You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Athletics, Brad Rudner

Olivia Karas of Michigan

It’s time for the 212th 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.

With Olivia Karas out for the season will she be able to redshirt this year?

I believe it was too late in the season for her to redshirt, since she was injured in the fifth week which is almost half the regular season. An athlete can only medically redshirt if she has competed in less than 30% of the regular season, which I think would’ve been somewhere around week four for NCAA gym (which has 12 weeks in the regular season), so she may have just missed it since she was injured at Michigan’s fifth meet. There are always exceptions, though.

What are the qualifications/guidelines for the national team coordinator position? Who are people that could be considered?

From what I’ve seen in the past, they’re looking for someone with high-level elite coaching experience, probably someone who has coached at the Olympic level, as well as someone who has worked with teams of athletes in the past, not only coached his/her own athletes. I also think it’s going to be an older coach with tons of experience, and also someone who is good at strategizing/planning for the development of athletes in general, which is the bigger part of the job here — making sure the future is set, not just focusing on the current team. I actually really want Aimee Boorman in the role, because she embodies a lot of the coaching values that most of the younger coaches have in terms of protecting athletes and valuing them as humans first and as medal-winners second, but I have no insight into whether she’d actually be up for that job or if she’s seeking it out or if USAG is seeking her out for it…it’s just a personal desire of mine. 🙂

Why does GK Elite have empowerment leos featuring Simone Biles, Nastia Liukin, and Laurie Hernandez but no Aly Raisman when she is the true leader? Is USAG influencing GK on this, since they want to downplay Aly in any way possible?

It has nothing to do with USAG. GK reached out to Aly and asked her, as one of their athletes with a signature line, if she wanted to be part of it and she said no.

Do you think Liang Chow or Mihai Brestyan will be considered for the national team coordinator role?

Chow is apparently considering a role with the Chinese national program, which seems likely to happen, and he’s never expressed any interest in a role within the U.S. program in the past so I doubt he’ll be up for the job. Mihai is currently the national team coordinator for the Australian team, so even though he was one of the coaches interested in the job in the U.S. originally, when it didn’t work out he made other plans so I don’t know if he’d like, throw that whole side of things into a mess for this job especially with the current state of USA Gymnastics.

In the new code, what is the minimum start value an all-arounder needs to be a medal contender or even just to be considered an elite all-arounder?

There is no real minimum start value to be a medal contender or all-arounder in elite. Obviously the higher the start value you have, the bigger advantage you have over the competition, but if you have a 24.0 combined start value and fall repeatedly or can’t execute cleanly, that start value really doesnt mean much. At minimum I’d say an average of about a 5.0 for each routine is a good place to be to make international finals, and the best in the world are going to be around a 22 .0 or higher total.

How is the national team committee going to choose a worlds team next year with all of the depth in the U.S.?

The way they do every year when there’s a lot of depth…choose the ones who are strongest and most consistent when the time comes. As we see every year, the depth at the start of a year ends up dwindling quite a bit by the time worlds comes around, so survival of the fittest kind of takes care of some of them, and then by the time it gets close to the competition, it’s easy to see who’s strongest and best fits the puzzle.

Are wolf turns on floor/beam named for someone in the code? I want to know who started this nonsense!

They’ve been around for a long time but basically picked up steam in the new scoring system because they offered a high difficulty value for a required dance element so gymnasts who couldn’t do the really difficult dance elements could still get a D or an E counted into that requirement. I’d say around…maybe 2009 or 2010 is when people started realizing how valuable they could be, and then the last quad is when it started getting really out of control. The 2½ on beam is named for Terin Humphrey, and the triple is named for Lauren Mitchell on both beam and floor.  

Do you have a favorite floor routine of all time? If you can’t pick, a top five?

Oh god…ummmm…it changes all the time! I always include Lilia Podkopayeva in 1996 and Aly Raisman in 2012 as my never-changing faves, but more recently I’ve loved Axelle Klinckaert’s 2015 routine, Lieke Wevers in 2016, and Brooklyn Moors last year. I like a good mix of the more fun and entertaining routines and then the really seriously gorgeous and dramatic routines.

