It’s time for the 214th 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.
We saw Jade Carey compete in her first ever elite competition and win two silvers. How easy or hard generally is it for a level 10 gymnast to adapt a routine to be suitable for elite?
It’s generally quite hard. If a level 10 gymnast is strong at vault, that’s the easiest transition to make, because all you have to do is attempt more difficult vaults than you’re doing so if vault is a talent of yours, going from a DTY to an Amanar is just a matter of working progressions and building the power to get it up and around (which isn’t easy, but compared to completely revamping routines elsewhere, it’s not as insane).
On the other three events, the J.O. code requires a lower number of simpler skills than the elite code requires. In J.O., a gymnast can do a Jaeger, bail, and full-in dismount on bars and call it a routine, but in elite they need to count eight skills into their routine, and if they want to be competitive, all eight skills will be around a D or higher. Not only do they have to learn and perfect a greater number of skills, they also have to build the endurance to get through a longer, harder routine. It’s easier for J.O. and NCAA gymnasts to bust out a full-twisting double layout at the end of a bars set than it is for elites because J.O. gymnasts are doing three or four skills prior to it whereas elite gymnasts are doing seven.
For Jade, a really strong vaulter who demonstrated high-level vaults at the J.O. level before considering elite, upgrading her vaults wasn’t a huge deal, though it was definitely much harder for her to add the difficulty on floor. She did a great job, though, because even though she has always been a pretty strong tumbler, to add the higher difficulty and additional skills and endurance to get through it was super impressive.
Do you think that Al Fong from GAGE is a good coach?
I think so, yeah. It probably depends on who you ask, though. I know a few girls have left him because they don’t like how intense he can be, but I’ve talked to other gymnasts who have absolutely loved training with him. One time, several years ago, I tweeted something about being stuck in an elevator with Al who had nothing with him but an unoccupied Juicy Couture baby stroller (I’m screeching laughing just picturing it) and a ton of his J.O. kids saw the tweet and were telling me stories about him being the best dad and treating his kid like a princess, I was like aww, he seems so tough and stern but he’s also kind of a softy? So based on how a lot of his current and recent gymnasts felt about him, he seemed to be a good coach in the sense that his athletes really loved him.
In terms of being a good technical coach, also yes. I think there’s very few coaches who are able to pick out exactly what their gymnasts need to succeed. He always has athletes who are very different from one another, but he’s able to pinpoint what will get them noticed, and it’s always so perfect, like Brenna Dowell with her front tumbling and Sarah Finnegan with her beam composition…no coach is going to have a million superstars coming out of the gym every single year, but when he does get strong elite-level gymnasts, he manages to bring all of them to a very high level while making them stand out in their own way, and he also was known for advocating for his athletes within the national program. I’ve seen him stand up for kids a number of times, and to me, that makes for a great coach.
Who was the better team — the Fierce Five or the Final Five? Who would’ve won?
I think they were similar and each had their own strengths and weaknesses. I think the Fierce Five was the better cohesive, complementary team. It was a team where everyone had a clearly defined role and served a specific purpose, and even though not every possible goal ended up being attainable with that team, it was just like, all of the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly with them.
The team in 2016 still feels a bit oddly balanced to me, mostly because the depth in 2016 overall was a bit greater and there were other, perhaps better ways to work out that puzzle. But with Simone Biles on the team alongside some other strong talents, they could’ve taken three top girls (with Simone being one of them) and then the other two could’ve been pretty much anyone at trials, and they still would’ve won the gold. I think the Final Five would’ve beaten the Fierce Five, because of Simone adding that extra oomph.
Is it possible to do a roundoff with an added half twist on floor and then front tumble out of it?
Not really…there’s really no such thing as a roundoff half, and physically if you were to add a half twist coming out of it, it wouldn’t serve the same purpose that a roundoff serves, which is to be a momentum-builder into subsequent skills. Adding a half here would kind of take away some of the power a roundoff builds, so any front tumbling you’d do out of it would be pretty basic.
What would happen if USA Gymnastics was decertified?
Most likely, the USOC would take over in the interim while the certification process began for a new governing body. I doubt it’ll happen at this point, but if it did, while things would be bumpy for a while, with the athletes spending the majority of their time training at their individual clubs, at least their experiences wouldn’t be TOO interrupted.
What would Nastia Liukin’s 2008 bars be worth in this code of points?
Off the top of my head, I believe she’d get 2.0 CR, 3.7 skills, and 0.4 CV for a total of 6.1.
Does Morgan Hurd not have any turns in her floor routine? Wouldn’t that be a deduction?
