It’s time for the 233rd 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.
Hi! I am one of your Patreons and I have a question. 🙂 Does the required acro series on beam need to be two elements rebounding in the same direction, or is that only for acro CV? Can a side aerial one way directly to a side somi the other way fulfill the acro series CR?
Thank you so much for your Patreonage! 🙂 TO THE TOP OF THE LIST WITH YOU! The required acro series does not have to include a rebound in the same direction, so a side aerial to side somi would definitely fulfill the requirement, as would a front aerial to back handspring, or any other series that involves skills going in opposite directions. The acro CV for rebounding backward or forward is just for connections…IIRC, last quad, you could do a side aerial to side aerial and still get CV for that and other non-rebounding skills, but this quad was when they were like “nope, bye Sanne Wevers” and took the CV away, though Sanne can still do her side aerial to side aerial series and fulfill the CR. Honestly, I think really difficult non-rebounding series still deserve some sort of CV…and then if they’re too jerky or slow, just DON’T REWARD IT, judges! But for those who do them with zero problems looking fluid and flawless, it’s silly to not reward someone connecting two D+ elements.
Is Vanessa Ferrari coming back, or is she retired?
She is planning on coming back, though I believe she has said she will not be coming back as an all-arounder and will instead try to earn one of the individual spots for 2020, which I think is smart…given her recent injury history, I don’t think she needs to be vaulting. Floor is going to be hard enough for her, but hopefully we’ll see her in Tokyo! I feel like if anything ends up going wrong with the younger girls on this team, she’ll probably get roped back into being an all-arounder, though. I feel like she has wanted to retire and/or becoming a specialist for like six years at this point and it’s just not happening, haha.
Is Simone Biles the first reigning all-around Olympic champion to win a national championships after the Olympics?
In the U.S., yes. Internationally, though, the first to do it was Larisa Latynina, who actually won two Olympic all-around titles before she became the Soviet all-around champion! She won the Olympic gold in 1956 and 1960, but nationally she was a bit of a silver princess aside from finally winning her one and only title in 1961.
For the Soviets, others who won national all-around titles after winning Olympic all-around titles include Ludmilla Tourischeva, who won Olympic gold in 1972 and then national gold in 1974, and Yelena Davydova, who won at the Olympics in 1980 and then at nationals in 1981.
As for other countries, some national championships data isn’t readily available, but I’m pretty sure Vera Caslavska won a national title after winning her first Olympic all-around gold in 1964. I also know Lilia Podkopayeva continued for a hot second after the 1996 Olympics and was supposed to compete at worlds in 1997, so maybe she won Ukraine’s version of nationals that year? But I don’t have those results so can’t say for sure. Same with Tatiana Gutsu before her, though I’m pretty confident Gutsu was done after the 1992 Games.
I can say for sure that those who didn’t go on to win a national title following winning their Olympic all-around titles were Maria Gorokhovskaya (1952), Nadia Comaneci (1976), Mary Lou Retton (1984), Yelena Shushunova (1988), Andreea Raducan/Simona Amanar (2000), Carly Patterson (2004), Nastia Liukin (2008), and Gabby Douglas (2012).
This was fun to research!
Why was Alicia Sacramone not named an alternate for the 2012 team?
I was surprised, to be honest, but I think it had to do with the fact that they had vault in the bag and wanted alternates who could replace specific people on the team. Elizabeth Price could have replaced anyone (including all of the vaulters with her Amanar), Sarah Finnegan could’ve stepped in if beam and floor became an issue, and Anna Li was there as the replacement if things got dicey on bars. I think if Alicia had floor, she would’ve gotten the alternate spot over Sarah, but without floor she became kind of irrelevant because Ebee and Sarah would have been first choices for both of the events she would have been called in as a replacement. Ebee consistently outscored Alicia on vault while Sarah performed similarly to Alicia on beam, but was also able to contribute on floor, which Alicia couldn’t do…so that was that.
