Nebraska Women’s Gymnastics
It’s time for the 237th 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.
What’s your opinion on the future of Nebraska’s gymnastics program? They typically don’t get the top elite recruits but continuously stay at the top. Why do you think this is?
I’ve always been a fan of theirs, and while some of their seasons aren’t like, through-the-roof amazing, they are almost always consistent while performing clean, powerful gymnastics. I think their team is generally comprised of gymnasts who are strong Level 10s, but not standouts in a way that would make them the most noticeable by recruiters from top five programs. Like, maybe they won vault at J.O. nationals one year and finished 15th all-around the next or something…clearly still incredible but if they’re not five-time all-around champions and former elites, they’re not getting as much attention. I think Dan Kendig is very smart about finding those gems who are good but not superstars, and he generally ends up getting a team of strong, steady, and healthy kids who can get the job done, and if he continues recruiting the way he does, they absolutely have a shot at being a top ten program every single year.
Why did gymnasts in the old days perform difficult skills if they didn’t need to for a good score?
Probably the same reason gymnasts do this in NCAA…it might not get them anything more in terms of a start value, but it’s badass and they like showing what they can do, because they can do it so why not? And then also judges tend to be a bit more lenient with more difficult skills as well…like now, someone piking down a bit on a layout full might not get deducted as strictly as someone who pikes down on just a layout. Back in the day, girls who could do a full-in off beam or an Amanar on vault could have absolutely done far easier skills, but they chose to show what they were capable of, and honestly, these are the ones we remember. Even the ones in NCAA now…there are many girls in lower-ranked programs who stand out because they become known as “that girl who does that big skill.” Like Denelle Pedrick of CMU…if she wasn’t vaulting a DTY, she’d be just like any of the other hundreds of gymnasts on teams that aren’t followed as much, but instead she and others who go for broke end up getting their names out there and becoming known for big or unique skills, which is cool in itself.
Do you think it’s unfair that bars is scored so high compared to the rest of the events?
Kind of, but unfortunately that’s just the nature of the event, and it’s not as bad as vault. When you have a shorter routine like vault (just a couple of seconds long) or bars (usually under 30 seconds), it’s obviously a lot harder to deduct compared to a longer event like beam or floor (about 90 seconds each). On the latter two events, there’s room for three times more deductions than bars, so it does kind of give an unfair advantage to gymnasts who excel on bars (and can realistically get a 9.0+ for a good routine) compared to one who excels on beam (where an 8.0+ was considered amazing at worlds last year) or floor (where an 8.5+ is generally quite good).
But I guess the tradeoff is that all-arounders who have bars as their standout event while remaining balanced all-arounders are quite rare…generally the best bar workers tend to be so weak on the other events that they’re not really all that competitive in the all-around, or they’re specialists entirely, so you likely won’t see someone with a 15.5 on bars and 12.5s on beam and floor win an all-around title. The only two who really fit this are Aliya Mustafina in 2016 (whose bars truly saved her ass in the Rio all-around final!) and Nina Derwael (though she’s growing in her ability on other events). Many others will get their best scores on bars, but there isn’t such a vast difference between that event and others, so I don’t think it’s much of a problem, especially if it ends up being an advantage for the majority who might excel on beam and floor, but pull in higher scores on bars due to the nature of the event.
When was Alicia Sacramone’s peak?
I honestly think she looked her best in 2010 or 2011. The 2010 U.S. Classic was the first meet I covered as a journalist and I walked in not knowing what to expect, and was just absolutely blown away when I saw her in person. She was on fire as a competitor, was in some of the best shape of her life, and then obviously went on to finally win a world title on vault…it’s honestly too bad she got injured the following year. I think her 2012 season would’ve made it incredibly hard for McKayla Maroney or Aly Raisman to fight for a spot on the team.
Are there gymnasts that tumble on one side but do turns or splits on the other? Is this rare?
Hmmm…there might be? Just coming at it from my own perspective, as a right-handed person, my right splits have always been a million percent better than my left, and I haven’t tumbled in quite some time, but I was always better with right tumbling and even now when I go to trampoline, I automatically twist to the right on swivel hips and stuff. But my pirouettes are way better on the left. I’m not sure why this is! My right pirouettes are fine but my left are always more stable and controlled.
Who are some of the mentally strongest gymnasts?
