It’s time for the 230th 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.
I recently learned that Jenny Hansen attempted a comeback for the 2012 Olympics! What is she doing now?
You’re correct! She was invited to the ranch by Bela Karolyi, who read about her attempting to qualify to classics and thought it’d be a great story to have someone trying for the U.S. Olympic team at age 38. She competed vault and beam in the optional qualifier to the American and U.S. Classic meets at the ranch, and she actually had a solid Yurchenko 1½, but she fell on beam and ended up not meeting the two-event requirements to qualify elite. She is now married and lives in LA, where she works on American Ninja Warrior as a developer, builder, operator, and tester of the course the ninja warriors compete on. In addition to her behind-the-scenes work, she is also often on-camera demonstrating the different obstacles on the course, which is like the coolest job ever. I know she has also done stunts for film and television before (she was a regular body double on Make It Or Break It, which is where she started building a career in Hollywood and it’s what inspired her to go for 2012), and has also worked as a personal trainer.
Is éMjae Frazier really practicing a Kovacs on bars or was it an accidental release?
It looked like she was actually doing a double tuck dismount, but just released too high and didn’t get enough distance when she let go of the bar, causing her to go up above the bar (and then over it) instead of up and away from the bars. I’ve seen this happen a few times with double backs, including one done by former British elite and BGSU gymnast Laura Mitchell, who actually landed her double back on the high bar and then bounced off onto the low bar, which is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen…in hindsight. I’m sure in the moment it was TERRIFYING.
I’m actually curious about the logistics of how you run this blog. You attend and live blog so many meets while simultaneously working a full-time job. How do you do it?! Do you take PTO to live blog a meet, or just multitask and tweet when you get a chance? Do you ever run out of PTO? HOW DO YOU HAVE IT ALL? (that last part should be read in the screaming voice of Craig from Parks and Rec)
Hahahaha…thank you for the Craig reference!! Basically when I physically travel to a meet, I use my vacation time, or I’ll just work it out so that I’m traveling late enough on Fridays so I can get there for the weekend…like I might end up going to the Northern European Championships in Iceland this September, and it’s looking like I’m going to do a red eye to Reykjavik on that Friday night, get in Saturday morning to do the meet over the weekend, and then leave Sunday night after the meet ends so I won’t miss work at all. Also, it’s helpful that the U.S. meets happen in the summer because I have Summer Fridays and can generally work out how to get to classics and nationals without missing work.
When I’m at work and a meet is on, I’ll usually take some time for lunch to live tweet or take notes, but if I can’t take a lunch, I’ll just multitask with the meet on in the background while I’m getting my work done…thankfully I have a pretty good memory so I can generally just recall what’s happening and don’t need to be super focused on a meet to still be able to talk about it later on (like with Russian nationals this week, I haven’t been watching super closely during the week, but I’ll keep a stream on my phone and just kind of pay attention enough to get what’s important).
I used to use ALL of my vacation days for gymnastics, but made a rule after the Rio Olympics (I used two weeks of my paid vacation time to work for NBC in Connecticut that year hahaha) that larger week-long (or more!) ‘gymnastics vacations’ have to be international (which is why I didn’t go to Anaheim last year for nationals, because I prioritized two big international meets to get to travel a bit more outside of the country), and I have to save one week of vacation time each year for a non-gymnastics trip. It’s actually been great…in 2017, I got to go to Euros in Romania (and I also did a 1000+ mile road trip through much of Central and Eastern Europe on the way to Cluj) and worlds in Canada last year and was still able to take a non-gym vacation to Panama, and this year I’m going to worlds in Qatar and still had enough time off for a vacation to South Africa as well as several days for my sister’s wedding in California. It’s a lot of planning and budgeting my time, it’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of multitasking, and it’s the occasional sacrifice, but honestly, I love it and wouldn’t do it if I didn’t!
Why can’t organizers of all-around competitions chill out and wait a minute after a rotation so the last woman up doesn’t have to run to get in line to walk to the next rotation while hurriedly putting on her grips or taking them off?
Meets are timed so strangely and are bizarrely official. There is only a set amount of time from the moment the last routine finishes in one rotation and the official warm-up period begins in the next rotation, I’d guess to keep things on track and going smoothly, especially if there’s a TV production aspect to it…but the schedule basically allows for zero downtime between rotations to just keep things moving. I don’t see why they can’t give everyone an extra minute, but honestly, the way rotation orders work, the last up on one event won’t ever be first up on the next event, so they expect that even if she’s rushing to get her grips ready from vault to bars, she’ll still have time before her turn in the touch warm-up to be fully prepared. It hasn’t ever been a major issue for anyone that I’ve seen, but yeah, I don’t see how an extra minute would hurt.