Was Shawn Johnson better at beam than Simone Biles is?
I think Shawn was maybe a little tighter and more fluid in her beam? Like I think she was more of a natural on beam than Simone is…people always consider bars Simone’s weakness, but while Simone scores super high on beam because she has huge skills and can pretty consistently hit, it’s actually my least favorite event to watch her do. She’s obviously super talented on the event, but in comparison to everything else she does, she just doesn’t look as comfortable up there as she does elsewhere, if that makes sense? I mean, she looks more comfortable on beam than like 95% of gymnasts on beam so it’s hard to be like “she doesn’t look comfortable on beam” but relatively, I mean. Her beam is fine and generally solid, but I think Shawn just had a little extra quality that made her a true beam worker whereas Simone isn’t quite a “true beam worker” but just happens to be amazing on beam anyway.
Do you think compulsories could be integrated into the current routines? Like a passage on floor, beam, and bars, and maybe introducing a second compulsory vault in the team final?
I honestly don’t think it would make a difference or be entirely necessary…composition requirements kind of take the place of compulsories in an open-ended scoring system, and for the most part — at least among the top 12 or so teams in the sport — the rankings won’t change based on adding compulsory routines. Like, the U.S. always hits a high difficulty level with really strong execution, so adding compulsories isn’t going to take away from that but rather add to their dominance. I think if anything right now, compulsories work as a way to determine who should be competing at an elite level of difficulty, and I think going into competition like world championships, they could help weed out some gymnasts who genuinely don’t belong at that level. I could see compulsories working as a requirement for countries who weren’t in the top 16 in the previous year’s team competition…like if you pass compulsories at worlds, you get to compete in qualifications, but if you can’t pass them, you don’t get to do qualifications…but for top teams and programs working at a super high level of difficulty with a strong technical ability, they’re kind of pointless.
When did it become a deduction to take a controlled step back or forward out of a tumbling pass? Shawn Johnson does this throughout her 2008 Olympic floor routine.
After 2008 they made the rule that passes have to be stuck with two feet. I used to looooove controlled lunge landings and was so mad about this rule, but now after seeing gymnasts going after the stick for the past decade I’m just kind of like YAS this is what I want, lol. I still like a nice controlled lunge when it’s done right, but there’s something aesthetically awesome about stuck passes.
When a gymnast falls (like Zhang Jin in the beam final at Asian Games), do they take deductions for each step she takes as well as the fall?
On beam they just take the fall and not all of the mess that happened along with it. Like if someone tries to have an epic save or ends up stumbling a bit or whatever, if they don’t fall, they’ll take those tenths off for the lack of control, but if they end up falling, they don’t bother with all of that other stuff and just take the fall. I think if they did take off for the mess along with the fall, gymnasts would stop trying to save falls because the thought process would be like “well I’ll get 1.5 points off if I stumble and wobble and fall anyway, but only 1 point for the fall, so I might as well just not fight for it.”
When and how did that creepy “THANK YOU MARTHA COACHES NATIONAL STAFF GOODBYE” chant become a thing? Did the tradition continue after Martha Karolyi left? Is it still a thing now?
I don’t know if it continued because I haven’t seen any video from camps after Martha left (at least none that showed the lineup), but yeah, it was hella creepy and made me feel like robots were about to come out and attack in a war. In other sports, there are lots of traditions with yelling things…like I did Tang Soo Do karate as a kid and we had to recite a bunch of stuff in Korean as well as memorize The Five Codes and The Seven Tenets and The 14 Attitude Requirements and just yell them all the time, and that kind of robotic yelling had something to do with our mental training as athletes like soldiers yelling things going into battle, I guess? My thought was always that since gymnastics didn’t have its own tenets and codes or whatever, this was the Karolyi way of getting little robot warriors ready for competition but yeah…Tang Soo Do yelling went back like 2000 years and there was meaning to what we yelled; the creepy THANKS BYE chant at the ranch was like…nonsensical lol. I’m not sure why it started or why it was so bizarre.
