You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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Natalie Hannah Brown

It’s time for the 227th 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.

Why was Natalie Brown given a one-year scholarship midway through her time at Oklahoma but not the other years?

She didn’t come to Oklahoma as a scholarship gymnast, but rather as a walk-on. Walk-ons don’t receive scholarships, but often when walk-ons become major contributors for the team, they can earn scholarships as they become available. Sometimes if a team has five freshman spots open, if one of their more productive walk-ons is turning junior or senior and is ‘deserving’ of a scholarship, the team might just bring in four freshmen and then give the remaining scholarship to a walk-on. Natalie ended up being a huge contributor to the team, both in terms of scores and in terms of being one of the most supportive teammates, and they felt that was more than worth a scholarship.

Grace McLaughlin scored a 9.9 on floor the week before senior day. Why did she only exhibition on senior night? Why wasn’t she also honored with the other seniors in the post-meet press conference?

I don’t know what her deal was this season, to be honest? Maybe she was dealing with injury or something, or just not making lineups…I feel like I almost never saw her with the team and every time I saw a pic of her come across social media, she was with a sorority or something…so maybe she was just not making lineups and so started kind of phasing the program out knowing she was basically done? Like I don’t think she had a PROBLEM with the team or whatever and I do remember her posting about the seniors on senior night, and she traveled to nationals, but it just seemed like she had other stuff going on in the absence of not really being a big contributor to the team anymore which is great if she found that balance early.

Do you think Great Britain has a chance at being a threat internationally this year with so many injuries?

A threat, not really. On an individual level, for those who are still healthy and able to contribute, they’ll do okay, but as a team it’s going to be hard at Euros or worlds if Claudia Fragapane, Amy Tinkler, and Ellie Downie aren’t back. I have really enjoyed seeing some of the other girls step up this year in their absence, though, like Kelly Simm, Alice Kinsella, and Georgia-Mae Fenton, and I’d actually love if they could use this opportunity to get at least one of the super-talented Welsh kids on a major team.

I’ve seen comments about Courtney McCool ‘falling apart’ at the 2004 Olympics but I don’t remember any huge errors in her qualifiers. Am I forgetting something?

She didn’t really ‘fall apart.’ She just didn’t have the kind of scores they were expecting her to get as one of the top all-arounders in the country (to the point where Mohini Bhardwaj ended up beating her in the all-around qualification), and she didn’t have a top-three score on any event, which is why they took her out of the team final. She did have weaker-than-usual routines on beam and floor from what I can remember, and I think it was also just a case of judges at home giving her huge scores with the international judges just not really being super into her…kind of like Jordyn Wieber in 2012.

Shannon Miller is often left out in conversations about the best American gymnast ever produced. What do you think is the reason for her omission?

I don’t think she’s ever left out in these conversations and think people generally consider her one of the best? I’ve never heard people leaving her out, honestly. I mean, she was a member of two Olympic teams, the first U.S. gymnast to win Olympic gold on beam, a two-time world all-around champion, a world champion on every event but vault, and she’s the second-most decorated U.S. gymnast behind Simone Biles when looking at world and Olympic medal totals. There’d be literally no reason to leave her out of a ‘best American gymnasts’ list, unless like, your one piece of criteria for that list is that she wasn’t an Olympic all-around champion, but if that’s your reasoning, it shouldn’t be! The rest of her accolades speak for themselves.

What would you say is the ‘magic score’ for someone looking to challenge in the all-around internationally?

This year, to challenge for an all-around medal at worlds, I’d say around a 55-56 the way things have been going so far. It’ll be interesting to see if someone could breach 57 this year at a major international meet, especially with Simone Biles coming back, but the way things look right now, a 56 would put you in gold medal contention for sure.

Would you rather see a double layout that’s way over arched or one from Mayia Hambrick where it’s clean but piked?

Ugh it’s hard to decide lol. I guess arched in terms of getting it credited? At least when it’s arched you know they’ve reached the layout shape at some point in the air if they’ve gone past it, and so it wouldn’t be in danger of being downgraded…whereas if it’s piked, it runs the risk of the downgrade and shows that the gymnast can’t reach a perfectly stretched position. But aesthetically I’d rather see a slight pike than a huge arch. A slight pike would still be in the window of getting it credited and it looks a little better, I think.

Where did Peng Peng Lee train in Canada? Had she been healthy in London and hit her routines, could she have medaled?

Peng trained at Oakville Gymnastics in Ontario. I don’t know if she was a legit medal contender in London, but she would have at the very least been a top-five all-around threat if she hit and had her DTY. She probably could’ve contended for the beam final, which is where she’d be closest to being a threat for a medal, especially considering that other medal hopefuls had falls, but with the way things ended up turning out in the beam final, I think she would’ve needed the routine of a lifetime to get on the podium, and she definitely wouldn’t have beaten the Chinese…and doubt she would’ve beaten Aly Raisman or Catalina Ponor as well (even with Catalina’s mistakes, her D was way higher), but could see her slipping in for a close fifth behind that top group.

How do individual all-arounders and event specialists qualify to NCAA nationals?

They qualify through regionals. The top two all-arounders at each regional who aren’t part of qualifying teams qualify as all-arounders, and to qualify as event specialists, the gymnasts have to straight up win (or tie for the win) on that event.

Watching 2012 nationals, I realized Sarah Finnegan did really hard tumbling, but only did three passes. Is it better to do three hard passes than four that might be slightly easier?