Are you going to the American Classic this year in Utah since it’s open to the public now?
Technically the American Classic events at the ranch were open, but they didn’t sell tickets or invite media…the ticket sale is the only difference this year! It’s still not a media event (probably because it was very last-minute after the ranch shut down), and I’m not going to fly to Utah for it, but I do have someone local to Utah who will be attending in the crowd to cover it for me and I believe the competition is going to be streamed, so I’ll watch at home as well.
What are your thoughts on Lauren Mitchell’s appliance of the code? How much success do you think she would have had if she continued?
I wasn’t really a fan of how she ultimately executed her ways of making the code work for her, but hey, she found a way to increase her difficulty, and it really worked for her, which is why she was able to become a world champion on floor. I think had she continued at a strong level, given the current state of gymnastics in Australia, she definitely would’ve continued making teams but on an international level, I’m not sure she would’ve remained a threat. Not to take away from what she accomplished, but she was at her competitive best in 2009 and 2010, and internationally at this time, there wasn’t a ton of competition. I think similar routines from her now could do well and potentially make finals, and again, she’d still be a star in Australia given their current situation, so even while I don’t think she’d still be a title or medal contender at the world/Olympic stage, she could still do fairly well for herself.
I know you said Ellie Black had her 2½ to triple full reevaluated for CV but what did she actually receive for it?
I don’t remember specifics and can’t seem to find anything about it but remember when it was originally discussed that she got an extra tenth…it would’ve normally gotten a 0.2 CV so she likely got 0.3 for it. I don’t know if that’s accurate because again, I can’t find anything official, but that’s what the talk was.
Do you think Jade Carey has a better chance of making the worlds team doing the all-around? How will she rank compared to other U.S. gymnasts?
I think this year, she’d make it as an all-arounder or as a vault/floor specialist, and I think even if she brings an all-around program to nationals this summer, she’ll still likely end up being used for vault and floor at worlds. It doesn’t hurt to have the other events as backup, though! Given how strong her work on her best events is, and also given that she’s capable of scoring a high 13 or low 14 on beam, she could literally get like a 12 on bars and still be competitive in the all-around. She’s actually a pretty solid bar worker, and I could see her getting to a level where a mid 13 wouldn’t be out of the question, at the bare minimum. A fully hit day from her in the all-around could make her a top-three all-arounder in the U.S. and she could potentially be a frontrunner for a medal at worlds.
Does Morgan Hurd wear hair extensions to compete? Her hair looks pretty short but she does a nice bun for competitions. How does her hair stay when it’s that short?
I think she cut her hair earlier this year so it wasn’t a problem in 2017…and I don’t think she competed when it was like, bob-length. In the pics of her at Pac Rims it’s closer to shoulder-length and you can see that she has a little baby bun compared to the girls with long hair. When I had shoulder-length hair I could do a baby bun for ballet so I’m sure it’s not an issue. She probably just hairsprays it up good so it stays!
What if Simone Biles and Hong Un Jong both performed the TTY at the same worlds? Who would it be named for? What would the start value be?
If they both competed it successfully, it would be named the Biles-Hong (like when Nina Derwael and Georgia-Mae Fenton both competed the stalder Tkachev half at worlds last year, it got named the Derwael-Fenton). The vault would be rated a 6.2.
What is the mount that Elena Gerasimova did at Jesolo called? What is it worth?
She did a press to handstand into a walkover to both feet, which is worth a D. She also tried out an Onodi mount last year, which I hope we’ll eventually be able to see, though it’s super hard!
Everyone seems to have a love or hate relationship with Lauren Mitchell’s 2011-2012 floor routine. What’s your opinion on the tumbling and choreo?
I honestly don’t have a very strong opinion about the choreo or music…it’s not my favorite, but it’s also not like, offensive or annoying to me or anything negative. She always performed it well, and that’s what counts. Tumbling-wise, I think sometimes what she did was a bit too ambitious and it led to mistakes and execution issues that she probably wouldn’t have had to deal with if she was a bit more downgraded…but she really wanted that Olympic final, she took a gamble, and she ended up fifth there in London, outscoring two gymnasts with technically stronger routines but lower difficulty, so I’d say her plan worked even if it didn’t end up being a medal-winning routine. She came within less than a tenth from the podium, so I’d consider that a success.
Does LSU have any incoming freshmen this fall?
Yes, Bailey Ferrer is graduating high school early to come in as a freshman this year instead of in 2019.
