It’s time for the 225th 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.
Can you break down the drama that happened between Andreea Raducan and Marian Dragulescu?
My understanding is that Marian was upset because his salary was cut in November and December of last year, I believe because he didn’t put in the required number of training hours due to injury. He wrote Facebook posts about how he was unhappy with the federation, and Andreea, as president of the federation, said that there’s nothing they can do about it because he got paid for the hours he worked, essentially.
Andreea seemed pretty bitter that he did some sort of TV show during the time he wasn’t training, and made some comments about how he’s basically a famewhore and cared more about that than about training and getting good results in the sport. So they fought about this quite a bit on Facebook I believe, and then a month later Marian said he wants to sue Andreea because she’s been on maternity leave since beginning her role with the federation and therefore had no right to cut his wages.
Now I believe Marian is saying the federation won’t send him to meets (like Osijek last week) but the federation is saying they want to send him to compete but there was some drama with registering him in time…I honestly don’t know. I don’t know the latest with the legal stuff either so I guess we’ll see. I feel like if the federation holds him back from competing at worlds or whatever when he has the scores is going to just open up a huge suit against them for using a personal bias to treat him unfairly and I feel like he’d definitely win.
Personally, I do agree that if he’s not meeting the standard for training hours, he shouldn’t get his full salary, especially if he chose to do some sort of TV program instead of train. But beyond that, the federation really has no right to tell him he can’t do TV shows or take other opportunities unless he’s signed some kind of contract saying he can’t.
Have we heard anything about whether Kim Zmeskal, Mary Lou Retton, or other famous Karolyi gymnasts have responded to the USAG and Karolyi abuses?
I know Kim has made several tweets about it, but I honestly don’t follow many gymnasts on social media and can’t recall seeing anything else in the press or whatever. I know Mary Lou was pushing back against Dianne Feinstein’s bill, which aimed to require sport governing bodies to immediately report child and sex abuse allegations to authorities, making it a crime for those who fail to report. I’m pretty sure that would suggest she’s super pro-USAG, as does the fact that she also left supportive comments on Larry Nassar’s Facebook back when the news first broke. I haven’t seen her come forward and speak of the survivors or anything so I’m not sure if she still believes Nassar is innocent or supports trying to silence victims, but in 2016-2017, this was her behavior.
What is the song that Kari Lee of Utah used on floor this year?
She uses the AWOLNATION song “Sail” which works sooooo well for floor.
Based on the current code, what are some of the highest-scoring connections that have been competed?
Without going through and adding up every single routine’s CV which would take hours, I’d imagine most of the lengthy bars connections where there’s so much up and down end up being worth the most, since beam and floor don’t really lend themselves to massive connection bonuses. Beam technically does, but no one ever gets them, though Liu Tingting I believe at Melbourne in 2017 got some crazy long connections credited. On bars, a gymnast connecting five or six D+ elements could get around 0.5-1.0 in CV realistically.
In vault event finals, would it be better to have vault out-of-bounds deductions subtracted from the final score or from the individual vault itself?
I think it makes more sense to do it from the individual vault itself. Since the vaults are scored separately and not as one unit, neutral deductions also have to be applied separately.
It seems Kiana Winston graduated this past winter but is still competing one last season for Alabama. Are you allowed to compete if you’re not enrolled in college?
She may have enrolled in a graduate program after finishing her undergrad in December. Athletes can’t compete if they’re not enrolled in a certain number of credits, so she would’ve needed to be taking classes to be competing this past spring. Several Bama gymnasts have been in the same boat in the past and just went on to grad school classes, so my guess is that’s what Kiana did as well.
I remember you saying ‘artistry’ or presentation of a floor routine is more of a gymnast’s innate quality than something she can easily train. Do you observe any cases where a gymnast’s artistry improves over the years?
Yes, definitely! Artistry coaches can work with gymnasts to bring out that quality in their floor work and presentation, and I think especially as gymnasts get a bit older, they become more comfortable with showing more than just the technical side of themselves.
Kyla Ross used to be heavily criticized for her artistic performances because she was super focused on getting each movement exact but didn’t really know how to express herself through those movements…for her, it was all about getting the choreography correct and exact, and not about performing it. She worked with Nicole Langevin as she got older, and Nicole basically had to break down those years and years of her being told to do movements a certain way and have her do the movements IMPERFECTLY but with some sort of feeling behind them. She’d be like “instead of moving your arm 20 degrees to the left on an exact beat, just listen to the music and move your arm that direction to the feel of the music.” It wasn’t easy but as Kyla continued working and breaking it down while growing a bit more comfortable with herself as a dancer/performer and not just a technical gymnast, she was able to grow in her artistry and now Kyla is VERY comfortable with performing at the collegiate level, which is great.
