The Unified Team at the 1992 Olympic Games
It’s time for the 209th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered! We apologize if we haven’t gotten to your question yet, but we try to answer in the order in which they were received (unless they are super relevant and need to be answered in a timely manner). Something you want to know? Ask us anonymously by going through the contact form at the bottom of the page.
Do you think anything could be done to change the general environment inside gyms? It can be such a cruel sport. I love gymnastics but wouldn’t want my daughter to do it. What do you think about it?
I think changing the foundation of the culture is what needs to happen. When girls walk into most gyms at four or five years old, they learn very early on that their coach knows what’s best for them, that their opinions aren’t valuable, that they aren’t entitled to make decisions or choices. I think McKayla Maroney expressed this very well in her interview with Gymcastic. When you’re taught at a young age that your coaches or other people in general know what’s best for you, you don’t trust yourself as someone who can independently take charge of your life, and so you become almost robotic in not even questioning the kind of treatment you receive because you assume it’s for the best.
If you have a goal as a young athlete — whether it’s make the Olympic team or win level six states or simply just finally figure out your kip (which was my only goal ever and it never happened) — you think that your coaches are going to make all of the right decisions on the path to making sure your goal is achieved. If you learn this at four or five and have it drilled into you for a decade, by the time you’re a teenager ten years later, you have internalized that you don’t know how to make decisions, you don’t know what’s best for you, and that how you’re treated is how you deserve to be treated. Not every gym is like this of course, but girls who do grow up in environments like this really do struggle with realizing that their environment is terrible and toxic for them because they’ve never known any different.
That’s why girls at Twistars took so long to realize that getting shoved off the beam or thrown at the uneven bars for making a mistake isn’t normal, or why gymnasts who put up with Larry Nassar for a decade in some cases believed it was best for them even though it hurt and was awkward. I think we need to change that whole “you’re nobody” vibe that these girls get as children.
The USA Gymnastics motto is “begin here, go anywhere” and its whole philosophy is about building up strong young women through the sport, but instead so many young women end up broken and afraid to stand up for themselves. I think we saw a reversal of that with the Nassar sentencing, as literally hundreds of young women have stood up and taken control back from people who told them they were nothing, but imagine if coaches could teach young girls how to be good athletes in the sport while also building their self-esteem, by telling them they are more than medals, by teaching them to make good decisions and letting them learn from bad ones instead of making those decisions for them. Coaches can change the culture and how girls think about themselves as athletes and as humans.
The only way to stop abusive coaches is to kick abusive coaches out of the gyms, but when gymnasts don’t know their coaches are abusive or treating them poorly, it’s impossible for this to happen. That’s why changing the culture at the foundational level of the sport is so vital, so a girl can understand when abusive or cruel behavior is taking place, and so she can be strong enough to use her voice and stand up against it and put a stop to it.
What D score would Simone Biles’ floor from 2016 be in this code? Would it compare to Jade Carey’s?
It would be about a 6.3 which would still be the highest in the world based on all of the routines we saw in 2017. Jade’s was a 5.7 last year, which would’ve been about a 6.2 in the previous code compared to Simone’s 6.9 in 2016.
In your opinion, who has the nicest hairdo, makeup, leo, and overall look?
Ummmmm I don’t really have an opinion on this? I generally like anyone with a really sleek bun but that’s so many of them now. But Kyla Ross in her elite days always looked lovely when competing…her lipstick game was on point.
If Aliya Mustafina won gold on bars in Tokyo, would she be the first woman to win three consecutive Olympic titles?
Yes she would! Svetlana Khorkina almost made it happen in 2004 but missed out, so Aliya can now be the one to go for it.
Why are there separate British and Welsh teams at some recent competitions? Surely the Welsh squad is part of the British squad.