How is Larisa Iordache developing after her injury? When will she be fit to compete again?
Unfortunately she is now saying that she thinks she’ll only have about a 50% chance of getting back to competition. She seems like she hasn’t really been training much at all or keeping up with her conditioning the way some gymnasts do when they have similar injuries. Claudia Fragapane, for instance, was back in the gym a short time doing conditioning after her Achilles surgery this spring, and she’s now able to do basics, which is super quick…but it seems like for Larisa, it was best for her to take a step away from the sport completely.
Is anyone writing a book about Larry Nassar and his victims?
Not that I know of but I hope someone does. I considered thinking about it for one half of a second when someone asked me about it, but I feel…I don’t know. Awful about taking someone else’s trauma and making money off of it? I also haven’t been reporting it closely enough to catch every detail, but there are others who have been on top of it from the beginning, like the Indy Star team and some of the reporters in the Michigan area, and I think it should be one of them who writes it. I also think Rachael Denhollander and some of the other survivors would be great to hear from in terms of memoir kind of books about their experiences, but I also want an actual investigative journalism kind of approach from someone who didn’t go through it, but who followed every step of the way and was there for all of it.
How many NCAA gymnasts have come from outside of English-speaking countries?
Quite a few! It’s not super common, partly because I don’t think many of these countries know that NCAA is available to them, and many also have programs where their gymnasts receive salaries that make them ineligible for scholarships, but some do end up making it over, and then also there can be a language barrier for some as well. This year, we saw Anne Kuhm of France, Pauline Tratz and Antonia Alicke of Germany, Sofia Gonzalez of the Philippines (though she moved to the U.S. to begin training here in 2015), and there were several gymnasts from Spanish-speaking countries, like Claudia Goyco of the DR, Isabella Amado of Panama, and Ariana Orrego of Peru, to name a few.
Because the U.S. girls competed individually at Jesolo, was there a limit on how many could compete in event finals?
Yeah, they kept it at two-per-country even though they competed individually and not as part of a U.S. team.
I’ve seen gymnasts do a horizontal cast before a Pak salto. Isn’t that a 0.5 deduction? Why aren’t they even trying to get into a handstand position?
You’re talking about a gymnast doing a skill like a Maloney into a Pak; no one who does a Pak from a giant or from a release will cast to horizontal beforehand. Gymnasts don’t have to cast up to handstand out of the Maloney. They swing up out of the Maloney and reach horizontal before continuing to the Pak. If they’re not doing the Pak out of a Maloney or similar low-to-high transition, then they’d be swinging down from a handstand directly into the Pak, so if that handstand was off, they’d get deducted for it, but that’s not the same as connecting out of a Maloney. You can’t really easily cast up out of a Maloney (or shaposh or similar skill), so in the past, gymnasts doing just a Maloney would swing back on the catch and then kip cast to handstand. Now, there’s a rule requiring skills like that to be directly connected into other skills, so many will do a Pak, but you’ll also see a lot of Maloney to swinging skills (like a clear hip or stalder or something) or to releases to eliminate that need to kip cast. I’d actually LOVE to see someone swing from a Maloney directly up into a handstand but yeah…physics doesn’t really work that way, though someone out there can probably make it happen.
What are your thoughts on acro? There is a lot of disrespect between disciplines and this weakens gymnastics as a whole.
I love acro! I think it’s super fun to watch and the creativity that goes into acro routines is beyond anything we’ll probably ever see in WAG. I don’t think there’s anyone in WAG that like, actively hates acro or whatever, but I think there are people just drawn to certain disciplines that make them more interesting than other disciplines. Like, I personally respect acro, rhythmic, and T&T, and I enjoy watching them, but I’m not as drawn to them as I am to artistic and I think that’s the case for most people who either do or watch the sport.
Do you think the U.S. will send an A team to 2020 Pan Ams so they can guarantee the two individual spots to the Olympics?
I don’t think they need to, honestly. They can only earn one individual spot there, first of all, and secondly, their B-team gymnast will be able to do this pretty easily. The U.S. sent a B team to Pan Am Games in 2015, with none of those gymnasts going on to make the worlds team even as alternates, and they won the team title by over seven points and Madison Desch finished second all-around.
Why does everyone complain about the U.S. women’s team in 2015?
I’ve literally never heard anyone complain about the U.S. women’s team in 2015. Be more specific? Do you mean like, complaining that Maggie Nichols didn’t get to do the all-around? That MyKayla Skinner was only an alternate and not on the team? That they made mistakes in qualifications? Did they hurt your dog? I don’t know what’s going on anymore.