For some, yeah, this can be a better strategy. If they struggle with endurance especially, it’s definitely easier to just get things over with in three passes. If you can do a couple of really difficult combo passes, and if you also have pretty difficult dance elements, a fourth pass wouldn’t be necessary to get you to the same D score as someone who has four passes but kind of ‘wastes’ two of them on like, two D elements like a double pike and a double tuck, which tend to be the most common passes to end on after opening with two more difficult passes at the beginning.

How do you think Danusia Francis’ ‘save’ on floor at British Championships was scored?

Oh man, this is something I’ve tried to wrap my head around but don’t know if I can, haha. They definitely didn’t give her a fall, but would have deducted for a really low/squatted landing, and then also would’ve taken a ton of deductions on the form in the back handspring, because her legs were bent and almost fully apart in a split at one point, and she landed it basically on her elbows/head with her legs in a straddle. She would’ve gotten 0.1 in CV for the double pike to immediate back handspring, but not really worth it obviously when you consider the hella deductions from how the double pike was landed and how the back handspring looked.

When I calculate the D score for Elisabeth Seitz’s beam at American Cup this year, I get a 5.2 but she was only credited with a 4.7. I theorize that she was not credited with the CR of having two connected dance skills, one with at least a 180-degree split. Do you think this is correct?

If they ended up not crediting her a 180 split on either of her leaps in her series that would be cruel as she hit 180 on both! I actually got to a 5.3 D if she had absolutely everything credited as she intended to do it, but I could see one issue being the layout getting downgraded to a pike which would take away the 0.1 CV in addition to the skill value from the two-foot layout, bringing her to a 5.0…but beyond that I don’t know what they would’ve taken away from her so it must have been a missing CR, and the not hitting 180 seems most accurate? In real time I could see how the judges would see that she didn’t hit 180 on either of her splits even though she did. So she probably lost that CR and then I’m sure there was something that was not credited with her layout series, though maybe just not as severe as calling it a back pike.

What is the difference between a sissone, split jump, and split leap?

Well to start off, a jump takes off from two feet and a leap takes off from one foot. A sissone is a jump where the legs do a split 180 degrees in the air but at an angle where the front leg is lower than the back leg. A split jump is also a jump where the legs reach a 180 degree split, but the legs are parallel to the beam or floor. A split leap is a leap where the gymnast takes off from one foot with the opposite leg going forward and then the “take-off” foot going back so that the legs reach a 180 degree spit in the air, like a split jump aside from that little ‘travel’ step into the leap. A good way to tell the difference if you’re still not sure is to know that jumps usually don’t travel whereas leaps do…on floor, especially, though on beam, you can see that gymnasts will often take a little baby run into a split leap or switch leap.

Do NCAA gymnasts get to keep their leotards when they graduate or are they retired?

I believe they usually keep one or two as momentos but I’m not sure what they do with the rest…I feel like it’d be weird to recycle someone’s leo for someone else so I doubt that happens, but you never know, especially for smaller programs that might want to get as much wear out of them as possible.

Why don’t people like Al Trautwig? Why didn’t people like Elfi Schlegel?

I think the issue most people had with Al is that he would tend to talk in a condescending way about the gymnasts, in that “little girl” kind of way that is super inappropriate because even though they might look like “little girls,” they’re actually world-class athletes just like the top football, baseball, and basketball players in the country. He would also often make rude remarks about international gymnasts, and then I think the thing that got everyone super pissed off was when he refused to refer to Simone Biles’ parents as “her parents” because she was adopted.

As for Elfi, I never really minded her…I think she was kind of considered “dumb” about the sport or something in the way people talk about Tim Daggett, but what people don’t realize is that they’re not actually dumb people and they’re both really intelligent about gymnastics (and in general). But for broadcasts, they’re basically told to dumb down the commentary so any average Joe tuning in would understand.

It sucks for them because every other sport assumes people are intelligent humans who will eventually pick up on what’s going on and don’t need color-coded systems or constant reminders about how the beam is only 4 inches wide or how the “new” aka 12-year-old code works. Can you imagine watching a baseball broadcast and hearing the announcers being like “can you believe it, the pitcher has to throw the ball SIXTY FEET to the batter!!” every single day? Both Elfi and Tim are actually super knowledgeable about the sport and do hella research, but it’s hard to be anything but infantilizing when you’re told that these broadcasts aren’t for fans but rather for people who have probably never watched the sport before. I love that the SEC and Pac 12 networks don’t dumb it down at all…they do a lot of explaining the same things every week, but never in a way that’s dumbed down, and I can guarantee you that if Tim and Elfi had that freedom, they’d come off a lot better.

What happens if you step out-of-bounds with one foot and the foot that’s still in-bounds lifts off the ground slightly? Would that be counted as a one-foot or two-foot penalty?

It would just be counted as a one-foot penalty if the second foot never actually leaves the space. Even if it’s off the ground, the foot itself is still within the floor boundaries.

How come female gymnasts haven’t been able to perform triples or quads on any event yet? Is it because of the physical differences between males and females?

Female gymnasts do triples on floor all the time, and a few have attempted quads in competition. Also, several gymnasts have trained Yurchenko triples on vault, and Hong Un Jong attempted to compete one at the Olympics in 2016. In general, the majority of women aren’t going to be able to do skills as advanced as the men can do, so while there are some women who are able to push the boundaries, a greater number of men will be able to, and that’s why triples are basically a staple last pass for them on floor whereas for women, a triple is like a big opening or second pass for stronger floor workers. But on both vault and floor, I can guarantee that there is at least one woman who can throw the most difficult skills the men are doing…with the exception of a few vaults, like the Shirai II, the Yurchenko or tsuk double backs, and the more difficult front handspring vaults, like the double pike and the Dragulescu.

If Simone Biles had been age-eligible in 2012, would she have made the Olympic team?

