It’s time for the 221st 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 are the different root skills for bars?
The roots that are commonly used on bars for women are stalders, inbars, clear hips, and toe-ons. With the new rule that states only three of each root skill can count in a routine, a gymnast who normally might do every stalder skill under the sun (like Laurie Hernandez, who did a stalder full, Chow, Downie, Ricna, Ray, and Endo half in the same routine) has to switch things up a bit to create more variety within her routine.
Why is Ksenia Klimenko on this year’s reserve team when she isn’t a senior yet? Why isn’t she either on the main team or on the junior team?
I wasn’t sure how that worked out…just Russia things? I’d imagine it doesn’t make a difference, really, but maybe they put her on the senior reserve team to put her at the same level as seniors without officially putting her on the senior team? She’s still a top option for junior competitions, though, including YOGs, so I wouldn’t read too much into it. It definitely won’t affect her status for assignments.
Can you help me understand why Ruby Harrold gets the scores she does on bars? She has egregious built-in deductions: arch on her handstand after the Zuchold, always late on the hop before her dismount, cowboyed double front, steps on the landing…yet she always seems to get around 9.85 to 9.9! Are these deductions being taken from others but not her?
Yes, she should definitely be deducted far more than what’s taken from her in the majority of her routines…but the same goes for many others. With her, her faults are definitely a bit more pronounced, and I can guarantee if she had that same routine for a lower-level program, she’d be getting consistent 9.7s. But again…there are others getting 9.95s who should be getting 9.85s max, and some who get 10s who shouldn’t be above a 9.9. NCAA judging is appalling in general and doesn’t do enough to differentiate between good and great.
How are USAG board members chosen? Is there a chance of an awesome activist for the sport like Lynn Raisman or Kathy Johnson Clarke being on the board?
They apply or are recommended by other board members. I believe with USAG putting together an entirely new board, they reached out for people to apply, and I’m sure activists like Lynn and Kathy saw the call-out. Hopefully they or people like them who have the best interests of the athletes at heart are applying for these positions going forward and hopefully there is an impartial review board bringing in the most top-notch people who have zero vested interest in USAG.
Is there a reason people love Svetlana Khorkina with her cocky attitude but get on MyKayla Skinner for not being humble enough?
Because people don’t like MyKayla for whatever reason, and this is just another thing to add to their list. Because people are hypocrites. I’ve seen people much braggier and more ridiculous than MyKayla and people have called them “badasses” but MyKayla is too cocky and not humble. *Sips Tea* I mean, several prominent gymnasts have made homophobic and racist comments over the years, and more recently, some have also called the U.S. gymnasts who were abused by Larry Nassar as well as Russian victims of rape like Olga Korbut and Tatiana Gutsu “liars” and people forgive them or excuse their behavior while in the same breath they demonize MyKayla for something she retweeted five years ago.
Is it common to have gymnastics coaches who aren’t gymnasts?
I wouldn’t say it’s super common…most coaches have been gymnasts in some way, shape, or form, so even if they weren’t like, world champions or Olympians or NCAA competitors, they’ve still spent a solid amount of time in the gym either as lower-level competitors or rec gymnasts. But some coaches do find the sport through other means, and it’s totally possible to become a high-level coach despite never having done the sport. Case in point: Miss Val!
Why are some NCAA leotards cut very high? Is this beneficial or a preference?
It’s a preference, though I’m not sure it’s a gymnast preference…it always looks like people who aren’t gymnasts are designing the cut, which isn’t always the most flattering for everyone!
At the last developmental camp, some girls were selected to compete at the Canada exchange before the ranch was closed. What is the Canada exchange? Why don’t they just get the top girls from the national team camp instead of the developmental girls? How would they even compete if most aren’t even qualified to elite yet?
It was just a little internal competition between some Hopes-level gymnasts, nothing major, and nothing they’d send actual elites to, hahaha. The Canadian girls attending weren’t elites yet. It wasn’t an FIG competition with FIG requirements and athletes who are FIG-eligible, but rather a small, closed friendly meet with younger gymnasts around age 10-12 so they could get experience competing under the elite code of points.