With all of the coaching changes that took place at the start of the NCAA season, what change do you think ended up being the most significant or having the most positive or negative impact on the program?
A lot of changes did a WORLD of good this year, and it’s hard to quantify what was best, but I personally think the most significant of all was bringing Garrett Griffeth and Courtney McCool-Griffeth as the associate and volunteer coaches to Arkansas. That program completely turned into something brand-new and I think it’s only the beginning for them, really. There are others that also had positive and significant changes, but Arkansas was such a happy surprise this year and I loved watching that transition.
Do you know what happened with Alexa Al-Hameed going to Oklahoma?
She was only a verbal to Oklahoma but never actually signed. It sometimes happens that a gymnast will verbally commit to a program but then end up changing her commitment for whatever reason, which is what happened with Alexa, who is now going to Georgia.
What would Elizabeth Price have to do to her NCAA routines this year in order to make them competitive for elite?
Her vault would be fine for elite, but obviously if she could get her awesome Amanar back, I’d LOVE it. On bars, she wouldn’t have to add much…she could do her whole opening sequence (the Maloney to clear hip to Church to bail to Ray), and then once back on the high bar she could do something like a stalder full to Tkachev before dismounting with her double layout, which would get the pirouette requirement out of the way and would get her up to eight elements. On beam, what she was doing was fine, so as with bars, she’d just need to add a couple more skills in there…a difficult leap, and then maybe two D+ acro skills, and on floor, if she could get her double double back, and then add a more difficult leap series, she’d be set.
Do you think Irina Alexeeva could make the Russian worlds team?
I do, especially given some of their injury issues that they’re dealing with this season. This is always an awkward year for the Russians, and while Irina isn’t coming in with super difficulty on any event, she’s a generally consistent competitor…though with her injuries last year carrying over, and the injury she’s dealing with now, I think she’s becoming part of the injury problem rather than the solution! But if she’s healthy and prepared, she absolutely has a shot.
How important is the end of a junior career for a gymnast who turns senior in the Olympic year? Is it more important than for others who turn senior earlier in a quad?
I don’t think it’s THAT important. It’s obviously good to show at the end of your junior career that you’re ready to take on the senior level, which both Kyla Ross did in 2011 and Laurie Hernandez did in 2015, but for juniors who turn senior in the Olympic year, it’s more about showing up at Jesolo and/or Pac Rims and kicking ass to show you’re at the same level as the girls who have that worlds experience under their belts. If you bomb those meets, or don’t make those teams, your chances of being selected for the Olympics are slim…but I think if a gymnast had a mediocre junior season the year before the Olympics and then came in ready to #werk early in the Olympic year, she’s fine.
Who do you think will compete at the Youth Olympic Games for Italy?
I think Giorgia Villa is probably most likely, though I thought it was odd that they didn’t send her as one of the qualifiers…I’m guessing they’re trying to keep her healthy for Euros and then YOGs? But I could see Asia D’Amato also getting the spot. Those two are most likely, and I think while Giorgia is the stronger all-arounder, Asia has more medal potential thanks mostly to vault, though her floor is also getting up there and she’d be a medal contender on both in Buenos Aires.
Do you think the U.S. will send someone to the Youth Olympic Games this year?
They qualified a spot and seemed to be changing their minds about sending someone, so I think it’s possible! Honestly, it’d be such a waste not to send someone like Jordan Bowers, who has an incredible chance of taking home multiple golds. Since she qualified the spot, I’d love for the women’s program to just let her go.
During the Nastia Liukin Cup this year, it seemed like the seniors would get higher scores than the juniors for weaker routines. Were the judges inflating scores for the seniors at this meet?
I don’t think they were inflating senior scores…I just think in general, seniors tend to have a bit more power and tightness in their form compared to juniors, so even if they had more steps or mistakes than juniors, they made up for that with the quality of their skills.
Why did Alexander Alexandrov get fired?
It seems like there were a lot of political reasons behind him being let go, and nothing actually related to his job performance. He led the Russian women to their first major team title in 19 years with their worlds win in 2010, and he was an incredible technical coach who developed one of Russia’s most successful gymnasts of all time in Aliya Mustafina. The RGF board apparently fired him because the personal coaches of some of the gymnasts who performed poorly in London blamed him as the team coach for focusing too much on Aliya and not enough on the rest but like…that’s kinda BS. I think those coaches were mostly jealous, especially Anastasia Grishina’s coach, Sergey Zelikson. Alexandrov said Zelikson had a lot of personal drama against him, and so he wasn’t surprised to see him blaming him for Anastasia’s mistakes, but that mess clearly wasn’t his fault.
