It’s time for the 220th 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.
What’s up with Florida this season?
I’m so glad I got to this question after NCAAs because a week ago, I would’ve been like blah blah blah, they’re just not at a top level compared to previous seasons and are kind of in a rebuilding period without any top stars at the moment, which makes it more difficult for them to contend against teams that do have more star power and a higher competitive level. That’s definitely how I feel about their regular season, but then they showed up to nationals and had their two best competitions of the season back-to-back, which was mind-blowingly awesome. They still had a few clean-up areas, but I thought compared to the majority of this season, they looked fantastic, so now my answer for why the earlier part of the season was so lackluster was because they were maybe trying to save their best for when it counted? To come in from fifth place all season without once factoring into the top four and end up finishing third was awesome.
Why do you think Aly Raisman was allowed to compete all-around over Laurie Hernandez? Didn’t Laurie outscore her at nationals and trials?
I think with two reigning Olympic all-around finalists coming back for a second Olympics, no one else is going to stand a chance for getting in over them, unless they’re practically guaranteed gold in the way Simone Biles was. Laurie was a good all-arounder, but she was more or less at the same level as Aly (and Gabby Douglas, who also was chosen over Laurie for the all-around prelims spot). Unless something went drastically wrong, it didn’t matter WHO the U.S. put in its all-around spots…the U.S. was going to get gold and silver. Because USAG is nothing if not a marketing machine (hi Steve Penny!), sometimes decisions are made that favor the ‘story’ over anything else. It’s why McKayla Maroney got an all-around spot in 2013, it’s why Aly and Gabby got all-around spots over Maggie Nichols in 2015, and it’s why Aly and Gabby got all-around spots over Laurie in 2016.
The U.S. likes to say “what happens at camp matters more than at competitions,” so it didn’t really matter that Laurie placed ahead of Aly and Gabby at nationals and trials…they could say “yes that’s true, but then Aly and Gabby outperformed Laurie at camp.” That may have been true, or maybe it wasn’t, but either way, it wasn’t SO off-base to put both of them in over Laurie when all were capable of more or less the same score. I think they ended up saying that Laurie was “injured” and couldn’t do bars, which was BS because right when it was announced, Maggie Haney went to the press about how unfair it was that Laurie didn’t get a spot, but I mean…as good as Laurie was, she wasn’t good enough to cancel out sending the reigning Olympic all-around champ and the girl who got so close to an all-around medal in 2012 but ended up losing it on a tie-break, whose whole comeback story was about how she wanted redemption in the all-around. Like it or not, these things do come into play. Had either Gabby or Aly been getting, like, a 55 AA and not hitting events, it would’ve been a different story, but because they were all basically at the same level, it made way more sense on the business side of things for USAG to choose the two with the story.
Could a gymnast compete a tsuk along with a kas or are they too similar to be considered as two different vault families?
They’re the same thing. The only difference between a tsuk or a kas is that they twist in different directions when coming off the horse, but the pre-flight is the same — a handspring quarter/half-on. There are four families that elites can choose from, and that’s handspring, handspring with a turn in pre-flight (tsuk or kas), Yurchenko, and Yurchenko half-on.
What were the composition requirements for bars, beam, and floor in the 2009-2012 quad? I know a combination pass was required on floor, but I think all of the other requirements from 2013-2016 were there as well. Was there just an extra requirement or did it get replaced by something I haven’t noticed?
I don’t have a code of points form that quad, but from what I remember I’m 99% sure all of the CR were the same as they were in the 2013-2016 quad? There may have been variations in terms of what routines required in terms of their construction, but they weren’t necessarily COMPOSITION requirements that built the 2.5 CR in that code.
Oh, YAS, update, I finally found a code. Bars and beam had the same CR, but you’re right about floor — one CR was “one acro line with two different saltos” and another CR was “salto with double BA and salto with min. 360 LA turn.” In the 2013-2016 code, they got rid of that one acro line with two saltos bit and split that other CR into two, so in the 2012 quad a gymnast had to do both a double-salto pass and a twisting pass and get 0.5 if both were met, but in the 2016 quad a gymnast still had to do both, but got 0.5 for one and 0.5 for the other for a total of 1.0.
