It’s time for the 235th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered! We apologize if we haven’t gotten to your question yet, but we try to answer in the order in which they were received (unless they are super relevant and need to be answered in a timely manner). Something you want to know? Ask us anonymously by going through the contact form at the bottom of the page.
Why does Madison Kocian not score that high on bars in NCAA? Is she better-suited for elite?
I think overall she’s incredibly clean, which is why she could still pull in high E scores in elite, but a couple of her problem areas were easily hidden by a high D score in elite whereas in college, those problem areas are far more noticeable when she’s doing so few skills. When most get to college, they work like crazy on targeting those issues so that things like leg separation in a full-in dismount and short handstands won’t get attacked by the NCAA judges, but with Madison’s shoulder injury/surgery, I’m guessing they haven’t been able to pay as much attention to bars as they’d like to, meaning they haven’t been able to figure out how to fix those little issues. In elite, the tenth she’d get for her feet apart on a landing were nothing when she could get a 15.9 total score, but in NCAA where everyone is on an equal playing field with the start value being the same and really pushing for execution that looks as clean as possible, those deductions are far more costly.
Where did Alexander Alexandrov go after he finished his tenure in Brazil? The U.S. could use him for bars.
He is coaching in the U.S.! He came to live with his family in Houston and was kind of hanging out and consulting on a more low-key basis, and I believe he occasionally helps out with Oksana Chusovitina, but he’s a girls’ coach at Discover Gymnastics, where Sophia Butler trains. I’d imagine if he wanted to work with the national team his wealth of experience would be more than welcome, but he seems to enjoy what he’s doing now and the national team has plenty of strong bars coaches both at the club level and on the staff.
The strengths for the U.S. team depend on the individuals competing at this particular moment in time, and sometimes there is a wealth of strong bar workers, and other times the overall team strength happens to be elsewhere, like right now…but even now in a bars drought there are a couple of incredible world-class bar workers, and the team more than makes up for it with one of the best potential floor lineups of all time, with floor kind of a weakness for the U.S. team as a whole last quad.
Is there a reason Morgan Hurd doesn’t wear contacts or get Lasik surgery?
She tried wearing contacts but they made her eyes super dry, especially in a chalky environment, which meant she had to be constantly taking them out and putting them back in, which was super distracting in practice (and probably would’ve been even more annoying to deal with in a competition…can you imagine being on bars and getting chalk in your eyes and not being able to see or spot anything?!). I’d imagine with Lasik there’s a concern for how it could affect her, like as a worst case scenario kind of thing…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and since she’s never had a problem with training or competing in glasses, it’s probably not a high-priority concern to fix it.
Are there any FIG rules on hair style? Can a gymnast wear her hair in a double bun like Peng Peng Lee? Is there a hair style that you hate? Are there hair styles that are more aerodynamic than others?
There aren’t any rules against how gymnasts have to wear their hair, and yes, double buns would be allowed (though I’d imagine many national team coaches would be against it because they’d see it as unprofessional or something…like I can imagine Martha Karolyi vetoing that style pretty fast). I don’t like when hair is overly messy because it can be distracting, but for the most part I don’t even notice hair and wouldn’t be able to tell you how people wear their hair generally, and if someone wants to wear her hair in messy buns, she should feel free, I’m here for the gymnastics. I would say the best style for aerodynamics is probably a bun, because it’s the most sleek and pulled-together, kind of like how swimmers wear caps to help be more streamlined, but I don’t think it really matters much…no one’s going to get extra power or speed if they change their ponytail to a bun.
Is Erika Fasana from Italy retired?
Nope! I believe she’s still training but has been slow to come back due to nagging injuries. She competed at nationals in Italy last year, but only on bars, so I’m guessing they just don’t want to push her into returning too fast and then have 2020 be out of the question.
Why are there suddenly so many jumps from the side position on beam? Is it a new composition requirement or did their value change?