The Welsh squad is part of the British squad for major international FIG competitions or competitions using FIG rules regarding countries. But for non-FIG competitions, the countries that are part of Great Britain don’t have to compete for Great Britain. The biggest squads are the English team, the Welsh team, and the Scottish team, but there are also teams from Isle of Man and some of the other islands (like Jersey) as well as Northern Ireland. For worlds, the Olympics, and other FIG meets, gymnasts from Wales, Scotland, Jersey, and so on would have to make the British team, but for a majority of competitions, each country can send its own team.
When someone performs a half pirouette to get in the right direction for their dismount, does the handstand have to hit vertical?
Yes it does. There are several simple skills like a giant half or just a kip cast handstand that wouldn’t count toward the D score, but that would still be judged in the way other skills are judged.
If Bailie Key and Alyssa Baumann were at full health during the Olympic selection process do you think either would’ve factored into the 2016 team? Where would they have been used?
I think Bailie would have had a shot if the Olympics were in 2014, because that’s when her peak was and she was never able to get back to that point because of her injuries, her growth spurts, and everything else that came together to limit her from being as productive a senior as she was as a junior. As for Alyssa, if she was at full health in 2016 she would’ve needed to beat Laurie Hernandez on beam consistently to get that spot, which I don’t think she would have…her beam was always fabulous and she could’ve added vault and floor to the team competition the way Laurie did in Rio, but I don’t think her beam even at its best was ever as strong as Laurie’s ended up being.
Is there such a thing as a forward-swinging shaposh? I’m imagining like an Endo circle or front hip circle to handstand with flight to the high bar.
No, these aren’t things and they wouldn’t really work the way you’re probably picturing them. The momentum would be all wrong for a forward swing and wouldn’t lead to them releasing from the low bar and catching the high bar.
Does McKenna Kelley’s Achilles injury make her eligible for a fifth year of competition at LSU?
Yes, she can red shirt this year and be eligible for a fifth season if she wants to come back for one.
Do you think Alex McMurtry could get a 10 on beam this season and compete the ‘gym slam’? What deductions does she usually get on beam?
Ta daaaaa she already has. Her deductions are mostly leg form, and yet she got a 10 even with leg form issues last week so good for her I guess!
You now have a new skill named after you called ‘The Lauren.’ Which apparatus would it be on and what would the skill include?
I would want to do a double tuck on beam. There’s gotta be someone out there who can physically do this. If I were a gymnast it would be my only goal.
Any advice for my Fantasy Gymnastics team?
I haven’t played since the first year because I don’t have time. There’s really nothing more to it than trying to get the top-scoring gymnasts and then paying attention to teams and their lineups to see who’s going up when. Back in the early days (when I ran it actually!) it was easier because there were fewer people playing in each division so you really had your pick of the gymnasts, but now it’s basically all about luck with who you get. There is a strategy to picking and ranking your gymnasts, but even the best strategies aren’t going to end up with the strongest team situations because there’s an element of luck in terms of who you’re given. Just figure out who scores the best, and use them the most and you’ll get the highest potential score that you can, but if you end up not lucking out with Maggie Nichols or Elizabeth Price or MyKayla Skinner or Kyla Ross, you’ll naturally be at a disadvantage against people who have those top scorers.
Is it possible to do a dismount from the low bar?
It used to be fairly common in the good old days, but there’s not currently any low bar dismount in the code of points. I guess someone could do something off the low bar but it’d probably be an A skill if it’s recognized at all. Slash I’m sure there’s a rule somewhere that says the dismount must be from the high bar? It’s nothing I’ve ever seen but I’m sure if someone tried to submit a low bar dismount, the WTC would be like “you can’t do that!!!”
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create an “All Star Olympics” team final. There are four teams with five elites each, and on all teams, each gymnast is from a different country. You can choose any gymnasts you want, past or present. Who do you choose? Which team would come out on top?
I’m sticking with gymnasts who competed at the 2016 Olympics because I don’t have time to strategize going back to every Olympics ever considering codes are different and it’s impossible to compare. It would be a full project lol. COMPROMISE.
