Vasiliki Millousi of Greece
It’s time for the 219th 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.
Besides Oksana Chusovitina, who are the gymnasts with the longest-lasting careers?
A crap ton of gymnasts competing right now have been around for a decade or longer at the senior international elite level…there are tons of gymnasts in their late 20s and early 30s who have competed throughout three or four Olympic cycles, which is really impressive considering the majority of gymnasts only last a single cycle. I think Daniele Hypolito is probably second to Chuso? And Vasiliki Millousi as well, with Jessica Lopez a quad behind them. Back in the day (meaning like the 1950s and 1960s) it was more common to stick around into adulthood because the skills weren’t as demanding, but in recent history I think Chuso takes the cake, and then Daniele and Vasiliki are next in line. I remember back when Chuso was 32 in the Beijing Games and everyone was like “OMG GRANDMA CHUSO!!!!” and now she’s a decade older and there are a solid number of gymnasts around age 32, so while ten years ago 32 was considered super old and impressive, now it’s like, there have casually been around a dozen gymnasts who have competed at a high international level in their late 20s/early 30s over the past few years.
What does it take for a college team to work up through the ranks and become a top team? I live in Alaska and would love to see UAA move up! Is it coaches or who they’re able to recruit or a combination?
It’s mostly about who they’re able to recruit, but then that comes back to who the coach is as well so it’s all kind of tied together. Getting the strongest recruits obviously makes for the strongest program, though if there is a program with solid but not the best recruits and they have a coach who really knows how to work with them, they can become a stronger program if not a top ten or something. It can be a kind of catch 22 with recruiting, because the top schools will continue to attract the top recruits, and so they’ll stay the top schools and the lower-ranked schools will stay lower-ranked. There is definitely some movement between programs outside the top ten…programs have been ranked 40 one year and then significantly move up the next when a couple of really strong and underrated gymnasts come in or when the coach takes a new approach or something. Alaska has certainly seen better days as a program and I think they could definitely jump 10+ spots in the ranking again someday, but Alaska also has the problem of being in a location that’s not as desirable as other locations if gymnasts don’t want to move super far away from home or travel great distances for meets or if they just hate snow and cold weather! They could have the best coach on the planet and still not attract as many strong recruits as UCLA because of all of the other factors.
What makes a team DI, DII, or DIII? School size? Area population?
It’s about university size. Division I schools are generally large universities with a crap ton of money that gets funneled into the athletic department, allowing them to have world-class facilities and top-rated coaches that attract the best athletes in the country. Division II programs are smaller universities or colleges, and athletes can get scholarships here, but generally do a mix of partial scholarship and self-funding, and Division III schools are generally small colleges that don’t have a huge focus on sports so there are no scholarship opportunities and the facilities/amenities for athletes won’t be as great.
Does anyone know who will now be providing the leos for the U.S. now that Under Armour has decided not to sponsor them?
GK Elite is now the sole leo provider for the U.S. program.
What are the team sizes for Euros in Glasgow?
There will be teams of five, I believe with three up three count in both qualifications and finals, unlike worlds which is 5-4-3 in qualifications and 5-3-3 in finals.
For college floor routines, do the teammates decide on a piece of choreo they’ll all do with the gymnast competing, or they do just all do stuff along with her and one gets popular?
They generally pick the section that has the gestures easiest to do from the sidelines (so like, the arm movements, not the bits where she’s like, jumping down to the floor in splits or whatever). It’s always the more showy arm choreo usually in the middle of the routine, or the arm gestures right before a pass or something.
I’ve heard people make negative comments about WOGA’s Tkachevs in the past. Are they known for being low?
I think some Tkachevs that I’ve seen from WOGA have been low just in thinking of a few girls off the top of my head who had Tkachevs in their routines but I’ve never heard WOGA really criticized for them. Considering they have multiple different coaching teams, and considering these gymnasts with low Tkachevs come from different coaches (or started out learning Tkachevs at other gyms before moving to WOGA), it doesn’t seem like it’s a WOGA issue, just that their most prominent gymnasts with Tkachevs just don’t happen to be great at that skill.
What happened to the Georgia Gymdogs? How’d they lose their powerhouse status?
When Suzanne Yoculan retired, the coach who came in wasn’t quite as strong and even though Suzanne set him up with a solid group of recruits, they didn’t end up working out as well (namely Shayla Worley, who was supposed to come in as Georgia’s next big thing). They ended up going from national champions in 2009 — the last year for both Suzanne and her star athlete Courtney Kupets — to 13th a year later, missing out on nationals after tying for second place at regionals but losing the tie-breaker.