Do you know to what extent coaches like Mihai Brestyan and Aimee Boorman knew what was going on with Larry Nassar?
They didn’t know at all. And were frankly heartbroken and mad at themselves for not knowing, which is a fairly common reaction…even though it wasn’t their fault, they feel like they should’ve done more to prevent it, even though they had no way of knowing what was going on.
Do you believe Katelyn Ohashi was paced too quickly as an elite?
I think at some points in her career, her skills were a little ambitious for her…beam is generally okay to pace a bit quicker, which is why so many of the tiny ones consider beam their best event, as the skills are fairly easy and the only battle is just performing them well and staying on the apparatus. So I don’t think she was paced too quickly there, and she was generally more than capable of performing super difficult elements pretty easily. But elsewhere, I think it wasn’t really about pacing, but more just that she was doing skills she didn’t physically look capable of doing. In 2012, I watched her attempt a DTY about a million times in podium training and was like how on EARTH is she even attempting this?! I think the same goes with some of her bars skills given her shoulder issues. On top of that, I think the real issue was that she was elite and didn’t really want to be, which isn’t so much a pacing thing as it is just…sucky. I know her mom really wanted her to be at the elite level, but it was clear, especially as she started getting a little older, that she didn’t really love it and she wanted to be a more ‘normal’ teenager. Katelyn was endlessly talented, but to succeed at the elite level, it doesn’t matter how talented you are — if your heart’s not in it, it’s not going to work out. It was pretty evident by the time Katelyn was 15 or 16 that she wanted out, and her injury was almost a blessing in disguise, because it allowed her to drop down to level 10 and have fun in the sport again. And now look at her!
Do you think one-armed pirouettes were a skill that Valeri Liukin taught well or just a skill Nastia Liukin excelled at?
I just think they were a skill Nastia excelled at. I’m sure he tried with others, but you have to have the craziest shoulder flexibility in the world to do the kind of pirouettes Nastia was doing, and most gymnasts physically wouldn’t be able to withstand the stress those skills take on their shoulders. I’m sure he thought “let’s try this out!” with some of his gymnasts who seemed like they could do it, but yeah, for the most part, it’s not something you just throw out to everyone as a possibility for bars.
When a gymnast on the junior national team turns 16 is she automatically a member of the senior national team? Or does she have to be added later on? Is there a case of anyone from the junior team who wasn’t added to the senior team?
They technically keep her as part of the junior team until they ‘officially’ move up to the senior team by passing verification at camp or whatever. There are several gymnasts who were named to the junior team last summer who haven’t yet been moved up to the senior team, either because they didn’t go to verification or because they didn’t have the scores required, so they’re still listed as junior national team members (Emma Malabuyo, Gabby Perea, and a few others), but those who did attend camp or get a senior assignment got bumped up to the senior team (Maile O’Keefe, Grace McCallum). Fun fact — did you know that first-year seniors can continue competing at the junior level? No one ever does because senior careers are generally short enough for WAG athletes, but keeping first-year senior gymnasts on the junior team until they meet the senior team standard is fine because they can technically still be considered juniors.
Do you think Madison Kocian or Kyla Ross will go back to elite when it gets closer to 2020?
I don’t think either will, to be honest. Kyla, definitely not. Madison, I think she’ll probably see how things are looking going into the 2020 season but honestly, it’s going to be super hard if not impossible for her to go from finishing her NCAA career in April of that year to having to be at the U.S. meets a month or so later. She’d likely have to take the 2019-2020 school year off to get to a high enough elite level to contend, and considering she was in such a rush to get back to competition this season after surgery despite having the chance to redshirt, I think school is the bigger priority for her and don’t see her taking her senior year off. We’ll see if she can do both at once, but I honestly don’t think we’ll see her back.
What makes inbars so much more difficult than toe-ons?
They’re both skills where you’re fully piked down while swinging, but an inbar becomes harder for most because the pike is so deep, it puts a strain on your low back. Some actually find inbars easier because they often miss their toes doing a toe-on, which is hilarious that they’re accidentally doing a harder skill, but often if a gymnast is dealing with back problems, she’ll hold off on doing inbars to avoid further pain.
