for morale than if they hadn’t done any sort of centralizing at all lol. The drama, the egos, the “my kid is better than yours”…it created a terrible atmosphere for the kids on the team, who saw each other as competition first, teammates second.

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        • None, really, but that doesn’t stop him from having an ego and fighting with every other coach! I mean…when Shannon beat Kim in ’92 he literally said “Shannon beat the world champion so what does that make her? The intergalactic champion?” Coaches learned how to train elites in other ways back then, but national team camps that focused on coach education weren’t a thing which is why in the 80s and 90s you had a bunch of power gyms and the occasional up-and-coming gym with a really talented athlete and if you were a talented kid at a gym that was never before heard of, you ended up at a big gym. Now, any kid from any gym can be successful at the elite level because any coach can go to a dev or national team camp and learn from other coaches. Jordan Chiles’ current coach up until she took on Jordan last year hadn’t coached higher than L8 when Jordan came to her and asked her to coach her. She said she was nervous as hell to coach at this level, but the more experienced coaches at the camps have helped her learn the ropes and figure out what to do with Jordan.

          Also, none of what I said in my post or comment is my opinion or hypothesis or speculation. Re: the 2000 team, it’s what literally every athlete and coach at the 2000 camps said, and re: the current dev and national team camps serving as coach education master classes, it’s what literally every coach now has said. You can agree with it or not, but it was still the truth coming straight from them.

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        • I’m really glad coaches have gotten so much out of the more recent camps and glad for any benefit athletes have gotten from that.

          I have never spoken to anyone who has attended a camp since 2000, so I have been taking your word that the camps have become more decent events. Now, having heard Mattie’s testimony and newer public statements from others (e.g. Mckenzie Wofford), I really don’t know what to think. For the athletes, is the camp experience still mostly one of fear, hunger, pain, isolation, and other demeaning mental games? Has that side of things actually gotten satisfactorily better, or just more secret? I don’t know, and I don’t know what to believe. Maybe we have the camps to thank for our top-notch American results, but at what cost? I don’t know that either.

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  13. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Dominos | The Gymternet

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