For the three of the same root skill rule on bars, do giants count? If someone did a Tkachev, Pak, Gienger, and double layout dismount, would their dismount get credited? Do forward and backward stalders count as the same root or different root?
Giants aren’t a “root” in the way that stalders, inbar stalders, clear hips, and toe-ons are. When you’re doing a Tkachev on its own from a giant swing, you’re just doing a Tkachev with no additional root skill entry, you’re not doing a “giant Tkachev.” You can still be penalized for doing giants inappropriately in the context of a routine, like if you do a Tkachev, then kip cast to handstand, and then do a giant swing, and then do a Pak, you’d be penalized with an empty swing, but there are no root skill penalties related to giants. As for the front and backward stalder question, yes, whether done forwards or backwards, a stalder is still a stalder so you can’t have a routine with a Ricna, Downie, stalder full, and then an Endo, Endo full, and Endo half or something.
Do you think Ragan Smith or Morgan Hurd would go pro if they got to Tokyo 2020? Ragan said in a recent YouTube video that she will “decide if she wants to go to college or not.” Why would she commit to Oklahoma if she didn’t know if she was going to college?
Everyone basically commits early on in their careers to kind of secure spots at top colleges because they know these collegiate programs will fill up their rosters pretty quickly and they want to make sure they’re all set with at least a verbal commitment even if they end up changing their minds later on. Aly Raisman committed to Florida but then decided to go pro, and Simone Biles went as far as signing her NLI for UCLA before opting not to go. Many other gymnasts will commit to a program and then change their commitment to a different school as well. I don’t think either Ragan or Morgan will go pro unless they’re basically guaranteed a spot on the Olympic team. I could see Morgan going pro and doing well for herself, but I’m not so sure about Ragan…she strikes me as more of a Kyla Ross or Madison Kocian. I’m not sure why she said she was still deciding about college, but this might not have anything to do with going pro…it could just be that she wants to keep training elite and then maybe take college classes online or at a local school or something rather than competing for an NCAA program.
If Ashton Locklear really wants a shot at 2020, would it be better for her to compete as an independent athlete for WCC and do the bars (and maybe beam) apparatus world cup route?
Athletes can’t represent their gyms or be ‘independent athletes’ at the world cups. For any meet under the umbrella of the international governing body for the sport — the Olympics, world championships, continental championships, apparatus and all-around world cups, pretty much all multi-sport international Games — the national governing body has to approve and send the athletes. For Ashton to attend the apparatus world cups, she’d need Tom Forster to select her and then send her to the meets. Honestly, the only way she’ll get to the Olympics is in an individual spot, so this is probably the route she wants to go, but we’ll see if Tom actually wants to send her to qualify a spot…there are going to be several girls in contention for the individual Olympic spots and Ashton might be one of them who gets to go, but she also might not be.
Is Trinity Thomas still diving on top of doing elite and beginning college?
No, I believe she was just doing that in high school to have an activity that kind of balanced out her gymnastics. Diving is a varsity/NCAA sport at Florida, and the season conflicts with the gymnastics season in college, so she can’t do both, but it would be cool if she could get a time turner and make it happen. Maybe the diving team will let her splash around in the pool from time to time, or crash practices if she loves it enough and wants to continue at least in a low-key way?
Do you think McKayla Maroney would have made the floor lineup in the 2012 team final had she not been injured?
Possibly! I could see them wanting her to go up instead of Gabby Douglas in that final. She was capable of scoring about the same when she hit, and then Gabby would get to rest instead of doing the all-around yet again.
What’s going on with Shang Chunsong? I thought she retired in September 2017, but then I saw a video of her competing at Chinese nationals in May of this year. Is she still training? Do you think we might see her on a world or Olympic team again?
