It’s time for the 218th 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 Gabby Douglas would have done well in NCAA gymnastics? Where would she fit in and why?
I would’ve liked to have seen her in NCAA just because this is generally where “elites go to have fun” (I feel like someone on Twitter coined this recently?) and it’s SO true. I think we never really saw her personality come out at the elite level because she always seemed to be under a ton of pressure and she didn’t always look truly thrilled with what was going on in addition to everything that was happening behind the scenes with Larry Nassar. But I’ve spoken to many elites who felt like they hated gymnastics by the end of their elite careers and almost retired instead of doing collegiate gym because they were so burnt out, and then they got to NCAA and their whole world changed. I wish Gabby got to experience that, and I think she would’ve had a ton of fun and we would’ve gotten to see her personality come out a bit more as a gymnast. I would’ve liked to have seen her at Michigan more than anywhere else for some reason. I feel like most of the girls at Michigan are a little more reserved as people, and not so in-your-face, which would work for Gabby, who is pretty introverted. But I’m sure she would’ve ended up at UCLA or Florida or LSU most likely. Probably UCLA.
What is the knee/leg contraption that NCAA gymnasts wear during competition? Is it safe for gymnasts to be doing this level of skills with hard landings if they need that much support for their leg?
It’s basically a brace to keep their knee stable on hard landings. You might notice that some wear it for vault but not bars, because the harder landing on vault could be something that aggravates their knee, but they’re not wearing it because they’re legitimately injured at the moment, at least not more than anyone else competing (everyone always usually has at least something going on, injury-wise). If someone has had a knee problem in the past or if they have unstable knees, a brace helps keep them healthy on hard landings.
What do you think of Christine Still as a commentator?
I like her…I don’t hear her often but I think when I have heard her, she’s generally been respectful, and I love listening to her talk about her own athletes when she’s commentating a meet where they’re competing, like Georgina Hockenhull and now Alice Kinsella. I think the Commonwealth Games is the only time I’ve really heard her in-depth but both times I enjoyed her.
There were rumors that judges over-inflated scores in figure skating this year to make a skater more of a threat at the Olympics. Do they do that with gymnastics? If Martha Karolyi personally wanted Madison Kocian over Ashton Locklear, would she have told the judges to score her higher to justify her decision?
I could see it happening if people were so close, as Madison and Ashton were, and she wants to justify sending one over the other, just to keep away controversy. But I think when she was picking teams, the last thing on her mind was making sure the public was happy with her decisions, hahaha. I don’t think she really gave a crap about that, and as we saw with Gabby Douglas making the team in 2016, her decisions were more about the overall value of the athlete than they were about scores at trials. I think she explained herself pretty well to the press after in terms of how she made her decisions, but something I have seen from many countries is national team coaches telling judges to overscore certain athletes on certain routines just to give them a confidence boost if they’re struggling or something. I could see that happening more than her doing it to justify her decisions.
What would the D score be for this routine: 1½ to full-twisting double layout, Moors, switch full to split 1½, Memmel turn to quad turn, Biles, tucked double double?
This would have a 7.3 difficulty score under the current code of points if there was a front skill somewhere in there, like doing a front tuck through to one of the backward passes (4.9 from skills, 2.0 from CR, and 0.3 from CV). I’m wondering if an athlete that had a 1½ through to double layout full would request a review of this indirect connection to make it worth more than 0.2, however…I know Ellie Black did this back in the day for one of her connections that went way above and beyond the code, and since you can get 0.2 for a C + E indirect, it seems crazy that a C + H indirect wouldn’t be the same. If they did approve a 0.3 CV for that, this could be a 7.4 D.
Where is Victoria Nguyen committed for college?
I don’t believe she has committed yet, which suggests that she’s probably waiting to be academically accepted to Stanford, and since I believe she’d be going for the 2019-2020 season, it would make sense that she wouldn’t hear from Stanford until this coming fall at the earliest. That, or she’s just taking her time and weighing her options as fellow 2001-born gymnast Trinity Thomas did.
Why do you think aerobic gymnastics isn’t an Olympic sport?