Who do you think the strongest all-arounder is in Great Britain after Ellie Downie?

I think she, Claudia Fragapane, and Amy Tinkler are all about on the same page, but they all have little ups and downs. Ellie was definitely the strongest last year, but if they’re all at top strength, they definitely all are equals, though I think Ellie has a bit more natural talent so if she’s truly at her very best (and adds some upgrades), she’d probably still stand out the most. An Olympic team with these three plus one other solid all-arounder would be so incredible if everyone is healthy all at once!

What happened to Paul Ruggieri?

He retired after the 2016 quad, I think ‘unofficially’ in that he didn’t really come out with an announcement, but you could kind of tell during the last quad that he was kind of over it…not in the sense that he didn’t like doing the sport anymore, but just in that he was always very frustrated with himself and how he was competing. He threatened to quit at least once last quad after rough performances, and while I’m thrilled he finally made it to worlds after always being an alternate, he just wasn’t ever competitive enough on his strongest events to be a leader for the U.S. team which sucks because he was so good. He just didn’t fit a lot of the team puzzles and I think he got frustrated with that so after 2016 I guess he thought it made sense for him to kind of take a break. He’s coaching now but I don’t think he’s training any longer.

Which turns and leaps from rhythmic could be competed in WAG?

Pretty much most of them…though I think a lot of artistic gymnasts lack the flexibility to do them well, considering rhythmic gymnasts train flexibility differently and are a lot ‘bendier’ than artistic gymnasts so they probably wouldn’t look as good for MOST gymnasts…though there are definitely a few artistic gymnasts who could pull off some rhythmic skills. Turns in a back scale with the body horizontal would be my favorites to make it in, and I’ve always wanted to see more ring turns. I think I’ve only seen Laney Madsen and Elizaveta Vasilieva (a former rhythmic gymnast) do these in artistic, at least in recent years. Ooh, and side arabesque turns with the back bend but again…flexibility.

Simone Biles’ D scores hold up really well in the current code. Do you think she’ll actually upgrade or will just change a few connections to make her routines more suited to this code?

I think she’ll probably just make the few adjustments she needs to fit the current requirements, like getting a front pass on floor, and then she’ll probably make a few changes on beam to take advantage of some of the new connection bonuses (like the series bonus) but she honestly won’t have to do much more than just bring back her old skills/routines to retain her queen of the world status. I would like to see her go for the Yurchenko triple this quad and maybe the triple double on floor…and then also the Fabrichnova on bars. And I’d like to see her make her Cheng her first vault (aka the vault she uses for all-around competitions) since by the time Rio rolled around, that ended up being more reliable in terms of landings than her Amanar and will definitely score better if that’s still the case.

If a genie could grant you three gymnastics wishes, what would they be?

Brenna Dowell gets an individual spot for Tokyo (or I take over the gymnastics federation in Tonga and make Brenna my only athlete so not only does she get to go to every Olympics ever but we also get to travel with Pita Taufatofua, the hot Tongan dude who goes to literally every Olympics, and Paul Ruggeri can compete for me too if he wants), Aly Raisman takes over USA Gymnastics as the CEO and national team coordinator AND still competes in every Olympics until she’s like 60 (and she also becomes president of the United States), and going off of my last answer, Simone Biles brings a triple double and a Yurchenko triple to WAG…and while we’re at it, Brenna also brings every high bar skill to WAG.

Considering what happened at worlds, do you think Ragan Smith will retire from elite or do you think she’ll stick around and try for Tokyo?

She’s definitely sticking around. If anything, getting SO close (like, as close as possible to being a gold medal all-arounder at worlds and then five minutes before it happens, having to withdraw) and then having the opportunity taken away has probably motivated her even more to come back strong. I don’t know if she’ll make Tokyo, but the possibility is there and I think she wants to see another quad through, especially because since she ended up being an alternate in Rio with very little experience and at such a young age, I think as she matures a bit and grows into herself a bit more, she can be even more of a threat with that added confidence. It’s certainly worth a try.