There is no requirement to perform a turn on floor. There are composition deductions, so it’s possible that some judges could see not having a turn as ‘poor composition’ but I think if the routine works well as a whole, most judges wouldn’t take this deduction. In many cases where gymnasts aren’t strong dancers or movers, turns actually disrupt the flow of their routines and would likely become artistry deductions.
Gymnasts generally have turns either to enhance their choreography and artistry (like the simpler turns or the balletic turns that aren’t worth anything on floor, like fouettés) while others will do more difficult turns to add more value to their routines because they’re stronger at dance than they are at tumbling. I think if turns work for you and your choreography/routine as a whole, they’re great, but all of these wolf turns and pirouettes that take multiple seconds for prep into them are absolutely getting slammed with deductions, so if you’re not going to do really seamless and fluid turns, it’s not worth doing one at all, especially if the rest of your routine is really well done in terms of artistry and composition.
When are skills on floor considered front tumbling? Is the Biles front or back tumbling?
For the most part if you look at the entry of a skill, that’s what determines whether it’s forward or backward. If someone does a roundoff back handspring into it, it’s probably backwards (like the Biles), whereas if someone punches forward or does a front handspring or front layout into a skill, it’s probably considered a front skill (like the Podkopayeva). The only anomaly is the arabian double front, which has a backwards entry into the skill, but it’s considered front tumbling because the two saltos are done as forward saltos…though in MAG, this skill is considered back tumbling solely because of the backward entry.
Who is the youngest to have won the all-around title at U.S. nationals?
Info gets a little sketchy prior to 1980 thanks to both a lack of DOBs and then also no date information for championships, but this is everyone I could find in order of youngest to oldest:
Dominique Moceanu, 13 years, 10 months, 20 days (1995)
Kim Zmeskal, 14 years, 4 months, 4 days (1990)
Julianne McNamara, 14 years, 6 months, 8 days (1980)
Tracee Talavera, 14 years, 8 months, 13 days (1981)
Dianne Durham, 14 years, 11 months, 22 days (1983)
Kristie Phillips, 15 years, 2 months, 29 days (1987)
Kim Zmeskal, 15 years, 4 months, 3 days (1991)
Vanessa Atler, 15 years, 5 months, 30 days (1997)
Shawn Johnson, 15 years, 6 months, 30 days (2007)
Phoebe Mills, 15 years, 8 months, 8 days (1988)
Tracee Talavera, 15 years, 8 months, 28 days (1982)
Nastia Liukin, 15 years, 9 months, 14 days (2005)
Jordyn Wieber, 16 years, 1 month, 8 days (2011)
Brandy Johnson, 16 years, 1 month, 10 days (1989)
Kim Zmeskal, 16 years, 3 months, 11 days (1992)
Mary Lou Retton, 16 years, 3 months, 19 days (1984)
Carly Patterson, 16 years, 4 months, 1 day (2004)
Simone Biles, 16 years, 4 months, 4 days (2013)
Shawn Johnson, 16 years, 4 months, 19 days (2008)
Shannon Miller, 16 years, 5 months, 18 days (1993)
Tasha Schwikert, 16 years, 8 months, 21 days (2001)
Nastia Liukin, 16 years, 9 months, 20 days (2006)
Courtney Kupets, 16 years, 10 months, 26 days (2003)
Jordyn Wieber, 16 years, 10 months, 29 days (2012)
Ragan Smith, 17 years, 12 days (2017)
Rebecca Bross, 17 years, 1 month, 3 days (2010)
Bridget Sloan, 17 years, 1 month, 23 days (2009)
Jennifer Sey, 17 years, 3 months, 30 days (1986)
Kristen Maloney, 17 years, 5 months, 12 days (1998)
Tasha Schwikert, 17 years, 8 months, 20 days (2002)
Courtney Kupets, 17 years, 10 months, 9 days (2004)
Simone Biles, 17 years, 5 months, 10 days (2014)
Kristy Powell, 17 years, 6 months, 3 days (1997)
Dominique Dawes, 17 years, 9 months, 7 days (1994)
Elise Ray, 18 years, 4 months, 23 days (2000)
Simone Biles, 18 years, 5 months, 2 days (2015)
Kristen Maloney, 18 years, 5 months, 18 days (1999)
Kathy Johnson, 18 years, 7 months, 23 days (1978)
Shannon Miller, 19 years, 2 months, 29 days (1996)
Simone Biles, 19 years, 3 months, 12 days (2016)
From 1978 to the present, Dominique Moceanu was the youngest national all-around champion at age 13 years, 10 months, and 20 days when she won the title in 1995, and the oldest national all-around champion was Simone Biles when she won in 2016 at age 19 years, 3 months, and 12 days. In 1996 and earlier, the age rules were different, allowing for gymnasts who turned 14 in a given year to compete as seniors, so no one will be able to beat Moceanu’s record. If you want to consider only the current rules that require gymnasts to turn 16 in a given year to compete as seniors, Phoebe Mills would hold the record at 15 years, 8 months, and 8 days, since she turned 16 in 1988, the year she won.
