It’s time for the 228th 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.
When the bars were first set further apart, how did that transition go for gymnasts and coaches? Did everyone suddenly have to learn a whole new event or did they adjust more easily?
I don’t know how it was from the day to day within gyms, but it wasn’t an overnight change. Gymnasts began adapting based on what they saw on men’s high bar as early as 1972 or so, but they were doing them on the close-together bars for a decade before they were officially made wider. I think the only thing that really had to be adjusted to was the transition aspect…instead of the belly beat type of skills that were popular in the 70s and early 80s, they had to develop skills like the Pak salto to help them move between bars, but even there, some skills — like the Zuchold and hecht transitions — translated pretty easily; the only adjustment was generating more momentum in their release to travel a slightly greater distance. But as far as swings and releases go, because they kept adopting skills from the men’s high bar, it was actually a huge benefit when the bars were set further apart because now they could actually do these skills more effectively. When you watch Tkachevs on uneven bars in like 1984, it’s almost like HOW on earth did they do that when they had to basically pike through their entire giant swing to avoid missing the low bar?! Even now some struggle with hitting their feet, so the fact that gymnasts could swing giants into releases on those old bars is mind-blowing. Imagine how much easier it must have been once the change came!
Why do you Chinese gymnasts seem so physically weak? Is something wrong with China’s system? Do you think Liang Chow’s influence will help them achieve better results in the next few years?
After they visited Chow’s gym this winter they were all amazed at how much the American gymnasts could withstand in terms of conditioning, so that’s the answer right there, really. They focus so much on the lines and the aesthetics that they neglect conditioning, which is a problem for so many nations beyond China…the Rodionenkos have actually said that they prefer that their gymnasts DON’T condition because they don’t want them getting “bulky” which like…what?! China clearly sees that this is an issue though, thankfully, and the reason they visited the U.S. and brought Chow in was to help them become stronger and more developed as athletes. I think many people still have this stigma in mind that gymnasts must be “little girls” when it’s pretty clear over the past few years especially that the toughest, most sustainable gymnasts in the sport are well-developed athletes who condition just as much as they train skills. I think Chow can definitely help in this sense.
Now that Axelle Klinckaert is back, where do you see her going individually and with the Belgian team?
I hope that Belgium can qualify a full team to Tokyo this quad. They’re a SUPER talented team, but are so limited in depth right now, if one of them gets injured, it’ll be hard to find a suitable replacement…though they do have some really strong juniors coming up next year who can hopefully add to that depth. Axelle will be an integral part of Belgium qualifying a team to Tokyo, but if they don’t make it, she should easily qualify as an all-arounder assuming she hits at worlds in 2019, alongside Nina Derwael, who could qualify legitimately as a specialist if she medals on bars or as an all-arounder.
When you do a straight jump with a full turn, is it a jump or a turn?
It’s a jump! Turns are only considered the pirouettes you see where a gymnast prepares and then spins. Any jump or leap with a turn is still a jump or leap, just with rotation.
In LSU’s gym they have something that looks like an inground half pipe with a bar across it. I’ve never seen this before. What is it used for?
Are you talking about like…the narrow black trampoline with the bar going across it? That’s known as a trampoline bar, and gymnasts will use it for drills, like release drills and stuff. One I see often for Tkachevs, for example, is holding the bar and bouncing your back against the trampoline to launch you up and over, which helps you work on timing the Tkachev release.
Now that Laurie Hernandez has announced her return, do you know if she’ll be returning to MG Elite? Any idea where she’d go if not?
A mom from GymMax has said that Laurie is moving there to begin training and it seems pretty legit. I had originally heard that she was going to stay local at another gym in New Jersey, but GymMax makes sense with its proximity to LA, so she can take advantage of opportunities in the area while training. I think Jenny and Howie are great coaches, though, and it’ll be cool to see what they can do to help her get through her comeback.
I’ve seen a lot of references to ‘that would be a 10 at a different school’ about how routines are scored differently depending on the NCAA program, conference, or division. Can you explain that?
Basically it’s understood that when judges go to top program schools, they tend to be a bit more lenient than they would at a lower-ranked school. I’ve definitely seen routines at schools like Illinois or Washington get a 9.8 or even lower for a routine that looks identical to routines that get 9.95s at top programs, which sucks. Ultimately I don’t think it affects the overall rankings TOO much…like, Illinois overall does not look like UCLA or Oklahoma even if they do have a few routines that should get scored higher. But it’s just a bummer to know that judges will be super nit-picky with a bars set from Illinois for having a hip angle slightly off of 180 or whatever when that same issue at a larger program wouldn’t even be looked at twice. I’ve seen plenty of top programs getting 9.9+ scores for routines with several noticeable mistakes, let alone all of the little minor form issues that add up, and it’s crazy that a girl with a near-perfect routine from a non-top program will go 9.8 or lower just because her hips didn’t happen to be exact.