After initially retiring following last year’s Chinese National Games, she decided to come back, though she’s not quite at a high enough level to be a major contender for international teams right now. I’m not sure if she’s still training with the national team or with the provincial team…I feel like she moved back to her provincial team? But I know she loves the sport and wants to continue…and hopefully she’ll be able to get back to a high enough level to at least be considered as an alternate if some of the current top girls are injured…which several are!
Do you think Ivana Hong’s past with GAGE may affect her role as athlete representative?
Not really. Do you mean in terms of dealing with coaches/gymnasts from GAGE? I think she’s able to be professional and not let her own bad experiences keep her from treating the GAGE gymnasts any differently. Besides, pretty much anyone going into that role is going to come up with a bias either for or against a couple of current coaches in the sport…it’s basically impossible to find an athlete who has been left truly unscathed in some way.
If Jade Carey didn’t have so many artistry deductions, do you think she could beat Simone Biles on floor?
I don’t think so…I think her form isn’t quite as tight as Simone’s, though her landings are better right now. I think if Jade fixed her artistry and Simone fixed her landings, Simone would still be quite a bit ahead of Jade…and honestly, I don’t think the judges are taking from Jade what they should be taking in terms of artistry, which is far more subjective than Simone’s landings are. Even at worlds last year, I was shocked to see Jade’s total deductions only around a little over a point…I could’ve taken that many in artistry alone!
Why don’t we see more gymnasts do their leaps with developpé? I can only think of Ksenia Afanasyeva on floor. Would it not count as a leap element if they bent their front leg?
It’s probably just how they’re trained to do leaps. I trained leaps in ballet, and so it’s natural for me to developpé the front leg when leaping (I can actually remember leaping step-by-step in slo-mo back in the day with my teachers and still go through the motions exactly now as an adult!) but I think in gymnastics, most coaches teach leaps to just extend from the launch, kind of like a jump. I’m sure there are gymnasts out there with ballet training who go for the developpé, but while most gymnasts do get an hour of ballet here or there, it’s not as extensive enough to include all balletic technique and training, which is why they have very different approaches on things like leaps and turns. A leap with developpé would absolutely still count as a split leap or a switch leap or whatever, the developpé would just be a stylistic choice and nothing against the kind of leap it is.
How did Simone Biles win bars at nationals over Riley McCusker?
Riley had some little issues in her routine on the first day of competition, but had Riley performed both routines the way she hit her routine on the second day, she would’ve won FOR SURE. That routine was breathtaking and literally ripped my heart out. Simone was able to challenge her, though, because her own routine is super difficult and while she’s not as fluid or as elegant as Riley, her technique is pretty flawless on the skills she performs…and she has a routine that really works for who she is as a gymnast, lending more to the aggressive swing and strong control than the flowy beauty that Riley goes for. They’re very different bar workers, and Riley is probably more aesthetically pleasing on the event, but Simone is actually pretty fabulous, especially now that she’s with the Landis as her coaches, and I don’t consider this a weakness for her even a little.
What are your thoughts on Tom Forster regarding his interviews and what we saw from him at classics and nationals?
Okay, his interviews are a bit bizarre. I don’t know if maybe he just hasn’t had the time to sit down and read through everything or what, but it’s pretty clear that he isn’t really understanding that girls on this year’s team can still compete as individuals in 2020…they just can’t qualify those spots. It’s kind of a complicated system so I get it, but they definitely need to give everything a look before they make any decisions. That aside, the way he interacted with the gymnasts was amazing. I witnessed a great moment between him and Olivia Greaves after she was disappointed with her bars performance, and it was just amazing to see him down on the floor helping gymnasts in the same way their coaches were. If not understanding the qualification nuances is the worst thing about him, I think the U.S. is in a good place (but really, figure that part out soon).
What are the odds that the U.S. women won’t qualify all six potential spots for the 2020 Olympics?