What do you think it would take for someone to start a pro gymnastics league in the U.S. that operates like any other sports league? How would you want it to be run? What impact would it have on the power monopoly of USAG and NCAA?
I think it would basically have to run in tandem with USAG if only because USAG right now is the path to the Olympics, and it’s going to be very hard to separate the two. I’m sure if some sort of pro-league popped up, USAG would have rules for national team members that prevented them from participating or something, and since the Olympics is the end goal for most top-level athletes, they wouldn’t go against USAG.
There’s also the problem with NCAA eligibility…if you have a pro league for this sport, the best athletes are generally going to be under 18, and most will want to retain their NCAA eligibility which they wouldn’t be able to do if they competed in professional sports. You could hold off until after college like most other sports do, but by this point, a vast majority of gymnasts wouldn’t physically be able to compete at a high enough level. By the end of college, gymnasts are often so physically done, there wouldn’t be a large number coming away at age 22 or older looking ready to go into a professional career. Some would, but for the majority of gymnasts, once they finish their NCAA careers, they spend the next few years trying to recover from the injuries that they were fighting through until that point, so going on into a sort of pro career just wouldn’t be possible for most.
Of course, if the pay was good, it would definitely be enticing. I think a pro league could exist in a way that’s similar to the Top 12 league in France or Bundesliga in Germany, both of which have a number of older athletes competing. It’s not a lucrative pro sports career, and the seasons for these sports are generally either short, or prolonged with one meet every couple of months, but it’s a fun way to see the sport in a team setting and I think it could work in the U.S., albeit at a lower competitive level, or using a points system that takes away from needing insane difficulty to beat another team.
I like the way Top 12 does it, using the FIG code and scoring routines that way, but then using a points system so that you wouldn’t need super high FIG scores to win. For example, a team puts up a gymnast who gets a 13.3 on floor, and then the other team will try to put up a gymnast who can beat that, but if they don’t have one who can score that well, they’ll put up the weakest gymnast and take the loss, saving their strongest for a match they know they can win. Whether they get a 13.1 or an 8.1, either way the higher score in that match gets 3 points and the lower score gets 1 point, so even if you have one team that comes in with routines nowhere near as difficult, they’re not at a total loss against a stronger team. In Top 12, several teams that post overall higher FIG scores will lose against a weaker team that just happens to hit a greater number of routines, which is cool because at FIG meets, high-difficulty routines with falls often beat solid low-difficulty routines.
A format like this would give athletes who are a bit older and done with their NCAA careers the ability to compete at a lower level, so if they could make some money doing this for a little while after college, I’m sure it would be an attractive option for some, but unfortunately, I doubt it would be a very lucrative business because it’s hard to get people interested in the sport in general, because subjective sports just don’t tend to have the same draw. That would be the biggest barrier, making enough money to get salaries as an incentive to keep gymnasts putting their lives on hold so they could keep competing after NCAA. Unfortunately, I think it’s a bit of a pipe dream, but I do think something basic could work out if it didn’t require a ton of time from the gymnasts so they could still go on working like regular people and then doing a pro-league kind of thing a few times a year.
I noticed a lack of backwards tumbling in Nastia Liukin’s 2008 floor routines. How was that allowed under the code?
She had a back 1½ to Rudi in her third pass, and she finished her routine with a back 2½. More than enough back tumbling!
I was thinking about how vault is slightly neglected in gymnastics, and I asked myself, what if vaulting became its own sport, where athletes would have to compete six vaults, one from each family (I made the Yurchenko full-on its own family)? Do you think it would be a popular sport?
I don’t think it’d be super popular as a sport, because it’s basically just the vault version of diving, which isn’t really popular outside of the Olympics…but I do think it’d be cool to have as a separate sport and I like the idea of doing a wide variety of vaults. I think it should remain part of artistic, but it would be cool if the FIG also made it a side discipline!