Simone Biles, for sure…and pretty much any U.S. gymnast who makes it onto international teams. That mental strength is pretty much half the reason why they make it and why so many super talented girls have been left behind in the past. I also really admire Aly Raisman’s journey in mental strength during her comeback…she struggled a lot at first which was so surprising given that she was basically indestructible in the previous quad, but then she paid attention to fixing this and by Rio, she was unstoppable.
If Angelina Melnikova hadn’t gone to so many competitions in 2017, would she still have been a wreck at worlds? If she rested more, would she have performed better?
That’s what I thought at first but she got a pretty decent ‘rest’ last year, competition-wise, and she was still kind of rough at worlds but that was more due to her dealing with injury than not getting enough rest. I think at first it just seemed like she was being overworked but then it was pretty clear she was working through an injury and maybe just should’ve taken time not just away from competition but out of the gym entirely to overcome it. Last year, she competed five times in the spring and then took four months off before the Russian Cup and worlds, and this year while healthy, she competed pretty regularly between March and August (six meets including Euros) with no problems. The difference isn’t so much the time commitment, but rather being injury-free this year compared to last.
Is dropping your heel at the end of a turn a deduction even if it went completely around?
No, your heel is supposed to drop at the end of a turn. The issue with heels dropping early is that the turn isn’t complete, so they only award difficulty up to the point where the heel dropped (e.g. someone dropping after two rotations when they meant to do three will get credit for a double rather than a triple). But if someone intends to do a triple, completes all three rotations, and then drops her heel at the end, it’s credited as a triple.
Do you think overscoring in NCAA is as big of a problem as people make it out to be?
I honestly don’t think it’s a huge problem, because to me there’s a clear difference between how the top teams look and how other teams look, and it’s the top teams doing most of the overscoring…their scores end up lifted a bit more than they should be but at the end of the day they’re still where they belong in the rankings.
My only issue is that since most teams are overscoring, the ones that don’t tend to hurt individual athletes who deserve to be overscored as much as the girls from Florida, UCLA, LSU, Oklahoma, and so on. Like, Elizabeth Price should be considered one of the best NCAA gymnasts of all time but if you look at her scores, you’d be like “yeah, she’s good I guess” and wouldn’t really know just how good she was based on her scores alone. There are a lot of randos from SEC schools who have twice as many 10s as Ebee, and yet she’s by far the superior gymnast in almost every single aspect of her performance…so things like that always irk me a bit.
But on a team level, I really don’t think it’s such a big deal. The only time I can see it being an issue is if teams are in the regionals race and you have a 37th-ranked team with judges that start throwing out super high scores for every routine, and then a 35th-ranked team gets bumped out of the regionals standings due to that team’s push to make it in or something…which definitely happens as the season starts coming to a close. Suddenly teams that normally wouldn’t get higher than a 195 are easily breaking 197 and it’s like okay, try not to make your cheating SO obvious.
If Viktoria Komova didn’t hit her feet on the low bar in the London bars final, could she have contended for gold?
Yes, absolutely. She had a 7.0 D and the potential for close to a 9.0 E if she hit; without her feet hitting, she probably could’ve pulled off silver at the very least, and also likely would’ve challenged Aliya Mustafina for gold.
Do you think Nastia Liukin could have landed a double layout on floor? I once saw her training it on the tumble track.
I think in terms of like could she get the skill around and land it, yes, absolutely…but I think she refrained from double backs (including double tucks) because of her ankles, so while she could have done it and landed it, I don’t think she could’ve done it safely for very long without getting injured.
Why did Gabby Douglas leave Chow’s?
There was some drama with her mama related to Chow wanting to bring in contracts for gymnasts to make sure they wouldn’t leave mid-season or something. I guess there was a coach who left for another nearby gym and took a ton of level 10s with him (or her, not sure) and so this was kind of like, a huge conflict of interest, and he wanted to make sure something like that didn’t happen and that gymnasts who were with him would be financially obligated to stay with him for a full year at a time. I think her mom had a big issue with this and they couldn’t come to a resolution so she ended up saying they weren’t signing any contract and she wound up pulling Gabby from the gym and sending her to Ohio. Kinda sucked for Gabby, as she had nothing to do with the decision and really got along with Chow as a coach.
Would Viktoria Komova have competed all-around if she made the Rio team?
Based on how she looked as an all-arounder in 2015, I’d say no…she probably would’ve done Daria Spiridonova’s job in qualifications, and then depending on how beam was looking, would’ve either done just bars or bars and beam in the team final.