You always mention an A and B team on the U.S. national team. I thought there was only one team…what’s the difference?
There is only one team. Usually when people refer to A teams and B teams, they’re talking about top contenders for major teams versus the athletes who would more or less be second-choice options. There’s no official divide, but when you see a Pan Ams team named with gymnasts who wouldn’t be first choices for the worlds team, you can make the assumption that the A-team kids are going to worlds, and the B-team kids are going to Pan Ams. It’s not an official distinction and they’re all on one team, but on that one team (in any country, not just the U.S.) there’s definitely a divide between “the best” and “the rest.”
Why didn’t Jade Carey compete at the Pac Rim qualifier? Were they only considering all-arounders?
Possibly…I know she was originally on the list to verify, and was actually on the nominative list, so maybe they were assuming she’d have all four events by then, but of course it’s possible that she felt she wasn’t ready and so opted not to try for it.
Are there any all-women commentating teams for WAG? There are all-men teams for MAG. Do you know why this is?
Not that I know of, at least not in elite for any country’s broadcasts that I’ve watched…just in NCAA, where the SEC Network and PAC 12 Network are mostly female commentators and on-the-floor reporters, and sometimes you do get a night where all three reporting are women.
What happened with Wynter Childers toward the end of the season?
I honestly don’t know. She must have been hurt or sick or something to have been affected that much in her performance? I remember being a bit surprised at how weak she looked, like she clearly had something going on because that’s not who she is as a gymnast.
Is Zsofia Kovacs still training?
Yup! She just competed at the Osijek Challenge Cup last month, where she won the silver medal on floor, and she’s expected to go to Euros and worlds later this season.
When will Danusia Francis compete next?
She has been competing at a few club meets in Spain as a guest on one of their teams, but that aside I’m not sure…worlds is probably on her mind but I don’t know what Jamaica’s planning on doing in terms of sending her or whatever.
Has a gymnast ever tumbled out of a barani instead of a roundoff? Would you have enough to continue through to the bigger skills? Would it be worth it? Would there be a connection bonus?
You mean on floor? Since there would be no hand contact on the floor, it’s much harder to generate the momentum that you can generate from a roundoff, and so even though you’d have a back handspring coming out of it, you’d still be a little lacking in power compared to doing a roundoff, and you’d probably waste more energy punching into the barani than you would gain from using it as a skill meant to generate power. Also, the directional change would be awkward, as most gymnasts tend to land front half skills with their chests forward and down, so going backwards out of that would be difficult, whereas a roundoff is meant to propel a gymnast backward into a subsequent skill. Additionally, a front half on floor is only worth a B so there wouldn’t be any bonus.
Do you know why Gabby Douglas started doing a double layout off of bars instead of a stalder full into a full-twisting double tuck? Wouldn’t the latter be worth more when you include CV?
She’d only get a tenth bonus for the stalder full to full-in, so that’s the only difference in difficulty we’d see. For most, a pirouetting skill into a dismount is harder for getting the dismount around, which affects execution. The giants into the double layout are easier because you can generate more power, whereas many doing a full pirouette sequence into a full-in end up struggling a bit with getting height off the bar, resulting in steps and chests down on landings. I’m sure she tried both out, but realized that the double layout was the one that ended up looking better and more consistent, and so it became worth it for her to have slightly lower difficulty but then fewer deductions.
Given all the drama surrounding team selection, do you know if any country has used a Moneyball approach using a statistical algorithm to select a team? If not, why not?
I’m sure some low-key do this. Canada kind of has a formula for team selections…I don’t know the exact percentages for each meet, but it’s something like Elite Canada will be worth 10%, nationals are worth 50%, any international competitions are 20%, camp is 10%…or whatever. It’s kind of like when teachers are like “homework assignments are 10% of your final grade and the final exam is 50%” if you want to think about it like that, lol. But I think even with that statistical kind of look into scores, they do realize that sometimes people who are legitimate contenders make mistakes, and so they bring a qualitative look into the selection in addition to the quantitative. I think pretty much all programs, even if they don’t have a legit Moneyball approach, actually do some mix of qualitative and quantitative team selection strategizing to some degree.
For NCAA, what are some benchmark scores to look for to know what kind of pace a team is on? For example, if a team has XX after two rotations, they are on pace to get a 196 or 197?