Until which point can flexed feet be deducted? They obviously have to flex close to the landing, otherwise they’d land on their toes. Where do the judges take the cut?
I think it’s generally fairly obvious when a gymnast is flexing or being lazy with her feet mid-skill compared to when she’s opening up for a landing and gets her feet into position. I don’t think they have a cut-off where they’re like “okay, she flexed one second too early before the landing!” but rather just use common sense knowing when a gymnast should be pointing her feet and when she should be prepping for the landing.
Could you explain some of the strategies that coaches use to define a lineup in NCAA? Is the first person usually the best? The worst?
It depends on the coach, the team, the situation, the event…a team could put up the weakest vaulter first and the strongest vaulter last, knowing that scores tend to build throughout the rotation, but then on beam they might put up one of the best gymnasts first to give them a steady lead-off, and then one of the best gymnasts last to finish off the rotation with a strong number. Or they might put the weakest gymnast last so she can see the five before her all hit and not worry about the pressure of having to hit.
After the impact statements, have your views changed from when you answered the question about whether the Karolyis are responsible?
Nope. As I wrote in a recent post, and as I’ve always thought about the situation, I think they were absolutely responsible for creating the culture that led to the perfect circumstances in which Larry Nassar could take advantage of the children who sought him out as the only ‘friend’ in an otherwise tense environment. I also think Martha loved Larry because she could count on him to clear her gymnasts for competition despite extensive injuries, something most doctors wouldn’t do, which was problematic in itself. I don’t think she knew the extent of the abuse, and as much as I want to say “she should have known!” you can also say that about every parent and coach who was physically in the room as this man molested their kids in front of them. The reason Larry was so successful as an abuser was because he manipulated the situation he was in, and that included the manipulation of Martha. As much as I think Martha didn’t know about the abuse, however, I am absolutely disappointed that Martha refuses to accept responsibility for the culture of the ranch, which was just as detrimental to these gymnasts as the sexual abuse was.
Why do some gymnasts commit early? What are the advantages?
Most just want to set their college plans as soon as possible because it’s a super competitive environment and the earlier you have it figured out, the easier it is for you. You obviously still have to show a high level throughout the rest of your J.O. or elite career, but for the most part, you’re set and it’s no longer something you have to think about. The top programs are usually the ones doing the especially early recruiting, so if you want to go to a top program, the advantage of committing early is knowing that you sealed up a spot at a top program and won’t have to hope one opens up if you were to wait a bit longer.
Why did so many more gymnasts have Amanars in the 2012 quad?
With the Amanar being so valuable that quad, nearly a point higher than a DTY, it became a way to set yourself apart both as an all-arounder and as someone who could contribute a big score in what was expected to be a tight team final. Someone like McKayla Maroney, who wasn’t a fairly strong all-arounder, could rank super high in the all-around at nationals with an Amanar earning a 16 while the rest of her events were somewhere in the neighborhood of a high 13 or low 14 at best. In the U.S., it was known pretty early on that no one was making that team without an Amanar, save for maybe the bars/beam specialist, and so everyone tried to get an Amanar because it helped them become more competitive for team spots. That extra D made it the must-have skill of the quad, which is partly why in the next quad, the technical committee took it down by a couple of tenths, and then another tenth further in comparison to the DTY this quad. Now it’s not as vital a skill to have, but back then it really set you apart.
Are junior worlds and regular senior worlds going to be at the same time in 2019?
No, junior worlds are going to be held in a different city I believe the month prior to senior worlds? Or a month later? I can’t remember the timing but no, they won’t be at the same time.
What if two (or more) gymnasts had the same beam/floor routines (same elements and choreography) in competition? Would it negatively impact scores or judging?
Judges wouldn’t take off tenths just for it being the same construction/choreo/music/etc., but I think if they saw one routine performed a certain way first and then someone performs the same thing a few routines later, the way the second routine is judged could be compared to the first in a way…if the first is noticeably better, then they might subconsciously take this into consideration when judging the second.
What will the practical consequences be if the USOC decertifies USAG? What would the impact be on the gymnasts?
