Raluca Haidu of Romania
It’s time for the 211th 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.
Hi Lauren, I am in an interesting situation being a judge from Namibia. In Namibia we desperately need brevet judges. I am currently judging all levels in Namibia and am wondering if you know of any ‘study guides’ for the brevet judging course. Getting chosen for the course won’t be a problem for me as Namibia doesn’t have enough national judges let alone brevet, but I would like to pass the course the first time and would feel more confident if I knew what to study. I don’t know when I will take the course, but would like to start preparing now.
Congratulations on taking the steps to become a brevet judge and on working hard to make it happen! A lot of the judges use this official FIG study guide to prepare. It’s $4 US per month for access but it’s apparently very useful in becoming more familiar with judging at the brevet level, and hopefully will help you achieve your goals. I actually just subscribed to it to see what it was like and it’s definitely helpful with videos and quizzes and detailed skill guides. I also want to put you in touch with Emily, who is currently the youngest WAG brevet judge and makes judging videos on youtube to help fans figure out what they’re seeing the judges do, so she could be very helpful to you as well. I hope this helps, and please feel free to get in touch anytime if you have any questions!
Which competitions will you attend in 2018?
As of right now, I’m for sure going to American Cup, U.S. classics and nationals, and to world championships. I’m also looking into going to Pac Rims but have to see if I can work it out logistically, since it’d be a long flight for a super quick trip, and then I’m also considering Euros in the summer but we’ll see! My sister is getting married like five seconds after Euros so I’m not sure if that’ll be the best idea.
What is the name of the Ray-esque skill Cairo Leonard-Baker does on bars? I’ve never seen anything like it!
It’s basically a piked version of the toe shoot. I don’t know if it’s named or if it would be differentiated from a regular toe shoot, but basically there are several “shoot” skills from the low to the high bar, like the toe shoot, the clear hip shoot, and the stalder shoot (which is the Ray). Usually when you see these, the gymnast straddles her legs during the flight, but she can also put her legs together in a pike for the flight in a shoot element, and that’s what Cairo does — a toe shoot with a piked flight instead of straddled flight.
What is the name of the skill Aline Friess does in her second pass?
It’s apparently supposed to be an arabian double front half, but she the way she does it, I think it would get credited as a tucked full. I think she needs to do the first half twist a little earlier, and then the second half twist needs to be more defined in the second flip.
Have you heard what is happening with the current national team and how decisions will be made regarding who competes when and where?
Currently, since they have no site for a new national team training camp, they are using LSU’s facilities for a verification competition to determine the world cup competitors, but there are no plans yet in place for future national team camps, and so they decided not to send teams to Gymnix or Jesolo. Hopefully they’ll figure out a new situation soon, but in the meantime the gymnasts will just keep training at their club gyms, which will definitely be enough to keep them prepared going into classics and nationals this summer. And hopefully by then, they’ll have a new facility and a new national team coach so the process of choosing the worlds team will go on as it has in the past.
The event on February 25 at LSU is said to be used to determine the world cup competitors, including the wildcard for the American Cup. Yet Maile O’Keefe was announced for that spot, and Jordan Chiles has been announced for Stuttgart. Is this a verification for them, or were they told their spot is provisional assuming no one else showing up is better?
The verification at LSU will determine the alternate for the American Cup as well as the competitors for the other three world cups. Jordan was sent in as the nominative athlete for Stuttgart, but USA Gymnastics has not yet announced her as the gymnast who is attending (she was also the nominative athlete for Stuttgart and London last year but didn’t attend either). Maile was named as the wildcard American Cup competitor and will compete at American Cup barring injury/other issues, but they will still name an alternate so they’ll have someone there to compete in Maile or Morgan Hurd’s place if either one ends up unable to compete.
Why did Valeri Liukin resign only after a year in the position? Do you think he resigned because of Mattie Larson’s statement or because of the stress? How will USAG fill the void?