Their value changed in the new code of points, now making them an easier way to get a higher dance element counted into the D score. Last quad it wasn’t really worth the risk but now everyone’s like YAS, why do a split jump half when you can do it from the side-stand and get PAID? The dance skills themselves are fairly easy, but it’s hard to land them, so I think everyone’s just hoping for the best. They get a little iffy, especially on the half-twisting skills where you can super easily tell that they’re not hitting splits even a little, but some do a fantastic job with these and I can’t wait until we can see someone connect one out of a side somi.
Which do you think would make Svetlana Khorkina more upset — Aliya Mustafina winning a third Olympic gold medal on uneven bars, or Simone Biles winning an Olympic gold medal on uneven bars?
Oh man…I’d say Simone winning a gold on uneven bars. I think Aliya would piss her off, but at least she’s Russian and she would probably be like “Aliya was so inspired by me, this is really my accomplishment because my greatness drove her to challenge my legendary accomplishments to bring glory to the motherland.” But with Simone, she’s obviously just a TRASH AMERICAN who has MUSCLES like a MAN, and who cares if it gives her the strength to push for incredible difficulty? It is NOT ladylike and is obviously ruining the sport of gymnastics. (GOD I loved answering this as Khorkina and putting myself in her shoes, I want to be her every second of my life.)
Are there any MAG skills you’d like to see in WAG?
Yes, I want Kovacs releases on uneven bars SO BADLY. I need them. I’d also really love some of the more difficult men’s vaults, like the Yurchenko and tsuk double backs, but the danger level there probably means we’re not going to see them (not only do the men have more power in general, but the table is higher than it is for the women, giving them much more room to play which is kind of unfair…I’m pretty sure Simone Biles or McKayla Maroney on the men’s vault settings could crush all of the MAG competition out there).
What is happening with Gabby Jupp? Is she still training/competing?
She’s still training! She’s almost constantly injured and has had something like 9 billion knee surgeries in her career…it crushed me knowing she got so close in 2016 after so many injuries but then didn’t make it in the end, so I’m sure this quad is going to be about preserving her until they absolutely need her to get out on the competition floor but I really hope we see her come back at least on bars.
Has there ever been a major competition where no one has fallen in the last 20 or so years?
Absolutely no one? Nope. Someone always falls hahaha. If you mean like, no one in the top five or whatever, then yeah, most recently at U.S. nationals the top eight all hit every single routine over the two days of competition with no falls, which is kind of incredible…I honestly can’t remember the last time that happened at nationals with the top three let alone the top eight. I was also impressed with the all-around final in Rio…for those competing in the top group it was definitely one of the strongest major international all-around finals in terms of no falls or detrimental mistakes.
Why doesn’t Simone Biles do a triple wolf turn? Her double looks pretty easy for her.
The wolf turn is actually where I’ve seen her struggle the most in training, and I feel like if any skill is gonna take her off that beam, it’s gonna be that turn. If she has that much trouble getting the double consistent, I’d imagine the triple is out of the cards for now.
Do you think Ashton Locklear has a solid chance at getting back to elite competition? Is she still competitive when compared to the new elites on bars? If not, why is she training at WCC? Do you think she’ll go to college?
Yeah, she does. If she can get her inbars back into her routine (or make upgrades that would bring a similar level of difficulty) she’d easily be one of the best bar workers in the country. Her problem is that she’ll never make the 2020 team without being an all-arounder, so her best hope will be to make herself undoubtedly one of the best bar workers in the world capable of being a guaranteed medal at the Olympics and then I can see her getting an individual spot, which is probably the reasoning for her coming back and trying to stay relevant. She will not be competing in college, and I don’t think she’ll be going in general, unless she can figure out her high school credits situation.
Does USA Gymnastics pay for travel costs and hotels when gymnasts compete outside the country? How do other countries handle this?