Team 1- Rebeca Andrade, Simone Biles, Jessica Lopez, Sophie Scheder, Shang Chunsong
Team 2- Aliya Mustafina, Aly Raisman, Elisabeth Seitz, Wang Yan, Sanne Wevers
Team 3- Ellie Black, Laurie Hernandez, Hong Un Jong, Mai Murakami, Daria Spiridonova
Team 4- Fan Yilin, Vanessa Ferrari, Madison Kocian, Giulia Steingruber, Eythora Thorsdottir
I assigned these kind of randomly but in a way so that each team had a similar quality on each event if each person hit at their best ability. I think either Team 1 or Team 2 would have an advantage thanks to the consistency from Simone for the first team and Aly for the second, but pretty much any of these teams could win depending on the day!
Could an American gymnast make it to the highest level if she refused to be part of the U.S. system? Would Simone Biles be allowed to compete if she said she’s training on her own with no ranch or no camps?
Yeah, the talent comes from the gymnast and how well she competes and trains comes from how her personal coach works with her. The camps help with giving the kids lots of competitive experience in a high-pressure environment, so they do help with things like consistency, but without the camps the training would still be largely the same. Coaches from smaller or newer gyms that have never had high-level athletes before would be at a disadvantage because they wouldn’t be able to learn from more experienced coaches the way they do now, but if you have a kid with a lot of talent and you figure out how to manage that talent, you can figure out a way that works to get to the top. If anything, the camps are more about building a team that can come together for major competitions and win, so the team itself might be hurting a bit without the camps, but on an individual level the girls would be fine.
In the current code, how much CV bonus would be given on floor for a whip full + whip into an indirect connection to a D acro element? It would be an A + A + D and a C + D at the same time.
The whip full indirectly to the D element wouldn’t be a C+D indirect connection because the whip full would be directly connected into the whip, which isn’t an intermediate hand support skill in the way a roundoff or back handspring is. If it was a whip to whip full indirectly through to a D element then it would be a C + D indirect in addition to the A + A + D indirect. In this case, the whip to whip full through to a D acro element would probably just give it the higher of the two instead of both, which is something I’ve seen with connections on beam, so it would get 0.2, and the whip full to whip through to a D acro element would get 0.1 for the A + A + D indirect.
Would a split jump full + straddle jump full fulfill the leap series on floor or do the elements have to be actual leaps?
Jumps aren’t allowed for the leap/hop requirement because they’re stationary and don’t travel. The requirement on floor is actually the “dance passage” requirement, not the leap requirement, and the objective of the dance passage requirement is to “create a large flowing and traveling movement pattern,” which is something jumps (and turns, which also don’t fulfill the requirements) don’t do.
Leaps don’t have to be directly connected, but can have intermediate running steps, small leaps, hops, chassés, and chainé turns in between them because all of these momentum from one leap to the next, which is why you’ll see someone do a switch ring and then kind of skip out of it and travel around the floor before then doing a switch half or something. I think a lot of people assume it’s a “leap series” like on beam, but the term “dance passage” explains more of what the requirement actually is.
Would it be possible to connect some sort of full circling element (like a toe-on, stalder, or inbar) into a double layout, or would the swing be too small?
It would depend on the gymnast. More and more gymnasts have started doing things like a toe-on or stalder into a full-in or full-out, which used to be pretty rare, so I’m sure there’s someone who could pull off doing one of these circling elements before a double layout…probably someone small who can rotate quickly and who has the strength to bust out a double layout without coming from multiple giants. AHEM, SIMONE.
When Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas returned to training after about a year and a half off, I recall Simone Biles saying that if you are out of gymnastics you should stay out and leave it for the younger girls. Has her view changed since she is back in the gym and pushing for Tokyo?
Yeah, I think she probably didn’t think that much into it before saying that…I don’t think it was anything necessarily against Gabby or Aly but maybe just her own inward fear that she could be a top contender for a spot but then might have to contend with someone like Aly which would’ve been much harder than the field without Aly or Gabby (assuming Simone didn’t end up being who she became). But I think she probably eventually realized that returning gymnasts add to the team’s depth, and probably realizes the benefit of having comeback kids, which could turn out to be her in the near future.