With the skills she had in 2012, no, but mostly because she wasn’t planning on making that team and so what we saw from her in 2012 wouldn’t have been what she showed if she knew she was eligible and showed up in 2012 making a legitimate run for the team. I think if she had been planning for years to make the 2012 team, she would’ve absolutely been in the running, possibly in an all-around spot but at that age, probably more realistically the vault/floor specialist role. I think she definitely would’ve threatened either Aly Raisman or McKayla Maroney based on Olympic Trials.

Is Liang Chow currently coaching the Chinese team? Why did Chinese national team girls train at his gym this year?

Yes, he’s currently leading the Chinese national program. As for having Chinese girls training at Chow’s, often gyms in the U.S. will form connections with other national programs to do exchanges, and since he obviously had his foot in the door in China, he offered to host a group of their gymnasts to help them out a bit so they could get ideas for training and drills based on what the U.S. girls were doing. They were basically shocked at how much leg work the Americans do! And it was a cool experience for them in general. I know other Chinese teams in the past have trained at gyms like WOGA and Everest, CGA tends to host a lot of international teams…it’s a fun way for the U.S. to kind of share what they know to make other programs even stronger, which is awesome.

How can someone become more flexible?

I mean, the simple answer? STRETCH! 😉 For real, it works. Not everyone is going to be as flexible as some of the most flexible people out there, so stretching every day might not get you to 220 degree oversplits, especially if you’re muscular…people who have really bulky muscles tend to not be as flexible and so gymnasts who struggle with this end up relying more on their strength to get splits in jumps on floor more than their flexibility. From personal experience, I know no matter how much stretching I do, I will never get closer than like six inches away from my middle splits, I’ve tried since I was a child and I know it’s just not happening lol…but I can lose my right and left splits after lazy periods and then stretch for a few days to get them back.

What is the element called that Ivana Hong did on bars at the 2007 U.S. Championships?

I believe the skill you’re talking about was her Steinemann circle? Most people refer to this and skills like it as German giants, which are super rare and require great shoulder flexibility…the Gym Max coaches are actually amazing at teaching German giants; they’ve had some J.O. gymnasts doing them, and Laney Madsen also has them in her elite routine! Ivana’s were crazy because she did them right into a Tkachev…granted, it was a butt-grazer of a Tkachev, but she always managed to get it over the bar!

If U.S. gymnasts can get money for being on the national team but remain eligible for NCAA gymnastics, why can’t international gymnasts also remain eligible when accepting salaries?

It’s technically a stipend to cover training costs for the U.S. gymnasts, whereas for international gymnasts, it’s an actual salary for a job they’re doing. The international gymnasts generally have their training covered by the government, and their salary pays for their lifestyle the way any job would, but the U.S. gymnasts get a small stipend each month that goes to training costs. They’re not getting paid to train and do gymnastics…they’re just having their training paid for by USAG and the USOC.

Is it possible for judges to earn a living purely by judging in the U.S.? Or do they supplement this with other work?

No. Judges, especially at higher levels and NCAA, can make a good chunk of cash on the weekends during the busy season, but none of them are professional judges who ONLY judge. A good majority are coaches or gym owners, but others have regular jobs and just judge for fun on the weekends, maybe because they were former gymnasts and want to stay involved without being full-time coaches, or maybe because they just happen to love the sport and decided to become judges to help expand their knowledge.

Why do you think we’ve never seen a woman attempt a Deferr (jump forward with half twist to double salto backwards) and what do you think it’d be rated in the women’s code?

Ooh, it’s like the opposite of an arabian double front! I’ve always wanted to see someone do this and didn’t realize it had been done in MAG until just now, so that’s exciting. I think front skills in general tend to be daunting for most women because you can’t build the momentum the way you can with backward skills, so this ultimately ends up having to be done out of a punch or a front handspring, which makes it super hard to generate enough power to actually get it around…but I think a great front tumbler like Brooklyn Moors or Brenna Dowell could do this. I’d guess it’d be an E or an F…probably an E, because the double back aspect makes it a little easier than something like a Podkopayeva, which is an F.

Are developmental camps still taking place given USAG’s current status?

Yes, not as often, but they’re under the direction of Tom Forster at the moment, who I think is one of the people who put forth an application for the national team coordinator role. He has been around the national program forever, and has a great rapport with many of the younger juniors and devo girls, and it’d be interesting to see if they just leave him in a devo role or bump him up to NTC and have him run both programs the way Valeri Liukin was doing before he left.

What’s your opinion on Giulia Steingruber’s floor choreography?

I don’t LOVE it, but I’ve never thought anything bad about it…for me, it’s one of those routines that’s just kind of THERE with nothing that stands out at either end of the spectrum.

Georgia-Mae Fenton was credited with a D score of 5.8 at English Championships. When I calculate the score, I get 6.1 and can’t identify where I’ve gone astray. Could you help me figure that out?

Here’s what I got…

Derwael-Fenton (F) + Ezhova (D) = 0.2 CV
Maloney (D) + clear hip (C) + Ricna (E) + bail (D) + toe full (D) = 0.3 CV
Toe shoot (B)
Full-out (D)

FEDDDDDC = 3.4
CV = 0.2 + 0.3 = 0.5
CR = 2.0
Total = 5.9

I’m not sure where they would’ve gotten a 5.8 honestly…I thought this routine was pretty straightforward? I just checked and she got a 5.9 for the same routine at worlds and in both of her Commonwealth Games routines…maybe they thought the Ricna was like, just a Tkachev or something? I honestly don’t know.