Yes, if it’s a national team assignment, it’s paid for both in the U.S. and in other countries. If gymnasts travel to compete internationally and it wasn’t an assignment given by the national federation (like the U.S. girls who went to Jesolo this year), they’re responsible for the related costs. Also, many smaller international programs often won’t want to send a team or any athletes to major meets because of the cost involved, so if a gymnast from the U.S. or another country begins representing one of these programs, they might often hear that there’s no budget to send them to a competition, so those gymnasts have to self-fund. Armenia doesn’t even have a women’s program, so when Houry Gebeshian began competing for them, she had to fund her own way, including to Rio…and even though the Philippines has a low-key women’s program, they don’t have the budget to send gymnasts to most meets, so Corinne Bunagan got permission to represent them at worlds but has to get herself there because the federation can’t afford it.
What are the advantages of being a tall gymnast? Who was the tallest female gymnast who has ever competed?
I think the biggest advantage is that most tall gymnasts generally tend to have incredible lines/aesthetics on bars and on leaps especially. That’s not exactly a result of being tall, but I think most tall gymnasts learn how to work what they’ve got, paying special attention to things like extension and how to make their long legs work for them in routines. Someone like Nina Derwael isn’t a typical beam or floor worker with insane difficulty or anything, but watching her leaps and the extension on some of her acro elements is DREAMY compared to most shorter gymnasts. As a short person with super short legs and a longer torso, I’m so insanely jealous of that aesthetic as a dancer and just in general, and I could work and work for one million years on extension but I could never get that same aesthetic the taller/long-legged girls have. They’re born with it, but they also learn how to make it work for their sport, which is awesome to see.
Do you have any inside info on why the Chinese women seem to be so lacking in power tumblers in recent years? Is it just a lack of attention to these skills?
I think it’s a combination of just not having a ton of kids who naturally stand out on leg events as well as not having coaches who make it a focus. I think having Liang Chow there will help…when he had a bunch of the Chinese national team girls at his gym over Christmas, he went through the leg plyometric workouts the U.S. girls do and all of the Chinese girls and their coaches were like UHHHH WTF IS THIS. I think so many countries, including China, see getting really muscular/bulky as a bad thing aesthetically, even though it’s a MAJOR advantage in the sport, and so from the earliest developmental stages in the sport, coaches aren’t working those muscles the way they should be and it limits the gymnasts in what they can do on events that require a ton of power, like floor. It’s crazy because for T&T, they have incredible power tumblers (and they’re actually currently trying to transition one of them, Jia Fangfang, to artistic gymnastics) so the coaches who can get amazing tumblers are out there…but just not in WAG. I guarantee you this will be one of Chow’s main focuses, though.
I’ve spent some time thinking about Simone Biles’ bars…do you think it would be realistic for her to connect her Pak to a van Leeuwen? Why hasn’t she yet performed a Weiler full considering it’s not difficult for her, she could get it named, it would be an E skill, and it’s possible to connect to other skills in a series?
Yeah, I think she could connect her Pak to a van Leeuwen, but that’s hard enough on its own, and she’s not doing JUST a Pak to the low bar…she’s coming out of a really difficult toe full to piked Tkachev to Pak, so also doing the van Leeuwen out of that would be tough, and while it’s possibly a goal for her, she’s likely not doing it because the series as a whole is too much right now and they don’t want to risk a fall or mistake just to get that CV. I’d actually love to see her get the Weiler full, but again, it’s probably just too risky for what it’s worth compared to the half. With Simone, it’s always about consistency and mentally strong routines over difficulty just for the sake of having difficulty, and if she isn’t doing something to the best of her ability, she doesn’t put it in her routine.
What is the correct way to land a switch ring on beam? With one or two feet? Is there a deduction for doing it wrong?
It’s technically supposed to land on the front foot first, though the back leg quickly joins the front. There’s no rule that it has to literally land on one foot, but leaps in general are done in a way where the front foot naturally lands first, and when you see someone landing with both feet simultaneously, it’s likely a jump, not a leap. Some leaps are so quick that even if the front foot lands first, the back foot lands so quickly after, it might not be super noticeable that they were landed at different times…but yeah, the technical nature of a leap is that one foot will land before the other.