That was basically the major downfall, and they were never able to quite get back from that, though they have had many successful seasons even if they’re not a top five program at the moment. I think their current team could’ve been a great one without all of their injuries, and they have a couple of incoming classes that have the potential to change the game, and I think the fact that they were able to put up really strong numbers this season even with a bare-bones team just shows how great they could be at full strength.
What is the purpose of a vault timer when they do the roll out in warmups? Sang Yan was paralyzed doing this. They always seem so dangerous.
Rolling out of a timer isn’t dangerous at all. There were circumstances surrounding Yan’s vault timer that led to her making a mistake in the air that resulted in a poor landing — I believe she stated that what she was doing was easy and safe, but because a Romanian coach distracted her by moving a mat out of her way while she was expected to land on it, she ended up unaware of her surroundings in the air and it led to her mistakes. It was a freak accident if anything, and she ended up suing the Goodwill Games organizers for poor management and disorganized facilities.
Do you have any updates on Maggie Musselman? Did she retire?
I believe Maggie ended up with an illness that was unrelated to gymnastics, but she ended up retiring completely because of it, unfortunately. A bummer, she was such a gorgeous gymnast and would’ve been such an incredible NCAA competitor!
Do you think Laurie Hernandez is happy with her career? If she never makes a comeback, do you think she regrets going pro and missing out on NCAA?
I’m pretty sure Laurie is thrilled with both everything in her career and everything that came from her career. She could never do another gymnastics-related thing again in her life and still have reached a point far beyond what most could dream of.
Did it ever become clear why Danna Durante cut three gymnasts from Georgia last season? Was that related to her firing?
All I heard about this was that they were cut for not being ‘team players’ or something related to them having bad attitudes in the gym that affected their teammates and the team’s overall success (or lack thereof). I believe this decision was ultimately related to her being let go, but it wasn’t the sole reason. I think they wanted to make a change due to the program’s struggles in general, and she ended up being the scapegoat for those issues.
What is the possibility that Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, and Laurie Hernandez all return to the Olympics?
I think it’s more than likely for Simone, not impossible for Laurie (though apparently she doesn’t want to return to the all-around so she’d really have to step up her game to get an individual spot), and not likely for Aly given that she seems to no longer have the desire to train for 2020 with everything else going on in her quest to take down USAG.
What level can we expect for Aliya Mustafina in her comeback?
At first, I’d keep expectations low. Even if she’s doing full difficulty in the gym, it’s hard to come back competitively after nearly two years away, and throwing a pregnancy into the mix is like “GIRL WHAAAAAT.” But if you keep them low, she will definitely surprise you with WHATEVER she does, even if she just kind of exists and does a level 8 routine, which I doubt she will, but again — low expectations lead to happy surprises. Based on training videos I doubt she’s lost any of her Aliya-ness that we all love, so expect her to be a dramatic presence of queenliness even if she crashes one billion times. And know that even if her first performance back isn’t what she hopes it’ll be, she’ll be ready when she absolutely needs to be ready, because that is what Aliya does.
Is it a stylistic choice to tap your feet together and then return to a straddle mid-flight on a stalder Tkachev?
It’s more a technical choice than stylistic. Basically just a technique preference depending on who taught you the basics of a Tkachev, the kinds of drills you did, what worked best for you personally, and so on.
Why haven’t the coaches of Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, Maggie Nichols, and Simone Biles made any comments about Larry Nassar?
Mihai Brestyan has at this point, and others have been more low-key about it but they have definitely made comments with the exception of McKayla’s coaches, and that’s probably because they’re in a legal battle and can’t say much. I’d say most are keeping their opinions on the DL because of the legal aspects to what’s going on, which could end up involving some if not all of them. Like, given that Maggie and her coach were the whistleblowers, I’d imagine they’ve gotta be tied up in legal concerns somewhere and probably can’t be as publicly open with their thoughts related to the case.
Why was Larry Nassar such a highly regarded doctor? His credentials have been listed in nearly every article and it seems unimpressive. What was it that led people to think he was “the best of the best?” It seems he didn’t do anything to treat his patients; he just abused them. Where did his reputation for being a brilliant physician come from?
Word of mouth and how people think of you can turn you into a king even if your results suggest otherwise. With Larry, he just kind of worked his way into a position on the team, and then because he toed the line with the Karolyis, letting girls compete while injured and telling the Karolyis what they wanted to hear, they kept him around because they knew he’d do their bidding. And because the Karolyis kept him around, it made him look like the gymnastics doctor GOD, because wouldn’t the national team staff bring in the best doctor in the country to treat their top-notch Olympic athletes?! Bam. Reputation by association, and everyone was banging down his door. It seems like some girls do say some of his treatments worked for them, including some of those who were abused by him who said they trusted him with this ‘treatment’ because he helped them previously overcome a knee injury or a wrist injury or something, but obviously THE ‘treatment’ was just abuse and had nothing to do with getting anyone better.
