You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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Cairo Leonard-Baker

It’s time for the 231st 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.

Were there any new NCAA gymnasts that surprised you with their performances or contributions this season? Or any that didn’t live up to the hype?

Hmm, we’re so far removed from NCAA at this point I’m going to forget a bunch…but I had a few girls in mind who I thought would easily be top standouts for their teams and in general, like Nia Dennis for UCLA and Rachael Flam for Stanford, and then former big-time elites like Bailie Key were definitely hyped, though by the time she got to college we kind of knew she wasn’t going to be very productive this season so by January I don’t think people were calling her the next big thing anymore.

The number one standout for me ended up being Cairo Leonard-Baker…I can’t believe what a breath of fresh air she was for ASU! They obviously had a lot of changes over the past few years so I can’t exactly be like “she changed that team” because there were many more people involved, but she’s like the symbol for that team’s transformation and I couldn’t get enough of her! Several of the Arkansas freshmen also knocked my socks off, Haley Brechwald of Pitt, Lexy Ramler and Ivy Lu of Minnesota (though I kinda figured Lexy would be huge for them), and plenty more who really excelled this year but these were my favorite under-the-radar girls.

What U.S. club gym has the most world/Olympic medals for women’s artistic gymnastics?

Let’s just do recent, like since 1984? And gyms that still exist now, so like, no Karolyis since they’re obsolete.

WOGA — 35 (Nastia Liukin x14, Rebecca Bross x6, Carly Patterson x5, Madison Kocian x5, Hollie Vise x2, Ivana Hong x2, Alyssa Baumann x1)

Brestyan’s — 21 (Alicia Sacramone x11, Aly Raisman x10)

World Champions Centre — 19 (Simone Biles x19)

Chow’s — 13 (Shawn Johnson x7, Gabby Douglas x6)

Hill’s — 13 (Dominique Dawes x8, Courtney Kupets x4, Elise Ray x1)

I hear that part of the reason Stanford is inconsistent is because they lack depth due to their academic requirements. The men don’t suffer from this issue, though. Why do you think that is?

It totally has to do with both the massive depth in the women’s program and the fact that gymnasts have many more programs to choose from.

The women have six super strong teams that almost always make it to nationals unless something goes wildly wrong, and then another 10-15 teams on top of that which end up being strong contenders as well. Someone with the academic record to get into Stanford has a ton of other options, and for whatever reason — geography, friends at another school, a good relationship with a coach, wanting a more low-key college experience — this person ends up choosing another program that benefits her in some other way.

Academically, Stanford is a step above and does appeal to the nerdy smart kids, but there are several other great academic programs with women’s NCAA gymnastics, so those nerdy smart kids don’t have to go to Stanford if they find another school more appealing. Stanford is selective academically with who it selects and that does limit their talent pool compared to other schools, but I guarantee you there are plenty of top NCAA gymnasts with Stanford-worthy grades who end up going elsewhere simply because they have tons of options and some of those options are more appealing to them than Stanford.

For the men, though, there’s literally one super top program in Oklahoma, and then maybe 7-8 other programs that are generally where the stronger elite competitors tend to end up, Stanford being one of them. Among these, it’s mostly state schools, some of which are great (Michigan is probably the most likely alternative for guys who fit all of Stanford’s requirements but don’t want to go there), but with fewer overall options, a guy who is a top gymnast with a Stanford-acceptable academic record will be more likely to choose Stanford than a girl who is a top gymnast with a Stanford-acceptable academic record, who can choose UCLA or Michigan or Berkeley and still have academics in a school that’s around the top 5% of universities academically while also attending a top gymnastics program…or they can not make a top academic program a priority and go to a school like Florida or Oklahoma or Utah or Georgia or another historic gymnastics program just for that reason.

The men who prioritize winning it all try to end up at Oklahoma, but those who prioritize academics a bit more usually just go to Stanford or Michigan knowing that they’re still basically guaranteed to be at one of the top five gym programs in the country. Of course, this is because there are fewer men’s NCAA programs and fewer gymnasts at a high enough level under the modified FIG code of points to be super competitive, meaning the competition between teams is very limited in MAG, which also plays a major part. Like, Berkeley also has a men’s program, but they’re pretty weak overall despite a few strong competitors. A former women’s elite with both top NCAA-level gymnastics and top-level academics can go to Berkeley and get a lot out of both, but an elite/top NCAA-level guy in this situation probably wouldn’t choose Berkeley when the much stronger Stanford gymnastics program is likely to take him.

Are there secrets to getting good tickets at gymnastics meets? I feel like all of the close seats are reserved and are not available for public purchase.

I think you have to have an ‘in’ with a gym or something…or buy VIP packages that guarantee you close seats. The only time I’ve purchased tickets for a USA Gym meet was for the 2012 Olympic Trials like two years in advance before I knew I’d be going as press…and I got VIP tickets that guaranteed me one of the lower rows right in front of floor (side note, I ended up selling them to a gym fan stranger who is now a good friend!). Usually though when I have friends booking tickets, if they’re not booking VIP tickets or going through a club they’re generally kind of just stuck with whatever’s left. They also sell packages far before they release single session tickets, and the packages tend to include the better seats, with the leftover single session seats not as good.

If the top three teams at worlds this year that all qualify for Tokyo ended up having a drastic drop in depth/imploded at the next worlds, and the top three teams all managed to miss team finals at 2019 worlds, would 11 teams qualify for Tokyo?

No. There are only 12 team spots available. The three teams that earn spots for Tokyo at worlds in 2018 are set and don’t have to do anything else team-wise. They literally don’t even have to go to 2019 worlds if they didn’t want to, because they’re already qualified and have nothing more to prove. Whether they place 1st or 24th in 2019 is fully irrelevant. In 2019, the top nine teams in qualifications (outside of the teams that have already qualified) will earn spots for Tokyo. Say this year it ends up being the United States, Russia, and Japan that qualify to Tokyo. If these three teams also finish top three in 2019, then the teams ranked 4th though 12th in 2019 worlds qualifications will earn spots in Tokyo. But if all three of these teams decide they don’t want to show up at worlds in 2019, then the teams ranked 1st through 9th in qualifications will qualify. It’s still only nine teams no matter what happens with the three teams that qualified in 2018; no additional spots are added if a previously qualified team doesn’t finish at the top.