Very low, honestly. Of all of the countries hoping to achieve this, the U.S. has basically the only guaranteed chance of making this happen, as they have the most depth and thus the best chances at topping the qualification charts at world championships for the team spots, and at any of the individual competitions for individual spots. They would’ve topped the all-around world cup qualification this year, for example, and at three of the four world cups they attended, they sent gymnasts who weren’t even in the top six at nationals this summer. If a gymnast who places 10th or lower at U.S. nationals and won’t go to worlds can win a medal at an all-around world cup up against gymnasts who are the best in their countries and will probably lead their worlds teams, it’s pretty clear that the all-around world cup and continental spots will be a piece of cake to get going into 2020.
Is there a reason a switch Yang Bo doesn’t exist, or a Yang Bo leap doesn’t exist? I know Pang Panpan tried to complete the switch version, but I wasn’t sure why it wasn’t ever added?
I’m not sure why it wasn’t added if she did it successfully at worlds or the Olympics, but in terms of it not existing as a leap, because it’s basically like a sissone done at an angle, I think it just works as a jump and not as a leap (just like there’s no sissone leap). I think you can still do a kind of change-leg jump…I mean, it’s definitely physically possible, but I don’t know what the FIG will allow in terms of what they define as a jump. Tbh, many ring leaps done now actually end up looking like Yang Bos because no one makes the correct ring shape, but I still don’t know if they’d get Yang Bo credit because their arch in their backs probably isn’t good enough.
Is Jade Carey delaying going to Oregon State until after Tokyo 2020? As far as I remember she was supposed to go this year.
She’s on the list as an incoming freshman at Oregon State along with Leah Bivrell, Madison Dagen, and Kristina Peterson, and I haven’t heard that she’s NOT going to attend, but maybe she’s going to show up and compete in the spring semester after the worlds process? I actually took online classes for fun at Oregon State literally a decade ago before distance learning was even a thing, and most of the kids in my classes were NCAA athletes getting more general credits out of the way so they could have fewer classes to attend while training/competing, so I’m sure now their online classes are amazing and she probably has the option to begin this semester online and then step into the spring semester in the flesh.
Is Ragan Smith finished with elite or can she bounce back?
She can absolutely bounce back. Without her falls at nationals, she would’ve looked really strong given that she has super injured ankles. I’m sure if she just sat this season out and got healthy and came back next year she’d be absolutely fine. She’s not in top form right now but that’s absolutely more to do with her injuries than with who she is as a gymnast right now.
I don’t understand why the age restrictions at nationals made it so Asher Hong couldn’t compete. If he can’t compete nationally, how can he compete internationally? Don’t you think that he should be able to compete to make the national team?
Asher is actually on the level 9 national team! Levels in U.S. MAG take both age and ability into account rather than just ability, which can help prevent younger gymnasts from taking on too much too fast. Since male gymnasts don’t tend to reach their peak until they physically become adults — which makes them able to handle strength elements better, especially on pommels and rings — by making age requirements for MAG, they hold back even the most talented gymnasts to lower levels until they’re old enough to be physically training and competing more demanding skills and routines.
For the U.S. men’s program, juniors are considered to be 15-18 (and the 18-year-olds can opt to compete at the senior level if they’re in college or ready to contend with the senior field), level 9s are 13-14, and level 8s are 11-12. There is a junior national team in the U.S., but there are also national teams for level 8 and level 9 so the national program can keep an eye on the really young up-and-comers who are still 5+ years away from being seniors. Internationally, these boys who are in the 11-14 age range wouldn’t be eligible to compete as juniors at most FIG-governed meets, but obviously some boys who are 11-14 are going to be at the same level as some of the juniors who are 15+, and so if an international meet allows for someone Asher’s age to compete, he will get to compete as a member of the junior national team even though he is only age-eligible for level 9.