Do you think the U.S. will finally send a gymnast to the Youth Olympic Games next year? Who would you like it to be?
I highly doubt it. If they did, it’d be cool to see Sunisa Lee or Leanne Wong go based on how they looked last year because I think they could do quite well, but the U.S. doesn’t like sending gymnasts to big competitions like that if they don’t have a team element. Even for junior worlds, the U.S. has said they wouldn’t go if there’s no team competition, so the FIG was taking that into consideration while planning for the first junior worlds.
How did the CIS/Unified Team manage to become a thing in 1992? In what particular circumstances is something like that permitted by the IOC? How does a group of people from different countries go about representing a non-country? Would competitive gymnasts from countries with weak programs be able to form a unified team of their own?
In general the IOC basically looks at the political climate and sees what countries (or former countries) have athletes who could qualify athletically but just don’t have a country to represent. Usually it’s a small number of athletes without a country and they all come together to compete under the Olympic flag, like the group of refugees in 2016 as well as teams of independent athletes in 1992, 2000, and 2012. Usually the IOC decides on a number of independent athletes who can compete and choose based on who had the strongest qualifications in each sport.
But with the Unified Team in 1992, it was a little bit of a different story because you had one country that had been dominant for decades and had already qualified tons of spots into both the Winter and Summer Games suddenly dissolve into a dozen smaller countries, but since none of these countries were really fully formed politically let alone had NOCs by the time the Winter Olympics came along, the IOC allowed anyone from a country formerly part of the Soviet Union to compete on this Unified Team under the Olympic flag. By the time Barcelona rolled in, each independent country had its own NOC affiliated with the IOC, but they came together and requested that they compete as a joint team as they did at the Winter Olympics because all of the qualifying rounds had been completed before the Soviet Union had dissolved. Unlike the Winter Olympics, when an individual member of the Unified Team won a medal, his or her national flag was raised rather than the Olympic flag, though the Unified Team as a whole competed under the Olympic flag.
This was kind of a special circumstance because of the issue with qualifications happening under one country that had splintered by the time the Olympic Games began, so it was most likely a special case decided upon by the IOC based on those special circumstances. Normally people with countries in the midst of war or from new territories not yet with an NOC or people who are refugees would have to seek a way to be selected for the independent team, but aside from this, there’s no way multiple countries can just come together to form unified teams.
Also, the Olympics are not just about gymnastics. There are multiple sports that exist at the Olympics, so just because a country has a weak gymnastics program that can’t send a full team doesn’t mean all of its sports are weak. Many countries with weak gym programs have dozens of athletes on the entire Olympic team, and a gymnast who qualified with her country can’t just decide that because she doesn’t have a full team with her, she won’t compete for her country and will instead form her own team. The dissolution of the Soviet Union created a team for the athletes from every sport who qualified under the Soviet Union and continued to represent countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, which is nothing like someone from a ‘weak’ gymnastics program wanting to form a team with gymnasts from other weak programs. Literally not even close to the same thing.
If Chellsie Memmel and Sam Peszek hadn’t been injured in Beijing, what do you think the lineups would have been for qualifications and team finals?
I honestly think they would’ve been close to the same, at least for finals. Sam probably would’ve vaulted in qualifications, Chellsie probably would’ve done floor, and either Chellsie or Sam would’ve done beam, but I really don’t think finals would’ve been affected. They were lucky in the sense that the majority of their assets were basically concentrated in three gymnasts that year…in any other year if two athletes got injuries it could have been devastating and yet the U.S. still won the silver with mistakes because they didn’t end up losing pretty much ANY finals routines, at least none that really would’ve changed the outcome.
Why is the side aerial + loso (+ loso) acro series suddenly so popular amongst juniors and new seniors?