What was the deal with Sami Durante committing to Georgia and then going to LSU?

Her mother was the head coach at Georgia but was fired after the 2017 season. With all of that going on, Sami didn’t want to compete for Georgia any longer, and so she started looking for openings at other programs and multiple coaches reached out to her, including the coaches at LSU, so she was able to change her commitment really quickly and take advantage of that opportunity.

LSU doesn’t have any gymnasts from Louisiana. Does that mean everyone is on scholarship?

Walk-ons don’t have to be in-state gymnasts, it just usually works out that way because tuition is cheaper so if their parents are paying or if they’re taking out loans, it makes more financial sense to be a walk-on at an in-state program…but that doesn’t mean everyone is in that situation where they have to really think about financial decisions, and there are also plenty of academic scholarships out there to make up for it. I have a friend who was a walk-on swimmer in college but he had served in the military before coming to school, and so his education was fully paid for that way which allowed him to walk-on as an athlete at a school he never would’ve gotten an athletic scholarship for and wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.

LSU definitely has a few walk-ons though I don’t know every single one with full confidence. Sarah Edwards is for sure, she’s been going to the LSU camps since she was a baby, and Olivia Gunter is also a walk-on. I believe Sami Durante might be, considering she was going to be a walk-on at Georgia and then joined LSU so late in the game (I think Pittsburgh offered her a scholarship after she decided not to attend Georgia but she turned it down for LSU), and based on the rest of the names on the roster, I’d guess Lauren Li and Ashlyn Kirby are the other two.

What is the average age a gymnast turns elite if she has a chance of going to the Olympics or worlds?

In the U.S. it’s usually by age 13 or 14, though there are always some late bloomers in the game…Aly Raisman didn’t turn elite until she was 15, and Jade Carey was 17 when she made the jump and she made worlds only a few months later.

In London, Beth Tweddle’s qualifying D and E scores were the same as what Aliya Mustafina ended up winning gold with. What would’ve happened if they had tied in the event final with the same D and E scores?

In 2012, they altered the rules so that gymnasts who tied with the same D and E score wouldn’t have the tie broken, so they both would’ve gotten the gold. Prior to that, they would’ve used the E score breakdown to break the tie. With six judges offering E scores, the highest and lowest are dropped with four remaining. In the case of a D and E tie at the Olympics in 2008, they would’ve then taken those four averaged scores and dropped the lowest, averaged the remaining three, and then there’s the winner. This is what happened with Nastia Liukin and He Kexin getting the same D and E scores in Beijing, giving Kexin the gold while Nastia got the silver, but had the same thing happened in 2012, they both would’ve gotten gold. The only tie-breaker in place in 2012 in an event final was if two gymnasts got the same final score, but one had a higher E score than the other, in which case she’d get the gold and the lower E score would get silver.

Has anyone besides Valeri Liukin competed a triple back on floor successfully?

Several of the Russian men have been competing them recently, with Nikita Nagornyy’s actually looking really great for the most part. It got bumped from an F to an H in the latest code of points revamp, so it’s obviously a very attractive skill for gymnasts wanting to up their D scores.

What is your favorite SEC team?

For sentimental reasons and now also reasons related to Courtney Kupets Carter as the head coach, Georgia. I generally don’t like a lot of top SEC teams as much as others because I feel like the SEC makes things like…idk, more in your face? I don’t know how to explain that lol. But I love so many of the gymnasts on SEC teams and I’d have to say right now my absolute favorite based on current routines/skills is Arkansas, but I also grew to love Florida over the past couple of years thanks to the current gymnasts on the team, and the second Alex Hyland and Sidney Dukes joined Kentucky, I became an instant fan of that program and was so glad to see them grow so much over the past two seasons.

What are the odds of classics and nationals happening/not happening?

They’re happening. I think there might be some sort of issue with the arena for classics, but I’m not sure what that is…so we’ll see. But nationals is set and will be happening.