You can’t teach someone how to be artistic, but you can definitely teach a gymnast how to open up and become a better performer and use her innate expression to her advantage on floor. I think most gymnasts (and people in other aspects of artistic expression, like acting, dance, singing, painting, and so on) have that innate quality, but not everyone is actually confident/expressive/open enough to let it shine through in a way that resonates with others, which is what artistry is.
Can you explain why it’s okay that gymnasts competed at Jesolo for their clubs instead of their countries? Is this allowed?
It’s an invitational, so yes, it’s allowed. It wouldn’t be allowed at worlds or world cups or continental meets, but most invitationals will allow for clubs to register gymnasts rather than federations. Jesolo is usually an invitational for federations, but because the U.S. always attends and because they wanted the U.S. to attend this year, they opted to allow U.S. clubs to send gymnasts since the federation said no. Had the federation sent gymnasts, though, clubs wouldn’t have been able to. For non-FIG meets, these rules are up to the meet organizers.
In a documentary about Simone Biles, it said said she was a level 8 one year after starting gymnastics. How does that happen? Don’t gymnasts need a minimum score to advance a level?
Yes, there are score requirements, but gymnasts can skip level 6 if they reach a 32 AA in level 5, and they can qualify from one level to the next within the same year. My guess is that she did levels 4 and 5 in the same year, skipped level 6, spent only a hot second in level 7, and then after a quick turnaround, was able to qualify to level 8. Since she got a late start in the sport, she was actually a little behind age-wise (she qualified level 8 when she was about to turn 10, whereas a majority of the top gymnasts climbing the ranks are 7-going-on-8), so since she had the skills and the scores, it was easy for her to level hop as she met all of the requirements while also being a bit older.
Margzetta Frazier’s floor routine in Birmingham had a double layout, double pike, double tuck, and a double arabian. I thought all gymnasts needed to include a full twist to fulfill composition requirements. Where does hers come in?
She actually does a tucked full-in, not a double tuck. The full twist comes in during the first flip in her full-in.
What was the change Shawn Johnson made to her third pass during the all-around in 2008? Didn’t she always compete a front 1½ to a back 1½?
Shawn competed a front full to Rudi for her third pass in every routine I can remember her doing in 2008. A Rudi to back 1½ would be…I don’t want to say impossible, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone punch out of a Rudi into any more difficult than like, a layout. It’s hard to punch backwards out of a Rudi because the momentum on the landing is generally still bringing you forward in the opposite direction you’d need to punch into, which is why even a Rudi to back layout full would be awesome to see.
Do you know what the skill value is for Anya Pilgrim’s front inbar half?
I would guess a D…a front toe-on half is a C, and a front toe-on full is a D, so it would make logical sense that a front inbar half is a D and if someone were to do a full, that would be an E.
Is there any rule banning transgender women competing in WAG or transgender men competing in MAG? Do you know if it’s been a problem for anyone?
I don’t know of anyone transgender who has attempted to compete in gymnastics at a high level so I don’t know of the rules, if there are rules, or if anyone has struggled breaking through. I do know at the collegiate club level, some women compete in MAG occasionally without an issue, but that’s club sports, not NCAA or elite.
In NCAA, I don’t think there’s official policy having to do with transgender student-athletes, meaning it’s basically up to the coaches at particular programs to decide if they want to accommodate a transgender student on their sports teams, but the NCAA does have best practices and recommended policies for programs, and they support equal opportunity and inclusion.
I think the general rule is that a trans male being treated with testosterone may compete on a men’s team and is no longer allowed to compete on a woman’s team, a trans female being treated with testosterone suppression may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team until completing one calendar year of treatment, and transgender athletes not taking hormone treatment related to transition must compete on teams in accordance with their assigned birth gender.
I’d imagine this is how any elite governing body would also choose to operate not just in gymnastics but in other sports as well…though I’m sure many coaches, athletes, administrative staff, parents, and fans aren’t super educated on transgender issues and I’m sure many would be insensitive to these athletes, especially in a sport like gymnastics where the divide between the men’s discipline and the women’s discipline is so stark that they’re basically women’s sports. Hopefully someday we’ll see someone able to cross that divide but so far it hasn’t really come up in this sport.