I usually just divide the total score by four and go by that. For example, if a team gets a 49.6 on the first event and a 49.4 on the second event, they’re on pace for a 198 total because 198 divided by 4 is 49.5. Dividing 197 by 4, you’d see that a team would need to average a 49.25 per event to be on pace for a 197, and to be on pace for a 196, a team would need to average a 49.0 per event. That’s what I usually look at, and then I’ll check the team’s average and high rotation scores for their remaining events to see if they can realistically maintain that pace. Like, if UCLA has a 148.5 after the third rotation and they’re going to beam, I’d absolutely say “they’re on pace for a 198 and likely to get it,” but if it was Cal with a 148.5 going to beam, I’d check their average and see a 48.997 on that event, but a 49.4 high, so I’d reason “they’re technically on pace for a 198 but now they’re going to beam where they’ve had some struggles this season but they could be capable of making it happen if they have the best beam rotation ever.”
Besides not falling, what qualifies a routine as a hit or a miss? Is it a subjective thing like ‘eh, had a few wobbles but overall looked good’ or is there a quantitative ‘E score must be X or above?’ For those tracking a hit percentage, is there an objective way to quantify it?
I think it depends on the routine…there’s nothing like, “the E score must be above blah blah for it to be considered hit.” Generally I consider anything hit if there’s no falls or major mistakes, or if the E score isn’t more than half a point lower than it generally is for good routines…like, Simone Biles grabbing the beam in Rio didn’t count a fall, but it wasn’t necessarily a hit routine because there was a large mistake. It someone has a lot of little mistakes that add up, I’ll still generally call it a hit routine, but will say something like “well, she hit, BUT…” because I don’t think small mistakes count as “missing” per se, even if the E score ends up being hammered due to the multiple mistakes. But I’m sure my standards for hit and miss are not everyone’s standards, so it’ll probably depend on who you ask! I think most people just consider a hit routine nothing more than a routine without a fall.
Why do many gymnasts perform Jaegers or Tkachevs instead of Giengers? What makes a release skill suitable for a particular gymnast?
It usually just depends on what the gymnast feels most comfortable with, but sometimes if a coach is stronger at coaching Tkachev drills, you’ll see most releases from that gym will be Tkachev variations or whatever. I feel like generally Giengers are the easiest in terms of the timing and precision required, but a piked Gienger is only a D in elite and a layout is only an E, and often tends to be pretty deducted because it’s rare that someone actually hits a true layout position, so if you’re building difficulty through releases, Tkachevs and all of their variations are best…and then if you want multiple releases, you can do multiple Tkachevs out of different root skills and with different shapes in the air, so when working on releases, it might be more fruitful to go for the one you can replicate and add greater difficulty.
Why would Mary Lou Retton lobby AGAINST a law to prevent sexual abuse?
I have literally no idea. I know she’s been supportive of USA Gymnastics in general, so it’s probably her allegiance to them that made her want to support them in this? I’m almost like…does she even know what it was about? What parent would want to make it harder for their kids to be protected within large organizations?! So honestly…I can’t even put myself in her shoes to play devil’s advocate. I just don’t get it.
Have the Rybackis ever said anything in response to what Jamie Dantzscher has said in the past couple of years relating to abuse claims?
Not publicly that I know of.
Any word on anything in regards to Larry Nassar’s wife and family throughout this situation?
She and the kids have tried to stay relatively low-key, and I know a lot of the families in Holt who were affected by Nassar’s abuse have taken them in and stuck by their side, knowing they’re also victims of Nassar’s behavior. Many of the survivors at the sentencing in Holt talked about his wife and kids pretty personally, asking how he could do this to them, so I’m glad they continue to support his family after everything he did.
Do you know why Jordyn Wieber spoke about her experience to Fox News and Simone Biles spoke to Megyn Kelly on her morning show?
Nope. They were probably paid for an exclusive interview or their agents hooked them up or something. Neither of them is conservative and I doubt either of them demanded to be interviewed by a conservative outlet.
What meet anywhere in the world would you recommend a die-hard gym nerd to attend? What are your favorite meets you’ve attended and what are the biggest meets on your bucket list?
Euros was so much fun for me, especially because it was held in Romania when I went, which is an insane gymnastics country. Any of the big meets — like Euros, worlds, and obviously the Olympics — are incredible, but I also really love Olympic Trials, and then smaller friendly meets or invitationals where the gymnasts aren’t as under pressure as they’d be at a big meet, so you get to see them having fun and stuff beyond just being hardcore competitors. The biggest meet on my bucket list is the Commonwealth Games. I definitely want to go in 2022! They look like so much fun.
When gymnasts on the U.S. junior national team turn senior, are they automatically on the senior national team? Are they in limbo until nationals? What happens to their national team funding?