He resigned due to the pressure put on him by everything happening with USAG in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. While Mattie Larson’s statement did mention him, it definitely wasn’t reason enough for him to resign, but with everything else happening and with USAG trying to clean house now, it was one of those things that “had to happen” even if many many MANY people within the program (including every top athlete) are truly upset about him leaving. USAG will have to find a new national team coordinator, which won’t be easy, but they did speak with several people who were up for the job back in 2016, so hopefully they have a pool of candidates they’ve very recently interviewed that they can pull from and re-interview rather than starting from scratch. Something like this is generally a long process, but hopefully for the sake of the athletes, they’ll find someone quickly who will fill that role.
Has the U.S. lost funding? Is that why they’re not sending a team to Jesolo or Gymnix? Could the national team girls still go to Jesolo on their own?
They’ve lost sponsors but aren’t so broke that they can’t afford to send teams to international competitions. They’re still sending athletes to individual competitions, because they can travel with their coaches, but for team events like Gymnix and Jesolo, they wouldn’t have a team coordinator to…well, coordinate the team. So they’re just skipping those for now, but hopefully they’ll find a new team coordinator soon. For Jesolo, gymnasts have to be sent by their federations generally, so USAG would have to send a team or individuals, though according to the Italian federation, we might actually see some U.S. individuals sent to the competition so not all hope is lost. Gymnix, however, has a club division within the competition meaning clubs can send athletes to participate (like Hill’s did last year), but I believe national team members would need permission from USAG if they’d want to go this route.
What is the format of the American Cup? Are there medals given for each event?
It’s an all-around competition only with no event medals given out. Officially, we can’t say “Ragan Smith is the 2017 American Cup floor champion!” but unofficially we can say that Ragan had the highest score on floor at the 2017 American Cup.
Could Alex McMurtry’s FTY at Auburn last week get a perfect E score in elite?
If it was at a domestic meet, I could see it happening. I feel like internationally, though, judges might still be picky about things like her slight leg separation in the pre-flight (before she hits the table), and her ankles get a bit funky in the air at one point as well, nothing major but similar to Simone Biles with her crossed feet in her vault…but I honestly could see it going 9.7 or higher even with the super pickiest of international judges.
At the 2012 American Cup, why did the U.S. have two competitors and a wildcard?
They didn’t…they had one competitor and one wildcard, Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman. Because Gabby Douglas looked really good at the verification camp, they wanted to take her along but not have her actually ‘compete’ because they didn’t want to put the pressure of a huge nationally-televised all-around competition held in Madison Square Garden on her for her first big debut in 2012, so they brought her along as the alternate who also got to compete exhibition routines. The U.S. has had other exhibition routines in the past, like Kytra Hunter in 2010 and Kyla Ross in 2013, so it wasn’t unheard of, and her scores/finish didn’t count in the official rankings for the competition even though she had the highest score that day and technically won.
How did Laney Madsen progress so quickly and effectively into elite and just artistic gymnastics in general? How did cheer translate into events other than floor if she transitioned somewhat later in her career?
She did gymnastics as a kid in addition to just training cheer/tumbling, so it wasn’t like she just randomly started gymnastics on a blank slate. When she opted to drop cheer for a high level of gymnastics, most of her skills translated for almost every event with bars being the odd man out, so it’s no surprise she struggles more there than elsewhere. But she had the foundational skills for all four events because even though the skills and requirements are different between the two sports, there are many similarities involved in the conditioning and more fundamental levels of training. It’s certainly not EASY to just step into elite gymnastics the way she did, but she definitely had what she needed to get off to a quick start compared to someone who transitioned from a non-gymnastics related sport.
In international competition, are judges allowed to view a gymnast’s routine from other angles or in slow motion to decide what their E scores should be?
No, they are only watching the routine live in front of them, which is why some judges miss things or give gymnasts the benefit of the doubt. At a recent NCAA meet a gymnast had a really archy and bizarre layout in one of her passes, but got a really good score, but I later realized while we had a perfect side view of that skill from the TV camera’s vantage point, the judges had a front-on view and it wouldn’t have looked anywhere near as bad to them as it did to us. While we all love being like “drunk judges!!!!” we have to sometimes realize that their views aren’t going to be as good as people watching a close-up on camera from the perfect angle.