I think it takes time to have disciplines of any sport recognized by the IOC. Artistic gymnastics was IT for quite some time…like, close to a hundred years. The other disciplines are newer both in terms of when they became things and when the FIG made them into legit disciplines, so rhythmic didn’t get to the Olympics until 1984 and trampoline didn’t become an Olympic sport until 2000. Other disciplines that aren’t recognized at the Olympics are tumbling, acro, gym for all, and aerobic gym.
One thing to note is that the FIG only gets a certain number of spots at the Olympic Games, and so adding disciplines takes away spots from other disciplines, meaning adding aerobic would eat away at the spots available for artistic MAG/WAG, rhythmic, and trampoline…and if all disciplines were added, there’d be basically so few spots open, it barely becomes a competition. As it is, fewer than 100 gymnasts can compete in artistic gym, compared to the 300 or so that show up at the busiest world championships, so they’d need the IOC to grant the FIG a greater number of spots before they’d legitimately consider taking on a new discipline at the Olympic level. That, and aerobic would have to be accepted as an Olympic sport, and because it’s not a super challenging sport (at least compared to other gymnastics disciplines), I’m not sure it would…I think with tumbling and acro also hoping to get noticed by the IOC, aerobic isn’t the biggest concern.
Did Audrey Davis leave WOGA?
No, she’s still training at WOGA.
Is a piked Jaeger in L grip worth an F?
No, it’s an E whether done out of reverse grip or L grip.
Who is Rebecca and why are her mom’s leos so popular?
Dying laughing at this because I was just interviewed by Rebecca for her podcast, Life in a Leo! Rebecca is awesome. She’s a former gymnast who competed at the club level and in college. When Rebecca was a young gymnast, she needed a constant stream of new leos for training, so her mom started sewing them for her rather than spend hundreds of dollars purchasing them at stores. Kids throughout Southern California wanted leos like Rebecca’s, and so her mom started a leo business that became a national brand.
You’ve mentioned before that gymnasts who aren’t training at an elite level are dropped from the national team. How does this apply to gymnasts who are injured and need surgery?
They’re kept on the national team until the end of that national team cycle but if they’re not currently ‘being productive’ for the team — like if they’re going to be out for a year or whatever — then they won’t get national team funding during that time, though their medical expenses are covered.
What are ‘walk ons’ in NCAA?
Walk ons are athletes who aren’t generally the best in their sport prior to college…like middling level 10s who might make J.O. states and/or regionals, but not nationals. They’re not likely to be recruited by a top-ranked team as scholarship athletes, but they’re still at a highly competitive level and a team might ask them to join as non-scholarship athletes instead. Usually walk-ons get scholarships at lower-ranked schools but choose to be a walk-on at higher-ranked programs because it’s their dream school or they want to compete with a friend or something. Some walk-ons don’t get to compete more than just a few exhibition routines and they’ll sometimes retire after a season or two, but many end up becoming super productive, especially when a team is lacking in depth due to injuries, and by the time they’re seniors, they end up getting rewarded with a scholarship. UCLA is a great example because over the past few years when their former elites and top level 10s were all injured, walk-ons like Sonya Meraz stepped in to save the day time and again. This year, Sonya isn’t utilized as much because their top-level depth is back, but she worked her way up to a scholarship over the past few years thanks to her ability to always have the team’s back on any event whenever needed.
Any specific reason why a stag jump isn’t part of the code on balance beam?
It is…I think they call it a stag leap, but leap or jump is basically the same thing for the single stag skill, and it’s worth an A. The ‘double stag jump’ is also in the code, listed as a stag ring jump, and that one’s a B.
Do you think Vanessa Ferrari without falls in Montreal could’ve challenged Mai Murakami for gold?
I don’t think she would’ve challenged for gold, but I do think she could’ve challenged for the podium.
Texas Dreams had girls commit to DI schools recently who weren’t coached by Kim Zmeskal. Do they have separate level 10 teams?
Yes, they have different coaching groups to accommodate the high number of elites and level 10s at their gym.