Do we know if Riley McCusker will be back for the 2018 season? Is she going for Tokyo?
She is back and as far as I know, is going for Tokyo. With her, it’ll be all about keeping injuries at bay, since that seems to have been her biggest problem thus far throughout her short elite career.
Since Jade Carey was age eligible to compete elite in 2016, do you think if she looked as good in 2016 as she did in 2017 that she would’ve had a chance to make the Olympic team?
I don’t think so…I think she would’ve been in a position similar to MyKayla Skinner, where she had the goods to potentially get an individual medal, but wouldn’t have made it over anyone who ended up on the team. I still think MyKayla or a 2017 Jade would’ve been a more productive team member than Gabby Douglas, so had Jade looked like she did last year in 2016, I would’ve wanted her going in Gabby’s place, but as I always say, there were so many options in 2016; whether you took Gabby or Jade or MyKayla or Ashton Locklear or Ragan Smith, the U.S. team would’ve won, and that’s what they were going for. Martha Karolyi had her reasons for wanting Gabby there just like I had my reasons for wanting MyKayla and both were valid.
Did Emma Kelley move to Texas Dreams? Why did she move? Did her mom move to Coppell with her? Is she still trying to go elite?
Yes, she is at Texas Dreams now. I’m not sure if her mom moved as well, or why Emma moved, but I’d guess it has something to do with her wanting to go elite, since that was the goal for her initially.
Do judges in MAG tend to be less strict in terms of crediting incomplete twists?
They shouldn’t be but it’s possible that they are less strict at times…I know I’ve seen Kenzo Shirai come up a little short on some of his twist rotations and still get full credit, though I believe at American Cup he was also hella downgraded on floor for this reason? Or I remember Tim Daggett saying he should be hella downgraded. Sometimes WAG judges can be less strict on rotational issues too, though, so it just depends on the judges and what they see or don’t see, whether it’s MAG or WAG.
If a gymnast does a skill that has been removed or banned from the code, is there a specific penalty, or is the skill just not counted?
There’s nothing in the code about a penalty for banned skills, so I’d imagine it’s just not counted, unless there’s some unwritten rule somewhere that says the gymnast would be disqualified or would get a point off in neutral deductions or something. Sometimes I search the code for hours for stuff related to penalties and there’s nothing listed, and it ends up being a penalty, lol. I hate the code. Anyway, I think most just wouldn’t do any skill not in the code unless it’s something they’re submitting as a new skill, so it’s just not something that has ever come up as a situation the judges have had to deal with, which is probably why it’s not a written rule. But since the WTC attends major competitions like worlds, they’d probably make a rule for it then and there after conferencing on what happened.
I’ve been watching a lot of NCAA gymnastics and would love to see gymnasts from other countries compete as well! Maybe Eythora Thorsdottir, Elena Eremina, what do you think?
Most international gymnasts accept some sort of salary for being at the national level, or they accept endorsements/money from sponsors that make them ineligible for NCAA competition. Both Eythora and Elena fit this description, as do a majority of higher-level international gymnasts, since most of them want to make that money so they can make a living while doing gymnastics. There are lots of international gymnasts in NCAA from several countries throughout the world, but those at the highest level are unlikely to be eligible.
Why were bars scores crazy high in the 2008 quad compared to other events? Do you think someone like Nastia Liukin would’ve had the same kind of all-around success in a quad that didn’t disproportionately reward her bars?
I think without her bars, Nastia would’ve had a harder time being competitive at the highest level, especially as her vault was quite far behind the majority of other top all-arounders, but at the same time pretty much everyone that year had a weakness, so even if bars wasn’t as valuable as it was, Nastia would still have been able to be at more or less the same level as girls like Yang Yilin, Ksenia Semenova, Steliana Nistor, Anna Pavlova, and anyone else toward the higher-end of that Olympic competition. I think Shawn Johnson would’ve been more of a sure bet for gold without Nastia’s bars but overall she still had enough good stuff going on elsewhere that it wouldn’t have mattered too much. Bars is always going to be easier to score well on compared to other events if you’re a good bars worker because there’s less to deduct from compared to beam and floor. A top bar worker can get a 9.0 E score pretty easily, whereas some of the best floor workers are lucky to get around an 8.5, and now that beam scoring is insane, an 8.0 E score there is considered amazing. It’s kind of unfair for those who are stronger on beam and floor, but that disproportionate scoring is always going to exist for vault and bars since they naturally have fewer deductions as shorter routines.