Would it be possible to do the Biles in a tucked or piked position?

Yup! A pike might be a bit awkward but it could totally happen, and the tucked could as well.

How do you choose a question to answer? Do you follow an order or is it completely random?

I work with people who help me input the questions into an excel spreadsheet, and they get entered in the order in which they’re received unless something is SUPER relevant to the current weeks and won’t be relevant by the time I end up answering them when I finally get to them at the bottom of the pile. Right now, there’s about a two month lag from when I receive a question to when I answer it because I get about 25 questions a day (at least) and can’t answer them as quickly as I receive them. But if something is about worlds and worlds is a week away, I’ll move it to the front of the queue so it won’t be completely irrelevant if it goes to the bottom of the queue. I’ve recently been trying to answer a lot of Larry Nassar stuff, as well as questions related to the national team situation and some NCAA questions as well. And I threw this question to the top of the queue so no one asks it again for a while. 😉

Is Pac Rims still happening? I thought it was every two years.

Yes, they’re going to be held April 27-29 in Medellin, Colombia. I don’t know if the U.S. will be sending a team, though…with everything going on and with the federation already withdrawing from other team events like Gymnix and Jesolo, I’m not sure if Pac Rims will happen, but we’ll see.

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 ask “what do you think of [insert gymnast here]?”

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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51 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Okay so I absolutely LOVE your wish list and I would also like to vote for all of these things.
    Re Aimee Boorman, can you go on a little more about that? It looks like some text got accidentally deleted there. Do you think she’d consider it or would be seriously considered, given that she seems so new? God I’d love to see her in that role though. What a revolution that would be!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry, I added it back! Basically I have no idea if Aimee is in talks for this role or whatever but she’s just who I really want to see in it, or someone like her who values athletes as human beings over athletes as medal winners.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you that Aly should have some role in the administration of USAG in the years to come. Do you think they might restructure things and have a team coordinator and an assistant coordinator?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s what they were kind of trying to do with Valeri and Rhonda. I think they need to have some sort of athlete’s rep who is NOT hired by USAG, an outsider chosen by the athletes who is there solely to represent them. USAG has an athlete’s rep but it’s sketchy at best because they basically are told who to vote for and that person basically has zero power. The gymnasts should get to come together in some sort of athlete’s union that has nothing to do with USAG, and they should be able to say we have chosen so and so as our rep who is not employed by or instated by USAG, and she will work alongside the national team staff with OUR interests at heart and if she goes against what USAG wants or what the NTC wants, tough crap because you can’t get rid of her because she works for us, not you. I think anyone hired by USAG to work with the national team staff is always going to have USAG’s interests prioritized over the athletes’ interests because USAG is the one giving them that role, but an outsider brought in by the athletes would have zero allegiance to USAG and would be more confident in speaking up against things that she thinks are problematic. I’d be happy with a former athlete or coach (without a current athlete on the team) in this role, but I do think this role would only work if it had zero to do with USAG.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Is there some kind of notion that Ivana Hong is good/bad for this, or is it just that they haven’t redefined the role yet in the way that you are suggesting (which sounds awesome)?


        • I read somewhere (maybe on Lauren’s Tumblr) that Ivana was accused of being abusive at standford(or arizona?) and was basically following the tactics of the environment that she came up in as a gymnast.


  3. Do you have any more information about Chow and the Chinese National Programme? What are your thoughts on him maybe moving back to China and the effects on the Chinese programme?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I second these questions – obvs he’s a successful coach, and I haven’t heard anyone saying he’s bad to his athletes. Wouldn’t it be cool if he were NTC for China and the Chinese suddenly got incredibly conditioned and started doing floor like bosses?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Olivia Gunter is actually from Louisiana and is likely taking advantage of either the state’s scholarship program or just the in-state tuition 🙂 The majority of LSU walk-ons do tend to be out-of-state ladies for sure though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I forgot to mention that in the post! I know there have been a couple of Louisiana walk-ons over the years but yeah, overall it tends to be a kind of ‘dry’ state for high level gymnasts so that’s probably why I suppose…can you imagine if there were D1 programs in Texas?? They’d have walk-ons galore.