They’re kind of in limbo…they’re left on the national team overall, but their names stay on the junior team list, and they only officially get bumped up to the senior team if the national team coordinator bumps them up to the next level after they verify at camp. So like, this year Maile O’Keefe got a spot at the American Cup, and she was bumped up to the senior national team, but Emma Malabuyo didn’t go to either of the verification camps, so even though she went to Jesolo with her club as a senior and won the senior all-around title, she hasn’t yet shown in a national team setting that she’s at a senior level, and thus hasn’t been bumped up.
Do you think Aly Raisman really cares about the current gymnasts in the program in her quest to take down USAG or does she see them as collateral damage?
I honestly don’t think she’s paying super close attention to them or what’s happening with them, to be honest. Aside from a shoutout to the Pac Rims team, she just doesn’t seem to follow what the team is doing now because I’m sure she has other things she’s doing and thinking about (many former national team and Olympic team members don’t keep following the sport after they leave it, so this isn’t uncommon). I’d actually love for some of the survivors who were on the national team to get together with some of the current national team members to create a sort of athlete’s union that works alongside the women’s elite program committee and the USA Gymnastics board. I think the athletes should get a say in everything that’s going on, and I feel like a mix of retired and current gymnasts is the only way you’re going to get a variety of voices discussing the current issues within the program (with the retired gymnasts bringing in their perspective to help the current girls see things from a wider POV while the current girls are there as a reminder that they have worked hard for this and deserve their shot to succeed and make their dreams come true). Aly would be perfect to sit on a kind of athlete’s committee like this, and everyone keeps complaining that USAG should but hasn’t yet brought her on as a consultant, but from what I’ve learned, they’ve actually reached out to her in the hopes that she’ll advise them from her perspective, but she’s turned down their requests which is kind of a bummer because I think she truly could effect change from the top-down. I get why she’d want to take a step back and not play nice, but I also think she could be a positive voice for the changes the sport needs and I wish there was a way to get her to help in some way!
Was it a common expectation for Shawn Johnson to bring home five gold medals in 2008? Or did she just expect it of herself?
She was definitely supposed to be like, the BIG THING for the U.S. Individually, I think they were hoping she’d get medals in the all-around and on beam and floor, and then there was also the hope that she’d get a gold with the team. No one expected her to make the bars final or medal there, and she didn’t have a second vault so obviously no one expected a vault medal from her, but she was definitely capable of getting four golds. I remember taking cabs that summer and NBC runs the TV in the back of the cabs, and literally everything I saw for two months leading up to the Games was about Shawn, Shawn, Shawn. To say she was America’s Sweetheart and the Golden Child is putting it lightly, and given her national and international results over the year leading up to the Games, I think most people expected her to go big in Beijing.
Since Trinity Thomas signed with Florida for the 2018-2019 school year, is she planning to go to Florida and train for the Olympics at the same time?
Basically, yes. She’ll be at nationals this summer and hopes to earn a spot on the worlds team, so if she makes it, she’ll likely defer Florida for a semester (or take online classes) to make Doha happen. She’s kind of in a similar situation to what Mackenzie Caquatto did in 2010 leading up to the 2012 Games…Caquatto made the worlds team in 2010 and so she deferred her entrance to the spring semester, she competed as a freshman in 2011, and then she spent the summer back in elite hoping to make the worlds team (though she got injured and that’s when she officially retired from the elite level). Florida seems to be a great environment in terms of making something like this work out, so I hope Trinity will end up able to continue training her elite skills in her spare time while competing as a freshman in 2019!
On p-bars, commentators always make a big deal when the athletes balance on one bar in a handstand. What makes that so difficult? Is it trickier to balance on one bar like that? Is it the hand placement?
Compared to holding the two bars, yes, it’s harder to hold one bar…stability is easier to maintain when grasping the two bars, but to hold the one bar in a stable handstand like that, you really need to have a ton of core strength to hold on.
What is happening with Lizzy Leduc? Where do you see her ending up?
I hope she gets her shot competing for the Philippines once again…that seems to be her plan, to continue to represent them internationally and try for an Olympic spot in 2020. Even though she’s not competing for Illinois anymore, she’s still a student there and looks like she’s set to graduate in 2019, so maybe she’s training at a local gym or something? I don’t know for sure, but hope we get to see her again in some capacity!
Triple wolf turns on beam and floor have the same difficulty value, but this is unusual considering almost any skill is harder on beam. Can you think of any other skills that have the same D score on both apparatuses?