I just realized that the Ling and Ono are considered as two different techniques of the same skill. Does this mean you can only perform one in a routine?
Correct, they’re the same thing in the code of points so even though there are minor differences, they can’t be performed in the same routine. They both begin in L grip and change to reverse grip, but the one teeny tiny difference is that the Ling finishes in L grip whereas the Ono stays in reverse grip, though because this is so minor, they don’t differentiate between the two. The Healy, meanwhile, begins in reverse grip and finishes in L grip, so it’s considered a different skill because it’s the opposite of how the others work.
Do you think it’s fair that NCAA rankings are made with scores from different meets, if judging can vary significantly from one to the other?
There’s really no other way to rank them, so the RQS comes in to kind of even things out in some way, but no system is going to be perfect for a subjective team sport unless they’re all competing in the same room at the same exact time, which is absolutely impossible with 82 teams. I think even though judging can and does vary, there are still clear differences between the very top teams and those that aren’t quite at that level, so that doesn’t bother me as much because it’s not like Maryland or something would be at the same level as LSU if they also got SEC judging every week, but where it does start to hurt teams is at the border for that 36th spot where they cut off for teams for regionals. At the end of this regular season, you had about eight teams that were trying to fit into that top 36, and it became super apparent that some would go absolutely crazy with their judging near the end to increase their chances (Central Michigan magically posting one of its best scores in history despite scoring a full point lower all season long, Utah State basically doing the same thing, etc). I think there needs to be some kind of judge review board where meets can be audited and a team of impartial judges secretly comes in to judge the same meet accurately and if the home judges are more than a certain amount off, they get imprisoned for life (jk, but they should face some sort of punishment that wouldn’t allow them to judge for a year or something). I live for cool moments in sports, like a team getting exactly what they need to win at the last second of the meet, but this happens every single hour in NCAA gymnastics and it’s because many judging situations are ridiculous.
Of the freshman former elites in 2017, whose successes surprised you? Which were no-brainers? Would you have expected Maggie Nichols to shine above the rest? Who struggled?
I expected Maggie, MyKayla Skinner, and Kyla Ross to be the biggest standouts, but while Maggie’s success isn’t really surprising, I definitely didn’t expect her to be as almost PERFECT as she’s been in so many of her routines! I also admired Kyla’s return to the sport after a long absence between her elite days and NCAA days, and thought she was a gorgeous performer even though she had some struggles throughout and didn’t really stand out as a solid competitor until her sophomore year. Even with the occasional mistake, when she hit, she was incredible and her scores speak to that. I think the same goes for Madison Kocian, who proved herself as more than a bars specialist in her first season at UCLA even while dealing with injury.
Of this group, MyKayla had the most successful freshman season in my opinion — she was the only one to compete the all-around in every single meet of the freshman season, she competed at the highest level of difficulty combined across all four routines than anyone in NCAA history, and she hit every single routine she performed, placing second all-around at nationals. People expected her to score poorly in NCAA because her elite form was sometimes weak, but while I knew she’d clean up and look solid, I was absolutely not expecting her to be as explosive, solid, dependable, and clean as she ended up looking. Her not getting Pac 12 Freshman of the Year was a joke, and all because jealous coaches vote for these awards based on personality and not achievement. I can’t think of any freshman in the past decade that has had a standout season in the way MyKayla did, honestly. There have been plenty of superstar freshmen at the NCAA level, but none with difficulty close to MyKayla’s who have also hit every single competitive routine.
Otherwise, I think there were a ton of super productive former elites who were freshmen last year. I think the ones who are ending up being most valuable to their teams are Courtney McGregor of New Zealand for Boise State, Alexis Beucler of the U.S. for NC State, Sabrina Vega of the U.S. for Georgia, Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley of the U.S. for Florida, Kirsten Peterman of Canada for Maryland, Isis Lowery of Australia for Oregon State, Madison Copiak of Canada for Washington, Antonia Alicke of Germany for UIC, and Felicia Hano of the U.S. for UCLA.
What has Shawn Johnson been doing since the Olympics? Is she doing anything besides her YouTube channel/social media celeb thing?