For a long time, Hill’s consistently produced well-balanced elites but then they didn’t really have any contenders after 2004. Is there any reason behind this?
They’ve had a few girls come up as solid contenders over the past decade, like Kytra Hunter in the first half of the 2012 quad, the 2008 Olympic alternate Corrie Lothrop, and now Kayla DiCello, and then in addition to these girls, they’ve pretty consistently had gymnasts at the national level even if they weren’t major international team contenders. Hill’s is one of those gyms that has been around for ages, and it’s rare for most gyms to have an endless supply of girls. Most gyms will come and go over the years, but Hill’s along with Parkettes, Cincinnati, and GAGE have been on the scene for 20+ years and even though these clubs aren’t constantly streaming elites onto Olympic teams, because really no clubs are doing that since there’s so much depth all over the country, they’re at least getting kids to the national level consistently without much of a break (if any) between kids.
Do you know of any floor routines that have had little to no artistry deductions?
It would depend on the meet and who was judging it, because some routines that are artistically flawless to some judges might not hit the mark for other judges on a different day, but I do know for a fact that Simone Biles got no artistry deductions in Rio. I’d imagine anyone who puts in a similar level of creativity and energy into their performance would be rewarded similarly, like Eythora Thorsdottir absolutely shouldn’t get any, Axelle Klinckaert, some of the French girls last quad…these are the most obvious recent ones that were likely getting very few deductions in that regard.
We’ve heard of bad reputations at certain gyms where coaches aren’t so nice to their gymnasts, but what about top gyms known for having happy and successful gymnasts and zero abuse?
Well, most gyms don’t have outright abuse, but pretty much no gym is completely free of criticism. Even Texas Dreams, which is one of the most positive and encouraging gyms out there, can be pretty strict at times with how they train and I know of several girls who considered some of their methods ’emotionally abusive’ because even if it’s not an actually abusive environment, they didn’t like some of the mind-game aspects of training and so for them, that was considered emotionally abusive. I don’t necessarily agree with that, which sounds controversial, but I’ve been in both emotionally abusive situations and in situations where a coach or adult has had to ‘psych me out’ or be super strict with me to get me to succeed, and the latter can be frustrating and make you go home and cry every night but isn’t actually abuse when you’ve experienced actual abuse.
It’s all relative and those athletes may have been in super lenient circumstances prior to that and so to them, it felt more abusive and they’re absolutely allowed to determine for themselves what did and didn’t feel abusive to them, so they can move on and find a coach who better fits their needs. Like, I know some gymnasts who absolutely LOVE Al Fong and his way of training and wouldn’t have it any other way, and others who absolutely can’t work with him. Different athletes need different things in a coach and while many don’t want to work with a strict coach who yells all the time and throws you out of the gym for being one second late, some kids thrive in environments like that (*raises hand*).
Overall the Texas Dreams gymnasts are very happy compared to most gyms, at least from what I’ve seen and heard, and I’ve heard good things about Chow’s elites as well, though at one point they also had an issue with a ton of gymnasts and coaches leaving for another local gym, but like…again, as with Texas Dreams, there’s always going to be a few people who complain and don’t like how things work so again, Chow’s also isn’t completely untouched by the negative commentary. I know Aimee Boorman has only really had one major elite but I’d say the atmosphere with her at Bannon’s and then WCC was probably a great one. And literally all of the young up-and-coming coaches are fantastic…I’ve heard nothing but good things about Iowa GymNest, Paramount Elite, the new WOGA coaches (and actually when Laurent and Cecile Landi were at WOGA, their gymnasts loved them)…again there are always people who are going to complain about something or search for drama where it might not exist. I’ve had parents tell me things about coaches before that were kind of shocking to me but then you do a little digging and you find out that these parents were ‘wronged’ somehow and it’s like oh, okay, this is revenge I guess? That truly sucks, especially in a world where so much abuse does exist and is then taken less seriously because when parents are reporting every minor infraction as abusive, the actually abusive situations are taken less seriously.