Did Emma Kelley leave Stars?
Yes, she is currently training at Texas Dreams with the goal of going elite.
With the new uneven bars rules only allowing three of the same root skills, does that mean gymnasts can only count three skills that start with giants?
No, giants aren’t root skills. A gymnast can do a skill like a Tkachev, for example, without any root skill going into it. Root skills are stalders, clear hips, toe-ons, and inbars.
In the current code, what is the deduction for not completing a full turn on floor?
A full turn is not required on floor so officially there is no deduction for not completing one, though I’d imagine some judges who see a routine without any turns might take tenths off for composition/content. If a gymnast is throwing in a full turn just to have a turn even if it doesn’t fit the routine, that would also be a composition deduction, though, so if you turn well and if turns work for your routine and flow seamlessly from leaps or choreography, then it works, but if you’re just doing a turn for the sake of doing one, it’s pretty noticeable.
How do gymnasts go about representing another country at worlds or the Olympics? Are they invited by the country’s Olympic committee or governing body? Or do they reach out first?
It depends. Some will reach out to the sport’s governing body or that country’s NOC if they don’t have a gymnastics federation. I’ll use two examples to show the difference…in Irina Alexeeva’s case, she and her family and coaches reached out to the Russian federation to see if they’d allow her to represent them, and because they are well-established and already have a busy national program, they tested her through their national championships to see if she’d be a good fit and now she’s a member of the team.
On the other side of things, in Houry Gebeshian’s case, Armenia didn’t have any sort of women’s program, and someone in the NOC who was a family friend actually got in touch with them and asked if she might be interested in representing them internationally. You’ll see both happening, though I think it’s more common for the athletes/their coaches to end up being the ones to reach out. The only time it happens the other way around is if the program is basically nonexistent but looking to get started. Like if someone in Belize really wanted to start a national program and knew Simone Biles was a citizen, they’d definitely contact her to see what it would take to get her to compete for them.
I’ve noticed MyKayla Skinner is now wearing beam shoes. I’ve never seen a gymnast use a type of lyrical sandal before. Has MyKayla ever discussed why or how she decided to try them out and what she likes about them?
Not that I know of. I’ve seen gymnasts wearing lyrical shoes before, though…mostly on floor but they’re out there. Most who wear any type of shoe on beam do so because it helps them grip the beam better, especially if their feet get sweaty while competing, in addition to helping get turns around more easily. My guess is that if MyKayla started using beam shoes or lyrical slippers on beam, it’s because of one of those reasons.
Do people re-build difficulty once the season starts over?
Sometimes. It depends on the athlete. In the U.S. you’ll often see the girls who are competing at American Cup or Jesolo come out with full difficulty, but then they generally have quite a long break before the summer season starts going into worlds, so they don’t really have to ‘build up’ to worlds as much because they’re not competing regularly for a solid three months between Jesolo and classics. But gymnasts from other countries who compete year-round will often start out at a lower level and slowly get back to their peak…Nina Derwael started out 2018 with a 5.5 on bars, for example, but now she’s up to a 6.4. And Giulia Steingruber just returned to competition this week, and instead of doing her super difficult Rudi on vault, she’s doing vaults that she normally does as timers (though she upgraded to partially full difficulty for the final, doing her Rudi but with a Yurchenko full instead of a double).
Why were Vanessa Atler and Jamie Dantzscher allowed to compete as seniors at nationals in 1997 when they weren’t true seniors and not eligible to compete at worlds?
The U.S. national program can basically do whatever they want at domestic meets. If they want two juniors to come up and compete with the seniors to see how they compare and to give them senior-level experience at a younger age, that’s fine. Also, under the 1996 eligibility rules, they would have been eligible for senior competition had those rules continued into the next quad, so they were supposed to turn senior in 1997 but then the rules changed that year, so USAG was probably like “meh, you can ‘turn senior’ the year you were supposed to, but you just won’t be able to compete internationally until next year.” Anyway, some national competitions and international invitationals don’t even differentiate between junior and senior and the U.S. will sometimes invite the top junior competitors to compete in the senior division at classics (though with their scores still counting as junior scores), so it’s not really a big deal to separate them for domestic meets, most just do it anyway because they follow international guidelines but it’s not a requirement.
Jana Bieger sometimes did her stalder skills with her toes on the bar. Is this its own skill? Or is it the same as a stalder full or toe full?