I was very quick to rule out Romania, but after watching Jesolo, I legitimately wonder if they could be threats to make the team final in 2019. Do you think a team of Larisa Iordache, Ioana Crisan, Denisa Golgota, Nica Ivanus, and Iulia Berar could get the job done?

Yeah, absolutely! Or…if not the team final, they’d at least have a shot to make the top 12 and earn a team spot for Tokyo. I’d say that’s more realistic than making the team final…a team with the girls you named would be a much stronger option than the team that went to the test event in 2016, and they’d absolutely have a shot at contending against some of the other teams looking for a top-12 finish.

Most of my friends have no clue about anything gymnastics-related, but I would like to share the Larry Nassar story with them. Is there a link or article that has the whole story so a total stranger to gymnastics might get all of the importance to share and talk about this story?

The best way to catch someone up is through the IndyStar’s timeline. They’ve been there since the beginning and have the most comprehensive look at how this all went down, so I think it’s the best place to start and then from there for more nuanced coverage and opinions from people who are more familiar with the sport itself and put that into context, I’d check out Deadspin, Sports Illustrated, and some Huffington Post articles that kind of flesh out the ‘what happened’ and connect it more to what it means for gymnastics, specifically at the national/elite level.

Does Aliya Mustafina get full artistry points in her floor routines?

It depends on the day and the judges and the routine, honestly. I think she generally performs her routines pretty well in terms of expressing herself through the music and movement, but some of her routines are kind of flat performance-wise which makes her need to work even harder to convey emotion, and I can see her getting docked if she has an ‘off’ day or something. Her “My Way” routine never really did anything for me, for example…I thought she had some good performances with it, but there were other times where it felt like she was really phoning it in and I think on those kinds of days, judges would absolutely take off a tenth or three.

If Irina Alexeeva made the Russian national team, would she have to move to Russia and train at Round Lake?

She has actually been training at Round Lake like a real live Russian! She got invited in May and has been there for the past two months, coming home for a short period of time, but she’s clearly in this for the long haul and is taking it super seriously with the hopes of competing at worlds and potentially being in the running for Tokyo. Since she just made the Euros team, I’d say she had a great camp and Russia is really finding value in having her around.

Was Aliya Mustafina the first person to connect a shaposh or shap half out of a Pak? I can’t seem to remember anyone doing it before 2012 and it’s why I fell in love with her bars!

I believe she was one of the first, if not THE first. That’s definitely when it became a thing…I remember being like “it would be cool seeing a Pak to Maloney to Pak to Maloney to Pak to Maloney” once and then suddenly Aliya was connecting her Pak to a shaposh element (which I didn’t even think would really be possible for some reason and now I’m like YAWN because it’s super common) and I was like oh my god my dream series is coming true, and then in a not serious video, I think it was Daria Spiridonova who kept doing the two back and forth repeatedly and I was like YES finally, all of my dreams are realized. Anyway, yeah, I’m pretty sure it was Aliya…I can’t think of anyone who did it before her!

Who holds the record for the most regular season All-American awards? Who holds the record for the most championship All-American awards?

I don’t have access to even like 5% of the data I’d need to answer this, so if someone else has it, please feel free to let me know! Unfortunately NCAA gymnastics record-keeping is generally done on a program basis but there doesn’t seem to be any NCAA-wide record-keeping for the sport which is unfortunate. I don’t have time to go through every single NCAA program’s records but if someone else wants to, feel free to let us know!

Now that the season is over, how do you think Georgia did with Courtney Kupets at the helm this year? What do you think their outlook is for the next few years?

I think she did fantastic, and I heard that while Suzanne Yoculan started out helping her make decisions, as the season went on, Courtney became super confident in running the show and now she’s driving with Suzanne in the backseat. I think they make a great team and I love that Suzanne was there to guide her and is now there to more to help, but it’s clear they had a better-than-expected season, especially with that super dramatic and emotional last-minute nationals bid after a season full of injuries and barely filling lineups, so with a healthy team and some strong recruits planning to come in, they’re only going to get stronger and will hopefully become a consistent top-ten team again.

Oleg Verniaiev seems a little annoyed by Ukraine’s backlash of him refusing to blindly hate all Russians. He mentions other countries offering him to go over to them, and they’re clearly offering him a better deal. Do you think there’s a chance he could leave the Ukrainian program? Would he need citizenship?

I really don’t know. They’d have to release him and I can see them refusing to do that, which would mean he’d spend a significant amount of time in limbo. He definitely wouldn’t do something like that leading up to the Olympic qualification process, especially since this process starts in literally a few months, but maybe after 2020 he can reevaluate his national situation.

Why did SEMO get to send individuals to USAG nationals? I thought they were a regular DI program with 12 scholarships.

Do they have a full 12 scholarships? The only teams eligible for USAG collegiate nationals are D I, II, and III programs with fewer than 7.5 full scholarships. Because SEMO is allowed to attend, they must give fewer than 7.5 full scholarships each year…just because they’re a DI program doesn’t mean they are always filling all 12 of their scholarship spots.

What options are there when a young woman in gymnastics reaches 18 and isn’t attending college?

I mean…if she’s at the elite level she can continue competing elite? If she isn’t at the elite level, she can continue training and competing as a J.O. gymnast if she wants, or she can compete on a masters/adult/intramural/club team through the NAIGC. Someone who is a level 8 or 9 and can’t find an opening on a DI, II, or III college team can go to a university with a club team (like the University of Houston or MIT), or can train at a club that participates on that level (there are a group of adults who train for NAIGC competition at Texas Dreams, for example…or someone who can’t find a club/university team near her can continue training at her local gym and compete individually). Most non-elite adults would go the NAIGC route, but I’ve known of a handful over the years who have continued at the J.O. level into their 30s or 40s just for fun. Of course…there’s also leaving gymnastics and going into similar sports like diving or aerial skiing! Both are popular alternatives for former gymnasts.