She’s basically living her life and running businesses that happen to involve her life but while it seems like she’s just casually hanging out on social media all day and getting paid for it, as someone who works in influencer marketing, let me tell ya — she’s a badass businesswoman FER SURE. I hate this idea that some former athletes now “just want to rely on fame.” Like, that might be how it looks on the outside, but they’re not just sitting around watching TV all day and waiting for people to send them stuff and give them money. It’s a hella competitive and intense industry, and the amount of work that goes into it is insane and exhausting.
How does a person keep up-to-date with everything happening with the Larry Nassar bonfire without a daily volcanic rage-o-meter?
I mean, I’ve wanted to set myself on fire on a DAILY BASIS following everything as it unfolded, especially during the sentencing and every time I hear more about details emerging suggesting how terrible everyone within USAG has been, but I basically just take a step back from it at times to keep myself sane. Part of me feels like I owe it to the victims to learn everything about what happened so we know what to look for to keep it from happening again, but the other part of me just wants to turn my brain off sometimes and not pay super close attention. I usually try to take the info in spurts…if I see it on social media or something, I’ll bookmark it but ignore it for the time being, and then I’ll take it all in at once so my rage isn’t constant and endless, but rather contained to just that one moment.
I’ve noticed every NCAA season there are a few gymnasts who are suspended from their teams for ‘rule violations.’ Is that just a catch-all term for everything from missing practices to underage drinking to anything else that breaks the rules? Do they lose their scholarships? Can they leave the school and join another gymnastics team?
Yeah, it’s definitely a catch-all without wanting to get into specifics. It’s probably usually related to partying, being difficult in practice or not following team rules related to sportsmanship, or performing poorly in their academics. Some get dismissed to the point where they lose scholarships, but most just take a low-key suspension and come back later. Some who have been dismissed have joined other programs. My favorite example is Lauren Li, who got booted from Penn State’s program for shoplifting, and she got picked up by LSU, so her punishment for not only breaking rules but breaking the law was literally getting a spot on a potential national championship team.
Now that we know Maggie Nichols and her coach went up the chain of command with their concerns about Larry Nassar, how likely do you think it is that the Karolyis were not culpable in hiding this miserable thing?
I think it’s not for me to say what the Karolyis did or didn’t know, as I wasn’t there for any of it, so my opinion is solely based on what others actually involved as victims, parents, non-victim national team members, and others connected to the case have said. I also want to say that if a survivor whats to blame Martha, she has the right to. If she wants to blame her club coaches, she has the right to. If she wants to blame her parents, she has the right to. If she wants to blame USAG and the USOC, she has the right to. If she only wants to blame Larry, she has the right to. These are just my thoughts and opinions based on what I’ve heard and how I kind of think about it all, but I’m not saying definitively that I know either way, and because many people who were abused had vastly different experiences in their dealings with their personal coaches, the national team staff, and USAG, there are going to be people who blame some but not others, and vice versa. And that’s ENTIRELY up to them.
A couple of victims say “there’s no way Martha couldn’t have known what was happening” but most say that she may not have known, but was still responsible for their well-being and for creating a culture that led to this abuse. I’ve heard from a few former elites (not victims) who were regulars at the national team level, and they’ve all confirmed that their coaches were in charge of them at the ranch and Martha had little to do with them and wouldn’t directly tell them things like “you can’t eat this!” or “you have to do this,” but because she had an influence on many coaches who wanted to make a good impression on her, if she said gymnasts should or shouldn’t do something, many coaches would enforce that as a rule with their gymnasts.
One example…girls who were under the impression that they should eat very little at camp because there was a pressure to keep food intake low, most felt this way because their personal coaches put that pressure on them. One girl told me she would bring tons of food with her and share it with the other girls because her coach was a rockstar and an insane advocate for her athletes, and didn’t limit food in any way. If her athlete needed a snack after practice or carbs with dinner, she got them. This athlete noted the poor food available at ranch so would bring her own from the grocery store, and the other girls whose coaches either limited their food intake or low-key stared them down when they ate, making them feel insecure about eating in front of them, would clamor around this girl asking for her to share her snacks when they were safely in the bedrooms and they were all shocked that she was ‘allowed’ to have food with her because their coaches wouldn’t have allowed it.