I don’t think it would have a tremendous impact, and I think the current competitors would be burdened without the stable national team camp system (as they are right now), but the USOC would work something out so that the gymnasts would still get to the major international competitions. It wouldn’t be the best situation, kind of like how right now isn’t the greatest, but it wouldn’t completely take the U.S. gymnasts out of the running. I think they’d also get an interim governing body up and running fairly quickly, whether through the USOC or on its own, and since the majority of the gymnasts’ time is spent with their club coaches anyway, they would have a fairly seamless transition at the training/competitive level. Thankfully, the current group of gymnasts is fierce and strong enough that I think they’d make the best of a bad situation and support one another through, as they have been doing since the ranch got shut down and Valeri Liukin stepped away. This generation is an amazing group of smart, headstrong kids who aren’t afraid of speaking up, and thankfully most of them have coaches made of the same grit. They’d definitely make it through more or less unscathed.
So nationals will be in my hometown this year but I’m really disgusted with how USAG handled Larry Nassar’s crimes…but I also don’t want the gymnasts to suffer. Do you think it’s wrong to support the gymnasts if it means I’m giving money to USAG?
Not at all! The current generation needs our support now more than ever. Especially considering that some gymnasts still competing were victims of Larry Nassar, I think while they want you supporting the survivors in the fight against what USAG did to them, they also want you supporting them as athletes. Simone Biles is going to be competing at nationals both as a Larry Nassar survivor and as basically the best gymnast in the world. I think it’s absolutely fine to be there for the athletes, supporting them and their dreams. Yes, it means giving money to USAG, and I can see why some people wouldn’t want to do that, but I think it’s important to show people why this sport is more than Larry Nassar and USAG. The sport is ultimately about the gymnasts and what they do out there on the floor, and while the conversation about safe sport should never stop, I think at the same time the sport itself should be about the young women who are so talented, fierce, determined, and strong, especially at a time when they’re going above and beyond to get out there and compete even when USA Gymnastics isn’t able to provide them with a national team coach, a national team training center, or a support system.
What happened to Macy Toronjo? Why hasn’t she competed this season?
She had a minor injury and couldn’t compete, though she still attended a majority of the meets. Hopefully she’ll be back next season!
Can you get connection value on floor if you connect two leaps? What would the minimum value of those leaps need to be?
No, there’s no connection value for leaps connected on floor. There is a composition requirement that states two dance elements must be connected, and most will connect two leaps, especially because they can take running steps between them and don’t need to directly connect them. Most going for big dance D will either connect turns (there’s a 0.1 CV for D + B turns or B + B turns with no step in between) or will just do the more difficult D or E leaps and spins.
There is so much room on that floor…why on earth do adult women sit like they do at the end of an NCAA meet?
Hahahaha…it’s definitely carried over from how kids sit when they’re babies coming up in the super low J.O. levels. I remember sitting like that as a kid, and I think we did it because it was the best way to keep kids in line while waiting for awards. Standing up, kids would be running around everywhere, but sitting like that was FUN and it’s just one of those things that you start doing when you’re wee and then still do it when you’re an adult gymnast just out of tradition I guess. It looks so silly, and I wish that’s how like, major league baseball players or pro football teams had to sit and wait for the winner of a game to be announced.
What is the difference between Pac 12 and SEC in NCAA?
There are multiple conferences in NCAA across all sports. Each university belongs to a conference, which can be thought of as kind of like a division exists in pro sports (like the AL East in baseball #GoSox), and during the regular season, the majority of games or meets or competitions tend to happen within the conference, which is why you’ll see the SEC teams face each other constantly all season long while Pac 12 teams face each other, and so on. The regular season ends with conference championships, where all of the teams in the same conference compete against each other for conference winner. Conference championships don’t really decide anything, so getting to call yourself the SEC vault champion or whatever is just a cool title, but it doesn’t qualify an individual or team to anything into postseason…but rather is just a fun way to end the regular season. In NCAA, the most competitive conferences tend to be the SEC and Pac 12, because the majority of top ten programs are in these two conferences, but Big 10 is also up there, Oklahoma is part of the gymnastically small Big 12 conference so they get some notoriety as well (also due to Denver being up there), and we also see teams from EAGL, ECAC, MAC, MIC, MPSF, MRGC, NCGA East, and WIAC.