Who is Aliya Mustafina’s current coach?

I believe she is still with Sergei Starkin as her main coach, but something funny to note is that recently, Aliya’s ex-boyfriend Pavel Pavlov (a former gymnast) began coaching on Starkin’s team, so one of her current coaches is her ex!

Did Ragan Smith show any upgrades at Jesolo or do you know of any planned upgrades?

I think if anything she was mostly downgraded at Jesolo and she still seemed to be dealing with the aftermath of her injury at worlds, not in her best shape skill-wise…I know she’s trained a few things over the past few months but I don’t know which new skills and upgrades we’ll actually see make it into her routines this summer. That’s very Texas Dreams. I think part of keeping her on the down-low this spring was letting her spend a ton of time training new skills and getting them to a really good place without worrying about having to go to constant camp verifications to make different international teams and stuff. Jesolo was like a practice meet for her without the pressure of competing there as a member of Team USA, but I know she’s been doing much more behind the scenes and hope she attempts a couple of new things at the U.S. Classic.

How did Florida and Oklahoma tie for the NCAA title in 2014?

They earned the same score. There’s no tie-breaker for the NCAA team competition, so with both teams getting the exact same score, there was nothing in place to separate one from the other in terms of the ranking, and they were both allowed to place first.

Do collegiate gymnasts get deductions for picking wedgies?

Yeah, or they should, though I don’t think judges always end up taking the deduction. There are a few nit-picky things like that which tend to fly under the radar, especially in NCAA where coaches seem to design leos specifically to get wedgie deductions for their gymnasts…unless it’s like a super noticeable adjustment in the middle of a beam routine or something, I doubt they really go after someone for something like that.

Who is stronger at their peak, Aliya Mustafina or Viktoria Komova?

Hmmmmm…I think Vika is the more talented of the two, but I think Aliya was stronger at her peak if only because she had it so together mentally and was such a cool and confident competitor. If you could combine Vika’s talent and potential (I actually don’t think Vika ever really did what she was fully capable of as a senior, with her true peak really coming at the Youth Olympic Games) with Aliya’s demeanor you’d have an unstoppable gymnast.

How do you know Victoria Nguyen is trying to get into Stanford academically? Why wouldn’t she try to get in through gymnastics?

To attend Stanford as an athlete, you first have to be accepted academically. Most other schools will let you verbally commit to a program at a young age and then just keep an eye on your academics to make sure you’ve got everything you need, and you can sign your NLI before you actually get accepted academically (because most of the time, the athletic department is going to push your application through and get you accepted unless something is drastically wrong with your high school credits). But for Stanford, you have to go through the regular admissions process, and they don’t give two craps if you were an Olympic gold medalist — if you don’t meet their academic standards, they’re not going to let you in. If Victoria is hoping to attend Stanford for gymnastics, she first has to get accepted academically, which would happen in her senior year of high school, and then she’d be able to officially commit to the school as a gymnast.

What would your comeback be to Laila Ali, who snarked at Aly Raisman for saying she’d come in second to Simone Biles in 2016?

I’d be like girl, get over yourself, this isn’t a boxing match where both competitors have a more or less fifty-fifty chance of winning with a little luck on top of skill. This is a gymnast named Simone Biles who has a difficulty score 3 billion points ahead of everyone else, meaning Simone basically starts her meet at a zero and everyone else starts their meet at a negative ten. Almost no other sport gives someone an advantage the way a D score can give a gymnast an advantage in gymnastics, and then when you have someone like Simone who can actually hit everything and get great E scores on top of that difficulty, you have someone who almost literally can’t be taken down in competition. I’m SURE Aly hoped that she’d be able to put up the kind of strong routines that would allow her to take advantage of Simone if Simone ended up freaking out and falling, but Aly is also pretty realistic and knows how things work in the world, and she knew the most she would likely do in Rio would be winning the silver. It’s actually a GOOD THING to know this about yourself, especially in a sport where some girls who finish 25th at nationals wonder why they’re not in Olympic team contention and where coaches write blogs about their gymnasts being black-balled when they “only” get an alternate spot when it’s pretty clear to anyone with eyes and a brain that there’s a reason they didn’t make the team (yes, both of these things have happened in the sport and as a person who is almost too self-aware, I’m just like…can I please have some of that oblivion, it would be GREAT for my confidence). As an athlete, you want to boost yourself up and believe in yourself and know that you can accomplish anything, but the best athletes have a healthy dose of reality thrown in as well, and don’t blindly go from meet to meet with zero knowledge of their fellow competitors and how they stack up in comparison. Aly knew what Simone was capable of, knew that it wasn’t likely she’d be able to match her, and knew better than to tell the press “I’m gonna beat Simone!!!!” because it would make her look one billion percent unaware of anything going on in the sport. Aly’s only plan going into that all-around competition was performing to the best of her ability, and if that meant she could sneak in for gold should Simone fall a couple of times, amazing, but considering it had been over three years since anyone beat Simone in the all-around, she knew the likelihood of that happening was slim and she knew realistically that silver would be the best she could do, and she’s probably much better off with this attitude than had she come in with delusions of grandeur. #EndRant

Who was the first American to ever do the DTY in competition?

Amy Chow did the DTY in 1996…I believe she may have been the first unless there was someone earlier who didn’t grab my attention for whatever reason!

When a team wins the NCAA Championships, do all members of the team and staff receive trophies, rings, shirts, hats, and so on? Or is it just the competing athletes?

Pretty much all members of the team and staff will get them! Anyone on the roster working for the team at the time, including people who have nothing to do with the actual gymnastics part of things. Deanna Hong, who does video production for UCLA, got an NCAA Championships trophy this year!

Why do gymnasts with male coaches often have a separate female coach for beam? What is it about beam that a man can’t teach? Wouldn’t it make sense for gymnasts to have a separate bars coach since it isn’t a leg event?