How many teams qualify to the Pan Am Games? Is there one qualifying meet or is it divided?
It always changes and gets a bit dicey but I think most teams eventually end up qualifying because it’s such a small field given that most countries don’t send full teams. Pan Am Championships the year prior to the Games qualify athletes and teams, so this year’s Pan American Championships in Lima this September will be the qualifier for the 2019 Pan Am Games. I’m pretty sure most who attend the qualifier end up making it, though. The qualifier is kind of like a formality. The Cayman Islands probably have the weakest overall level of competition in the Pan Am region, and they qualified a gymnast to the 2015 Games, and she even made the all-around final!
Can skills be named for gymnasts in the NCAA code? What are the requirements?
I don’t think they name skills for NCAA gymnasts…they do for J.O. gymnasts so maybe sometimes an NCAA gymnast doing an eponymous skill will end up in the J.O. code? But I don’t think I’ve seen that happen, slash I can’t remember if one has. They might keep an informal record within the NCAA but yeah, nothing official.
If a Kovacs and a Gaylord/Mo are both double saltos over the bar, why have we only seen the Gaylord/Mo in WAG? Will we ever see a woman perform a Kovacs?
I think we could potentially see a Kovacs someday from a female gymnast, and I think it’d actually be a much easier skill than the Mo salto, but I think the low bar is a concern in terms of both generating power and in terms of it potentially injuring a gymnast who doesn’t catch the skill and ends up crashing. The Mo salto wouldn’t be likely to crash in the direction of the low bar, since the momentum would be going the other way, but if a gymnast is too far over on a Kovacs and misses the catch, she’d basically land on the low bar, which is concerning.
Do you think in light of Maggie Nichols’ revelation that she was the Larry Nassar whistleblower that her actions against Nassar affected her chances at making the Olympic team?
No. I think once she was injured, that was pretty much it for her. Her accusation against Larry Nassar came a few months prior to worlds, and it didn’t affect her making the worlds team because she consistently proved to be one of the top all-arounders that summer at classics and nationals, and she went on to make the worlds team, again just months after naming him. It didn’t affect her then, so it likely wouldn’t have affected her for Rio had she been in top health, and in fact, they actually gave her the opportunity to train with the Olympic team at the ranch, which they had never done before for a non-alternate. Kind of a crappy consolation prize (“come train in a super intense high-pressure environment for nothing at the place where you were abused!”), and it’s fairly obvious why she didn’t accept, but I think gymnastically in her comeback from injury it was clear why she didn’t make the team. Still a bummer, knowing how good she looked the year before.
What does it take to get blacklisted in Russia?
What do you mean blacklisted? Like to have coaches stop paying attention to you or something? I mean, Angelina Melnikova has fallen at about one thousand competitions over the past couple of years and she’s still Valentina Rodionenko’s favorite, but Seda Tutkhalyan was definitely shunned following Rio and I think quite a few athletes have been shunned after one or two bad performances, so it probably has something to do with what your potential is seen as. If you fall a lot and you don’t look likely to do well even if you hit, you’re probably shunned, but if you fall a lot but you still have that good routine and medal potential somewhere in you, congrats, you’re V-Rod’s forever.
What do you think is the deduction that Sarah Finnegan is getting that prevents her from getting a 10 on beam?
I don’t think it’s one consistent deduction…to me, it’s been different things from competition to competition. I don’t know why judges are tougher on her than they are on others who have gotten non-perfect 10s on beam, because she’s definitely had some stronger sets than others who have been rewarded, but yeah. I can’t pinpoint just one thing that’s holding her back.
Do you know if NBC sees comments about U.S. commentators being called racist or more critical of non-U.S. gymnasts? Do you think the commentators are too harsh?