What skills/routines do you think Simone Biles would have done in NCAA? Do you think she would’ve done well?
I think she would’ve kept a high level of difficulty…basically any skill that felt ‘easy’ for her and that she could do comfortably day after day.
Do you think Morgan Hurd could compete an Amanar?
I think rotation-wise, yes! She’s a very strong twister and I could definitely see her landing it easily. I’d want her to just get a little stronger in her block, though, so she wouldn’t have to worry about relying JUST on twisting. Her DTY has gotten stronger and stronger every time I’ve seen it, so I wouldn’t be surprised that an Amanar will come eventually!
Could a fouetté turn be worth something if a gymnast didn’t put her heel down? Would it just be considered an a la seconde L turn if it was done in gymnastics?
Yeah, I think it would just be considered an L turn, which kind of encompasses all turns where the leg is at horizontal…if she could do like three or four rotations without her heel dropping, it would basically just be considered a triple L or quad L turn in terms of what it’d be worth in the code.
At their peak who was a better beam worker between Maria Kharenkova and Andreea Munteanu?
Ummmm…it’s hard for me to say objectively. I think they were pretty equal in terms of skill level and ability, but when you add in aesthetics and the things you can’t quantify as well, I’d probably go with Andreea…she just had such a confidence and attack to her skills while also keeping them fluid and elegant. Her Romanian nationals event finals routine from 2014 was like, drool-worthy. Maria I think was a bit too…I don’t know how to explain it. Angular and sharp instead of smooth like butter in the way Andreea could be. But goodness they were both SO talented on this event.
Has anyone ever competed a double-twisting double pike?
Not a true double double. It’s hard to twist in a true pike position, so generally for pike skills that have twists in them, you’ll see more of an open layout body position during the twist before the gymnast actually gets into a pike shape…watch a piked full-in from pretty much anyone and it’s almost always a layout full-in, and then a pike out. The true pike position comes VERY late into the first flip, after the twist is complete, because aerodynamically, twisting with your body bent in half just doesn’t work super well. For someone wanting to do two pikes with two twists, you’d probably get more of a double-in rather than one twist per flip. Tatiana Groshkova did it like that, and there was a U.S. junior named Alexis Brion who went for it in 1995 but again, both were double-in, pike-out.
Will Simone Biles have to requalify as elite since she took a year off and didn’t compete at any meets in 2017?
No. Gymnasts who have had major success on the international level don’t need to requalify to elite. They generally just send video updates to the NTC and the national team staff will determine if they’re ready to come back to camp or rejoin the national team. When Simone submitted her videos this year as she began training for her comeback, the NTC put her back on the national team immediately, and gave her a pass to classics and nationals.
Now that he has resigned from USAG, do you think Valeri Liukin will go back to being more involved as a coach at WOGA?
I heard months ago that he was looking into working with international programs, and someone said he might be going up for the NTC job in Canada, but lately I’m hearing he’s going to be working with the team in Russia, which would be an interesting development! I don’t think he has an interest in coaching at the club level again, so if nothing comes along as a larger job elsewhere, I’m sure he’ll be more than fine just as the WOGA owner/director.
What happens if a gymnast underrotates a triple full on floor, gets it downgraded to a 2½, but already has a 2½ in her routine? Does the 2½ get downgraded to a double?
No, she would basically just have two of the same skill in her routine, and so she wouldn’t get credit for one of them. It’s happened to many gymnasts before and really sucks for them, because it means their D score ends up dropping significantly.
Did Emma Kelley qualify for elite? Will she compete at classics?
No, she missed her optional qualifying score after attempting to get it at the Auburn qualifier in May. She competed only three events, so she needed a three-event score of 39.000 or a two-event score of 26.500, but she only got a 31.650 for her three events, and her top two events were only 21.800, so she wasn’t able to qualify this year.
Watching competitions from around 2006-2008, it seemed like literally everyone did a Yurchenko 1½. Why doesn’t anyone do them anymore, especially when there are so many Yurchenko fulls?