It’s often easier to learn from someone who has done the event themselves, so since beam isn’t something that men ever do anything similar to, it’s easier for a woman who has done beam to help a gymnast perfect aspects related to choreography, dance, presence, and things like that. Men can and do easily teach beam skills, but most clubs have female coaches around even if the head elite or women’s program coaches are male, and these female coaches are often the ones helping gymnasts with the fine-tuning that a male coach, especially a former gymnast, might not understand. It has nothing to do with being a leg event or not being a leg event…someone who coaches vault well doesn’t mean he won’t be able to coach bars. This is more about presentation and perfecting movements, which is why many floor coaches and choreographers tend to be either women with a gymnastics and/or a dance background, or men with a dance background, rather than men who were former gymnasts.

Has there ever been a male NCAA performance that was as dominant individually as Yul Moldauer at nationals? He won the all-around, floor, vault, and p-bars, and came in a super close second on pommel horse and rings.

Not that I can think of in the past ten years or so, but again, as with a previous answer, I don’t have the exact stats on this because I don’t have access to a majority of the stats related to NCAA gymnastics.

Why does LSU say Geaux and Seaux instead of the correct spelling?

Louisiana was originally owned by France and has a rich francophone/creole history, with a significant population still speaking Cajun French to this day. In French, the suffix -eaux sounds like “oh” (like in Bordeaux), and part of LSU’s tradition includes the state’s French history, so for fun, they tend to write out any word that ends with an “oh” sound with -eaux instead of the letter O. It’s like any other silly tradition for any athletic program that wants to inspire school spirit and blah blah blah, like calling the hogs at Arkansas, doing the eight-clap at UCLA…every school and sports team in general has something like this to get people hyped and excited.

Is there a limit to how many athletes you can bring to Super Six?

I believe it’s 15 or 16? I always forget the rule for that, but it’s the same for any postseason competition in NCAA…and technically for the regular season as well, but some teams will go beyond what they’re technically allowed because no one’s really checking up on them until postseason.

With Simone Biles’ comeback video, which skills do you think she will realistically compete this year? Can you give a rundown of what you think each of the routines will consist of and her realistic potential D score for each event? Do you think she’ll actually compete the TTY or the double double off bars and beam?

Well, the Fabrichnova on bars and the Moors on floor are apparently both happening, so that’s exciting! I think the double double off beam is a little ambitious for now, as is like, a triple double or a Yurchenko triple, but both the Fabrichnova and the Moors are realistic upgrades for her given how she looked with her bars dismount and floor skills in 2016. If she came back to the gym and got everything back easily, these are the next logical steps for her without being TOO crazy, so neither is really shocking…but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the TTY or the triple double or an extra half twist on her Cheng coming in time for Tokyo!

Do you think Ashton Locklear will realistically ever be able to contribute on more than one event? Will she be ready for classics or nationals this year?

No, I don’t. She’s never bringing back vault or floor, so that just leaves beam, and while she actually has a really strong foundational level there — she would’ve easily made the beam final at worlds last year had she not fallen in qualifications — she struggles with a few aspects that wouldn’t make her stand out on a team like the U.S. can put up on that event, so they’re not going to take her to a meet for beam when they have 5+ others who can put up stronger routines…that, and all of the Olympic team contenders will have to be all-arounders, so since she can’t do the all-around, it doesn’t really make sense for her to try to be a beam contender because she won’t make the Olympic team anyway. The best she can really hope for at this point is an individual spot at the Games. After her knee surgery about a month ago, she is still in a brace and won’t be back for classics or nationals (or probably not the worlds selection camp either) this year.

Do you know which other schools Maggie Nichols looked at before committing to Oklahoma?

I don’t…sometimes the team bios list the programs they also looked at before choosing the one they ended up at, but Oklahoma doesn’t have this unfortunately! I’m sure it was most of the big ones…she committed way back in 2013, and I don’t remember any of her other visits or if she made them public through social media or whatever.

Why does vault in NCAA gymnastics not have bounds or white lines that elite vault mats have? Is there no neutral deduction?

Correct, they don’t have an OOB deduction for vault! I think they’re just satisfied with the heavy deductions that come with someone who would take that many steps to the side or whatever (and the deduction for deviation of the straight direction in flight). My theory is that they see it as not being worth it to take another tenth on top of the deductions, especially because a tenth ND for college vault is a SEVERE penalty considering most vaults don’t generally get more than a tenth or two off in deductions total. It’s one thing in elite where most vaults are going to get at least a point off in deductions, then a tenth for the ND isn’t bad at all, but in NCAA it ends up being not really a fair penalty (the same actually goes for floor, now that I think about it, and I totally think that the floor OOB ND should be lower in NCAA).

Is it possible for McKayla Maroney to sue USAG and other organizations given her settlement?

I don’t know if she’s able to sue USAG after already receiving a settlement from them, but she’d definitely be able to be part of other suits, like the MSU and USOC lawsuits.

Jordyn Wieber said London would’ve been different if they had a legitimate doctor. Is it true that a legitimate doctor would’ve told her not to compete on a broken bone in London?

A legit doctor absolutely would’ve told her not to compete on a broken bone. But the problem here is more about Martha Karolyi than anything else, because her whole reason for keeping Larry Nassar around was because he told her what she wanted to hear (meaning he let kids compete injured all the damn time). Had he not been there, she would’ve looked for another scam artist doctor who would’ve ignored potentially serious injuries.

However…I think part of this also comes down to the athlete and what she thinks is worth it. I’m 99.9999% sure if a doctor told Jordyn that she probably shouldn’t be competing on a broken bone, given that it was the Olympics, she’s not going to be like “okay, bye!” and not live her dream after working her entire life to get there. Many athletes in those situations make the decision to work through a broken bone or other pain at a competition like the Olympics. If it was like, a mid-quad worlds and a doctor said “you should sit this out,” most athletes would be like yeah, this sucks, but okay, my health is the priority. But when you’re days away from competing at the Olympics, most athletes are gonna be like uhhh yeah, I’ll deal with the pain, this is the frigging Olympics. So whether they had Nassar, another scam artist doctor, or a really amazing doctor who took even the most minor of injuries super seriously, at the Olympic Games you’re still going to have athletes being like yeah, no, I’m not quitting now after years and years of pain and sacrifice. If I was in that situation, there’s no way I’d give it up unless I physically couldn’t walk or something.