Also just as a note, a gymnast can still be older than 11-12 and be a level 8, or he can be older than 13-14 and be a level 9…obviously they don’t automatically get moved up to the next level when they age out because they also have to meet ability requirements. But the minimum ages for these levels are 11 for level 8, 13 for level 9, and 15 for level 10 and junior elite. The women also have age minimums in elite…a junior elite is considered 14-15 internationally, so most countries that send juniors to major junior international meets (like European Championships) will separate their non-seniors into juniors (14-15) and espoirs (11-13), but the U.S. doesn’t really attend any major junior international meets so they keep everyone under the junior header even if they wouldn’t necessarily be age-eligible for a major international meet.
What’s with Al Fong’s gloves? It’s August and we are inside!
The question I’ve always needed answered, honestly. Does he have extra fingers? Does he easily chafe? Is he just always cold? Does he have a Professor Quirrell/Voldemort thing going on and needs to hide the demons protruding through his skin? In all seriousness, he probably just gets sweaty and the gloves make it easier to grip a gymnast when he has to pick them up or catch them. I’ve seen other coaches with gloves on and I think it just makes it easier to keep your hold on slippery, wiggly gymnasts as they come flying from the bars. (Edit: he actually made a video about it!)
How do some juniors come out of nowhere to dominate the field? Thinking of Kayla DiCello and Jordan Bowers, who were near the bottom of the ranks in 2017 and then are winning everything now.
I think a lot of it has to do with timing and the addition of bigger skills and more difficulty. There are always gymnasts who show potential at a young age, like Laurie Hernandez and Morgan Hurd, both of whom caught my eye the first time I saw them do anything. I first saw Laurie when she was ten and I was like “she’s going to the Olympics” and I first saw Morgan doing bare-bones routines at a level 10 meet and I was like “she’s gonna be an amazing elite.” Once these kids start adding skills, it’s clear they’re going to be major talents in the sport…but sometimes kids similar to them, like Deanne Soza, can’t handle the higher difficulty or the pressure, and so they end up not working out. And then there are gymnasts who are decent elites at a young age, but don’t show much potential until they grow up and add skills.
Kayla and Jordan are pretty different in their journeys and represent both sides of this spectrum. Kayla was always impeccable as a level 10 gymnast even at a very young age, but in her first season as an elite last year, she was just 13 and still had a lot to do in terms of adding bigger skills that she could perform well. That coupled with nervous mistakes at nationals held her back considerably, but if you watch her routines she has a ton of qualities that suggest a very strong potential for elite.
Jordan, on the other hand, wasn’t always as tidy as she could’ve been even as a level 10, but she just has this immense talent for big skills, and so when she was able to add many upgrades this year, she brought her routines to a new level and became incredibly competitive. I actually had someone a couple of years ago telling me to “look out for Jordan Bowers” but at the time I was like “I just don’t see it” because she wasn’t scoring well as an elite, mostly due to some struggles and issues that held her back. I was really surprised about her, but she did a fab job adding to her difficulty level this year and then also improving in her consistency.
If a male athlete is simultaneously competing NCAA and elite, do they typically compete their elite difficulty during the NCAA season? Is the difficulty gap in MAG less than the gap between women’s elite and NCAA?
Some will compete close to their elite difficulty in NCAA, but I don’t think everyone goes in at full strength in the way they’d want to show up to worlds trials, if only because it would be impossible to maintain that level of difficulty for ten weeks in the spring, and then have to keep it going in training for the summer season all the way to worlds. It’s really hard to physically keep things going for ten months out of the year, and that’s why at the Winter Cup you generally see a weaker level of performance than you see a few months later at NCAA nationals, and then the performance continues to build for U.S. Championships, and then everyone tries to peak for worlds. But there is definitely still a major difference in the gaps between MAG and WAG at the collegiate and elite levels. The WAG difficulty is much lower in college than it is in elite, so while MAG might fluctuate, they’re still working toward elite-level routines, whereas pretty much no collegiate women are attempting to also do elite, so they don’t need to be close to an elite level (and in fact, only a small percentage of WAG gymnasts in college have ever done elite, so only a handful have ever needed to compete at elite difficulty to begin with).
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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