Can gymnasts born in 2004 go to the 2019 world championships to earn the team spot with their countries?
No, that was only allowed in the 2008 quad and earlier (with gymnasts born in 1992 allowed to compete on the 2007 worlds team, for example) but it hasn’t been allowed since then, but it especially sucks this quad because there are a few 2004-born gymnasts who simply will miss out on qualifying to the Olympics due to their age. The one most in mind is Camille Rasmussen, who would have a legitimate shot of qualifying an individual spot at 2019 worlds, but because she’s not age-eligible, and because the worlds qualifier spots are nominative, she loses out on that chance to qualify and since she’s not a specialist and wouldn’t be able to earn a world cup apparatus spot, her only chance to get to Tokyo is one of the two European championships spots in 2020 which is so freaking unfair. They need to either let 2004-born gymnasts compete in 2019, or let the results from 2019 junior worlds also factor into the qualifying process for gymnasts who don’t have any representation at worlds that year.
Is the Moors worth it? Simone Biles, Jade Carey, and Morgan Hurd all had to drop one of their H skills so they could add the Moors, but do they really benefit?
I think as with the layout full on beam, judges tend to be a bit more lenient with the Moors on floor because even if gymnasts end up looking a little bent at the hips or tucked in the knees, the judges recognize the effort and might only take a tenth instead of a more severe deduction. They’re probably also getting deducted on their H skills in some way or another, so it’s not like they’re getting rid of perfectly-performed H skills in favor of getting tons of deductions on their Moors, but I’d still say between a tenth or three in form deductions plus whatever landing deductions that exist, if they’re consistently sticking their H skills and end up bouncing on the Moors, it’s probably not worth it. Like, Simone especially is super bouncy on that landing, and I think for her the Moors isn’t worth it when the rest of her skills ARE so close to perfect and she’s getting a million tenths taken off of her Moors just for the landing…but for Jade or Morgan I don’t think it affects them a ton (or at least not in a detrimental way).
Do you think Simone Biles using her Cheng as the first vault makes it more likely for her to try the TTY?
Yup! I was thinking the same thing…I’ve wanted them to switch the Cheng to her first vault since Rio, which is where the Cheng first started standing out as a stronger vault than her Amanar, but now not only is it her better vault, she can also do pretty much whatever she wants for the second vault and not have it count against her in the all-around. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the TTY at worlds.
Why is Lucy Stanhope making British teams over Taeja James or Latalia Bevan who would have more of a shot at making finals and potentially medaling?
What she can contribute for the team on vault is more than what Taeja or Latalia could have contributed for the team on floor. They think about the team first and individual medals second, and when you have Lucy capable of a 14-14.5+ on vault at Euros but Taeja only getting a 13.5-14 max on floor, it makes more sense to have Lucy on a team to increase the team score by at least a half point more than Taeja could (and while Latalia’s floor is beautiful, her max potential on that event is maybe a 13.5 on her best day; additionally, she didn’t take part in the trials for Euros so that’s why she wasn’t considered on top of also not having a huge score). Considering the Brits were already in such a weak spot at Euros, they wanted whatever could get them the highest possible score as a team, and Lucy’s vault ended up being the highest score for GB on any event in the team final. I’d say it was worth it.
Which gymnast/former gymnast’s autobiography would you want to read the most?
Alicia Sacramone and Rebecca Bross. They both had rollercoaster experiences and would I think bring in a perspective that we haven’t heard before, considering most of the memoirs we get are like “I worked hard and made it to the Olympics and won a gold medal!” Alicia and Rebecca didn’t reach that pinnacle of success, though both still made it obviously super far in the elite world, so I think their elite experience and how they remember it would be vastly different from someone who had every dream come true.