I don’t know…I generally don’t watch broadcasts or listen to them, so I only generally hear things secondhand, and the worst thing I’ve heard about has been Al Trautwig talking smack about Simone Biles’ parents not being her ‘real parents’ which was bull and he should’ve been fired on the spot. I haven’t heard of anything racist, though, and I generally think the current commentating team of Tim Daggett and Nastia Liukin is pretty strong from what I have seen of them…plus the new guy they had in Al’s spot for the American Cup was great. I think Tim can be a little ‘harsh’ from what I’ve seen, but I think it comes from a place of wanting to explain things so that people understand why scores turn out the way they do? I did watch the American Cup on NBC this year actually and Tim was really rough on Kenzo Shirai’s floor and on many pommels routines, but I liked that he was because as someone who doesn’t understand MAG as well, I enjoyed hearing a gymnast/coach/expert’s explanation of how wrong things were. Like, floor is easier to understand for me coming from WAG, but he still had lots of valuable insight there, and what he said about pommels was so informative. So yes, you probably don’t want to hear a commentator say something like “that skill should NEVER be credited!” about your gymnastics, but as a person who wants to be more knowledgeable, it’s like, well, the judges are going to judge this routine pretty harshly, so I want to know WHY, and if it means you have to be super critical and borderline harsh in explaining it, then so be it. Tim is so underrated as a commentator, honestly. He’s a genuinely smart guy who knows gymnastics, does his research, and is so excited to share what he knows, and I wish people gave him more credit.
Do you have any information about Whitney Bjerken’s status right now? Is she going to compete this season?
I believe she recently had surgery on her elbow and is out of competition for the time being.
I see a lot of talk about piking down a landing. What’s the difference between piking down and the normal bend? It seems impossible to not bend at least a little bit.
Yeah, it’s actually okay to bend a little bit right as you land, especially in your knees because that makes for a safer landing. But you kind of just know when someone is landing correctly compared to when someone is either buckling their knees or piking their hips? It’s hard to explain because I just see it and know, like, oh, that will get a deduction but this was a good landing. It’s all about angles, so if something is like 10 degrees shy of being straight, it’s pretty much fine, but anything larger than that would be a deduction. Because human beings aren’t protractors, it’s hard to say “that was 10 degrees!” and be super accurate, but that’s where your intuition kind of comes in and tells the difference between a slight bend and a landing that’s piked down. I think it’s also fairly obvious, once you’ve trained your eye a bit, to see the other aspects of a skill that would create a piked landing, like the skill being too short or her chest position being forward. If you see a slight bend in the hips I wouldn’t call that ‘piking down the landing’ but if it’s clearly a larger angle and if the skill overall has problems that would suggest it being short/not fully stretched, then you can probably call it piked down.
Do many elite gymnasts who drop back to Level 10 stick with gymnastics, or is that pretty much a quick stop on their way to doing something else with their lives?
Yeah, I would say a high majority of level 10s will continue on to NCAA, and most who don’t generally end their careers due to injury. I think there’s very few people who will make it all the way to level 10 and then just be like “okay, I’m done!” One of the biggest reasons for going that far and training that hard to reach level 10 is the promise of a college scholarship. Because there are so few level 10s competing — like about a thousand at any given time across all age levels — it means a significant number of gymnasts will get spots on NCAA teams, a higher percentage than probably any other sport between high school and college. Unless someone is a super weak level 10 unable to make any team, or unless she gets injured, she will most likely opt to do NCAA after her J.O. career wraps up.
When watching NCAA gymnastics I see people refer to “No. 3 LSU” or “No. 6 UCLA” but where do those numbers come from? Wasn’t LSU second and UCLA fourth last year?
The rankings change each week based on the team’s average score for the first half of the season and then on their regional qualifying score for the second half of the season. LSU was second at nationals last year, but they spent some time in third place in the rankings this year, though they eventually moved back up to second, and UCLA bounced around a bit in the rankings as well.
What is the lowest NCAA event/overall team score ever recorded?
The lowest I’ve ever seen was when Wilson College was in its final season and only had five gymnasts on the team. They couldn’t ever field a full lineup, and would have to go four-up four-count at meets where five scores counted, meaning they were four full scores behind every other team. Their high scores were around 150-160 that year, and their low scores were in the 120s. I think around 150-160 is the lowest I’ve ever seen for a team fielding full lineups on each event, usually coming from lower-ranked Division III teams.