Most conferences are the same across all sports, but because gymnastics is kind of a niche sport, some schools are in conferences that don’t sponsor gymnastics. Air Force, Boise State, San Jose State, and Utah State are all in the Mountain West conference, for example, but Mountain West doesn’t sponsor gymnastics among several other sports, so Air Force and San Jose State’s gymnastics programs joined the MPSF conference, which combines a bunch of schools from conferences on the west coast (like Mountain West, Big West, Big Sky, Great Northwest, etc.) that don’t sponsor non-revenue-producing Olympic sports (gymnastics, swimming, water polo, and so on). Boise State and Utah State used to compete independently without being in a conference, but a few years back, they and a couple of other independent programs (BYU, Southern Utah, and Denver) created the MRGC, aka the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference, as a gymnastics-only conference for these schools all located in the same region without a conference to call home (Denver has since left and joined the Big 12 in 2015 as an affiliate member for gymnastics only).
Has anyone ever done a tumbling run with a roundoff, back handspring, whip half, and then a front tumble? Would this give more power to the front tumble and allow for bigger skills, or would more energy be lost? Would there be any bonus for doing an aerial roundoff rather than a regular one?
A few gymnasts have done this…though the front skill that comes out of the whip half is generally not a huge skill. In NCAA, for example, AJ Jackson competed both a whip half to Rudi and a whip half to front full, both of which she did very well. It definitely gives some power going into a front element, though it may be a bit more complicated than just a front handspring or front layout for most people. When doing something more difficult, like a double front tuck, most would find it easier to do a front handspring into it than a whip half.
As for the question about an aerial roundoff, no, there’s no bonus out of that, and most wouldn’t do it because the point of a roundoff is to generate energy through the floor, and so because an aerial would take away from some of that momentum, and because it’s not worth anything extra, no one would really want to do it.
Some men start their bounding pass on floor with legs slightly bent at the knees but not to their chest. Would this be considered a tuck or a layout?
Slightly bent knees would still be considered a layout…but they would likely get deducted for form if they’re doing a layout with bent knees.
How much would this routine be worth: Shang, inbar full to Ricna to Pak to Chow half, Tweddle to Ezhova, van Leeuwen, and a full-twisting double layout?
This would be worth a 6.8, with 4.1 in skills, 0.7 in connections, and 2.0 in CR.
Do you think it’s common to feel uncomfortable about your love for the sport after reading about Larry Nassar’s abuse?
I think so, yes. Especially for males, not because only males are abusive to females, but because there is already that stigma for being a guy who is into a sport that features mostly young women, and so now that the sport is under even more scrutiny, I know many men who are fans of the sport who feel like people are going to think they’re odd or creepy for liking it even when clearly their reasons have nothing to do with that. Same goes with male coaches, to the point where some people are saying men shouldn’t coach female children, even though a majority of men are not abusers but there is that idea now that the only reason they’d be into a sport like this is for access to young females for the purpose of abuse. It’s definitely uncomfortable, but I think if you know why you’re a fan, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Like I know why I love gymnastics, and there’s nothing creepy or uncomfortable about it, even knowing what has happened. If anything, my respect for the athletes has grown tremendously knowing what they were dealing with outside of the public eye, as well as for the current athletes who are dealing with the aftermath of a program that chose to cover up crimes over protecting their gymnasts…I don’t think there’s anything uncomfortable or wrong about this at all!
Curious on your ideas on how USAG can start over/clean house without affecting the potential and amazing talent of the current generation.
I think the gymnasts can just shift their mindset back to their club gyms as the focus, and while this does take away from the team aspect a bit, if they put that focus in that environment and put their trust in their club coaches without thinking of the national team as really a thing, they can just hold onto that as a constant in their lives, and everything happening at the national level can just be background noise. I think thanks to the success of club coaches and club gyms, which have always had more of an influence over gymnasts than the national program in the U.S., USAG can undergo an entire renovation without it being more than an annoying blip on the radar for the current generation. The team competitions become a little more logistically difficult, but that aside, the gymnasts should be able to keep doing what they’ve always done and they won’t have a problem finding success.