I think what Jordyn actually meant by that is that with a legitimate doctor in London, they would’ve been getting legitimate treatments that would have helped them work through and overcome the injuries they had. I don’t think she wanted a doctor telling her “sorry, you’re not competing here because of your shin issues, go home, your dreams are done!” I think she wanted a doctor that would’ve given her therapeutic treatments to help her work through her pain rather than a doctor that instead molested her and didn’t help her get better.

Will you ever create a MAG database?

It’s on my list! But so are nine billion other things. We actually have a MAG skills database in the works right now, but I probably won’t be able to get to the profile database until at least after worlds this year.

How can sponsors support gymnasts individually outside of USAG without compromising their NCAA eligibility?

I mean, they really can’t. Gymnasts can’t accept any money for endorsing products, and so there’s no way for them to accept a sponsorship deal without sacrificing their eligibility. I guess if someone created a fund for elite gymnasts to pay for training and competition-related expenses, major sponsors could contribute to that fund, but they’d really get nothing in return because the gymnasts wouldn’t be able to endorse their products in exchange for that fund. Sponsors would have to be more charitable than expecting some return in that case.

Do you think Viktoria Komova should be a bars and beam specialist this quad?

At first I did, but I actually don’t really anymore. I think she got back vault and floor pretty easily with endurance training her only issue at the moment…

Where do you see the LSU program going after this year’s nationals? What do you think is preventing them from winning a national title?

I think they’re still going to remain a top-five program pretty easily. I think at nationals, it just comes down to them going all-out too early and not pacing correctly when it counts, whereas other teams save their absolute best for the Super Six. It’s hard to pace like this, especially in a team setting where everyone has to be working on the same page for pacing to work, but you can see LSU giving up things in the finals that they normally don’t give up in earlier sessions or meets, whereas other teams make that final meet the ultimate “this is where I fight for every tenth” kind of situation.

LSU had a fantastic Super Six performance this year, making improvements on their prelims score, and in that sense, 2018 was probably the best they’ve ever made pacing happen in their history. But the other three teams that placed above them did the same thing, so this was more about depth and other teams doing everything right as well this year than it was about LSU doing something wrong. But in previous years, it’s definitely been about pacing. I think if they do in 2019 what they did this year, they absolutely have a shot at the title…but so do the other strong teams doing the same thing.

What were the countries that spread gymnastics all over the world? I researched and saw that German immigrants were the ones who brought it to the U.S.

Well, 2,000 years ago gymnastics was developed in ancient Greece as a way to train and prepare for warfare, but back then it was literally just like, thousands of naked men doing strength exercises. Two Germans in the early 1800s decided to bring it back as a way for boys and young men to train, and they began developing apparatuses specifically for gymnastics training, like rings, parallel bars, the pommel horse, and high bar.

From there it spread to other nearby countries like France and Spain, and instead of being used solely to train for health and fitness, competitive gymnastics began to develop leading to the founding of the FIG in 1881. The sport was included in the first modern Olympics in 1896, with only athletes from European nations competing (Germany, France, Denmark, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain, Bulgaria, and Greece all had athletes comepting, with Germany dominating the medal table).

German immigrants also took the concept of gymnastics to the U.S. in the mid-19th century, and after the Civil War, clubs like the YMCA were established, geared toward teaching gymnastics to boys and young men just like the turnvereins had done in Germany earlier in the century. The U.S. had no governing body during this time, but after the success of the 1896 Olympics, the AAU took control of gymnastics competition in the U.S., and 13 clubs were prepared to have teams competing at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis in addition to nine other clubs that sent individuals.

Obviously there was no set amount allowed per country at this stage, and the U.S. had a total of 111 men competing in this sport with the Games hosted in the U.S. Only two other countries (Germany and Switzerland) sent gymnasts because it was too difficult for most others who were involved in the sport at this time to travel overseas, but the European-hosted Olympics were always well-attended by teams from around the continent.

As the Olympics grew and became more popular, especially following WWI, other countries outside of Western Europe and the United States began supporting gymnastics training. In 1920, Egypt brought a team to the Games, and the sport spread to Asia over the next decade, with Japan bringing its first team in 1932. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the sport began modernizing, beginning to look more like the sport we know now, and by this point with people and information more easily and freely able to travel the world, it began becoming truly global. By 1960, every continent had representation in gymnastics at the Olympic Games.

What do you think about making gymnastics a co-ed sport?

I don’t think it makes sense because the physical differences between men and women create too much of a separation between what the men can do as gymnasts and what the women can do. MAG and WAG are two different disciplines for this reason, and I actually prefer to think of them as separate sports, in the way I consider rhythmic and T&T separate sports from artistic. I think for gymnastics to be co-ed, they’d have to do a total overhaul of many of the events, but I just don’t see that ever happening at the elite level…though I’d support it at the club level.

Why does UCLA have such a big team? Are they playing it super smart or are they working the system unfairly?

They’re playing it super smart. The system allows for only 12 scholarships but as many walk-ons as your heart desires, and Miss Val knows all too well that walk-ons often end up being saviors of the program when half of her scholarship kids are injured. By bringing in five or more walk-ons a year, she’s ensuring that they have plenty of backup if they need it. The rules only allow for I believe 16 gymnasts on the floor at meets, so it’s not like she can show up to nationals with 24 girls and have them each only compete one event…but if one of her top 16 girls gets injured, she has plenty of options to choose from to fill the gaps, which has been her lifeline over the past few years when they’ve struggled with injuries.

Do you think gymnasts from other countries realize how much we love them? I saw a comment from a Russian-born gym fan that said she didn’t realize how much the rest of the world loved Russian gymnasts. Like, how can I let Liu Tingting know she’s perfect?