What happened with Olivia Dunne at the U.S. Classic?
She was dealing with an ankle injury so she opted to compete only on the uneven bars because she was able to get an injury petition to nationals.
If Aleah Finnegan and Leanne Wong both go to GAGE why did they have on different leotards at the U.S. Classic?
GAGE allowed the gymnasts to choose for themselves what they wanted to wear at the U.S. Classic. Aleah and Alexis Jeffrey ended up wearing the same leo, but Leanne and JaFree Scott chose different leos.
What are some factors in whether gymnasts cast handstands in a straight body or straddle?
I would say height is key, as you don’t run the risk of hitting your feet on the low bar the way you would with a straight body…and then it’s also a lot easier to hold onto the straddle shape and keep clean technique than it is for a straight body cast and I think you can generate more momentum on a tap in a straddle swing than with your legs together, which makes it easier to rise and get up over the bar.
I thought D scores were the same every time someone did the same skill? Why did Leanne Wong and Kayla DiCello have different D scores for the same vault?
A DTY is a 5.4 in the code of points, but in the U.S. any junior who does a DTY automatically gets a tenth in bonus at national competitions, making it a 5.5, and there is an additional stick bonus at U.S. domestic meets, making it a 5.6 for gymnasts who stick. Kayla stuck her DTY on the second day of competition, so she got a 5.6, but Leanne and other juniors who did the vault all got a 5.5.
Are deductions taken on wolf turns for their legs moving up and down during the spin, or if they rise in the middle of it?
They should be…but I don’t think they are. There are very few deductions related to a wolf turn, which is why so many gymnasts do them…they can get away with a more difficult dance element but not run the risk of getting a million deductions if they screw it up. I think they can deduct for lack of control, but if they’re still controlled on the supporting leg with their free leg moving up and down, I don’t think they can really take away for anything…and same if it isn’t squatted enough or if they rise a bit from the squat. Seriously the worst.
What were the deductions for Leanne Wong’s vault at the U.S. Classic?
Being really picky, she’d get some off for leg separation in pre-flight (I’d say 0.1 from my angle but could see judges going for 0.3), crossed legs in the air (at least 0.3 there), her chest angle on the landing (I’d go with 0.1), and then whatever landing deductions exist in terms of hopping or stepping back (looking at her day two vault at nationals, she had a 0.1 hop). My deductions for her day two vault would be 0.6 so I’d be awarding her a 9.4, and she got a 9.25 that day so some judges may have been more strict with the pre-flight legs and with her hips in the air and close to the landing. I’m basically Carol.
Let’s assume someone who is adopted has no birth certificate and their age is estimated, then they compete at the Olympics and win a medal. Years later, they get into contact with their birth mother and find out they were younger than what was assumed and competed at the Olympics illegally. Would they be stripped of their medals?
I would imagine they’d look at this like a special case and wouldn’t penalize the girl (or her team) for not knowing her true date of birth. They need some sort of age documentation to register with the FIG and IOC, and they usually use the athlete’s passport for this, and you can’t get a passport without date-of-birth documentation. For children who have been abandoned, officials will always estimate so this isn’t a rare phenomenon, but even if the DOB is estimated, that estimated birth becomes official in those circumstances. These estimated DOBs are official in the eyes of getting a birth certificate, social security number, and passport, and thus also for registering for international competition in sports. If children do eventually discover a true DOB, they can apply through the government to get a corrected DOB on their documentation, but I’d imagine if they were concerned about being stripped of medals, they’d likely contact the governing body of the sport and let them know what happened and I doubt they’d be penalized. Of course, they could also just keep that information quiet, and it’s likely that no one would ever find out. They weren’t knowingly falsifying age information to gain an unfair advantage, and therefore there was no rule broken.
How successful could Nailya Mustafina have been?