What are some of your favorite leotard designs? I love Aliya Mustafina’s from the 2010 all-around final.
My fave leo ever is the U.S. 2007 worlds team final leo. I just love it so much. I love really sporty and simple leos as opposed to the super design-y ones, and the Adidas ones really did it for me, but that one was especially great in my opinion. Just athletic, clean, and solid.
Aliya Mustafina’s floor in 2010 started with her going into tumbling immediately instead of doing some choreo first. Has anyone else done this recently?
I think I remember seeing a couple of routines at worlds that went right into tumbling? But I think compositionally, judges prefer it for routines to start and end with choreo before or after tumbling. I feel like I read that somewhere but yeah, most will at least do some sort of posing or choreo before starting right away with the tumbling.
Is there a D-score advantage to going into your beam dismount with a roundoff versus a back handspring?
No, they’re both B skills. It usually just comes down to preference.
You mentioned previously that three-per-country with 36 in the all-around final is actually better for diversity than two-per-country with 24 in the final. Can you elaborate/explain, and give an example based on a previous competition so I can understand better?
The majority of gymnasts who are going to finish in the top half of the competition are going to be all-arounders from fully established teams, because the reason their teams are stronger is because the gymnasts who make up the teams are stronger. The FIG’s notion is that with two-per-country, those extra spots that go beyond the top 24 will go to gymnasts from non-established countries, but in reality, they just go to a greater number of gymnasts competing as part of full teams.
Using 2016 as an example…the United States, Russia, Japan, and Brazil were all two-per-country’ed out of the top 24. Those who got their places were from France, Germany, and two from Italy. All three countries that benefited from the two-per-country going into a 24-person final were gymnasts at the Olympics with full teams, and one of those teams (Germany) performed better as a team than one of the countries that got two-per-country’ed out (Brazil).
Additionally, of the four gymnasts who got these “diversity” spots, three had falls or major mistakes in qualifications, so spots earned by gymnasts who fully hit their all-around programs — one of whom placed third in qualifications and was a legitimate medal contender — ended up going not to weaker-difficulty small program gymnasts (which is the whole point of two-per-country, according to the FIG), but rather went to high-difficulty gymnasts from well-established programs who fell or made mistakes in prelims. In a two-per-country situation with 24 going into the all-around final, legitimate medal contenders are taken out of contention in favor of gymnasts from fully-funded and well-established national programs who made mistakes in prelims.
Had the 2016 format allowed for three-per-country with 36 going into the all-around final, however, third-place qualifier Gabby Douglas as well as all other top-24 gymnasts who otherwise would have been two-per-country’ed would’ve been allowed a spot in the all-around final, and an additional five gymnasts NOT part of full teams would’ve made the all-around final.
As it stands, the number of gymnasts in the all-around final who were in Rio as members of full teams was 22 out of 24. Only TWO gymnasts from non-team programs made the all-around final in 2016, meaning 92% of gymnasts in the final were there with full teams, and the remaining two made it into the all-around final not as beneficiaries of the two-per-country “diversity” system, but on their own merit, as Jessica Lopez qualified in 14th and Giulia Steingruber qualified in 15th. Using the same results with three-per-country and a total of 36 in the final, all of those with scores worthy of medal contention would’ve competed, and a total of SEVEN gymnasts not there with full teams would’ve had the opportunity to compete. The all-around final is still heavily skewed toward those part of full teams, with 80% of all-around finalists on teams, but 20% of finalists would be from smaller programs that didn’t qualify a full team to the games, which is a pretty healthy balance…AND AGAIN, EVERYONE IN MEDAL CONTENTION GETS TO ACTUALLY CONTEND FOR A MEDAL! Win-win-win. Two-per-country with 24 in a final does more to hurt the sport than to strengthen it. @FIG
Why are college gymnasts allowed to stand so close to the event equipment when they’re not competing, which isn’t allowed in elite?