Do any other countries have the equivalent of a J.O. program?
Some have adopted the U.S. program in an effort to kind of fine-tune the lower levels, and they use the J.O. program (or their version with modifications) as both a lower-level competitive circuit as well as a sort of developmental program. Canada adopted the U.S. program in 2015, and Colombia also uses the J.O. program now pretty much exactly as the U.S. does…and for countries that haven’t exactly adopted it, several others like Great Britain, Australia, Japan, and a few European countries have tiered level systems. Generally it’s smaller programs that tend not to have something like it, or programs that are more centralized and don’t really have gymnasts who aren’t national team-focused competing, like Russia or China. Both of these obviously have competitions for younger gymnasts, but not in the same sense that we have it in the U.S. or in other similar programs where parents sign their kids up for rec and team programs at clubs that would go on to compete against other clubs.
Chloe Harvey wrote in Instagram that she’s planning on going to elite qualifiers this year. Why is she already saying she’s an elite in her bio?
I couldn’t tell ya. It’s probably because she’s done elite developmental camps or something. Even though you’re not necessarily an elite if you go to those camps, most kids don’t know all of the rules and distinctions so getting an invite to a devo camp could be all they care about when it comes to calling themselves elites.
Why is Laney Madsen scored so low in her execution? What deductions is she getting?
She’s scored low because a lot of her foundational skills are flawed in addition to her form generally being quite iffy. Things like bent elbows, bent knees, and general lack of extension are things you might not see but trust me, the judges do. Then there are skill-specific deductions like leg separations, flexed/unpointed feet, crossed ankles, lack of proper body positioning on skills (like piked hips on a layout or soft knees on a pike)…it all adds up. Even if she hits a routine flawlessly in terms of landings, she’s still getting hammered for all of these little things you might not see. Coming from a background in cheer, where there isn’t as much attention to detail for basic skills like back handsprings, they’d have to break a LOT of her bad habits to get all of her foundations up to par with J.O. kids and elites who grew up learning how to do these things with precision and a focus on technique.
Has anyone ever competed a round-off half-on front pike with one and a half twists?
Yup! The first I can think of doing it was Terin Humphrey at a random meet at Parkettes in 2003. She never got it named in the code (slash I can’t think of her doing it again after this, it wasn’t exactly a great vault) but even though the girls in the video say “it was a layout, she didn’t grab her knees!” she meant it to be piked, hahaha. I think generally because twisting in a piked position is hard aerodynamically, if someone’s going to do a 1½ out of a Yurchenko half-on entry, they’ll either go for the tuck (Khorkina II) or the layout (Cheng). In the current code, the piked 1½ is worth a 5.6.
In Aly Raisman’s book she said the Final Five was told at camp that Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas would be doing the all-around in Rio. Is this surprising since Gabby was not as solid at trials?
I wasn’t surprised. I kind of assumed if Gabby was going to the Olympics she’d be doing the all-around no matter who beat her, or how many times they beat her, because she was the reigning Olympic champion and there’s no way they’d take the reigning Olympic all-around champion to her second Olympics and not have her compete in the all-around. I’m actually surprised they gave her competition for the final in letting Aly compete in qualifications, because it’s no secret that dozens of team and lineup decisions were made by Steve Penny based on marketing and publicity rather than on merit. In Steve’s dream world, it would’ve been Gabby and Simone in the all-around final with no one else competing all-around in qualifications to knock either of them out.
But I’m sure Aly’s team would’ve flipped the freak out if that happened. In 2013, Steve wanted only Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney to compete all-around in qualifications, with Kyla Ross doing bars and beam while Brenna just did floor, because Kyla wasn’t pro and McKayla was basically seen as a cash cow in her comeback and this would’ve invited tons of opportunities for a payoff. But Kyla’s coaches lost their minds, and so they decided to let all three do all-around which meant Brenna got the axe. I’m sure if in 2016 they were like “only Simone and Gabby do the all-around to guarantee the final for both,” Aly, her coaches, her parents, and everyone in her life would’ve set the ranch on fire.
How come the U.S. never sends gymnasts to the Youth Olympic Games?