Many of them don’t have a clue!! I was just talking about this with someone the other day…we were talking more about the more underrated gymnasts like Barbora Mokosova, who are genuinely surprised when you talk to them for an interview in the mixed zone at meets or when fans ask for a photograph outside of the arena…but yes, even the Russians who are super well-known in their country just assume fans from other countries don’t really know who they are. LITTLE DO THEY KNOW. The Chinese gymnasts are active on Chinese social media like Weibo, so if you can break into that community, please do let Liu Tingting know that everyone thinks she’s a goddess.

Do gymnasts wear underwear under their leotards?

Yeah. Well, most do. It can depend on the gymnast and the leo…some prefer not to wear any but then they wear a white or light-colored leo and…that is a big mistake. Most who wear underwear with leos will go for something flesh-toned so if the leo rides up, you won’t see like, a flowery cotton Hanes sticking out, but rather a tan stretchy material that isn’t as bunchy under the leo material and isn’t as noticeable.

Where will the apparatus world cups be held in 2018 through 2020? How are the cities chosen?

They’ll be held in Cottbus, Melbourne, Baku, and Doha. Cities apply to host meets like this in the way they also do for world championships. Many cities have been hosting world cups or similar meets for years, and because they do a good job, they get to keep hosting them. Like, the Cottbus World Cup has been around for one billion years, and Baku and Doha are always out there trying to bring gymnasts to their country for as many meets (and sporting events in general) as they possibly can.

Has Oksana Chusovitina ever had a major injury that affected her longevity?

Honestly, not really? I think her pregnancy was probably the longest time she spent out of the sport, haha. Which is amazing. She has definitely taken breaks and hiatuses at times to help with her longevity, but she pretty much always makes it back in time for worlds or the Olympics.

Is there a deduction for straddled legs on giant swings on bars?

No, straddled giants are an acceptable way to perform giant swings. You just have to make it clear that you’re doing a straddled giant, and not a straight giant with zero control in your leg form.

What would have happened to the EAGL and its non-ACC teams if Maryland hadn’t left the ACC and the four ACC schools broke off to form their own conference after Pitt joined?

The non-ACC teams could’ve had their own conference, or they could have competed independently without a conference, as the MRGC teams did until recently when the MRGC was formed.

Is Jordan Chiles having trouble with the Amanar?

I don’t think she’s having trouble with it…I just think it’s harder for her to hit consistently as she’s now older and has grown since she was competing it as a junior, and so she prefers to stick to the DTY when she doesn’t necessarily need the Amanar.

Did Roxana Popa retire?

No, she hasn’t…but she has had a million surgeries, and while she has come back to training time and again, she just hasn’t been able to train at a level she was used to prior to injuring her knee in late 2014 and then re-injuring it in early 2016. At this point it’s been four years of almost nonstop surgeries, rehabs, and training attempts, so it’s hard to see her ever really coming back to major competition. However, she is ALWAYS working hard in the gym, so never say never! I hope we do see her finally getting over her knee issues and having a Peng Peng Lee kind of renaissance where after years of struggling she is just reborn and never has another major problem and competes like a beast and blows us all away forever.

Is Jessica Lopez from Venezuela still training?

Yup! She was actually supposed to make her comeback at the Central American & Caribbean Games last week, but ended up pushing it back. I hope we see her back soon!

Did Jordan Chiles go pro? I heard she isn’t committed yet.

No, she didn’t go pro. She’s committed to UCLA.

For vault finals the gymnasts need two vaults with different entries and flight phases. You’ve said in the past that the code recognizes a tsuk and a kas as the same vault. Does that mean if Jade Carey does a kas 1.5, she can’t do an Amanar?

Correct, a kas 1½ (or tsuk 2½) would be considered the same flight as an Amanar, as they’re both a back 2½.

Is it a requirement for collegiate gymnasts to have a certain GPA to be able to train and compete with the team?

Yes, they have to maintain a good academic standing in order to be eligible for NCAA competition, though these GPAs aren’t all that limiting. Freshmen need to maintain 90 percent of the minimum GPA for graduation (1.8 if 2.0 is the minimum), sophomores need to maintain 95 percent of the minimum (1.9 if 2.0 is the minimum), and juniors and seniors need to be at the minimum for graduation (2.0 if 2.0 is the minimum). They also have to be enrolled for a certain number of credits each semester to be eligible for competition, though if they’re not meeting any of these standards, they can still train with their team while they get things sorted out…they just can’t compete.

What happened to Mattie Larson in 2010?

She was expected to be one of the top earners on floor at worlds, but unfortunately had mistakes both in qualifications and in the team final, and many people blamed her for the U.S. only getting silver and finishing like a tenth behind the Russians. Her mistake was the most obvious mistake of that meet, but like, everyone had at least something that could’ve been better, and the Russians were simply the stronger team that year, which is why they won with like 3 billion falls. As it turns out, she was being sexually abused by Larry Nassar in addition to facing physical and emotional abuse from her own coaches, and she battled depression and a severe eating disorder, which contributed to her mistakes there and her mental state as a gymnast in general, and yet many coaches on the team treated her like the loss of gold was her fault and Martha Karolyi made it pretty clear that she’d never make another major team again.

How culpable do you think individual coaches are for the abuse gymnasts faced at the hands of Larry Nassar? Are we letting them off too easy?

It depends. I honestly am of the opinion that no one is directly responsible for abuse except the abuser himself, and then also those who know about abuse but do nothing to stop it (so in this case, other doctors and administrators at MSU, law enforcement in Michigan, and adults like Kathie Klages who had gymnasts telling her what was happening and she just kind of brushed them off and told them it was medically necessary or anyone who covered for him or excused his behavior without checking into it further).

I don’t see how we can blame a coach for not knowing that abuse was happening when…how would they know? Literally everyone was fooled, which is how he got away with it for so long. Like, parents were literally in the room with their kids while he molested them, and some kids even told their parents how uncomfortable they felt with those treatments but their parents said “well, he’s the doctor, he knows what he’s doing!” Do we blame the parents for being oblivious or for brushing it off thinking it was legit? Are parents, who would do anything to protect their kids, inherently culpable because their ignorance makes them so?