I don’t know…it’s impossible to say not knowing the level she could’ve reached if she didn’t get injured and quit. She was massively talented, but gymnastics is about 1% talent and 99% the work that goes into fine-tuning your talent and we don’t know what she would have been like in the gym at the senior level, the kind of skills she could’ve done, and so on.
It seems a lot of gymnasts this quad want to do elite and NCAA simultaneously, but I’m confused about the logistics. If Jade Carey makes the worlds team this fall, she won’t be able to go to school or train with her college teammates, right? Shouldn’t everyone just wait until the quad is over to start college?
Jade is likely taking college classes online for the time being, as are other gymnasts who are trying to balance elite careers with NCAA careers. Between taking off for a semester (or even a year, as Brenna Dowell did in 2015-2016) and taking online classes, it’s not as hard as you’d think to make both happen at the same time, and it’s not necessary to wait for the quad to be over to start college…though some may choose to go that route because it makes their lives a bit easier (like Bridget Sloan deferring Florida until after the 2012 Olympic Trials).
Is landing with your legs apart on a layout stepout a deduction?
No…a layout stepout is supposed to be landed with one foot in front of the other, thus it being a “stepout” and not a layout to two feet, which is a different (and more difficult) skill.
Why do male gymnasts not kip or use handstands?
Since high bar routines are basically all about releases and continuous movement, they don’t have the need to kip or do handstands. When they’re doing releases, they just do a bunch of giants into each release, and when they’re on the more pirouetty part of the routine, they don’t need to take extraneous swings or casts between each skill (though technically they reach a handstand on all of these elements, albeit a quick one that doesn’t always hit the kind of handstand that’s expected from women).
Does a skill have to be submitted in order to be named? I’m wondering why Fan Yilin’s dismount was named for her in 2017 when it was performed by Huang Huidan at worlds in 2014.
Yes, it has to be submitted. For the dismount Fan and Huang do, it depends on where the half twist comes in because it could be rated an Arai (which is when the half twist comes in after the first salto) or it could be considered a Fan (which is when the half twist comes in before the first salto). I believe Huang was generally credited with the Arai, which was named for Yuka Arai in the early 90s, and so she never submitted for a new skill but Fan’s dismount is considered easier with the half-twist coming earlier and so it was technically a new skill even if it’s pretty close to being the same.
Does Texas Dreams have bad luck with injuries? Or are they pushing too hard?
I think it’s absolutely bad luck. They get a lot of crap for “pushing too hard” but honestly they don’t push harder than any other gym. Ragan was peaking just in time to win worlds last year and it wasn’t Kim Zmeskal’s fault that she got injured five minutes before the all-around final…it was the super hard mats and the universe conspiring against Texas Dreams ever getting a gymnast to that level. I think the majority of their gymnasts aren’t at the same level as many of those who make teams…like Bailie Key in 2015 was a fantastic all-arounder but she didn’t have something to offer ahead of girls who made it to worlds, because she wasn’t a top-three all-arounder and wasn’t in the top three on any events at camp, and then after that she had a growth spurt and an elbow injury at the same time, both of which are normal problems a growing gymnast faces.
Bailie was really the first one they had who could get close to being an Olympian, and she ruled the world as a junior, but growth spurts are a bitch and whether she was with Kim or someone else, it was bound to happen. Ragan is the only other gymnast capable of that level and she was in great shape for 2016 with zero issues that year, but she just had Laurie Hernandez ahead of her on beam, and then last year was going great until the worst luck ever. The rest of their gymnasts simply aren’t at the same level as the top international girls, and injuries always happen…it’s just more prevalent when looking at Texas Dreams because they have a crap ton of gymnasts every year.
Even Emma Malabuyo this year isn’t injured that seriously…she grew a TON and is dealing with the injuries that come with it. She could’ve competed at nationals, but everyone decided it was best for her to sit out and save it for worlds, as she’s still legitimately looking like a contender for the team and they didn’t want to risk that. The discourse about Texas Dreams is so bizarre because this is a decision made to reduce the risk of her getting further, and people were mad that she didn’t compete at nationals…but had Kim let her compete at nationals and she got injured, everyone would be outraged about Kim “breaking gymnasts.”