It’s supposed to be more informal, and as long as they’re not touching the equipment it’s fine. During postseason, however, any gymnasts not competing at that moment have to wait in the pen held away from the apparatus because it’s a little more ‘official’ there.
I thought the Garrison roll in Kelly Garrison’s beam mount at the 1988 Olympics was pretty cool! Is it in the code? Has anyone done it recently?
Yup! It’s in the code, rated a B for acro. I can’t think of anyone who has done it recently, though there are some similar roll skills that gymnasts will do that are technically lower-level acro skills, but they’ll include it not to add to their D scores but rather to use as low beam choreo.
I remember Cheng Fei getting the Yurchenko half-on front layout 1½ named in 2006 before Aliya Mustafina and Tatiana Nabieva attempted to get the Yurchenko half-on front layout full named at 2010 worlds. Why does a vault from the same progression yet requiring an extra half twist appear earlier?
Often skills that have blind landings will get ‘skipped over’ in terms of difficulty, because even though an element may have an extra half twist, it’s sometimes easier for most than an element with fewer twists but a blind landing. The ‘Mustafina’ vault involves a super complicated front layout full, which is more difficult for most than a Rudi, and so when learning Yurchenko half-on vaults, Fei probably attempted the layout full, but had more success landing the Rudi, and so that’s the one she stuck with. It’s also why most gymnasts upgrading from a Yurchenko full to a double won’t use a Yurchenko 1½ as an intermediate vault, but will rather just go right from the FTY to the DTY, and why it’s so rare to see a 1½-twisting double back on floor when double doubles are everywhere.
What happened to Irina Alexeeva? She looked great in 2016 but we didn’t see her in 2017.
Irina was injured in 2017, but came back to competition this season with solid performances at the WOGA Classic and at Gymnix, and she recently was given the opportunity to compete at Russia’s national championships, where she did very well despite a couple of mistakes, winning the bronze medals on bars and floor as well as finishing seventh all-around. She still doesn’t have U.S. citizenship, so Russia looks like it’ll be her outlet for international competition, but she’ll first have to make the national team, which is an offer the Rodionenkos haven’t yet extended to her, I don’t think.
Why is an arabian called an arabian?
It’s one of those skills that was named a billion years ago back in the circus/acrobat days of the 1800s, kind of like the barani and a bunch of other skills that just happened to keep their names as they were brought in from circus arts to gymnastics. It’s been called a variety of different names around the world, though I remember hearing at one point that an acrobat that did the skill in the late 1800s was of Arab origins, and so thus the name arabian was born.
What has been your favorite American floor routine in the past 18 years? Most artistic?
Mmmm I’ve loved both of Aly Raisman’s Olympic routines the most, honestly. Not the most artistic, sure, but she did a fantastic job with them in all aspects, and even if she wasn’t a natural dancer, she did what she could and really made those routines her own. They were so memorable, and all props to her for working hard to fix something that she once struggled with tremendously (to the point of Martha Karolyi trying to do Artistry 101 with her at worlds in 2010 when she unexpectedly made the final there!). Most artistic…I love Morgan Hurd’s work on floor and the emotion/performance she puts into her routines. In recent years I’ve also enjoyed watching Alyssa Baumann, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, a ton of juniors, Laurie Hernandez especially back when she was a wee baby (I’ll never forget seeing her routine at the WOGA Classic in 2011 for the first time sitting across the arena and just stopping dead in my tracks). Probably lots that I’m forgetting…
Has anyone ever done a front handspring double front as a beam dismount? What would it be worth?
Yup! A couple have done it…most recently, Toni-Ann Williams, who did it as an elite for Jamaica and in NCAA a few times for Cal. It’s rated an F. I think it originated around 2004 or so? Somewhere in that quad. Maybe earlier? But that’s the first I can remember seeing it.