Do you think gym fans are much harder on Americans than they are on other countries? I’m thinking of Viktoria Komova, and how she competed a watered-down bars set with no inbars in her first meet back this season, with everyone responding about how amazing it was. Meanwhile, contrast that with Ashton Locklear, who also didn’t have inbars and people flipped out about her making the worlds team even though she had a vastly better performance than Viktoria did in terms of execution.

Yeah, for sure. I found that very funny…Ashton got so much crap for not coming back at full strength after multiple injuries, though her skills were flawless which is why she was able to make the worlds uneven bars final with a 5.5 D score, and Vika came back with a literal weaker routine skill-wise and messier form and people were asking if she’d win the Olympic gold this time around. I mean…huh? It’s just bizarre. I get why people might personally like one gymnast more than another, and I mean, like whoever you want, I don’t care…but it’s pretty clear when your bias shows and this was the most hypocritical instance in that case. Both Ashton and Vika are working through years of being injured and trying to fight back from those injuries, and they both should be treated with the respect that they deserve for trying to keep going in a very difficult sport.

Had there been a team final in Montreal, do you think the U.S. (counting Ragan Smith) would have won? Which other countries would have placed well?

Yeah. I put together the scores for this for fun (using a few average scores from gymnasts who were alternates or close seconds to making the team just to have that fifth person) and the U.S. was a bit ahead, and Japan was second! I think it was hard to gauge with Russia and China because they didn’t have full sets of routines there (like, China only had one girl doing the all-around with the rest doing one event apiece, and Russia only had two all-arounders and two one-eventers), but overall Japan did look stronger than those two countries at that moment in time in terms of having a complete and healthy team, which is super cool to know that they could’ve broken in…and Germany also looked really strong as a team. Obviously had this been a team year China and Russia would’ve planned better to have more complete gymnasts and programs, but I definitely think Japan could have easily challenged both of those teams for the silver.

What do you think about the new top gym in Ghent? Will other gyms start to use the camera system they have? Will it help the Belgian team get better?

It looks awesome! Kind of like what the bigger collegiate gyms are like in the U.S. in terms of having great tech to go along with the nice facilities. Many gyms use camera systems to help with skills so gymnasts and coaches can better see what’s going wrong and what they’d need to do to fix things, and yes, it definitely helps gymnasts improve and could definitely help the Belgians.

Has any NCAA women’s team ever scored a 199? What’s the record?

I don’t think a team has ever scored a 199…the closest is probably a 198.875, which both UCLA and Stanford reached in 2004.

What’s going on with Seda Tutkhalyan? Is she injured? Taking a break? Retired? Blacklisted?

She has been injured and unable to train at a high level. She’s on the reserve team right now, which isn’t the main national team, and she competed at nationals in April on every event but floor, but at a much lower level than we’re used to seeing her…and she also had mistakes, so it just wasn’t a great meet for her. I’d like to see her get back to a solid level, but don’t think she’ll be making any major teams anytime soon. She has a LOT of work to do, basically.

Do you think other countries might actually catch the U.S. in the team competition this quad?

I think it’ll get closer for sure, but I don’t see any other program that has a team picture as complete as the U.S. yet. When I talk about a complete program, I mean a team that could have injuries and bring in athletes to replace the injured athletes who would more or less put up the same level of performance. Most teams without their top 1-3 athletes would be screwed, to say the least. The U.S. could still show up to a major meet without its absolute strongest team and still have a strong shot at winning, and because most teams usually have at least something happening injury-wise to limit their total potential, the U.S. is still finding it easy to top the charts even if they’re also not at full health, thanks to that depth.

I think a good illustration of this was the DTB Team Challenge this year, where Belgium sent an A team up against B teams from Japan, Germany, and Russia…and easily beat them. Belgium was 12th at the Olympics in 2016, and the A teams from these three countries could have mistakes and still easily beat the Belgians…but when you take out the top Russian, Japanese, and German contenders and replace them with girls who are either lower level A team or top B team competitors, the Belgian A team comes out stronger.

All three of these programs, as well as China and Great Britain, need more depth and stronger B teams if they want a shot at catching the U.S., basically. I think Russia could get close to the U.S. if every single athlete is healthy and hits every single routine, but because we know that’s a rare unicorn of circumstances, it’s probably not going to happen, while the U.S. meanwhile will continue to be able to make it through injuries and mistakes because they have the depth to back them up.

Do you think Madison Kocian could return to elite for the 2020 Olympics?

I think with Madison, she’d have to decide if she’d want to take a hiatus from her 2020 season in NCAA, and that doesn’t seem to be something she wants to do…which would mean she’d only have a couple of months to get back her elite level of skills after not doing elite routines for four years. I won’t say it’s impossible, but…it’s not likely to happen, unless she’s simultaneously training her elite routines in her spare time while doing NCAA.

What would have happened if Elena Mukhina had never been injured and attended the 1980 Olympics?

I mean, it’s impossible for me to say, isn’t it? She could’ve hit everything and been amazing and won medals or she could’ve not been as great as they were expecting her to be and not medaled. Given that these Olympics were held in Moscow, the odds were in her favor and hopefully she would’ve performed as expected, but I don’t understand these hypothetical questions or how you want me to answer them…like? She could’ve been great? Is that the answer you want? Like I can’t tell you “she would’ve stuck every pass on floor and gotten a 10!” hahaha. She probably would’ve done well? But she also could’ve fallen 10 times.

Why does it seem common that gymnasts switch gyms and coaches after an injury?