Why does UCLA have such a huge roster? Wouldn’t it be better to have fewer girls and give them more experience?
They have a huge roster because they bring in a lot of walk-ons in case they lose some of their top depth due to injuries, in which case their walk-ons can step in and help them out. This year their depth is great, with pretty much everyone competing at full strength, but over the past several years, walk-ons have been invaluable to UCLA as they struggled with many injuries among their top gymnasts each season.
Why are punch fronts so much more common than punch backs?
I think most who do a back tuck out of a tumbling pass end up not making it super fluid. It just looks more janky to rebound backwards, mostly because many who land backwards tumbling passes end up coming up a bit short and thus they really have to correct, adjust, and then force the rebound, whereas almost all front passes are landed in the perfect position to punch out of them in a way that makes them great for rebounding into the next skill.
Is there a reason Utah and Oklahoma’s teams aren’t racially diverse?
It’s nothing in terms of the teams being racist, but I think it’s kind of a catch-22. They definitely recruit more diverse athletes than what their teams end up becoming, but I think when athletes who aren’t blonde white girls show up, they’re like “uhhh, where’s the diversity?!” maybe subconsciously or maybe they’re fully aware and pissed off, and so they go somewhere else that is more diverse. That said, Salt Lake City and Norman aren’t exactly diverse cities, so it’s like, the cycle continues with the white girls feeling happy and at home in these locations, whereas anyone who is a POC will want to go somewhere that they feel would be more diverse and accepting of other people. Anyway, I’m pretty sure Utah just signed its first African-American gymnast EVER, which is great and hopefully
Do you know what’s up with Mary Lou Retton’s twitter? She’s always retweeting things in Arabic.
She was hacked. And it’s the funniest thing in my life. Whenever I see something like “Mary Lou Retton retweeted Free condoms!!!” and it’s a picture of a half-naked woman with a passcode for an erotic chat with instructions in German I just screech laughing for the rest of the year.
Do gymnasts get deducted for hopping or stepping out of leaps on floor?
Yes, it would be a deduction for a lack of control, so depending on the severity of the hop, it’s usually about 0.1 or 0.3 for that, unless the leap is part of a series in which gymnasts can dance out of a leap into some choreo that goes into the next leap, then it’s not really a lack of control, but rather how it’s meant to look!
Have any of the American gymnasts from the 2004 or 2008 Olympic teams come forward with allegations of abuse by Larry Nassar, or have they publicly commented on the ongoing controversy?
No one has publicly come forward as a victim of his. My thought is that because his children were born/young around this time and with his daughter’s autism, he probably tried to focus on his family and hopefully that limited his abuse. Hopefully. Nothing would surprise me anymore, so I’m just waiting for the day some come forward.
Some have publicly commented, like Nastia Liukin (who has written a blog and has talked via social media as well) and Shawn Johnson (who made a YouTube video about the sentencing)…and Sam Peszek wrote an Instagram post not SO much about what happened, but about how her family was getting horrible comments and death threats because her mom was employed by USAG.
I think others have said things here and there, and Alicia Sacramone responded to one of our tweets about how disgusting he is when we were live-tweeting the sentencing, but no one has been super outspoken about it. My thoughts are that if you’re not a victim but you’re still somehow connected, it can be hard to come forward and talk about it, because you want to show that you’re supportive and bring your voice into the conversation as someone who was in that situation, but you also don’t want to make it about you or ‘steal the spotlight’ from the actual victims. It’s a fine line, and I think if some of them do speak out, they’ll be criticized about trying to capitalize on the situation by being interviewed, but if they don’t speak out, they’re criticized for not caring. So that’s probably why most have been keeping a low profile.
Peng Peng Lee was one of the most talented gymnasts Canada has ever had. Why didn’t she continue her elite career?