Why did some UCLA girls return earlier than expected instead of redshirting this year?
Usually when this happens it’s because they personally don’t want to have to come back for a full year if they want to finish school “on time,” and then also there’s the problem with so many scholarship offers already out that returning for another year might not be possible with the number of gymnasts coming in as freshmen in the coming years. Since UCLA is generally more than maxed out in terms of scholarships, finding room for redshirts can be hard.
Do NCAA eligibility rules apply to foreign gymnasts? How do they track that?
Yes, they apply. They’d track it the same way they track it for U.S.-based athletes, by looking into financials and any other contracts gymnasts might have signed as members of teams or individually. It’s pretty easy to find out if someone has received money related to their athletic career whether they’re from the U.S. or abroad.
How many NCAA WAG teams have scored over a 198? Has a team ever come close to breaking a 199?
I only have data for the past two decades, but during this time, 13 teams have scored over a 198 (Alabama, Arizona State, BYU, Florida, Georgia, Iowa State, LSU, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, and Washington), mostly thanks to the early 2000s, which were a hilarious time for this sport. I believe the record is a 198.875, which both UCLA and Stanford reached in 2004. In recent years, Oklahoma has gotten closest to that, with a 198.5 in 2015.
How do countries like Russia, which occupy land in both Europe and Asia, decide whether they’ll compete at European or Asian continental championships?
It’s more a geopolitical thing than a purely geographical thing. It’s not about these countries deciding solely for gymnastics where they should compete, but rather each country’s positioning in the geopolitical world order that determines it. Russia is generally considered ‘European’ in that sense because it has more similarities with the ‘western’ world, and the same goes for Turkey (also split between Europe and Asia) as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Israel. None of this has anything to do with gymnastics, though, or even with sports.
If a gymnast competes Level 10 and is also trying to qualify elite, if she receives her qualifying optional scores in the middle of the season, is she allowed to finish her Level 10 season?
Yup! Many will finish the season just to get that additional experience before going into the elite season, or just because they want to complete the season before moving away from the J.O. system which can help them determine if they want to officially make that move or not.
What would be the advantages to the U.S. team not sending an athlete to the Youth Olympic Games?
In the past, they didn’t like sending an athlete because YOGs were at the same time as nationals, and there was a considerably higher overall level of competition domestically than at the YOG meet, which is limited to just one gymnast per country. In 2010, Viktoria Komova would’ve been great competition for a 1995-born gymnast like Jordyn Wieber, but she was basically it, whereas the U.S. had quite a bit more depth in the junior field at nationals…and in 2014, had someone like Bailie Key gone to YOGs, it would’ve been a clean sweep even if she had falls, but at nationals she would’ve had a much higher level to contend against. On top of that, there’s also no team competition. The U.S. loves sending gymnasts to team competitions so they can gain that experience for worlds and the Olympics, and in the past, pretty much every competition they attended had a team aspect (it wasn’t until fairly recently that the all-around world cups became more common). In 2014, for example, they budgeted to send full teams of gymnasts to Pac Rims, Jesolo, and Pan Ams, but YOGs in comparison just wasn’t a priority. I’ve heard they might send someone this year, which would be cool, especially because there is definitely some depth internationally among the 2003-born gymnasts. And since the national program didn’t send a team to Jesolo, and has had more of a focus on individual meets this year due to the issues with the program at the moment, I could see them justifying an individual spot.
How does Stella Savvidou not get a deduction for her second pass? She’s not showing control with the somersault out of it. How would it be scored in elite?
It’s not half as dodgy as the other landing cover-ups gymnasts do in NCAA with fake jumps out of passes meant to be “choreo” when they’re clearly only there to cover up a potentially bad landing. The judges can judge the control of the pass before it goes into the connected choreography cover-up, which is likely what they do with Stella. It would be fairly obvious if she screwed up the landing of her layout stepout, so even though she’s rolling out of it, they’d see before she even got to the roll if it showed a lack of control or not. The same goes with things like Felicia Hano’s jump into her running man, Brenna Dowell’s choreo jump out of her second pass, and pretty much any pass or dance element that has something dance-y out of it.