I don’t know why that seems common…I don’t think it really is? Usually it’s not an injury that makes gymnasts want to switch gyms but rather their parents feeling like they’re not doing as well as they could be at one gym and thinking that a gym change will make the difference. Usually when a gymnast wants to move, it’s more for the mental change of pace than any injury. Like Nia Dennis in 2015 felt like she wasn’t getting the support she needed after routines with falls which would lead to MORE falls, and so for her it was important to make the switch to a coach who would give her what she needed to get her back on track…and it was similar for Deanne Soza moving gyms after feeling like she was under too much pressure at her original gym (hearing her talk about the change in her mental love for the sport from one gym to the other was like the most emotional I’ve ever been in an interview setting before). For some, injuries might coincide with them learning that their frustrations with their old gyms weren’t going to change and so it makes sense as a time to make the change (like Lexie Priessman leaving CGA), but I don’t think an injury is ever the sole reason for making a change, unless they feel the coach was somehow directly responsible for the injury, which is rare.

At the DTB competition, Anastasia Iliankova did a couple of swings with half turns before she hopped off. They weren’t in handstand, so does she get deducted for all of them, or do they all count as ‘trying to avoid a fall’ and come with only one deduction?

She’d get deducted for all of them…that “trying to avoid a fall” thing is more on beam, but on bars from my understanding, judges will deduct for any attempt at a skill. I could see when things get really crazy on bars, judges might just take one 0.3 or 0.5 deduction or something and then if they do end up hopping off, they’ll also take the fall, so they might not being like “0.1 off for THAT mess, 0.1 for THAT mess, 0.1 for THAT mess” over and over…but they’d definitely take off for that lack of control and loss of rhythm in the swings.

How do inquiries work in NCAA? Are they as formal as they are at FIG meets?

They’re definitely formal in NCAA. They have an inquiry form that coaches have to submit to the judges before the next event, and they can only be about start value, compositional requirements, and clarification of neutral deductions or falls/unusual performance occurrences…meaning they can’t be like “I don’t like that my gymnast only got a 9.8!!!” and demand a look at deductions they took off for execution. There’s no monetary payment to the judges the way there is for an inquiry in an FIG setting, but it’s still done ‘officially’ through forms and it’s only to debate the actual skills/connections shown, not the execution of the routine.

Do you think Olivia Dunne has peaked in terms of skill level? Could she potentially upgrade and contend for major U.S. teams?

No I don’t. I think she’s still going strong and I love watching her skill videos…she seems to have a lot under her belt that we haven’t seen in competition, and even if she doesn’t end up adding some of them into her competitive routines for whatever reason, they still look great in training! Bars especially. I don’t think skill level or peak is something that’s an issue for her, but rather just making things look as good in competition as they do otherwise…like her leaps are GORGEOUS but sometimes in competition she ends up making them a bit tentative, especially on beam, and I’m always dying because I KNOW she can do them better. Anyway, I love watching her, I love her upgrades, I don’t think she’ll be a top contender for a worlds team this year but hopefully she at least has a great nationals and makes the national team.

Since traveling to Australia as the Melbourne World Cup ambassador, Aly Raisman hasn’t been doing too many interviews or appearances. Do you think she has resumed training for 2020? Won’t it be too late for her to return if she doesn’t come back soon?

I don’t think she’ll be returning for 2020. She seemed like she was still considering it at the start of the year, but around the time of Larry Nassar’s sentencing, she seemed to just be so over USAG and the whole situation that she started changing her tune from “absolutely coming back” to “there are things more important than gymnastics.” I wonder if because she’s been so outspoken against USAG she feels that it would just be too awkward now to be in that situation, going to camps again, and dealing with many of the same people she felt led to her abuse? I was super excited for her to return but at this point it just probably isn’t going to happen.

When are tickets available for world championships? How much will they cost? Can you give me prices for Doha?

It’s different for every organizer…some make them available more than a year in advance and others wait until the last minute. Nanning took forever to open up, and that’s how it’s looking for Doha as well, so I’m not sure when they’ll be released or how much they’ll be. They’re likely to be less expensive than they were for Montreal and Glasgow, but it’s impossible to know right now when they haven’t released anything.

What is covered for scholarship gymnasts compared to walk-ons? Do walk-ons pay for everything (hotels, travel expenses for competitions, leos)? Or is it tuition-based? Is their student housing covered?

The only thing they don’t have covered is tuition and housing. Everything the scholarship athletes get on the team is covered for walk-ons.

Why do gymnasts sometimes wear white socks or tumbling shoes? Wouldn’t it be better to use a color closer to their skin tone so unpointed toes are less obvious?

Yeah, I prefer skin-colored slippers and socks as well, and I think aesthetically, so do most coaches and judges, which is why many teams will make sure their slippers or tiger paws for turns match their skin tone…I get that the brand of beam shoes (and vault shoes) that some girls like to wear only makes that white shoe with the red on it, but some gymnasts, like the Chinese girls, will wear legit regular white socks on floor and I’m always like why are you doing this to me?

Is Elena Arenas competing level 10 or is she still elite?

She is competing level 10 now and preparing for NCAA. This season she competed level 10 and finished 12th at nationals, and she has two more J.O. seasons ahead of her before she goes to LSU.

Why does the third seed in each region host the NCAA regionals? It seems they would want to host at the top program in each regional in order to give the team a home floor advantage.

It’s not the third seed in each region, it just happened to work out that way for some regionals this year. The regional sites are determined sometimes years in advance (right now, regional sites are set through 2022 for women’s gymnastics). Sometimes regionals will be at a top seed school and other times they’ll be at a bottom seed, or, like this year, they’ll be somewhere in the middle.

I know D scores decreased by about 0.5 when requirements were removed from the CR, but I can no longer tell what kind of score is a ‘good’ score. What are good scores this quad? What’s a good score right now compared to worlds? By how many points can a gymnast typically improve over the course of a season?