I feel like the general rule of thumb is that you want to upgrade from a full to a double, bypassing the 1½ unless you literally can’t do a double and the 1½ is the most you can physically crank out, and even then it might be more worth it to do a full because the blind landing on the 1½ usually ends up getting so heavily deducted that you’re just better off doing a full until you can get a double. So my guess is that in that quad, most of the girls doing a 1½ just couldn’t get to a double, but still felt it was more worth it to do the 1½ over the full because the 1½ that quad was worth a 5.5 compared to a 5.0 for the full, whereas in the next quad, the 1½ was only a 5.3 compared to the 5.0, making it not as worth doing (kind of like the Amanar vs the DTY last quad being only 0.5 apart instead of 0.7 in the 2012 quad). Those two tenths make a difference in how these vaults are incentivized!
Why are so many NCAA coaches ‘volunteers’? Why doesn’t Jordyn Wieber get paid?
NCAA programs only have a set number of coaches on each team that can be paid. Jordyn could probably pretty easily get a paid coaching gig as an assistant at pretty much any school that’s hiring right now, but I think she wants to be at UCLA and probably has enough money from other sources to not have to worry about having a full-time paid coaching job in NCAA.
Why do you think Charlie Fellows wasn’t selected for the Commonwealth Games?
I think because she didn’t originally make the team, which was fair, and then announced her retirement, so the English selection committee probably assumed it wasn’t worth bringing someone to the Games who was just going to be done right after, as opposed to someone who could go to the Games as her kind of stepping-off point. I think Charlie earned it based on her nationals performance, but Taeja James had what the team needed with her floor (she could’ve easily won the gold had she performed the way she did in qualifications), AND she’s a first-year senior that they want to invest time and money into, especially now that everyone is injured and she could end up being named to the Euros and/or worlds teams. It’s too bad that they didn’t let Charlie go out on a high note with a berth on the CWG team, but I get why they wanted Taeja.
Can elite gymnasts still compete at J.O. meets?
No, they have to drop back down to J.O. in order to compete at the J.O. level, meaning they’d no longer be elite…though occasionally, elite gymnasts will compete at a J.O. invitational that their gyms organize because it’s a good way to get some experience on the competition floor if they’re testing out new upgrades or whatever. Back in 2013, the Desert Lights Invitational was where MyKayla debuted her layout double double, and in the absence of camps this year, Margzetta Frazier used the Parkettes Invite to gear up for verification for the world cups. But they can’t officially compete as J.O. gymnasts unless they drop elite.
If someone on an NCAA team redshirts, what happens to their scholarship? Is it funded for the original four years, the four years of actual eligibility, or all five years? How does it affect the other athletes on the team?
Most are able to get it funded for a fifth year, but if the program is really tight on scholarships and doesn’t have any wiggle room with incoming freshman classes, they can’t get it funded if it goes beyond the 12 per team they’re allowed.
How is gymnastics in France organized? Do they have a J.O. equivalent? How do they structure elite/national team training and competition?
It’s more a national program where they have club gyms, but the national program is government-sponsored, so they don’t really have resources to devote to girls who don’t show the highest level of promise, and thus many younger gymnasts drop off at a younger age if they can’t keep up with the level required for that age group at the national level. This is similar to most government-sponsored programs where the girls’ training is covered, as opposed to the U.S., where parents pay coaches to teach their kids and thus kids can stay in clubs as long as they want, at whatever level they want. They have levels with requirements that have to be met, but not a huge J.O. kind of program that exists alongside the elite track. It’s basically elite track or bust in that sense. If you aren’t doing the right skills at the right age, you can’t stay on track for advanced training and competition, and so many end up having to drop the sport.
Does UCLA travel with a full team to every away meet? Does the school pay to have everyone travel everywhere?
Usually, yeah, which is odd because there’s a rule limiting the size of the team for competitions…but they always seem to go over it! I think they’re allowed 16 on the floor but I think they always end up with more so they must work something out to make that happen. They also pay for a ton of people to go along with them as like, hype people and social media people and videographers and stuff, it’s a huge crew and yes, they’re all paid for by the program.
Do you think Viktoria Komova could return to her previous level and become a legitimate contender?
Based on what we’ve seen in the past six years, she hasn’t yet been able to reach the level she was at in 2011-2012, aside from how she looked on bars in 2015 (and to a lesser extent, beam that year, though she wasn’t really consistent enough to make a big dent there). I don’t think after all this time she’ll magically be able to return as the all-arounder she was back then, though I do think on bars and beam she has the ability and talent to return to a highly competitive level.
What explains the three-tenths majoration of Zoé Allaire-Bourgie’s beam at Gymnix? How could judges be that far off?