What is the difference between a Brevet and a national judge? Why does NCAA have both?
Both levels of judging are invitation-only from USA Gymnastics and both have come up through the J.O. judging system and have passed requirements and testing to judge all optional J.O. levels up through level 10. Both go through courses to obtain certification at these levels, undergo continuing education and intensive courses where they’re re-tested, and are required to judge at a certain number of events each year to maintain their standing, but the difference is that national judges are in the J.O. system and Brevet judges are FIG/international elite system judges. NCAA competitions generally have a mix of Brevet, national, and level 10 judges, and from my understanding, judges with seniority get the sweet, higher-profile assignments, like big matches between top programs or national championship meets, so you’ll generally see the national and Brevet judges there, but level 10 judges are also eligible to judge NCAA.
Peng Peng Lee has been doing really well in NCAA…could she possibly do what Brittany Rogers did and go back to the Canadian team after she finishes this season, or is there enough depth on the Canadian team that she wouldn’t be a major help?
I’d like to see her go back to elite, but I think given her history of injuries and the fact that doing a higher level of skills would only increase her chances of injury, I don’t see it happening. She has also said that she wants to go into the entertainment business and stay in the LA area, so I think at this point she’ll be happy putting her gymnastics career behind her on a super high note while moving on to the next stage in her life. There’s also enough depth in Canada right now that it would be hard for her to make it without extensive upgrades…it would be cool if she became a bars/beam specialist, though, and got an individual spot somehow. That to me seems more realistic than her coming back as an all-arounder trying to make the team, but again, she seems to have other plans in mind now.
During the 2000 uneven bars event final and in the 2004 all-around final, Svetlana Khorkina did a shap half with a HUGE leg separation. How did she win gold despite this?
I believe that was a stylistic option for that skill at the time, possibly due to her height, given that she also performed split-leg giants with her legs in the same position. It was clear that she was intentionally performing the shaposh with her legs in a V, as her legs were in a controlled position rather than splitting in half due to a lack of control. I believe now, legs have to be together on all low-to-high shaposh-style elements, but at this point this style was definitely acceptable and not a deduction.
I just read that Laney Madsen was shy of qualifying elite this year. I thought that once you qualified, you didn’t have to do it again…and she qualified last year. Can you please clarify this process and explain the situation?
Once a gymnast gets her elite compulsory score, she never has to qualify with her compulsory routines again, but she has to re-qualify to elite every year with her optional score. There are a number of ways gymnasts can get the required score — at the previous year’s nationals, at any national team training camp with verification, or at a national qualifier. This score not only qualifies a gymnast to elite, but also qualifies her to the two nationals qualifiers, the American Classic and the U.S. Classic. From those meets, the gymnast will then attempt to qualify to national championships.
Last year, Laney Madsen qualified elite (and thus to the two classic meets) at the Brestyan’s Qualifier in February, but then at the U.S. Classic, she failed to get her nationals qualifying score, and her season ended there. Because she didn’t go to nationals last year, she couldn’t get her score that would automatically qualify her to elite for this season, and since she hasn’t been invited to national team/verification camps, her only option for qualifying elite this year is to attend qualifiers. Laney went to the Desert Lights qualifier this January, but her all-around score of 48.750 was a little over two points shy of qualifying her to elite (and the classic meets), though she still has I believe one more chance at a national qualifier held in Washington this May…though from what I hear she’s holding off on that now to do more cheer stuff and might try to become an elite through Bulgaria in the future.
For examples of how others qualified to elite between last year and this year, Deanne Soza hit the required score for seniors at nationals last summer, which automatically qualified her to elite and to the two classic meets in 2018. Her teammate Sydney Barros, a junior, didn’t get her scores at nationals last year to hold onto that automatic qualification, so she had to re-qualify to elite this year, but at the verification camp earlier this month, she met the score requirement and is all set. Finally, Emily Lee didn’t pre-qualify at last year’s nationals AND she wasn’t invited to the verification camps this year, but she got her required score at the Desert Lights qualifier.