Are level 6-7 gymnasts required to do a front handspring vault? Do you think this could change in the future, as by level 7 gymnasts have been doing a front handspring for at least four years and most are capable of more difficulty?
Yes, they’re allowed to do handspring vaults only, with no salto. It’s not until level 8 where they’re allowed to do tsuk and Yurchenko entries and basic saltos off. I honestly don’t think most level 6-7 gymnasts SHOULD be doing more difficult vaults? The more talented younger kids can move to level 8 more quickly, or skip level 6, but many kids start level 6-7 when they’re seven years old, and there’s no reason to be doing anything more difficult than handsprings at that age. Some are probably training more difficult vaults in the gym into pits but if you’re good enough to compete a vault beyond a handspring, then just get to level 8 as early as possible, which is age eight. By that point you’ve only been competing higher-level J.O. (levels 4+) for a year at most, so you wouldn’t have four years of handspring experience.
Why in level 8 is a front handspring worth a 9.0 start value but a half-on Yurchenko is only worth a 7.0 start value? Aren’t the latter more difficult?
The half-on Yurchenko with repulsion off is worth a 9.2, it’s the plain old Yurchenko with repulsion off that’s worth a 7.0. I don’t know why it’s so low considering a Yurchenko with repulsion half off is a 9.1, so maybe they’re just encouraging girls to do more ‘complicated’ Yurchenkos than just the entry with repulsion? Like if you’re gonna do a Yurchenko you better do a fancier one than just what is essentially a timer? That’s my only guess…like, why do a difficult entry for that level if you can’t actually do a difficult version of it?
When Simone Biles says she has all of her Olympic skills back does that mean on mats and high beam, or into the pit and on low beam?
Probably a little of both. Like, if she’s throwing the Biles onto a resi or something she can probably also land it on a mat but just isn’t doing that right now because she doesn’t need to be.
Do you know why the Romanian federation decided to send Raluca Haidu to Euros but then Diana Chelaru was who they selected for Rio with the rest of the team unchanged?
My guess is that she and Diana were kind of interchangeable because really, the bulk of the team’s scores were going to come from the other four, so for that last spot they just wanted someone who could come in and hit a solid bars set, and then help out elsewhere if needed. Raluca and Amelia Racea were the two who looked like they were going to be contenders for that final spot on the Olympic team, but I think once Larisa Iordache started dealing with injuries and looked like she might not be at her best, it seemed like they wanted someone who would be able to step up elsewhere if needed, and they had Diana who was able to handle that better on floor. I think that built-in alternate aspect is very important, and Diana more or less did what she was expected to do on bars…slash she performed as well there as Raluca would have.
Since Raluca was originally named to the team over Diana, and it wasn’t until the international friendly meet that it was announced that Diana was going, it could be that they were swapped after Larisa started dealing with injury? But this could also suggest that Raluca started looking a bit weak in training while Diana was looking better. I’d say it was some combo of wanting a built-in alternate in Diana and Diana probably looking better as it got closer. Raluca herself said her nerves always got the best of her and she thinks she didn’t make the team because she “lacked courage and guts” so my guess based on that is that she just wasn’t looking as strong as Diana.
If a specialist were to be on a worlds team in 2018 or 2019, would they be allowed to be on the Olympic team?
Yes, there are no rules that prevent specialists from being on the Olympic team, but most countries probably wouldn’t opt to take a specialist when qualifications are four-up three-count. If they have a gymnast who can only do one or two events, it would mean their other events would have to be three-up three-count which could put them at a major disadvantage.
Why are female gymnasts so much younger than other athletes?
They tend to peak a bit younger because the skills required of them are generally easier to do when they’re smaller/lighter. Many are able to hold onto a higher level of gymnastics when they’re older if they have good conditioning and a lot of strength, but many times gymnasts who aren’t as well-conditioned peak when they’re still prepubescent because it was easier for them to do their skills at that size. If they don’t have the conditioning/strength to continue to do high levels of difficulty with a more adult body, they won’t be successful as adults in the sport, and so many of them end up retiring early (or in the U.S., sticking with J.O. and NCAA because the requirements aren’t as tough on their bodies).