And if Emma never makes it as a senior due to injury or whatever, that’s fine. She and Bailie got to experience incredible junior careers before growing. Most gymnasts can’t say that. I remember Aimee Boorman once talking about peaking and how they didn’t think about “peaking for Rio” because what if 2013 was it for Simone Biles? They wanted to get her there and then if that was all they did, they’d be happy with it because they can’t control her growth spurts or freak accidents. They got lucky that Simone is an anomaly and just kept getting better with age (and didn’t get ‘good’ enough to compete the majority of her skills until she already had her adult body, so she didn’t have to fight a growth spurt and relearn all of her skills) but with Bailie and now possibly Emma, they at least got to have those amazing moments as juniors, so even if they’re not Olympians or world medalists, they still at least got to enjoy the highest levels of the sport for the point they reached.
Where is Victoria Nguyen? Has she given up gymnastics?
I believe she is still training for NCAA though I’m not sure if elite is still in the cards or not. I’ve heard she was hoping to go to Stanford, and I believe she’d be entering with the 2019-2020 freshman class, so her NLI signing period would be either this fall or next spring. Athletes have to be academically accepted into Stanford before they can commit as athletes, unlike other schools which accept verbal commitments from athletes and then hold off on the academic requirements, so if she’s planning on going next year, she’d be going through the application process now.
You can create a “super gymnast” who learns skills from different coaches and gyms. Who do you choose?
All of the gymnasts I admire for being world class on each event, it’s more about their talent than coaches who got them there. Like, for vault I wouldn’t want Mihai Brestyan or Artur Akopyan because Alicia Sacramone and McKayla Maroney didn’t get their abilities from them. I’d probably choose a combination of Laurent Landi, Mihai Brestyan, Liang Chow, and Al Fong to mold my ‘ideal gymnast’ and then I’d bring in Aimee Boorman to basically just like, direct them all from a management perspective.
How common/uncommon is it for gymnasts to do basic ballet training along with the sport to improve/polish their dance?
It’s pretty common, but they don’t spend a ton of time on it. Ballet aesthetics can be nice and might add a few tenths here or there, but they won’t create Olympic champions when the code values difficulty and gymnastics technique. An hour a week is normal for most who incorporate ballet training, and it’s mostly to work on things like extension and lines rather than, like, ‘artistry’ because let’s shout it from the rooftops…ballet, extension, toe point, and lines aren’t artistry.
It’s interesting that gymnasts learn to turn en dedans when dancers mostly turn en dehors. Is there a reason for this?
I think if there is a reason for training en dedans, it’s probably because there is a rule with turns that says the working leg has to complete a full rotation and finish in front, so it’s going around in a complete 360 degree spin, whereas a turn en dehors wouldn’t really satisfy that since the working leg is turning to the outside, meaning finishing in front would only be about 270 degrees…but the code doesn’t specifically say “no en dehors turns allowed.”
I think pretty much every gymnast’s SOLO pirouette I’ve seen has turned en dedans, but I’ve definitely seen combination pirouettes where a gymnast will connect an en dedans turn into an en dehors turn. Here’s an example of that, with Aliya Mustafina doing a triple Y spin en dedans on her left foot and then putting her right foot down and immediately doing an en dehors double pirouette.
So yeah, it seems to be that en dehors is allowed but for some reason en dedans is how everyone in gymnastics ends up doing them. I come from more of a ballet background and am used to turning both ways, though generally we stick to more en dehors. En dedans always freak me out for some reason so it’s so weird seeing it be the norm in gymnastics!
After seeing Aliya Mustafina training a Ricna, what do you think of this routine: Inbar full to Komova II to Pak to van Leeuwen, inbar half to piked Jaeger, Downie, Mustafina? It’s a 6.5.
I like it!
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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