She was set to attend college in the 2012-2013 season, so right after getting injured prior to the London Olympics, she started her education and her NCAA career. She didn’t get to compete until two years into her collegiate career due to injury, so by the time she was healthy enough to compete it was 2014, which left her only about two years to prepare for Rio. She expressed interest in returning to elite competition, and she probably could’ve helped on bars and beam, but she never had the time to train at the elite level. Her collegiate season ended in April of 2016, which would’ve left just about a month until Canadian nationals and then just a few weeks after that for trials, so it wasn’t likely going to happen for her considering the amount of difficulty she’d have to add back, and she decided not to go for it.
Was it a surprise that Jordyn Wieber didn’t qualify for the all-around final? Or was it obvious she wasn’t going to?
Yes, it was a huge surprise. Coming in as the reigning world all-around champion, she was expected to be a major contender for gold, which she definitely was. With Gabby Douglas coming in as the next big thing, both Jordyn and Gabby were considered the golden girls for Team USA, and Aly Raisman was kind of billed as the one there for the team, with her bars most likely holding her back and keeping her from challenging against her teammates. But then Aly had the meet of her life in qualifications, and neither Gabby nor Jordyn were at their best, but Gabby was just oh-so-slightly stronger, and so she got in and Jordyn was so close yet so far.
It was a major bummer, but I think Aly was so underestimated in terms of what she could do as an all-arounder, so even though Jordyn and Gabby were the stronger all-arounders and on the best day for all three those two would’ve come out on top, Aly was close enough that she could take advantage of small mistakes from the other two. I think had people considered Aly competition for the other two, it wouldn’t have been so shocking, but all of the press going in was about how Jordyn and Gabby were unquestionably going to get the all-around spots and Aly was just kind of background noise. I definitely saw Aly as a threat, but I thought she’d get in over Gabby, mostly because I expected nerves from Gabby. Considering Aly had made it into the all-around finals in 2010 and 2011, I knew it would be likely for her to get in again, but I don’t think anyone expected her to outscore both of the ‘golden girls.’
Why did Dare Maxwell retire? What is going on with Stanford’s bars lineup? Why does the team not make or encourage one of the women who doesn’t make lineups focus on bars in order to fill that sixth spot?
I don’t know the exact reasoning behind her retirement, but I know there was lots of bad juju at Stanford last year before some of the coaching team left, and that could’ve played into her decision. She’s also a busy gal, studying to be a surgeon and tackling non-gymnastics pursuits, so it’s possible she just outgrew the sport and decided to move on. I’m sure Stanford is doing all they can to make sure they have six athletes on all events, but they also want to keep the athletes’ health in mind, and so they’re not going to push an athlete to do an event she’s not ready to compete just to get that sixth score in there. With Stanford being so academically challenging to get into, Stanford is at a loss in terms of bringing in enough top gymnastics talent to generate true depth, and so they’re not always going to be able to fill all spots, especially when they have injuries and retirements.
Why is Ragan Smith not listed to start at Oklahoma until the 2019-2020 season? She’ll be 18 during the 2018-2019 season.
Not everyone starts college at 18. I started when I was 24. 🙂 And many gymnasts who are trying to tackle elite pursuits will push back college until they’re 20 or 21 so they can take advantage of as much time as they can at the elite level. If Ragan begins attending Oklahoma in the fall of 2019, she’ll have just turned 19, which will be the same age as many other freshmen. But I could see her pushing back college until she gets a shot at the 2020 Games, in which case she’d start in the fall of 2020 at the age of 20. This was the case with Bridget Sloan, who pushed for the 2012 Games and then started college that fall at age 20.
Is going to watch the Youth Olympic Games worth it?
Yes! The depth won’t be super great, but there are a ton of really talented 2003-born gymnasts who are likely to attend, so you’ll get to see at least five or so gymnasts who could end up becoming major threats going into the Tokyo Olympics. That, and it’s a great competition to recognize girls who might be up-and-comers for smaller programs…I always find these competitions awesome because you get to see gymnasts who might not normally make finals or be profiled.
Now that Becky Downie has decided to go for a final quad, do you think she has a chance of making 2020? Would she be on the team or going for an individual spot?
I think she has a chance, but definitely for an individual spot. It would be hard for her to get a team spot with just bars (and technically also beam though I don’t think she’d be competitive enough there unless she upgraded). But she could easily go as a bars specialist with the hopes of making the final or potentially medaling.