      • Right! I still think it’s the craziest thing that Texas doesn’t have D1 program! LA is for sure a rather dry gym state, and those with a lot of promise probably hop over to Texas if the opportunity presents itself!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Do you think there’s any chance MLT would get the nat’l coordinator role? She was the first one who came to mind after I found out Valeri left. She’s been around forever and has a ton of international experience, and from everything I’ve heard (which, admittedly, is not a ton) cares about her athletes as people and tries to do right by them.


    • I’ve also not heard a ton about her, but while I also haven’t heard anything really bad, my understanding is that her style really only works for a certain kind of athlete. What I’ve heard is that she’s very cut-and-dried and no-nonsense with her criticism and that you have to be mature enough to be able to separate her corrections on your gymnastics from criticism of you, and also takes some unconventional tacks like having required Bibly study (which, according to my understanding, is part of her view of caring for the athlete as a whole person). While, again, I really haven’t heard anything too bad about her, I just don’t think she’d necessarily be a good fit for that kind of role.

      Plus, CGA isn’t really known for keeping injuries at bay, which might not be a great sign for the NTC?


      • Really re: Bible study? That’s so presumptive and inappropriate. “I have decided to be a well rounded person you need to be a Christian. Read the bible”. Ugh.


        • I don’t think she’ll require bible studies if she becomes the team coordinator, because she literally can’t do that for the national team. At her own private club she can, but definitely not on the national level. The absolute most she could do is to try and instill the base Christian values, but again that would be hard to do when you’re only at camp for 12 weeks or less out of the year.


        • Yes. I remember reading that Alyssa Beckerman (who is Jewish) joined in and was accommodated to her satisfaction, but that should absolutely not fly on a NTC level.


    • At the last National Congress, MLT said she had wanted to retire a couple years ago and was basically only hanging on for Lilly Lippeatt. Not sure if she’d want to step into this dumpster-fire at this late a point in her career.


    • Mihai is the coordinator in Australia and Chow is planning to take on a role in China. Laurent is Biles’ personal coach, so I don’t think he can. I don’t think Aimee is really at the level to be the national team coordinator, she’s relatively new to the US program, with Biles being her only major success. I don’t think Jenny Zhang would be cut out for the role, especially since she isn’t great at injury prevention and all her gymnasts (Hano and Ross) struggled with upgrades when they did elite. I’ve also heard a rumor that Zhang isn’t good at adjusting technique once gymnasts hit puberty which is why Ross struggled so much in the latter half of 2015, but that’s a rumor.


  6. Here’s a successfuly completed tucked Biles performed by London Phillips (aka the originator of the Biles) in 2003. She tries to punch out of it but falls. Still an amazing routine and an amazing gymnast who’s unfortunately only famous on the gymternet


  7. I can honestly say I’m on the fence about Aimee after I read Miss Val’s blog post. “Aimee Boorman (Simone Biles’ coach) tells a story of how she rejected an invitation to The Ranch in early 2012. In one of their first trips to U.S. Women’s National Team training centre, Aimee saw how Martha emotionally mistreated Simone and was afraid Simone might quit the sport if she returned so early in her career.” Because to me what that says is, you saw a problem,you knew it could be harmful, so you removed your athlete from the situation temporarily. So she was clearly aware to a degree of the toxic environment. If it’s to the point where you think it’s healthier to remove someone from a situation that says something. I truly believe a lot of the coaches, even the ones who were well meaning had some level of awareness of the toxic environment in the ranch, but maybe they were able to justify it, or they were scared, or their athlete wasn’t in the direct line of fire so they didn’t have to see it if they didn’t want to. I’m not saying all these coaches are horrible by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel like we put them on this pedestal sometimes. And moving forward coaches should be aware that they should speak up about things like that, because when you let smaller things slide, that makes it easier to let bigger things slip through the cracks.