What’s the difference between a Tkachev that’s ‘flat’ and a Tkachev that lacks counter? Are they the same thing?
Basically, yes! I’ve never heard them described as flat really, but picturing a Tkachev that lacks counter, I can see how it would be described as flat.
What happened to Sergio Sasaki Junior? Is he still competing?
That’s the plan! He took last year off just as a post-2016 hiatus, but hopes to come back this year I believe.
Are judges allowed to watch a replay of routines or watch them in slow motion? Does this differ from one competition to the next?
Nope, what they see in real time is what they judge, which is why there will often be weirdness with judging, especially if a gymnast is good at quickly covering up a mistake or if the angle is super off (which is why it’s so dumb that judges aren’t at two different angles, especially on both vault and bars, where they miss a significant number of deductions with just a side view of the apparatus). At Jesolo last week, I believe it was Flavia Saraiva who stepped out-of-bounds, and the line judge literally one foot away from her didn’t see it happen despite it being right there in front of her face, hahahaha. I believe they go back and review video in case of an inquiry, because they have to be able to double check what they may not have credited, but obviously that’s only related to difficulty, not execution. I think the only time a video review would come into play would be if there was a major discrepancy in the scores if something questionable happened (two judges give a 7.0 because they saw a hand go down on a pass, the other two give an 8.0 because they didn’t see the hand touch), but that’s rare if it happens at all…I think usually with a wide margin between E scores they’d just do a conference about it.
Any upgrade ideas for Aliya Mustafina on bars? Her Rio routine is a 6.4 in the current code but I feel like she’ll need another tenth or two if she wants to contend for gold in Tokyo. The only upgrade I can think of is adding some extra skill after her Jaeger. What if she added a Downie? That would give her a 6.6 D. Please give me your wisdom, Queen Hopkins of the Gymternet.
Hahaha…well, I think for the next couple of years, we might not see anything big and badass in terms of upgrades, especially since she’s still working on getting her original D back in general, but I think with a 6.4 she’d be more than fine given her execution. A Downie would be nice for her I think, but I’m not sure what else I’d like to see her add or change. I think I like her original routine too much to want to mess with it!
What schools do you think the girls who went pro in 2012 and 2016 would’ve ended up at?
Well, Simone Biles would be at UCLA, and Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez would be at Florida, given that these were the schools they committed to…I’d like to see Gabby Douglas at Michigan and I can barely explain why (though I tried to in a recent ‘You Asked’ post), Jordyn Wieber would be at UCLA for absolute SURE, and I think I’d like to see McKayla Maroney at Oklahoma. Technically Rebecca Bross also fits into this group…and I think I’d want to see her at somewhere random. Like BYU, lol. Or Kentucky. Somewhere she could have fun without too much pressure.
Why are Euros in August and worlds in October? Is it possible for gymnasts to compete at both? Will most focus on one? Should Euros count as qualification for the worlds team?
Euros are in August because they’re part of a multi-sport European Championships this year rather than hosted solely by the UEG, as they normally are. Yes, it will be more than possible for gymnasts to compete at both Euros and worlds, and it’s also possible for gymnasts to ‘focus on’ both of them. The U.S. hosts nationals in August and goes to worlds in October every single year and it’s not a problem at all to begin getting close to peak shape for one and then holding onto it for the other. For those who think they might be more competitive for a Euros medal than for a worlds one, we might see them push for Euros as their big goal, but I doubt we’ll see them slack off for worlds. I’m sure some countries will use Euros to help with the selection of their worlds teams, and other countries will use Euros as the preparation meet for worlds, with the team already selected for both.
What is the selection process to qualify to Elite Canada and the Canadian Championships?
I believe they qualify to Elite Canada from provincial qualifiers, though I’m not sure how that works and don’t have access to any qualification documents with score requirements (or placement requirements). Elite Canada acts as the qualifier to the high performance level, and then I believe the high performance gymnasts are allowed to compete in the HP level at Gyminx (as opposed to J.O. Level 10) as well as at nationals. Again, I don’t know specifics, but I do know of a couple of gymnasts who competed at Elite Canada this year who weren’t eligible for the elite divisions at Gymnix due to their Elite Canada performances…and the cutoff was somewhere around a 45 AA, which ended up being somewhere around 24th place (which is why I think it’s more ranking-based than score). But again…totally not sure of specifics, just what I’ve figured out based on seeing it in action.