Is there a reason why Christina Desiderio isn’t in the floor lineup yet for LSU?
She was in and out of the lineup this year depending on the team’s needs. She ended up competing more than not, in eight meets out of fourteen, but for LSU they make you compete for your lineup spot each week, and because she was kind of on the border not as one of the top floor workers, she was back and forth between being in the lineup and out of it, which I’m guessing came down to how her practices went each week.
If gymnasts perform the first flip open in piked full-ins, would that be a deduction for not maintaining a piked position?
No, I think judges realize that twisting in a true pike isn’t really something that happens, and so it’s pretty accepted that the first flip in a full-in is always going to be a bit open, if not fully laid-out.
Do you think it’s sexist that men have six events and women only four?
I don’t think it’s sexist, per se, especially since back in the days of truly hellish sexism, women had about the same number of events as men, and it only decreased because events changed and women’s events were kind of combined (like ‘portable apparatus’ and ‘floor’ turned into just floor, parallel bars turned into kind of a mix between p-bars and high bar with the uneven bars, etc.) or gotten rid of completely (they did rings for a hot second in the 1940s) as they fine-tuned the apparatuses. The way men’s events morphed ended up being that they had two more events than women did, but I don’t think that came from a sexist place. The most sexist thing that went into the evolution of the apparatuses was making women’s floor into more of a dance whereas men’s focused on tumbling because it was the 1950s and women ‘had to be feminine.’ This legacy remains, but otherwise I think the apparatuses just happened to evolve so that men ended up with a couple more.
Where is Laurie Hernandez training now?
I’ve seen her training at a couple of gyms, but Premier in New Jersey seems to be where she ends up the most. I honestly don’t think she’s been back seriously enough yet to be in a gym regularly, but if she wants to stay close to home, Premier makes the most sense for her.
Shang Chunsong performed beautifully on floor in the qualifying round in Rio, and she had an ultra high D score. Can you explain in layman’s terms why she didn’t even make the final?
The biggest issues in her routine were bent knees and crossed legs in her 3½ to punch front, her 3½ was at least a quarter short and was borderline almost not credited, her punch front shape out of her first pass wasn’t precise and she punched at an angle that she had to correct while then taking a 0.3 hop to the side, she again had bent and crossed legs in her triple full, her knees in the punch front out of that tucked, her knees were soft in her 2½, though not as severe as in her previous twists, and her chest was lower than horizontal in her barani out of it, her back leg was slightly shy on her switch ring, and her knees were soft throughout her double pike, which she landed with her chest below horizontal and she had to take a step forward in addition to adjusting after that. It wasn’t a finals-worthy routine, at least not compared to the others who made it in, all of whom had comparatively strong performances in qualifications. She has many deductions on this event that are basically built-in deductions (most notably the soft knees on everything as well as the crossed legs in her twists), so those on top of her mistakes in the first and last passes really hurt her E score, but her difficulty allowed her to be able to get a total score that was only two tenths away from the final.
Would you be able to explain Nastia Liukin’s 7.7 bars D score in her respective code of points?
I don’t have a copy of that code of points so I can’t get in-depth in terms of all of the connection values between skills, though they were mostly similar to what they are now, as were the individual element values (with minor exceptions). What you’re probably wanting to know is how she got a score that high, though, and in the most basic way possible, it’s because that code counted ten elements into the difficulty in addition to starting out with a 2.5 CR compared to the current code, which counts only eight elements and starts out with a 2.0 CR. Basically gymnasts in that quad started out with a base that’s 0.5 higher than the current base, and assuming we’re talking about a top gymnast who wouldn’t have a problem adding difficult skills into her set, she’d also start out 0.8 higher in terms of her skill value if those two additional counted skills were both Ds. A strong bar worker in 2008 has at least a 1.3 difficulty advantage in that code compared to a strong bar worker today, so someone like Fan Yilin, Nina Derwael, or Elena Eremina in this quad would be in the neighborhood of a 7.7 D score in the 2008 code, if that gives you perspective.