The real problem here is that girls were getting this vaginally invasive procedure done and didn’t feel comfortable enough to tell anyone about it, because it was too awkward and they felt like they had no adults who would take them seriously if they said something. Instead, his treatments became like a joke — he was “the crotch doc” to one of the MSU teams he abused, and the only time adults in charge caught wind of what was happening was when they overheard their gymnasts awkwardly discussing and laughing about the bizarre nature of the treatments. This uncomfortable shameful feeling of talking about this ‘procedure’ is a societal issue, so in a sense we can blame society for keeping girls and women too embarrassed to discuss things related to women’s health, but bringing it down a notch, in gymnastics specifically, there’s also that Karolyi culture of ignoring injuries and being afraid to discuss anything with anyone in case you’re shamed or called weak and retaliated against.

But even many girls who had super close relationships with their coaches and who weren’t afraid to ask for what they needed — a doctor, a massage, time off, food, whatever — didn’t bring up these ‘treatments’ with their coaches because it’s embarrassing to talk about what he did. If it was me, even as an adult knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was a necessary and legit treatment, I wouldn’t voluntarily be like “guess what I just had done!” to anyone because it’s awkward and embarrassing and weird…and if I did bring it up, it would be in a silly way to close friends, which is how so many of Nassar’s victims talked about their treatments.

On top of THAT, they didn’t think it was abuse! They spent their entire careers being told what to do if they wanted to succeed, and much of what they had to do was ‘uncomfortable’ in some way, from conditioning to nutrition to medical procedures. They saw doctors and physical therapists and massage therapists and trainers multiple times a week, and as someone who has had many sports massages and physical therapy appointments in my life, there are plenty of super awkward (but non-invasive) treatments out there, and so when someone tells you “you’re going to see this important national team doctor” and when that “important national team doctor” tells you he has to do yet another awkward treatment, you just accept that it’s legit because a doctor is telling you it’s legit and you have no reason to doubt him.

So again, if coaches even don’t know exactly what kind of treatment their gymnast is receiving, how are they culpable for the abuse? Legally, I mean. I know for a fact that the majority of coaches would’ve had red flags raising if they heard a gymnast discussing exactly what Nassar was doing, which is exactly what happened with Sarah Jantzi overhearing Maggie discussing her awkward treatment with Aly Raisman. She was shocked and horrified, as was pretty much every coach who eventually found out what kind of ‘treatment’ their athletes were receiving, and I guarantee that almost every single coach who had knowledge of what was happening wouldn’t have let it happen. But unfortunately, they didn’t know, just as most parents didn’t know, because no one ever talked about it, because no one really understood that it was abuse.

I don’t think we talk enough in this case about legal culpability vs emotional blame. There’s a fine line between the two, but ultimately and unfortunately, very few individual coaches couldn’t have acted any differently in this case because again…how would they have known? For the most part, no individual coaches are legally responsible for Nassar’s abuse unless they’re someone like Kathie Klages and knew what was happening but refused to speak up or protect their athletes. I’m sure there are many athletes who blame their coaches for not protecting them whether they’re actively responsible or not, and so even if there is no legal culpability, the athletes who do feel that their coaches didn’t do enough to listen to them or support them have every right to blame their coaches (and some may even have the grounds for a civil suit), but athletes who don’t blame their coaches also have every right not to blame them. It’s not going to be the same for every person, even for two people who had the same coach, because every individual experience and perspective is different. 

Thankfully in gymnastics, there are far more coaches like Sarah Jantzi who care so much about their gymnasts and would act immediately the second they heard something weird and potentially abusive than there are coaches like Kathie Klages who would ignore someone trying to speak up. I just think making a blanket statement like “yes, all coaches are culpable” or “no, no coaches are culpable” doesn’t take into account all of the nuances of this case, and so my whole vibe has been letting athletes decide who they feel was responsible for their abuse, and for some, it might be literally everyone including their own parents, while for others it’s no one but Nassar himself.

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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58 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Ashley Postell of Utah has the record for most championship all Americans. She is a 20x all American (before regular season all Americans were a thing), which is the most possible (she was an all American on every event for all four years).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Deanna Hong does AMAZING work for UCLA Gymnastics…I’ve watched her 2018 NCAA Championships video an embarrassing number of times. Among her other work, she also created an adorable happy-birthday video for Anna and Grace Glenn. I’m so glad she got a trophy!

    Like

  3. I recall after Classic or Nationals in 2015 Aly placing above Simone on floor, but Aly was sure to mention that she only outpaced Simone because Simone had fallen on floor. Based on Aly’s sportsmanship and integrity, I don’t think she’d ever want to win gold as a result of seeing Simone or anyone for that matter making major mistakes. And I think that mentality also played into her being accepting of a silver finish, knowing with a hit meet from both of them, that’s how they’d stack up.

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  4. I think I remember Sui Lu doing a shap to pak sometime in 2010?

    Looked it up and yeup! 2010 Worlds UB qualifcations! After her first glide mount – KCH, she does a Malony to Pak!

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  5. Do you know what the lowest seeded team to ever win NCAA championships was? Or have they all been somewhere in the top 6 range?

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  6. UCLA actually travels with most of its team beyond the 16, they just wear tee shirts not uniforms or leos and are all over the place. They also have roadies who travel. I think the support they get is great but the number of Bruins on the floor should be limited to a reasonable number. Who the the blonde who attacks the vaulters after every vault? I counted once and there were 23 students on the floor. It really should be enforced. Some of their home meets have clusters of student/athletes and it is distracting especially for those competing on the beam. The cluster right at the end of the beam and their constant moving and talking I think is a bit rude to the other team competing. They are however a happy bunch.

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  7. Yes Cairo is a queen!

    Also, I think the response to the Stanford question is a little dismissive of Florida’s academic standing. It’s a very respectable school and definitely regarded as ahead of the other three mentioned at the end there.