Follow along with the top scores list for the women and men to see what the benchmark scores are so far this year in the all-around and on each event. That’s the best way to kind of gauge what good scores are going to be as the kinks within the code of points are still being worked out. After they made the code changes, everyone kind of took 2 points off of the benchmarks for last quad, and so we kind of all said that a 58 would be a great score for WAG, but then there was so much going on beyond just those 0.5 CRs disappearing…beam judging is nuts now, almost no one has high difficulty on floor, bars difficulty is through the roof…based on what we saw last year and early this year, a 57 would be excellent, with the top FIG-meet scores maxing out around a mid 56. I think once someone like Simone Biles gets back in top form, a 58 wouldn’t be unheard of, and she could possibly go even higher…but it’s impossible to say how judges will appreciate her beam, which is tending to be the killer right now.

Does the stuff some female athletes do as they get in position for floor affect the scoring? Is that judged at all? Why do they do it?

No, they’re not judged until the timer starts. Most just want to convey the theme of their floor or a certain aesthetic before actually starting their routine because it helps them kind of set the tone for themselves, but they’re not judged on how they walk out onto the floor or how they leave it.

Why isn’t the U.S. sending gymnasts to apparatus world cups when it’s going to become a qualifier for the Olympics? Wouldn’t any top 12 finishes in 2018 and going forward start counting for qualifying a spot?

The apparatus world cup qualification process doesn’t start until Cottbus 2018, which isn’t until the end of this year. Furthermore, only the series winners — a total of four spots for women and six spots for men — will win spots to the Games from the apparatus world cups, making it the biggest crap shoot for a spot. It’s easier and more straightforward for the U.S. to earn two individual spots through the continental championships and the all-around world cups. Most of the larger countries who qualify to the all-around world cups will opt to attempt to qualify this way as opposed to through the apparatus world cups, which are going to be more for specialists who have no other way of getting in and want to guarantee a nominative spot…like Krisztian Berki on pommels.

Is there a connection value when someone does a C jump or leap and then a C acro? Like a switch leap to back tuck or split jump half to back tuck?

On beam, the only mixed series that get CV are D (salto) + B (dance) or D+D (or more), so a C dance element and a C acro wouldn’t be worth anything…but if they did a mixed series with three skills at B + B + C or higher, they could get a 0.1 series bonus…so a switch to back tuck to split jump could get 0.1 in bonus.

Do you know what happened to Maggie Musselman? Is there any chance she’ll do college gymnastics?

I believe she had an illness that forced her to retire from the sport, so unfortunately no college gym for her.

If Tabea Alt were able to do her bars transition to handstand, could the difficulty value be re-evaluated? Or would it have to be submitted as a new skill?

It would have to be submitted as a new skill…the difference would be like what we see now with the shootover. A shootover is an easy skill, but a shootover to handstand — what we often refer to as a bail — is a D in elite. If she could do her transition to handstand, we’d have the Alt I and then the Alt III, with the Alt III basically being the Alt to handstand.

Is there a deduction when a gymnast rocks backwards onto one foot after a layout stepout?

Not for that specifically, but they’d probably take off a tenth for a lack of control on the landing.

So the top four British women are now injured. Is there anything about a coaching program or way a country trains its gymnasts that makes them more likely to get injured?

Considering the British women all train at different clubs, it’s more just about them all happening to be coincidentally injured at the same time than about anything their national program is doing wrong. Considering it’s a lot of knee and ankle and Achilles stuff, they’d probably benefit from some tougher lower leg strengthening, but injuries happen in gymnastics, unfortunately, and whether they all train at the same club or at a different one, they’re not going to be protected from landing wrong.

Have a question? Ask below! Remember that the form directly below this line is for questions; to comment, keep scrolling to the bottom of the page. We do not answer questions about team predictions nor questions that ask “what do you think of [insert gymnast here]?”

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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44 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Natalie Brown received Brenna Dowell’s scholarship the year she deferred to train for worlds. And Grace McLaughlin was sick all throughout preseason and then again some during season, limiting her training time immensely and thus her lineup appearances. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the Deferr would be only a D because the double Arabian is rated the same as a double tuck forward? But maybe they would give more credit to a forward entry.

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  3. I don’t like Elfie because, she, like Al, talked down at gymnasts. I remember her vividly saying she couldn’t believe the Russians put up an athlete of so little quality (paraphrasing) during the 2003 Worlds. She did this all the time of talking down about them and it drove me nuts.

    Al was just gross and a douchebag

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    • I remember that and was shocked. She was talking about Elena Shevchenko. Of course Elena did fall 3 times but everyone can have an bad competition day. And I don’t think Elena was the best gymnast in Russia but she definitely was a good gym. It was just not her day.

      I think what is unpleasant with Elfie is the kind of snap judgements she can make and the very condescending way she would talk about gymnasts.

      I remember her talking about Youna Dufournet at the 2009 American Cup saying that she wasn’t ready for competitions of this caliber (as if…). Dufournet went on to place 5th AA and win a bronze on vault 5 months later at Worlds.

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      • Yeah, it sucks that a lot of people like that don’t do any sort of research. They watch the competition in front of them and can’t tell if it’s a bad gymnast or a bad day. More often than not, it’s just a bad day…because WHY else would they be there?! Anyone watching Simone at 2013 classics with no prior knowledge would’ve said “bad gymnast.” It’s so important to know these girls and what they’re capable of before you call a meet like this, otherwise you just end up sounding (a) like you don’t know what you’re talking about, and (b) rude.