What is your opinion on the Rodionenkos?
I think they’re not great? I think a lot of their decisions are silly and I don’t agree with a lot of their choices, especially in terms of driving certain gymnasts into the ground while banishing others to Siberia basically. Like, I don’t enjoy that they pick their favorites and don’t really funnel any resources or attention into the non-favorites, until they need them to help the team and then as soon as that event is over, they go back into the dungeon. I also don’t think they’re at all respectful toward gymnasts from outside Russia just in the way they talk about them, especially in how they talk about their weight and bodies. Anyway, they’re like 800 years old, it’s time to phase them out.
How far could a gymnast stretch the rule about no lyrics in floor music? Could someone use pseudo-Latin? Or this Italian song that’s designed to sound like American English but is actually gibberish?
I’ve definitely heard low-key gibberish in floor music before, so I don’t think it would be a problem outright, but I could see it being subjective and I’d imagine the gymnast would probably check in with the technical committee to clear it before using it.
How do you think Norah Flatley will do as a Bruin?
I think she will be awesome, especially stylistically. I think they’ll be able to bring in the aspects of who she already is as a competitor and make her stand out even more, and then they’ll also add to that with that unique Bruin flair on beam and floor. I am so excited for her; she’s stunning and will be a knockout as a collegiate gymnast.
Did McKayla Maroney ever show interest in a college program?
Not that I can recall. She never committed or visited anywhere as a junior, and then by the time she was a first-year senior and was one of the best in the country, I think it became clear that she’d likely go pro as soon as it made sense to, which was right after worlds in 2011.
Considering Jordan Chiles has always been good on vault, why do you think she didn’t start learning a second vault until recently?
She had been training them but with her coaching change last year and everything else she had to worry about when reaching the senior level, it was no longer a priority, and so she focused on trying to hit her all-around events. Once she got back to a decent level there, she was able to bring a second vault back into the mix, and she just did both at camp (with a tsuk full being her second vault). Tbh, because her second vault isn’t super competitive, she wouldn’t be a major contender at worlds and so I think it makes sense to focus elsewhere in that case, especially since she’ll easily be taken down by both Jade Carey and likely Simone Biles as well domestically. Unless she’s trying to upgrade it and can get her Amanar back with a tsuk double or something, there’s very little point in going crazy for a second vault that won’t get her any further than she’d get without it.
Is there any potential eligibility issue for McKenna Kelley running her YouTube channel and getting paid from the ads?
Yes, student athletes in other sports have had to leave their sports in the past because they were profiting off of YouTube accounts. But I think she has to be making a certain amount of money before it becomes an issue, and I’m sure there are about a million people in the athletic department at LSU who would put an end to it or at least warn her if she was putting her collegiate career at risk.
What are the costs for competing at the elite level annually? How much would it cost to go to a top program like Texas Dreams or MG Elite?
It’s usually around $50K a year just as a raw estimate. Training is just the half of it; when you consider travel and necessities like grips/leos and paying for upkeep (some girls will have a nutritionist, sports psychologist, personal trainer, physical therapy, etc.) and generally private school costs as well (since the majority go private or do online programs)…it’s expensive. I say $50K as an estimate, though obviously some may pay more and others may pay less, and then there are also scholarships and funds for gymnasts who are at a high level but aren’t from affluent families.
In Kenzo Shirai’s Instagram video of him performing a Mustafina on floor, Gabby Douglas said he did it better than her but I’ve only ever seen her perform a Memmel. Did she ever compete a Mustafina?
No…she probably just meant the Y turn in general and didn’t actually count the rotations.
Do you know how the Y turn got named? Why is it called that and not an I turn considering the definition literally says the legs should be at 180 degrees?
It’s just kind of a colloquial name, not the actual name…in the code it’s referred to as a turn with legs in the split position, but I think when you look at it front-on, it ends up looking like a Y because the standing leg is the bottom of the Y, the leg that’s up is one of the top parts of the Y, and the upper body is the other side of the top of the Y.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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