Why are NCAA teams competing against each other, because the scores count for placements, so it doesn’t really matter if you win or lose, right?
No, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose at the regular season meets, since ranking matters more than your win/loss record, but what fun is it to just do routines in your home gym with no opposing team there with you?! The dual meets are a TON of fun, and even if the score matters more than a win or loss, it’s still much more fun to see it all happen in a competitive environment against another team.
Is Marisa Dick still training? If not, what is she up to?
I think she’s done as far as I know. I’ve heard she’s a student and is no longer training, but I’m not sure if that’s just for the time being or for good.
Was Valeri Liukin the head coach at worlds in 2010? Why would Mattie Larson bring him up if he wasn’t? I would think her own coach would be the one who would’ve affected her emotionally in a negative way, and Valeri resigning because of her remarks is unfair to him personally.
No, he wasn’t the head coach, and he wasn’t the only coach to ignore her at worlds in 2010 (unfortunately, it was pretty much every coach and apparently most of the athletes as well, because that was the ‘culture’). I think she only brought up Valeri specifically in her testimony at the sentencing because as the current national team coordinator (at the time), she wanted to call him out as someone she hoped had changed his ways. Her own coaches definitely had a major negative effect on her career and life in general, and I believe both were named in her lawsuits as those responsible for her abuse. But calling out Valeri in her testimony was more about how he ignored her in a time of need as a coach at worlds, and now is someone in charge, with her point being that nothing was changing on USAG’s end. She did at least say something like “I hope he’s changed,” so I don’t think she was saying in that moment that he was abusive or did anything to harm her, but just that she was disappointed in how he went along with the situation and still got a top-level job running the team.
Why does a gymnast physically peak? Couldn’t she just condition more to overcome that? Or could she ease up on training to rest her body, and then train back to her peak? Does it not work like that?
It’s about more than just conditioning…no matter how much conditioning you do, the physical toll gymnastics takes on your body is insane. A small percentage of gymnasts can push through and end up competitive for years beyond where the majority end up physically peaking, but most, especially as they develop, will end up finding it hard to not only continue physically, but to continue maintaining a high enough skill level to remain competitive on both the domestic and international level. Most gymnasts who do push past a ‘normal’ peak age in gymnastics will do it in the way you suggest, with a hiatus each year where they’re not doing much at all and then getting back into peak competition shape just for the big meets…this is basically what Alicia Sacramone’s plans were during her comeback. IIRC, she did only the most basic training and conditioning six months out of the year, and then six months before worlds is when she’d start pushing. She didn’t go to camps or any of the early-season meets like Jesolo, so her higher-level training was cut to six months per year and her competition season was roughly three months. It mostly worked for her, though unfortunately her Achilles wasn’t even having that limited plan…otherwise, I think she could’ve gone on for quite some time.
Can an elite gymnast do Level 10 in the winter and then compete as an elite during the summer?
No. Once a gymnast is elite, she can’t compete in the level 10 season anymore, aside from the occasional meet (like when her gym is hosting an invitational, she might do a few routines as exhibitions or something just to get some practice). Once a gymnast qualifies to the elite level, she has to officially petition back down to level 10.
If a gymnast on an NCAA scholarship isn’t performing well enough in terms of scores, can she lose her scholarship? What happens to the academic side of her college experience?
No, they can’t take away a scholarship if someone isn’t performing up to the standard they expected her to. They can not sign her if they haven’t reached the signing period yet and she hasn’t officially sent in her NLI, but once she has a scholarship, it’s a full-ride for four years unless she’s kicked off of the team for disciplinary reasons or something.
Do you think Lara Mori got artistry deductions going up after Brooklyn Moors in the floor final at worlds?