I think they’d be harder on beam if beam allowed for a greater level of difficulty, but dance elements on both beam and floor max out at an E, so there’s really nothing that can be done. A few other simple elements have the same value on these two events, and then like, a double tuck off beam is a D while a double tuck on floor is a D…several things have the same value, but even if it seems like something being on beam makes it inherently more difficult than floor (which is true of many elements), it’s not always the case so it’s not a huge deal to see some elements share the same value.
Do you think Australia has already improved under Mihai Brestyan? How much of an impact can he have on the team? Do the Australians have the potential to do better this Olympic cycle than before?
I think they looked much better at Commonwealth Games than I expected them to, and I think he helped them kind of find a good situation in terms of putting a team together where all of the athletes complement one another…they have two strong all-arounders, a good bars gymnast, a couple of girls who are solid on vault and floor…everyone on the Commonwealth Games team really fit with one another super well, and
Since Georgia now has a scholarship spot open for next year, who do you think they’ll try to recruit? Do you think they’ll attempt a transfer of someone international?
Well, it looks like they got Alexa Al-Hameed to come in…she had initially verbally committed to Oklahoma, but then that didn’t work out for whatever reason, and Georgia was able to invite her into their open spot. They’ll have a total of nine freshman newcomers for the 2018-2019 season which is amazing after such a bummer of a season this year with so many girls injured and retiring earlier than expected. In addition to Alexa, they have Canada’s 2016 Olympic alternate Megan Roberts, former elite Rachel Baumann, level 10 star Rachael Lukacs, and some other really strong J.O. competitors in Mikayla Magee, Samantha Davis, and Abbey Ward, and then two walk-ons adding some depth to the program with Sterlyn Austin and Alyssa Perez-Lugones coming in. This is an unusually large group, but I’m really glad for them, because they need depth more than anything, so even though they’re not getting the top elite recruits that we see going to Florida and UCLA, they’re still doing very well with this group in adding some numbers to each rotation.
You said the weakness for the U.S. in the last quad was beam but this quad we have a bunch of beam queens. Would you say bars is the weakness again?
I always talk about weaknesses as they compare to other programs, so last quad I considered beam the country’s weakest event for the most part, though they ended up getting it together for Rio and killing it on that event! I think this quad, compared to other countries, bars is definitely the soft spot right now, or at least it was last year. Hopefully they’ll be able to pick up some steam going forward…I honestly thought floor was going to be a bit weak this quad with Simone Biles and Aly Raisman out of the picture, but they were actually fabulous on this event last year at the junior and senior level, and now with Simone coming back, floor is going to be a real secret weapon for this team compared to other programs…but yeah, there are a lot of kids in the U.S. right now with GOOD bars sets but as a team-wide event, I think even programs like France and Germany have more depth and stronger potential rotations than the U.S. at the moment…though of course, as beam changed into a sleeper hit last quad, all the U.S. has to do is bring in some currently-on-hiatus bar workers to bring them right back up to where they need to be.
Is it possible to connect a wolf turn to another turn?
Yeah, and Angelina Melnikova used to do it as a junior! She’d start out doing a wolf turn and then spin up out of it into a regular pirouette. It’s hard to make it look fluid, but it looks really awesome when done right.
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
This post was made possible thanks to our amazing patrons who help us fund things like travel and video production as we work to grow the site. This month’s patrons: April, Daniel Bertolina, Emily Bischoff, Dodi Blumstein, Wendy Bruce, Katie Burrows, Kelly Byrd, Melissa Carwin, Jillian Cohen, Brittany Cook, Kat Cornetta, Kristyn Cozier, Anita Gjerde Davidsen, Holly Glymour, Hydrick Harden, Lauren Haslett, Inaya, Lauren Jade, Alexis Johnston, Katrina, Sarah Keegan, Ishita Kent, Alyssa King, Jenny Kreiss, Maria Layton, Rae Lemke Sprung, Leigh Linden, Annabelle McCombe, Stephanie McNemar, Bridget McNulty, Cindy McWilliams, M. Melcher, Alison Melko, Emily Minehart, Eyleen Mund, Rachel Myers, Melanie Oechsner, Jessica Olaiya, David F. Pendrys, Lauren Pickens, Cordelia Price, Abbey Richards, Christine Robins, Kaitlyn Schaefer, Lisa Schmidt, Brian Schwegman, Sam Smart, Stephanie, Karen Steward, Lucia Tang, Tipse_ee, Rachel Walsh, Laura Williams, and Jenny Zaidi. THANK YOU!
Want to help out and qualify for super fun rewards for as little as $1/month? Check us out on Patreon!