Well, her beam is very connection-heavy, so it was likely just that she wasn’t initially credited with a series or maybe had a skill downgraded or something so that she didn’t receive her intended D score initially…I believe her hope is that she’ll be credited with a 5.6, but she’s gotten awarded a couple of tenths lower here and there depending on the routine in the past, which is common for beam routines that rely on connections to build a D score. I thought it was odd that the score didn’t change until AFTER the meet had ended to get her to the title, but that could’ve just been a live results issue, not something shady with the judges.
What do you think are the deductions present in Sami Durante’s bars set and Myia Hambrick’s beam? Do you think it’s fair to keep the early-lineup routines scored at a low point even if they have few deductions?
I think for Sami, her Jaeger was always a little closer than it should’ve been, so she had some elbow stuff going on in the catch, in addition to things like ankle separation on her Pak and in her dismount…these are like the built-in things, and then obviously if she had any mistakes or anything, those would add on. As for Myia, I think her issues in general were always having slightly soft knees or hips, on pretty much every event…there was nothing truly and deeply wrong, but it just wasn’t as sharp a routine as others were, and so in comparison, they weren’t going to be looked at as favorably, though they did always hit with minimal errors, so even though they were docked for not being quite as crisp as the others, they both had fantastic routines and got done exactly what they needed to, even if they were never going to be consistent 10s.
If an Irish gymnast wanted to include some Irish dancing in her floor routine, would that meet artistry requirements?
Yeah, there’d be no problem with that.
Why didn’t the Jamaican WAG team send gymnasts to the Commonwealth Games?
Apparently there was some problem with the federation not applying for spots on time or some administrative nonsense like that. Kinda sucks, because I knew Danusia Francis really wanted to go, and I think she tried to figure out if there was a way to work it out, but unfortunately there wasn’t.
Do you think the rule of being able to go to worlds if you turn 15 the year before the Olympics should be reinstated with the way the new qualification rules work out?
Yeah, I think so. There are a few gymnasts born in 2004 who will have a slight chance at qualifying to the Games this quad, which really sucks…Camille Rasmussen is the one who always comes to mind, because Denmark won’t come close to qualifying a team, and I doubt any of their current seniors will be able to qualify a non-nominative all-around spot at worlds that year. Camille will only have a shot at one of the couple of spots available at European Championships in 2020, but that’s going to be incredibly difficult, as many of the top nations that qualified full teams will attempt to use that meet to qualify one of their individual spots. And since she’s not a specialist on any event, it’s highly unlikely she’ll win an apparatus series title. The benefit of the test event was that it allowed first-year seniors from small programs to attempt to qualify spots, but now girls like Camille won’t have that chance. The only workaround is opening up the qualifying worlds to girls who will turn senior in the Olympic year.
Is having an Ezhova a trend this quad?
Yeah! Beth Tweddle started the trend, Brenna Dowell kept it going last quad, and now it seems like it’s becoming a really popular choice for girls who want to add difficulty when competing them out of a Tkachev variation with a half twist. They definitely spice things up a bit, and I love seeing all of the top bar workers right now going for them along with other more interesting skills and combinations of skills.
Do you think Carlotta Ferlito will still be present on the Italian team on the international stage this quad?
She wants to be…she just has to bring routines to the table to get them there. She just had a really solid weekend at the final Serie A meet of the season, and she’s back on everything but bars now. I think she could definitely make a case for herself at worlds this year, and I think had she come back a bit sooner last year she probably would’ve been more seriously considered. Italy actually looks like they have a bit of depth coming up for Tokyo, but most of the top juniors like Giorgia Villa, Elisa Iorio, and the D’Amato twins have vault and bars as a strength, with beam and floor a bit lacking, and someone will have to fill those holes at 2019 worlds. Carlotta could be that gymnast…but so could a couple of others.
Is it as hard academically for gymnasts/athletes to get into highly selective universities as it is for regular students? Could a gymnast go to Stanford based on her achievements as a gymnast rather than her grades in high school?
It depends on the school. I went to Columbia and even though we were a DI, because it’s an Ivy, there were no athletic scholarships…and yet they still made exceptions for athletes who didn’t perform as well grade-wise in high school. I get it for like, big state schools with thriving sports programs, and those schools all have programs for athletes that tutor them in their classes so they can keep up with their classmates if they’re not academically-inclined. It just felt super weird at my school in particular, because (a) they couldn’t get scholarships, and (b) our sports programs sucked, lol (I think our football team was ranked dead last at one point when I was a student, and the football players in my classes almost never showed up and got a free pass on everything because “they were athletes” which like…WHY. I legit had a professor one time being like “ATHLETES DO THE BIGGEST SERVICE TO THIS SCHOOL, AND THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES ALLOWED TO GO BEYOND THE ONE ABSENCE RULE.” There was a single working mom with a nine-year-old in that class, but okay. But yes, at many schools, athletes — including gymnasts — will get into selective programs with a weaker high school academic performance than their average incoming freshman, and many of these students will be missing required classes and things like that, and the universities will wait for them to get their credits in order because they want them on the team so badly. Stanford, though, seems pretty against this. I’ve known of many athletes with stellar international careers who were turned down there because Stanford felt like they wouldn’t be able to keep up academically.