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        • Actually Shevchenko had tons of difficulty. I saw her routines from nationals the same year of Elfie’s “so little talent” comment, and the skills she had were so difficult, they just lacked polish. But it takes someone with talent to do such big difficulty in their routines.

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        • These are all valid criticisms but if we’re going to talk about people not doing research then we can’t leave out the absolute mess that is Andrea Joyce. Every interview of hers is ridiculously cringeworthy. And every Olympic Trials it looks like she’s never watched the sport before.

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    • I used to like Elfie back when I first watching gymnastics in 1991/1992. She was informative and I learned a lot from her and Tim. But I don’t think she was able to transition effectively as a commentator after the new scoring system went into place. A lot of her insights or go-to comments depended on the perfect 10 and without it, they weren’t very meaningful. Tim transitioned better, you can tell he is hampered by the way that NBC wants him to present the sport. But Elfie just started getting very excited any time she could point out a deduction, which skewed her commentary in a very negative direction. Plus, the deductions often had much less impact in the new scoring system, so it really devalued her “expert” commentary.

      Her commentary also seemed to lose the appreciation she previously had for quality gymnastics without regard to nationality. Part of this could be attributed to the US emerging as a power (commentator objectivity frequently fades when their nation’s athletes start contending in the rankings), part could be from how NBC wanted that narrative to be framed, and part could be from struggling to comment meaningfully in the new scoring system for casual viewers. Elfie focused on nitpicking every tiny deduction she could, especially for non-US gymnasts, and sounded gleeful when pointing them out, which came across very mean, negative, and out of touch with the way gymnastics had evolved. The final kiss of death was Al’s influence, his douchery seemed to rub off on her after he joined the team and she slowly became more negative from then forward.

      By 2012, she also seemed very uninformed about international gymnasts. Her infamous comment about Deng Linlin on UB during the 2012 AA is a perfect example. IIRC, she told viewers they were in for a treat because UB was Deng Linlin’s best event, and Elfie just loved watching her on this apparatus. So fluid, so effortless… Just like all the great Chinese UB workers.

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  4. I wonder how the British girls recoveries are going. I would assume Claudia will be out at least until 2019, but the rest is open.
    Also, I want a beam rotation for GB of Alice, Georgia-Mae and Maisie at Euros. It would probably be the best GB beam rotation ever if they all hit well.

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    • GB actually has a pretty darn decent B team! With Georgia, Alice, Kelly, Lucy (If she pulls it together…), and Taeja, they can make the TF for sure! Also, if Ellie, Amy, or Becky come back, it only helps their chances.
      France is also looking fabulous! They can win silver at Euros if they hit. With Melanie, Coline, Lorette, Juliette, and Marine, they’re strong everywhere!

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        • But I agree with the rest! Lucy and Taeja just need a little more time and experience and they’ll be just fine

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        • I don’t know. Yes, she has blossomed into a fabulous gymnast (GB is thanking the gods…), but she doesn’t really have a standout event. She has a DTY, but so do Amy, Ellie, and Claudia. She’s passable on bars, but Ellie, GMF, and Becky all outscore her. Her beam is good, but Ellie, Becky, Claudia, and Amy can all score similarly. On floor, she’s not bad but floor is GB’s secret weapon with Ellie, Frags, and Tinks, putting Alice into the lineup would be a waste of ammo. Of course, if there’s an injury (which there has been…), she can be used anywhere. My point is, she’s good but none of her events scream, “PUT ME IN YOUR LINEUP RIGHT NOW.”

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  5. In reference to the Tabea Alt question, it would actually be at Alt (III) as Tabea got her dismount (Stalder to front tuck 1/2) named as the Alt (II)!

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  6. I don’t know much about D score, but have you seen Dorina Boczoego’s FX? She has 4 passes, iirc 2 of them really hard, but one of them is just a roundoff bhs full twist. It probably doesn’t even count in her D score, therefore wouldn’t be better if she did only 3 passes? I know she’s probably looking for upgrade that pass, but it doesn’t make sense.

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  7. I think people just often don’t like rooting for the dominant team. With US WAG being on top for so long now, I’m actually surprised there isn’t more hate. It’s no different than how people felt about the Soviet team back in their day. If you look at the comments under YouTube videos of 80’s meets, you’ll see people grumbling about the Soviet gymnasts scores.

    There’s also definitely still people who think that Elena Shushunova only beat Daniela Silivas at the ’88 Olympics because of biased judging. Personally, I preferred Silivas too, but I think they were probably about tied. Silivas was cleaner and Shushunova was more powerful. Could’ve gone either way. But I think the popular opinion is probably that Silivas was robbed.

    Anyway, if your home team is really good, I think you just have to accept that everyone else is going to cheer for anyone besides your team. Seems like a fair trade off!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, that’s very true. My mind was just blown when Vika came out with her routine I was like “ooh well this wasn’t GREAT but she really shows promise for getting back to her old self!” which is more or less how I felt about Ashton’s difficulty, so to see the same people who were basically calling Ashton trash for having a 5.5 D and #NOINBARS being like “THIS IS SO AMAZING” about Vika was just like…what?? There’s no team I really cheer for over another, and I feel like I’m pretty fair about the strengths and weaknesses of my faves (Nina, Morgan, and Brenna mostly lol) so Nina getting bronze on bars at worlds for me was like aww that’s too bad, but I also clearly saw why the other two got ahead of her, and don’t see the point of arguing for years about why Nina should’ve won just because she’s my fave in that group? Fan’s technique is out of this world and that’s why she won, and I’m fully okay with that. So maybe I just don’t understand that stan culture of asserting that my fave is the undisputed BEST even when the facts say she isn’t, but that hypocrisy with Ashton’s routine and Vika’s routine was just THE most insane thing I’ve ever seen. At least when people were arguing about Vika vs Jordyn in 2011 and Vika vs Gabby in 2012, there were legitimate reasons behind it, but this Ashton and Vika stuff is just straight up dumb, there’s no other way around it! Like if you legitimately think Ashton’s routine was garbage and Vika’s routine is amazing, then you have zero understanding of the sport, frankly?! Ashton got so much crap for literally no reason and people were downright cruel to her…I’m not even a fan of hers but I spent more time defending her than I’ve spent defending any of my actual faves hahaha…because she deserved 0% of the hate she got.