However, because most gymnasts were far closer with their personal coaches than they were with Martha — who was basically a mythical figure to a majority of gymnasts, especially those not at the very top — the issues they experienced at the ranch are hard to blame on their coaches, and so it’s easier to blame Martha as the person in charge of everything. John Geddert is about as abusive as personal coaches come and could likely face prison time for what he’s done, but as I write this, I believe Jordyn Wieber is still close to him and has yet to place any blame on him for her abuse, possibly because her perspective of her situation is that she enjoyed her time with him and maybe didn’t realize a lot of his behavior was abusive or conducive to Larry’s abuse, but rather necessary if she wanted to win, so for her Martha was the devil and the one responsible. Then you have Aly Raisman who hasn’t yet publicly blamed her club coach OR Martha, likely because she had a great working relationship with both, but rather put all of her blame on USA Gymnastics as an institution. And then there’s Mattie Larson, who had a terrible relationship with her coaches on top of fearing Martha, and so she blames both for what Larry did.
So you can see how hard it is for me as an outsider to be like “YES, MARTHA KNEW!!!” or “MARTHA TOTALLY DIDN’T KNOW!!” because everyone involved in the situation will only blame or not blame her based on their experience with her. Having heard a LOT of people both publicly and privately talk about the ranch and their experiences, I personally don’t think Martha knew what was happening in terms of the extent of the abuse, and based on her reaction to finding out, which I heard from a coach, she was just as blindsided as most parents and club coaches who also trusted Larry with their kids. I do think how she used Larry (as a doctor she knew would clear the girls to compete even if they physically shouldn’t have been allowed to) was problematic in itself, and it’s more than evident that the overall culture at the ranch was TRASH and harmful to the athletes. I also think Martha was indirectly responsible for how the majority of girls felt about themselves at camp, because even if she wasn’t directly telling the girls not to eat or screaming at them for falling in a competition, the attitude, demeanor, and culture that SHE created made the coaches feel like they should be super tough with their kids, and it made the gymnasts feel terrified to go against what was ultimately her word.
She is absolutely responsible for the creation of that culture, and because that culture existed, Larry was able to befriend many of the girls, he was able to gain their trust, and he was able to abuse them. So while she may not have known exactly what was going on behind closed doors (or in some cases, directly in front of coaches and parents), I do think she is culpable as someone who should be held responsible for a culture of abuse. But in my GUT I don’t think she knew what was happening. I think it’s telling that the majority of the survivors who were at the ranch don’t name her outright as having known and covered it up in the way others within USAG’s system had done. There are some that say “how could she NOT have known?” but you can also say this about coaches and parents who were physically in the room as their gymnast was being abused, and I think it’s really unfair to say “how could [whoever] not know?” because that’s how Larry got away with this for so long — he was manipulative, someone people trusted, and was excited by the fact that he could basically abuse children in public and not only get away with it, but come off as some hero within the sport.
At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone came forward with concrete evidence showing that she knew all along and continued to let it happen, but only because really nothing can surprise me anymore in this case. But at the same time, I’m hoping deep within my soul that given her love for the girls who came up through her system and who loved her back enough to name their 2016 team the “final five” to pay respects to her, she would not have seen one of them being sexually abused only to turn her back on them.
Once USAG knew about the horrors of Larry Nassar’s actions, did they do anything to communicate with all of the national gymnasts who were ‘treated’ by him? Did they explain what they knew and what was appropriate and inappropriate? Did they provide counseling options?
Nope. Even the victims didn’t know what was going on. I believe Aly Raisman said it was like six months before someone came to talk to her about it, and after that it was just kind of in limbo with no one addressing it with her until more than a year after she and Maggie Nichols had their infamous conversation at the ranch. From my understanding, I think USAG’s outreach was all related to legal concerns and not from a mental health/counseling standpoint. The survivors have been more or less left on their own to figure out how to deal, though in the wake of his sentencing, thankfully some groups have come forward to raise funds and offer support for the survivors who need help.
Is there a non-profit that’s working with the athletes impacted by Larry Nassar?
USA Gymnastics and MSU both have funds to cover counseling services for the survivors, but if you’re looking to donate, I’d go with Saving Our Survivors.
Why in this speech did Shawn Johnson state that she was the Olympic team captain in 2008, that she was guaranteed a spot in 2012, and that they were going to take away a spot from one of the other girls at the 2012 Games and give it to her? Why is she lying about these things?
When I first saw this I was also confused about what she was saying but I’m assuming it was just for the ‘drama’ of her speech or something. I doubt she was thinking that gymternet people would watch it and call her out for being a liar or whatever, since the speech was unrelated to gymnastics and was supposed to be ‘motivational’ to inspire people and that means people tend to embellish a little. It happens sometimes. Entire books get written because people embellish stories for whatever reason, so this wasn’t THAT bad, I think she just probably wanted to drive it home that she was a big deal in case people didn’t realize who she was and how epic her legit story is on its own.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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