I think it just became a valuable alternative to the typical bhs loso (or some variation of the fully backwards series) and so many gymnasts probably just realized that they were better at a series like this than the typical flight series and they could get a little bit extra out of it in terms of difficulty. I had seen a couple in the past but yeah, in the last two or three years it was like, someone like Maile O’Keefe did it in an Instagram video, and then within a few weeks suddenly every junior in the world had one. Sometimes things just get popular because one kid will do it and then they pick up steam with everyone else, which is definitely the case with this one.
Have there ever been any NCAA gymnasts from countries other than the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Western Europe?
Yup, a few others…mostly girls from English-speaking countries end up doing it because it’s easier to go to a U.S. college if you’re fluent in English and not as many international gymnasts are fluent, and many non-native speakers who speak the language fluently tend to be from Western Europe. But Jessica Lopez and a bunch of gymnasts from Mexico and South America have done NCAA, Nicole Szabo from South Africa competed for UIC, a gymnast who competes for Thailand currently competes for Kent State (she’s from the U.S. but has lived in Thailand)…there are always a small handful scattered around! I also just learned that Sze En Tan of Singapore has been training at Legacy Elite for the past year so it’d be cool to see her go the NCAA route as well!
Are there any two-element connections with a 0.3 bonus on bars or beam? If not, what are some connections you think deserve it?
Nope! I think some of the front front connections on beam could be deserving, the D + D if they’re connected well (Aliya Mustafina’s front aerial to front aerial series for example…the fact that she never does it right shows how difficult it is!) and then if someone got tricky enough to do something like a layout stepout into a two-foot layout or other high-valued connections like a side aerial to tuck full or something like that. On bars, I don’t know if I think anything is really deserving of a 0.3 connection bonus unless it was like, back to back same-bar releases…like a toe-on Tkachev into a Tkachev or something crazy like that, none of which has really been attempted in WAG but you see it occasionally in MAG with a Tkachev to Tkachev half.
Without the vault height fiasco at the Sydney Olympics do you think Elise Ray would’ve had a chance at a medal? Or Kristen Maloney?
In hindsight, no…just looking at the international talent level, I think they could’ve had fully hit days and still not have made the podium. Back then watching it live as a kid I thought they were definitely going to medal if they hit haha but I was a hardcore U.S. fan as a kid and didn’t realize the U.S. had ANY SHORTCOMINGS AT ALL. Dumb little me. Anyway, yeah, looking back they would’ve had to have been damn near perfect, and would’ve needed mistakes from others I think.
Tim Daggett said on Gymcastic that in 2012, after watching Gabby Douglas in training, they nearly decided to not let her do beam in Olympic qualifications which would’ve knocked her out of the all-around. Is this just a rumor? Did they seriously consider putting McKayla Maroney on beam with her broken toe?
My guess is that they would’ve just had three go up on beam in qualifications. I haven’t heard anything about this concretely or from anyone aside from Tim on Gymcastic, but I trust him and doubt he’d make it up…he must have heard it from someone. Even if they had to count a fall on beam, which wasn’t likely, they still would’ve qualified first pretty easily into the team final so I doubt they would have risked McKayla and her broken toe for a relatively weak leadoff routine that would have had almost no practice on the podium in months.
What is a ‘volunteer assistant coach’ and is there compensation associated with that title?
Nope, it’s volunteer as the name implies! Most of the people who fill that role are former student athletes who are still students at that university, so a gymnast who still had some credits to finish up to graduate but had no more eligibility left, or someone who went to grad school at the same university and decided to hang around with the team a bit longer. It’s a nice way for them to get to stick around with their teammates and with the sport they love before weaning off of it completely.
If you had to create a worlds team using only NCAA gymnasts, who would you pick?
God, so many, but based on right this second, Elizabeth Price, Kyla Ross, MyKayla Skinner, Maggie Nichols, and Sarah Finnegan. A few upgrades here and there and they’d probably easily medal!
Do you think Gabby Douglas will try for Tokyo?
I don’t think so. I’ve heard she’s pretty much done, but you never know if inspiration will spark and she’ll get back in the gym.
Is Nailya Mustafina still doing gymnastics?