It’s not in the code now as a straddled toe-on, aside from a toe shoot which is done more often in a stalder position than in a piked position. My guess is the skill just got kind of phased out, but still, we’d probably still see SOME girls doing it anyway…so maybe it’s just no longer in the code? I don’t see it in the code actually now that I’m looking, but yeah I’m watching Jana’s routine from 2008 now and she did a straddled toe-on full pirouette. Maybe if someone did it now it would just be considered the same as a toe full whether your body is piked or straddled? But still interesting that literally no one else does it straddled, you’d think it’d be somewhat common? So maybe it’s just not in the code for whatever reason.
Would you ever consider working for USAG? I don’t know what your current employment is like, but you seem really passionate, well-rounded, and knowledgeable in your blogs! You also seem to understand the mistakes and consequences that not only USAG has made but other federations too.
Thank you! I don’t think so…a job opportunity opened up with them a few years ago and I considered applying but then I thought about it and realized I wouldn’t be getting to do exactly what I wanted to do and likely wouldn’t be able to keep up my own website as well at the same time, which would kind of take the fun out of it for me.
I interviewed with Flo back in 2014 right when I graduated from college and I just sat there aghast for the whole phone call because the guy who I spoke with knew nothing about gymnastics and when he asked for my feedback about their homepage, I pretty much said how messy and confusing it was and gave ideas for how to clean it up, and he was like “I don’t agree with any of that, and you have to know that for this job, you will need to be able to take direction from me because I know what I’m doing, you have to know right now that you will have very little freedom to do or cover what you want.”
I was like lol okay byeeee and started my own site shortly after, doing with my site what I would’ve wished someone at a larger website like Flo would’ve let me do full time. I realized in doing this site that with something I love, like gymnastics, I need to have full control over what I do otherwise it becomes a job I hate rather than something I can enjoy doing. It was the same with writing my book…I brought it to agents who were all like “this is fantastic but I can’t sell it if gymnastics is the main story; make it boy drama first and gymnastics second” and I was just like k bye I’m doing it my way otherwise it’s not fun and there’s no point in doing it.
I work in digital marketing outside of my website, and I love it and have had great bosses at the two jobs I’ve had in this field who have taught and directed me, but in a non-micromanaged kind of way, giving me the freedom to kind of do my own thing while expecting a certain level of competence at the same time. It’s a great balance to have at work, and when NBC hired me to help them with their digital show in 2016, they also were like, letting me pitch whatever I wanted and giving me freedom to bring up and talk about what I thought was best, which was awesome (I’ll never forget on day one they were like “anyone you want to feature for having an elegant, smooth style” and I blurted out NINA DERWAEL and they were like WHO but let me do it because they trusted me. And it was AWESOME to feel like I could step up to a team of longtime producers and showrunners and be like “I want THIS” and they’d let me do it.
My point is that for gymnastics, since I love it so much and possess a fairly expert level of knowledge, I would definitely need to be in some kind of role or company that would give me that freedom and trust, and I don’t think you can get that at most places, especially governing bodies that are more about their own promotion than about covering the sport, if that makes sense. Of course, with USAG, I know when Scott Bregman was there they basically let him do what he wanted to do in order to get their streaming coverage started, which was awesome and he did WERK to get that done and they trusted his expertise to make it happen, so I’d give USAG’s comms team the benefit of the doubt and assume that if you’re smart and willing to work hard, they’ll give you some freedom to bring your ideas and talents to the table, but still…gymnastics is so much fun for me to work on in terms of coverage, and I don’t think I’d want to give up what I’m currently doing to work for a coverage site or governing body that would limit how I’d want to cover something, and since USAG obviously is only about the U.S. programs, I’d really miss my deep dives into everything international. I’m picturing myself in an office at USAG being like “uhhh I need to watch this Czech junior meet, leave me alone!” hahaha.
Who was the first to do the standing full on beam?
I believe the first to do it from a standing position was Aleftina Priakhina, a Soviet gymnast from Turkmenistan who was a crazy innovative gal who took big risks on every apparatus, but was generally quite inconsistent and the Soviets left her off of major teams (though she won a couple of medals at Euros in 1987). She first did her standing full at Euros as a junior in 1986, though before her standing full, we got to see a couple of tuck fulls out of cartwheels from Ekaterina Szabo and Pam Bileck at small meets in 1982, and I believe it was named for Albina Shishova when she did it at worlds from a roundoff in 1983 (though whether standing or out of a connected skill, it’s considered the same in the code).