Can Bailie Key redshirt after not getting to compete for most of this season?
Technically she meets the eligibility requirements for a redshirt in terms of timing, but because she wasn’t actually injured (at least not that I know of), I don’t think they’ll let her. (And by that, I mean Alabama…because gymnastics programs only have 12 scholarships to give out each year, they don’t always have the availability to let athletes get an extra year on scholarship…if someone redshirts and there’s a huge freshman class coming in, they might not have the space for her to get a scholarship, and there have been several gymnasts who had to fund their extra year themselves. If Bama has the space to let Bailie redshirt, then yeah, they might let her…but most programs wouldn’t want to ‘waste’ a redshirt on someone who isn’t injured.)
With the new Olympic individual qualifier rules, do you think more NCAA grads might make an Olympic run?
I doubt it. They’re still going to have to make the U.S. team through the U.S. team standards…they can’t just go off on their own and try to qualify. If there’s someone like Anna Li in 2012 with a really superb event that could legitimately medal internationally, maybe, but even that’s gonna be hard because the U.S. will select people for those individual spots who could also serve as built-in alternates for the team in some way, whether it’s as an all-arounder (at least one, if not both, of the individual spots in the U.S. will be for an all-arounder) or as someone who can step in last-minute with a strong set of events (like vault and floor, or bars and beam, or whatever other combination works).
If Viktoria Komova can’t get her inbars back, then could she upgrade from full pirouettes to 1½ pirouettes in order to get her E elements? Or would it not be worth the deduction if her pirouette is late?
She could do that, but yeah, most 1½ pirouettes end up looking a little jerky or lacking in flow so there could be some deductions that come with it…but that’s the risk you run with pretty much any skill. She’ll figure something out, though. Even if she can’t get E pirouette skills, she could probably figure out some connections that are worthwhile to get her back to a competitive level.
Any news on Simone Biles? New skills? Routines? Her comeback competition?
She’ll be back at the U.S. Classic in July. She has all of her skills back, and is training more difficult skills like a Yurchenko triple and a double double off beam, but I don’t think she’ll debut those right away this summer. Hopefully we’ll get them in time for Tokyo, though!
What is Alice D’Amato’s situation? Is she recovering from her Gymnix injury?
Yes, she’s still recovering…she has an ankle injury and last time I saw her, she was still in some kind of boot or air cast. Hopefully she heals up well and we see her back soon, but I can see them keeping her from competition until 2019 if they want to keep her healthy…or maybe they’ll reintroduce her slowly to just bars or something at first in the fall before bringing back her full all-around set.
Is Jade Carey currently training bars?
Yes, she is. She was actually quite strong on bars as a J.O. gymnast, but because the push in 2017 was to get onto the worlds team, they made vault and floor a priority because they knew that would be a safer bet than getting an all-around spot. They basically didn’t have time to upgrade her vault and floor while also putting together a full elite-competitive bars set, but now they’ve had more time to work on it, and I think there’s a shot we’ll see her as an all-arounder this summer.
What is the benefit for NCAA gymnasts to have an E pass on floor? Is it required for a 10.0 start value? Does it allow for bonus points? Could you list a couple of popular E passes?
An E pass isn’t required for a 10.0 start value, but some gymnasts will choose to go above and beyond the required difficulty because, well, they want to. They get to show off a bit and stand out among the rest of the competitors, and even though it doesn’t get them more tenths, sometimes judges who see really difficult routines will be more lenient than they are with someone who just does a bunch of simple skills. The most common E passes are the double arabian, the tucked and piked full-ins, the double layout, the double front, the double double, and the front double full. All of these passes were in routines this past season.
Do event specialists at regionals have to beat the athletes on the advancing teams in order to advance to nationals?
Yes they do. The gymnast has to win the event outright at regionals if she wants to go, so if she places second and the gymnast who wins is from UCLA or Oklahoma or another top school that qualified a full team, it doesn’t matter — because she didn’t post the absolute top score, she doesn’t get to go.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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