No, she retired a few years back I believe…I don’t think I’ve seen her since 2013.
Which juniors do you think will make it onto the national team this year since most automatic qualifiers are aging out in 2018?
Sunisa Lee for sure…Annie Beard, Jaymes Marshall, Anya Pilgrim, Lilly Lippeatt, there are so many who showed so much talent last year who have a real shot at making it this year for Jesolo. I also hope Konnor McClain ends up being one who gets a shot at Jesolo. I was SO bummed she missed nationals last year. She’s fantastic.
Which Belgian floor routine do you like the most?
This year I actually loved Maellyse Brassart’s bird routine the most…it was so weird and cool. And I looooved Nina Derwael’s routine as well. But my favorite routine ever will always be Axelle Klinckaert’s routine from 2015.
Could you tell me if this routine could get to a 7.1 D score and let me know how to improve construction? The routine: jump to kip on high bar, layout Jaeger + Pak + Khorkina, cast to handstand, Ono + Healy + Ling ½ + Def, cast to handstand, front full in L grip + Arai dismount.
Yup, this would be exactly 7.1, with 4.2 in element values, 2.0 in CR, and 0.9 in CV. I think the construction is actually fine…and considering the number of fantasy routines that usually appear in my inbox, it’s actually not all that out of control? Like, someone would have to be a super talented bar worker to do this routine, but it wouldn’t be impossible. My one change would be that the cast to handstand after the Def would have to involve a half turn into the dismount sequence, but aside from that directional change, this is a manageable routine construction.
Do you think the Netherlands can be as successful this quad as they were last quad? Is it too early to tell?
I think it’s hard to tell because they don’t really have any up-and-coming new senior talent that will match what the top girls were able to do last quad. They’ll basically need all of last quad’s top gymnasts to stay healthy if they want a repeat of 2015-2016, so fingers crossed that they can do it.. I think Tisha Volleman is adding herself to the mix as someone who keeps getting better year after year, so they do have her as a strong option on top of the 2016 girls, and I’d like Sanna Veerman to figure herself out as a senior…she has potential but just needs some polishing. Hopefully they can stay healthy and work up a couple of the young/new seniors into better shape so they can add some depth in case someone does get injured, because if they manage this, they can be successful this quad as well. But again…when you don’t have a ton of depth, even one season-ending injury for a top gymnast can mean the end of your team, as we saw with Romania in 2016.
What was up with Laura Martinez’s vault run? I’ve never seen a human being run lopsided like that. Did anyone ever give an explanation?
Not that I ever saw. I think some people just happen to have weird vault runs. Sarah Edwards at LSU right now has a really weird run but it works for her, I guess? And I think Yesenia Ferrera also has a bizarre run. I guess if it works for you, go for it? At least you’re not judged on how ridiculous your run is!
Who was the first gymnast to perform a layout full on beam? Why isn’t it named after her?
I think it was Olesya Dudnik at the American Cup in the 80s…the naming of skills in the 80s was sometimes sketchy because if it was done at a competition where it wasn’t eligible to go into the code, it wouldn’t get officially named, but it was considered done already so anyone who did it later at an eligible competition wouldn’t get it named. I think that’s what happened here.
Did Rebecca Bross ever consider NCAA?
I’m sure she did at one point when weighing the decision to do collegiate gymnastics or to go pro. Still one of the worst decisions ever and I feel bad for her endlessly but I’m glad she’s happy with her current coaching job!
Is there any ongoing investigation into why there were so many injuries at worlds this year? It seems it would merit a review of what went wrong.
I believe there was some sort of report that was done but probably not something that’s publicly available. Most gymnasts and coaches talked about the mats being really tough and so repeated landings on brand new hard mats probably exacerbated injuries that already existed.
Why is Sam Ogden no longer on the Denver roster?
I’m not sure why she was removed from the team, but that happened during the off season unfortunately. She was still on the team as of October so I don’t know what happened within the month following that but it’s too bad, they’re obviously doing great but she added some nice depth.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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