Do you have any feedback about the Nadia Comaneci Invitational?
No, I couldn’t find their results anywhere for the elite session. I know some Romanians attended, but I can only find the J.O. results.
What’s the relationship between Monmouth Gymnastics and MG Elite?
Back in the day before they had big elites, they actually competed as Monmouth Gymnastics, but then when Maggie Haney began developing her elite team, I believe it was like “Monmouth Gymnastics Elite” at first but then maybe became “Maggie’s Girls” Elite or something like that? I know a few years ago the girls would train a few days a week at Monmouth and a few days at another gym. I think MG Elite is now what Monmouth’s USAG Girls program is called rather than it just being a select group of high-level gymnasts…I have friends who work in NJ gyms who compete against MG Elite regularly at the lower compulsory levels, so it’s definitely now more than just a name for the elites who came out of Maggie’s group at Monmouth!
Can you explain how qualifying to individual event finals works for D3 gymnasts at nationals?
Gymnasts qualified to event finals at D3 nationals based on their regional finishes rather than on qualification scores from the first day of nationals. I believe the top ten from WIAC Championships and the top ten from NCGA East Championships (plus ties) all qualified, so the finals had 20+ each. Most of the finalists were part of programs that qualified full teams to nationals, but individuals were able to qualify through the regional meets as well, and two individual competitors ended up winning event titles this year — Baylee Tkacuzk of Oshkosh on bars and Tali Twomey of Springfield on floor.
Why don’t the top U.S. stars usually compete at world cups? Is it always the best decision for the U.S. girls to not compete? Most of them would win easily and they could use the prize money to pay for college tuition.
Well, first of all, they can’t win the prize money at world cups and use it to pay for college because they’re almost all holding out for NCAA scholarships and that would make them ineligible. They’d rather have full scholarships from the NCAA covering their tuition than the $5-10k or so a year they’d win max if they went to multiple apparatus world cups and won multiple medals. Also, the U.S. doesn’t send gymnasts to apparatus world cups because they prefer spending their international competition budget on team events, which is why they attend Pac Rims, Jesolo, and Pan Ams. They value the team aspect of competition more than individual competition because team competition is so rare whereas individual competition is what they do all the time.
Can NCAA teams count the score from conference championships into their RQS?
Yup! Conference Championships technically count as part of the regular season and factor into the RQS.
Why does MyKayla Skinner do a random punch front tuck in her floor routine? Does having another A skill fill some sort of requirement?
No, she just does it as part of her choreo, just like some girls will do a random aerial or something that doesn’t count for anything but it fits with the feel of the routine, so they make it part of their choreo/movement rather than a skill they’re doing for difficulty.
Is Aliya Mustafina still married to Alexei Zaitsev?
No, they got a divorce.
Why does NCAA men’s gymnastics have weekly/yearly gymnast awards and in women’s it’s only by conference?
My guess is that it’s because the NCAA is so big on the women’s side that they’d rather separate it by conference and do it that way rather than have the NCAA put out the gymnast of the week or whatever…mostly because like, how would that even work? The NCAA can’t follow all 82 teams and 1200+ gymnasts every single week and make a definitive “yes, she was the best!” statement I’m guessing…and we all know they’d just go with whoever had the top AA score or who got a 10 that week and be like “well that’s the winner I guess” haha. I think it’d be boring…and I like that the conferences are able to highlight gymnasts who might not get that national attention.
How many people will be on the worlds team this year?
This year worlds allows for five gymnasts per team.
Why didn’t Kristy Powell push on and try for the 2000 Olympics?
She was in too much physical pain to keep going on and decided to retire before the summer season in 1998. She had years worth of injuries that were making it too painful for her to do even the most basic movements and skills, and she said “although I’d love to make an Olympic team, the everyday work that needs to be done is not realistic for me now” because her “body couldn’t handle it.” It’s a shame but it’s not worth it to push on for another 2+ years for the small chance of earning an Olympic spot if you can’t physically do anything without feeling pain.
In terms of deductions, how much did Maile O’Keefe lose when she hit the bar on her piked Jaeger at the American Cup?
It’s a five-tenths deduction when a gymnast hits the uneven bars with her feet/legs.
Is Gabby Perea still training?
Yup! She was at the most recent national team camp and is expected to compete this summer barring injury.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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