I think anyone going up after Brooklyn would get artistry deductions. 😉 I don’t think judges necessarily compare a routine with a previous one and say “well, we’re scoring this lower because it wasn’t as good as the one before it”…at least, they’re not supposed to. However, subconsciously, this absolutely happens, especially since judging is often all about using one routine early in the rotation to set the standard by which others are judged (again, subconsciously) and if they saw someone like Brooklyn go up early on, any routine after that is going to have a hard time living up to something like what Brooklyn does on floor. But again, it’s on a more subconscious/subliminal level.
After Mattie Larson’s moving statement I am hopeful more gyms will focus on the joy and what is best for the athletes. Are there any other coaches like Aimee Boorman that come to mind that seem to embrace this perspective?
I hope so as well! I have talked to a number of coaches who are all about this perspective, and especially in light of everything that has happened, they’re all working hard to make sure their gymnasts are happy and healthy. Gymnastics is an intense sport by its nature in that it requires a high level of physical and mental strength, and in the past coaches have assumed that this high intensity had to be met with a highly intense atmosphere, but I think coaches like Aimee have proved that it doesn’t have to be like this.
It’s nice to see that the majority of coaches now tend to be a bit more in the Aimee school of thought. I talked to a coach once who said she was being tough with a gymnast at a camp with Valeri Liukin at the head of it, and he went up to her and basically told her to chill, and to learn from his mistakes, because “gymnastics doesn’t have to be like that.” I think this younger generation of coaches who saw what happened and who are determined to make the sport better for their athletes are going to be the change the sport needs going forward, especially as so many of the older generation are getting close to retirement…but yes, a large number of Hopes and younger elite coaches are absolutely of this perspective and it’s so good to see. I’ve seen it first-hand so many times already…and despite Valeri’s history, I was actually bummed about him resigning because having seen him in action at multiple meets last year (Gymnix, national meets, and worlds) and hearing stories about how he protected the gymnasts on several occasions, it was clear that he was a different person and really put the athletes’ best interests at heart. Many coaches who were there during Martha Karolyi’s reign and then later for Valeri’s said the change was like night and day, and that he was “the best thing that happened to the ranch” and “the only one looking out for the gymnasts” which was so surprising to me but literally every coach I talked to agreed, so I’m so glad he had such a different perspective about the sport compared to when he was an elite coach. But even if he’s gone now, these coaches saw how he changed things, and how he made things better, and they seem hell-bent on continuing those efforts. I’ve already seen some great examples of positive, athlete-friendly coaching, and I do think we’re on the right path.
What is the format for team finals at NCAA Championships this year? Has RQS been scrapped in favor of average scores?
Well, I got this question a few days too late to answer the first part, but in case you missed it…it was twelve teams in prelims, six per qualification subdivision, and the top three in each qualified to the Super Six held the next day. The RQS wasn’t scrapped for average scores…average scores are how rankings work for the first seven or eight weeks of the season, and then it switches over to RQS at that point.
Did everyone on the U.S. team in 2004 quit immediately after the Olympics?
Pretty much…I mean, from elite, anyway. Two of them were adults and were planning on retiring (Mohini Bhardwaj and Annia Hatch), Carly Patterson went pro and had some opportunities outside the sport to take advantage of, and though she briefly toyed with a comeback, I believe she said her back pain wouldn’t let her do pretty much anything at a highly competitive level, and Terin Humphrey, Courtney Kupets, and Courtney McCool all went on to do NCAA in the years immediately following the Games.
Do elite specialists train fewer hours than all-arounders, or do they train the same amount but put all of it into one apparatus? It must be tough to do six hours a day if you’re a vault specialist.
There’s really no one who only trains vault. Most train at least two or three events, even if they don’t end up competing all of them (like Oksana Chusovitina fully trained the all-around for the majority of last quad, but only competed it a few times because she needed a full all-around program to qualify to the Olympics). Also, not everyone trains that much, especially outside the U.S. (many elites outside the U.S. only train twenty hours a week, especially those not at a super high level). A big portion of training is spent on conditioning or drills or perfecting individual skills, so even if they’re not doing all four events, there’s still plenty to do at the gym.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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