Taking into account bars only, Madison Kocian or Ashton Locklear’s set for Rio 2016?
I said Madison Kocian before she was on the team, and I stick with that now, though it was so close it’s almost an impossible choice. But Madison had that extra tenth in difficulty and if they’re both executing at a similar level, you might as well take the girl who can also give you that extra D.
Are the Downie sisters and Isabela Onyshko back from their injuries? When will they compete next?
The Downies are back and currently contending for Commonwealth Games spots. They’ll compete at English Championships this weekend. Isabela is not back yet, though she was at Elite Canada last weekend training bars. She was injured shortly before worlds and I don’t think she wants to risk injury again if she comes back too soon, though hopefully we’ll see her on at least bars and/or beam at Gymnix.
Is there a mymeetscores or meetscoresonline equivalent for MAG?
Not that I know of, unfortunately! The only time I think I’ve seen J.O. scores is like, when the club posts the PDFs of the results.
If a gymnast steps out of bounds with one foot and pulls it back in but steps out again with the other foot on the same tumbling line, would it count as 0.2 or 0.3 in deductions?
It would be 0.2 in neutral penalties.
Why isn’t a Pak into a straddle or piked Endo upon catching the low bar common?
It’s not really the easiest combination, even though you’d think because the momentum would continue going forward, it’d be easier than catching and then going into a backwards stalder, but I think the way your body is positioned when your hands grasp the bar when you catch the pak — angled usually around 45 degrees with your feet pointing toward the high bar — make it easier to swing backwards. When your hands grasp, your body almost automatically pulls down into a backwards swing because your weight is completely on that side of the bar. To do a forward swing out of it, you’d basically have to arch your weight over the bar which wouldn’t be easy (or cute), or you’d have to catch in a handstand, which isn’t really a thing.
Here’s Monica Shaw competing a Pak to Endo in 1991 and as you can see the Pak is caught more in handstand/angled away from the bars whereas a Pak is supposed to be caught angled toward the high bar. My guess is that if someone competed something like this today it would be a new skill or at the very least, a “Pak to handstand” or something along those lines instead of a traditional Pak.
How do NCAA preseason rankings work?
Coaches vote on which teams they think will be the highest-ranking teams, and each vote comes with points. I don’t know what the points are attached to each ranking but it’s something like a first place vote gets you 50 points, a second place vote gets you 45 points…etc. Fifty coaches vote for each team and then at the end, the points are added and the teams are ranked by the number of points they amass. This year, Oklahoma had a total of 1769 points with 33 first place votes, Florida had a total of 1728 points with 20 first place votes, and LSU had a total of 1692 points with 7 first place votes.
Why did athletes like Maria Caire, Giulianna Pino, and Mercedez Sanchez get spots at UCLA if they didn’t make any lineups last year? They could’ve easily gotten scholarships from lower-ranked D1 teams and competed every week.
They’re all walk-ons, and likely preferred to compete at UCLA for whatever reason than getting a scholarship at a lower-ranked school. Often this is because they’re local to UCLA and it’s been their dream school since childhood. Both Maria and Mercedez are from towns nearby and were probably like “I’d rather pay in-state tuition and go to UCLA than get a scholarship at a school I don’t want to be at.”
Why isn’t UCLA getting better? Is something wrong with their training?
I’d say they’re doing pretty well lol. In the past couple of years they’ve been a championship contender but have struggled with lots of injuries all piling on at once so lineups last year and the year before were full of walk-ons when they were expecting lineups full of Olympians and top former elites. But lots of these girls end up broken and unable to produce routines at a high level due to injuries, and so UCLA is lucky that they have a super deep walk-on pool to reach into when they need them. This year it seems like they’re able to keep injuries at bay, in addition to beefing up a bit on vault and floor, which have held them back in years where injuries have been an issue, so they’re doing just fine.
If there’s a four-person U.S. team in Tokyo and they send two individuals as well, will those individuals get a team medal if the four-person team wins one?
No. Only the gymnasts who competed as part of the team will get a team medal.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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