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    • Oh, I didn’t mean to be dismissive of Florida as a school but just to say that they are more lax with athletes who end up there…but the majority of programs are; I only mentioned them specifically in that group because they’re a top gym program but aren’t quite a UCLA or Berkeley in terms of academics even if they are academically better than the other schools on that list.

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      • Oh, I see. I remember reading before that Florida was easier for gymnasts to get into athletically than other top public schools if there were academic issues.

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        • Yeah, I know UCLA has turned down students with academic problems but Florida goes out of their way to help gymnasts get on track even if it means having them defer a year to make up credits or whatever. And then once these students are at the university, Florida’s athletic dept makes sure they are in classes they can handle and gets them tutors for everything. Many programs do this but Florida is notable as being a top five gymnastics program doing it so that’s the only reason I call them out as being a bit more academically lenient!

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  8. Beth Tweddle did her Ezhova to Shap 1/2 in 2011. I know Mustafina was training the Pak to Shap at the time, but I think Tweddle was the first to compete something similar?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m sure Oleg Verniaiev is annoyed about many things in Ukraine. However, he is never going to compete for another federation. He has said so many, many times. His coach will never leave the Ukraine, and Oleg is not going anywhere without his coach. I can’t wait for Oleg to come back. He is the reason I started following MAG obsessively.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. There is one nuance that still makes it necessary for the teams that qualify to the OG already in 2018 to place among top 12 in 2019 as well. If they don’t, they won’t be invited to the AA World Cup series in 2020 and thereby would miss the chance to fight for one of three individual licenses available.

    Liked by 2 people

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  12. I think that Romania’s chances depend a lot on Iordache. She is vital to the team as recently they haven’t had many high quality seniors coming through. A recent interview makes it sound like her recovery is not going well – she said that she was still struggling to walk and that it was only 50:50 that she would ever return to gymnastics.
    http://eng.gymnovosti.com/larisa-iordache-chances-i-will-continue-gymnastics-are-about-50/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Having Iordache would absolutely help a ton (even if it’s just on UB and BB), but I think they still have a chance without her. Golgota is a rising star for the Romanians and could potentially upgrade even more (Amanar, Silivas), Ocolisan has her DTY back and is the veteran/leader, Carmen Ghiciuc is great on UB and BB, Ioana Crisan can come back next year to do UB BB and FX, and by 2020, they’ll have Sabrina Voinea among the ranks. Yes, Iordache is critical, but they’ve been getting more experience with world cups and Jesolo, Golgota can lead the team with Ocolisan, and who knows, Ponor isn’t ever not coming back to save them, so we’ll see.

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      • Sabrina?No she’s 07, eligible for Paris. Romania has quite a few 04-born Tokyo-eligible juniors with great potential (much better than 13-16 batch), but the problem is that they cannot go to WC2019 to earn team spots for Romania. Romania only have current seniors + Berar + Puiu and potentially Iordache + Ponor during 2019 team qualification.

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        • Yikes… we’d better hope that Ocolisan and Crisan recover. Thankfully, Cimpian wants to come back to Romania so that should help! Obviously having Iordache (even on just UB and BB) would be a blessing, but I think it’s time we say goodbye to Ponor, she was more serious about retiring this time. Luckily, Puiu has a DTY so if Ocolisan can get hers back, they’ll have three from those two and Golgota.
          Yikes, with Golgota, Ghiciuc, Puiu, Cimpian, Crisan, Ocolisan, Iacob, Ivanus, and hopefully Iordache, they actually have some decent options and can fight for a spot in 2019! Their best team would be Iordache, Golgota, Ghiciuc. Cimpian (with DTY), and Ocolisan
          VT: Ocolisan, Cimpian, Golgota
          UB: Cimpian/Ghiciuc/Ocolisan, Golgota, Iordache
          BB: Ghiciuc/Cimpian, Golgota, Iordache
          FX: Cimpian, Ocolisan, Golgota
          Not bad at all. But they need to pray for Iordache’s healthy return.

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  13. Chinese gymnastic fans do read the gymternet. A lot. I think Tingting will know about this in some time. It seems that there might be some social media regulations on the national team level so fans also don’t get to interact directly. Fan Yilin and Zou Jingyuan popped up on social media (Twitch-like platforms) before when they are not training at the national team. Some other active gymnasts had Weibo accounts managed by agents, while retired ones usually post their own.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I have a questions that is time sensitive. How can we watch the US Classics this week? I know it is on the Olympic Channel, but is it also on NBC? I really think that coverage of gymnastics, elite AND College has to change. It should be much easier to follow than it is.

    Like

  15. It’s interesting to me. I don’t see Kim Zmeskal talking negatively about the Karolyis often if ever. Even the Skating Lesson didn’t get anything brutal out of her. But her style as a coach/club owner could not be more different than Bela. It’s a complete 180.

    Sometimes I wonder what she really thinks.

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    • She legitimately loves them. She and her husband have a really great friendship with them. Just a reminder that not everyone has the same experience with people, so while most people had terrible experiences, she’s one of the lucky ones who really enjoyed her time with them and continued to have a healthy relationship with them into adulthood.

      Like

      • I think Mary Lou and Kim thrived under the Karolyi system in all respects. They both seem to genuinely appreciate their time training under Bela and Marta. And they do not gloss over the tough parts, either. Some people thrive under tough love while others do not. There is no cookie cutter coaching system that fits everyone. I hope that the revamped US National team will not have one mandated way to train or treat gymnasts. The best national team environment will be a mixture of coaching styles and gym cultures. Gymnasts can go to the environment that best suits them.

        Of course, abuse is never acceptable. Tough love is not the same as abuse. I realize the Karolyis crossed that line on occasion.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. What if someone that has already qualified to do 2 events at nationals do vault+another event at classics and reach the score?

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  17. Nicole Harris did pak to Maloney in 2004!
    She may have also been the first to do the van leeuwen, which I think was named at the 2004 Olympics, but I could be wrong about that one.

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    • I *think* the van leeuwen was named after the gymnast at 2001 Worlds? But my memory is rusty! It may have been in Athens.
      Great vid of Nicole!

      Like

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