Are there any Romanian gymnasts aside from Ioana Crisan who would be worth sending to major international meets? Do you know if there are any promising juniors who could make it to the 2020 Olympics? Do you think this year’s new seniors will add depth to the Romanian gymnastics program? If they started to rebuild how long would it take their program to recover?
I thought the girls who went to Jesolo could make a solid team foundation, especially once they have Larisa Iordache back as a leader and top scorer. Denisa Golgota is great, and I’d love to see her eventually get even better to become more competitive in the all-around, and I really really love her fellow first-year senior Nica Ivanus on beam and floor. I was also kind of impressed with Carmen Ghiciuc on bars (I mean, for Romania, she was solid enough there, but unfortunately, while I was hoping Maria Holbura and Anamaria Ocolisan would come back and be awesome leaders for this team, they just don’t seem to be at a very high level and I don’t know what it’ll take to get them back to one, but that’s kind of a bummer. With a true rebuild happening at the developmental level, I don’t see them getting back into a truly competitive state until at least the 2024 quad.
In honor of Simone Biles’ 21st birthday, are U.S. national team members who are of age allowed to drink?
I’d imagine anyone over the age of 21 who drinks does so in a way that the people in charge of the national program wouldn’t get upset (e.g. posting party shots all over Instagram or anything that would “damage their reputation” within the sport). Most gymnasts who are focused on big goals wouldn’t drink in the middle of the season just like they wouldn’t sit down and eat a whole cake or something, because neither of these things would be conducive to making their goals happen. But in the off-season, just like Aly Raisman going to town on some McDonald’s fries as soon as the Olympics ended, I’m sure there was also some off-Instagram imbibing going down. And on the MAG side…I’ve seen U.S. men running drunk through the hotel the day before they were set to compete at nationals, LOL. That’s a whole other story (and probably explains why so many nationals are disasters hahaha).
Did McKenna Merrell get married?
Yup! She got married last summer before going into her junior year of college. She credits her husband, Matthew Giles, for providing her with the stability that helped her go from good to great in her 2018 season.
Do gymnasts have to officially ‘retire’ when they are done with elite? Some formally announce theirs before starting college, but others don’t, like MyKayla Skinner and Madison Kocian. Does that mean their career status is different?
No, they don’t have to officially retire. Some will let USA Gymnastics know that they’re done, and USAG will release a statement, but most just quietly finish their careers without announcing it. With most who go to college, you can assume that means they’re done with elite, though occasionally a couple of them are still deciding whether they want to come back eventually.
How often do gymnasts at the international level test positive for banned substances? Have there been any big gymnastics doping scandals in the modern era aside from Andreea Raducan?
It’s not super common…most know what they’re not supposed to take, and if they do take a drug that’s listed as a banned substance, it’s generally for a medical reason and they’ve had it cleared beforehand. More recently, Daiane dos Santos tested positive for diuretics during a random non-competition drug test in 2009, but at the time, she wasn’t on the Brazilian team due to injury and treatment for that injury, and I think her treatment involved an enzyme that showed up as a banned diuretic. The Brazilian team was apparently supposed to take her off of the substance testing list but didn’t.
Thi Ngan Thuong Do of Vietnam tested positive for the same drug at the 2008 Olympics, and so her results there were nullified, and in 2012, Luiza Galiulina of Uzbekistan also tested positive for furosemide and was not allowed to compete. Her excuse was that her mother treated her for a heart condition (diuretics can be used to treat several conditions, including high blood pressure), but because she had no doctor’s notes or anything that would suggest she had a condition that required a diuretic, the IOC turned down her appeal. This is a common drug that gymnasts will test positive for, because not only does it help shed water weight, furosemide is also used to mask the detection of other banned substances because it dilutes the urine, so anyone who tests positive for it might be using it to lose water weight, but they also might be trying to cover up a more sinister performance-enhancing drug.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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