It’s kind of two-fold. First, they have in past years conflicted with U.S. nationals, and since U.S. nationals are way more competitive than YOGs have been so far, it makes more sense for gymnasts to get competitive experience at nationals than at a competition with…no competition, to say the least. Like, had Bailie Key been healthy and had the U.S. sent her to YOGs in 2014, based on the level of competition there, she would’ve won everything with her eyes closed. In the U.S., she would’ve been the favorite for the national title in the junior competition, but the competition would’ve been much tougher for it, and a couple of falls would’ve made a bigger difference than they would have at YOGs.
Also, there’s no team competition at YOGs, and the U.S. generally only likes big international meets that have a team component, since that prepares gymnasts for important team competitions like worlds and the Olympics in the future. When there were meetings about the upcoming junior worlds, the U.S. basically said “we won’t send gymnasts unless there’s a team aspect” because that’s what they value, so they’d rather send a team of juniors to Pac Rims or Jesolo than one kid to a competition like YOGs because there’s not much in terms of competitive experience she can get there that she wouldn’t get at a domestic meet.
Are mount skills considered different from normal acro skills in the routine? If a gymnast mounts with a punch front, can she do another punch front in the routine and count it for value?
Yes, they’re different. There are different element groups for each event in the code. Even though a skill might technically be the same thing (like, a punch front tuck is the same thing physically, whether you’re using it to mount onto the beam or doing it as a skill on the beam), if it’s placed into different element groups, you could do it and get credit for it in each of those element groups. A layout is a good example, because a gymnast could get away with doing a layout mount (from the mount group), a layout in her flight series (from the acro group), and a layout dismount (from the dismount group). She has three layouts, but it would count as three different skills because of the three different groups.
Will there be any more drastic changes to the Code of Points? I think it would be nice for it to stay relatively similar for a while.
Every quad they do an overhaul to try to fix what judges don’t think is working, so even though I’m more of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp and don’t think most of the changes are necessary, apparently the technical committee is never happy with anything and is constantly trying to improve on things that they see as not working, or not being utilized correctly.
I do think it’s valuable to make a change when gymnasts find and exploit loopholes, so I’m glad when we see things like getting rid of the exception that allowed for gymnasts to do a random side aerial in her choreo and have it count as ‘front tumbling’. Gymnasts and their coaches are always going to find these little loopholes to get away with not having to do some sort of requirement or of adding difficulty in a kind of ‘cheap’ way and the technical committee usually picks up on this pretty quickly and tries to limit them, which I’m totally in favor of even if I get annoyed at the major overhauls that seem to happen for no reason. Now if only the next code will say that back-to-back wolf turns aren’t allowed on beam…
Can you explain how Kyla Ross’ bars routine last year was enough to start from a 10? It had a shaposh, a couple of giants, and a dismount, right? Are other gymnasts doing more than they need if this is enough? If everyone did this we’d have incredibly boring routines. It feels unfair even if it technically isn’t. What do you think?
Many bar routines in NCAA are like this. A flight element in NCAA doesn’t have to be a same-bar flight element, so a low-to-high transition is allowed to be considered flight and that’s why Kyla is able to compete the routine she has — a Maloney to bail to toe shoot, and then her dismount. With these four skills, she hits every requirement, and she actually has MORE difficulty than most NCAA routines (a Maloney isn’t exactly an ‘easy’ skill…in elite, it’s a D, the same as a Tkachev or straddle Jaeger).
The routine that most gymnasts do in NCAA is a Jaeger, bail or overshoot, jump to high bar, and dismount, which also meets all requirements. In sets like this one, gymnasts get away with breaking the flow of the routine by being allowed that jump to the high bar, so even though Kyla’s routine looks ‘easier’ because she doesn’t have a same-bar release, she’s not only at a higher level of difficulty than the majority of routines we see in NCAA, but she’s also not breaking the flow by doing a jump-to-high transition.
Can NCAA gymnasts (and other athletes) pursue graduate studies if they had to redshirt a year? Is Peng Peng Lee allowed to do graduate studies, especially since you have to be enrolled at a school to compete?
Yes they can. Since Peng graduated from undergrad last year, she must be enrolled in grad school (or maybe just taking more undergrad classes?) in order to be competing right now. I’ve actually known of a few gymnasts who finish their undergrad programs but still have eligibility left, and so if they end up going to grad school somewhere with a gymnastics program, they end up competing because they have that eligibility and might as well go for it. Two kind of big recent examples…Haley Sedgewick, a standout at Pitt as an undergrad, finished up her eligibility as a grad student at MSU, and Jordan Williams of Arizona ended up going to grad school at UCLA, so she vaulted for them for a season.
How long does the average elite gymnast train?
Usually around 30-40 hours a week, depending on the gym. Some will go for fewer hours because she’s injury-prone or just doesn’t need the super lengthy gym time but they’ll do more conditioning on the side.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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