    • I totally see what you mean about this, and personally I’m always a little suspicious of people who portray themselves as the “good guys” of the elite gymnastics world because you don’t know how much of it is just a public image thing (case in point: Larry Nassar). That said, Aimee Boorman would probably still be a better choice for NTC than most other high-level coaches who could be considered for the role.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I see what you mean too, but I think you’re massively underestimating the unstoppable machine that was USA Gymnastics. Marta and USA Gymnastics were basically the same thing and USA Gymnastics was Marta’s lapdog. They did what she said, when she said and how she said. If Aimee spoke up about her concerns, especially before Simone became the incredible gymnast she is, Simone wouldn’t have been invited to the camps and her elite career would have been dead before it began. I remember Chelsea Memmel and her coach/father refusing to send Chelsea to the camps because they didn’t think it was in her best interests (not necessarily around abuse…more the harsh training environment which for accident prone Chelsea was a bad idea) and there’s evidence to show that their position impacted on Chelsea’s elite career, especially later on. You did it Marta/USA Gymnastics way or you GTFO. It was a perfect environment for a predator to ingraciate himself into, and so he did.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “If Aimee spoke up about her concerns, especially before Simone became the incredible gymnast she is, Simone wouldn’t have been invited to the camps and her elite career would have been dead before it began.”

          This is one of those do the benefits outweigh the risks things. But the way I look at it is speaking up is a risk, that yeah, can screw you over, but it can also be like the #metoo movement, where it starts this snowball effect. There are soooooooo many ways things can play out when you speak up, good and bad, but when you don’t, there’s a 100% chance nothing will change.

          But like Amy said, Aimee Boorman would probably still be a better choice for NTC than most other high-level coaches who could be considered for the role. There would be a good chance that her or 95% of the other coaches who could be considered wouldn’t run it like some totalitarianism regime.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I need to see a stag ring 1/2 or 1/1, a split with back bend on floor (with a half turn??!!), omg!!! And I was thinking if artistic gymnasts could do Y turns without holding the free leg, you know?


  9. Other highly experienced top elite coaches that I can think of…what are the stories of Kelli Hill, Donna Strauss, Steve Rybacki? Kelli Hill in particular I have heard good things about.

    I also want to renominate Chris Waller.


    • The Rybackis were Atler’s coaches before she switched to WOGA. They were the ones, IIRC, that refused to take the Comaneci out of her bars routine, despite her inability to do it, leading to her major mental block on bars. (Not exclusively of course, but it contributed.)


      • I feel like that’s not how things were portrayed on Vanessa’s Gymcastic interview? They asked her about it and she said she didn’t fault them at all for not taking it out – there wasn’t much else they could put in. I think this is one where the gymternet story got away from the real story, but the real story is now out there.


    • Kelli Hill has a lot of success as a coach but she has been on the board through this whole Nassar mess and she has publicly supported Valeri. The first is more of an image thing (we don’t know what she was doing right or wrong but it doesn’t help promote a fresh start); the second is a huge problem.

      Strauss – no way. Too many stories have come out of abusive environment at Parkettes. Start with Jennifer Sey’s book if you have any questions.

      Rybacki – would have to think about it more. Part of it doesn’t seem like a good idea but I can’t put my finger on why.

      Personally, in order to support the fresh start approach, I would lean towards trying to recruit someone from an NCAA program or maybe a former NCAA coach (not Rhonda, who IMO should have stepped down after being part of the process to investigate rather than go straight to the police).


  10. Lauren Mitchell STILL has the best wolf turn ever, IMO.
    Also, I’m sobbing a little that your question about GB AA’s doesn’t include Tyesha or Lyons. What could have been, if they hadn’t been injured….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: The good, the bad, and the fugly | The Gymternet

  12. USAG IS sending a team to Pacific Rim! They just announced a verification in April at Simone’s gym, WCC, open to juniors and seniors to pick the team.


  13. Any thoughts on why there have been so many season ending Achilles tears this year? I feel like every week I hear of another gymnast with a blown Achilles, especially now NCAA is in full swing.


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