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  8. Lauren, I have a question. I read Elena Mukhina’s story constantly because I just feel that it’s so sad. I do have a question that I cant really find an answer to. When she suffered her injury she was training in Minsk, at that point was there still a chance she could be on the Olympic team? or at that point was she just training to train? I get the impression from what I can find that at that point she wasnt even going to be on the team. Maybe I’m wrong. I find it sad too that the coaches pretty much blamed her for the injury. It’s just such a sad story

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    • I have always understood that she was slipping back in the rankings and was under pressure to make the Olympic team. For instance, she was only 14th AA at the 1980 USSR Cup and this would have been one of the qualifying events. The top 5 from the USSR Cup (Davidova, Shaposhnikova, Naimushina, Zakharova and Filatova) all made the team, with Nelli Kim as the sixth member.

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    • Mukhina had missed the 1979 season due to a broken leg and was therefore not at the same level of conditioning as she had been in 1978. She was a candidate for the Olympic team because they really wanted the 1978 and 1979 World AA champions on their team for the 1980 Olympics, and were trying to force it. The head coach at the time pushed her to try difficulty that she couldn’t handle (the Thomas salto) and she sustained her injury as a result. In an interview I read, she blamed herself for not saying no, but the coaches really did bully her into attempting it. She didn’t have the stamina or endurance to safely compete that skill (and even Davydova sustained a neck injury doing it although not to the same degree) and they absolutely are to blame for even suggesting she try it. I also think the injury happened near the end of a practice so she wasn’t even on fresh legs to begin with. Just absolute disregard for the athlete on their part.

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  9. Al’s commentary in the Beijing uneven bars final just drove me insane… saying “Does she REALLY think she won the gold?” during the MEDAL CEREMONY in regards to He Kexin. So disrespectful.

    I definitely agree that NBC should believe a bit more in the intelligence of their viewers… I really like BBC’s commentary, because they usually actively describe/name the performed elements and give an idea of what’s hard/not hard, which was really helpful when I was starting to get into watching gymnastics (even older US broadcasts did this, like Kathy Johnson)! The current NBC team is ok for the very casual viewer, but it’s not very conducive to drawing in and adequately educating newer fans.

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    • I’ve only watched Beijing once when it originally aired and don’t think I really paid attention too much to the commentary aside from the whole SHAWN IS QUEEN, NASTIA IS A LITTLE TRASH PERSON WHO CAN NEVER WIN ANYTHING, OH WOULDN’T YOU KNOW THE LITTLE TRASH PERSON CAME OUT OF NOWHERE TO WIN THE GOLD!!!!!!!! narrative which is still so bizarre to me that they truly considered Nastia an “underdog” lmao. I don’t remember that He Kexin comment but I don’t doubt it. I need to rewatch this though I’m sure I’ll just get pissed off. And yeah, fully agree with your assessment of NBC…I do like that the teams they’re bringing in for the world cup coverage are able to have more leeway with how they cover the sport. It just sucks that the primetime crowds for the big events can’t get that same level of coverage…I know Tim and Nastia could serve it up if they were allowed to.

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      • i’ve been rewatching old broadcasts and am currently on 2008 nationals. Al has said for two years now that Shawn is “straight from central casting”. and then during a fluff piece showing nastia and valeri they legit play the russian national anthem while they’re driving through texas. it’s unreal lol

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        • Go watch some of the coverage from the ’90s–there’s a fluff piece from…the Atlanta Games, I think? Maybe Barcelona? They play Aaron Copeland’s ‘Tis the Gift to be Simple while the male commentator (I think it was John Tesch, not Al) saying “Little girls! Can you hear them? All over the country little girls are [something about gymnastics]” while showing slomo footage of Dominique Moceanu looking cutely ferocious and executing skills.And then there’s the Barcelona montage of the American women set to the tune of Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” Ew?

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  10. My understanding of Aly’s decision is a little different. I think she has been saying that she loves gymnastics and her most important contribution right now is to fight for culture change at USAG for the sake of the gymnasts currently competing.

    Did they even know, in 2012, when they named themselves the FIERCE five??

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  11. I think the key thing you missed on the sissone/split jump/split leap question is that a sissone is a type of jump in ballet that starts from two feet and lands on one foot. Therefore, gymnasts tend to split at an angle with their front leg lower than their back so they can land on their front leg slightly earlier than their back leg. However, it wouldn’t be a deduction if their split in a sissone was 180 degrees but not on a diagonal, would it?

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  12. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Can’t sleep, clown will eat me | The Gymternet

    • Thank you!! When I saw her with the sorority in most of her photos I kind of had an inkling something was up but just assumed she was injured/not able to train and looked for another outlet for that reason…had no idea it was related to her losing her scholarship. I’m really happy now that she began looking elsewhere for support, and that she found it…and I’m also glad she stuck with the sport at least in some way with exhibitions and going to nationals. I’m sure it sucked for her to be in that position, especially knowing they threw her scholarship away to get a freshman to come in early, but she handled it with so much class and zero drama. Good for her.

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