What do you think of the four-way tie on bars in Glasgow? Who do you think should’ve been the sole gold medalist?
I think it’s ridiculous that we have a scoring system that’s basically built with the side effect of reducing the likelihood of ties, and yet judges couldn’t find enough differences between routines to separate them…like the whole point of event finals is to rank a small group of athletes to determine the best on the event, so it kind of defeats the purpose of having event finals if the outcome is for the judges to be like “you’re all the best!” I haven’t watched this final in a long time, but I remember thinking that I would have ranked Viktoria Komova first, Fan Yilin second, and Madison Kocian third…and I also probably would have ranked Gabby Douglas ahead of Daria Spiridonova for those two to be fourth and fifth. I’d have to watch them again to see if I still agree, but with the whole four-way tie thing, I remember feeling it was odd that Daria was included in that group (and that she had a higher E score than Yilin).
Why didn’t Vanessa Atler get rid of her Comaneci salto on bars? Why didn’t Rebecca Bross get rid of her Patterson beam dismount?
I can’t say for sure about Vanessa’s release, but I talked to Becca about her dismount and she said at some point, she realized she wasn’t going to make the 2012 Olympic team, and since she was really struggling with that dismount, she made hitting that dismount (and her full difficulty) her goal for that season rather than making the team. Everyone thought Valeri Liukin was forcing her to do it, but she told me she was actually quite stubborn and he wanted her to change it to a double pike, but she said no, she was doing the Patterson. I’m sure if it was a dangerous skill he would’ve had her change it, but it wasn’t a dangerous skill for her…just an inconsistent one. I’m glad she ended up hitting it in what became the final routine of her career.
What are your thoughts on Simone Biles’ comeback? Do you think if she stays healthy we’ll have another boring three years of wondering who will get silver or bronze?
I mean, if it’s “boring” to watch someone who will be known as the greatest gymnast of all time, then sure, prepare yourself for another boring three years!
Do you know of many judges who don’t have a gymnastics background themselves? How hard would it be to learn everything if you weren’t a gymnast?
Yeah, I know of a few who don’t have a gymnastics background in terms of not having competed in the sport, but they got into the sport in other ways and decided to take up judging to get involved in a way. It’s really not that hard to learn how to judge if you haven’t been a gymnast. I was a terrible low-level gymnast and when I started writing about the sport, I hadn’t stepped foot in a gym in over a decade and didn’t know what any skills were called beyond the most rudimentary compulsory skills. For me, it was pretty easy to watch the elite gymnasts and pick up on things fairly quickly, and I wasn’t studying regularly like a judge would be. Especially considering the fact that judges have to start out judging simpler skills and routines before working their way up to optional levels, they have a lot of time to figure things out and learn as they grow, so it’s entirely realistic for someone to get involved in gymnastics in this way despite never having trained or competed in the sport.
Has Kim Zmeskal expressed any comments about Larry Nassar or the Karolyis at all?
She has made several posts about Larry (or about athletes who were affected by him, if not actually about him) but I don’t think she has specifically called out the Karolyis, which would make sense as someone who is pretty good friends with them and has known them her entire life. Even many of the elites who trained at the camp on recent national teams aren’t speaking out about the Karolyis (like Aly Raisman, who was closer to Martha than most gymnasts) so it’s possible that while terrible in creating a disgusting culture, some athletes (like Kim and Aly) look back fondly at their experiences with them (or just with Martha, in Aly’s case) while others who suffered more abuses under them want to hold them accountable.
Are Emma and McKenna the only Kelley daughters who competed in gymnastics?
They all trained in gymnastics in some capacity, but Emma and McKenna were the two standouts. Shayla, the oldest daughter, made it to Level 9 and then did acro and tumbling in college, and I believe Skyla went right into cheer from a young age.
Was Aimee Boorman overseeing Simone Biles on bars in her comeback video?
I don’t think so? I don’t know what comeback video you’re talking about but I doubt it, as Aimee works at a gym in Florida and Simone is training in Texas. It was probably Cecile Landi.
What’s the story with Alexis Beucler and the petition Mary Lee Tracy filed against her to have her elite status taken away?
I don’t know every single detail but the story back when it happened was that MLT didn’t think she should be at the elite level and petitioned Alexis back to Level 10 without telling Alexis or something like that. Generally, this is a decision made by the coach and athlete together. When an athlete no longer wants to compete elite, she has to petition to return to J.O. so she can begin competing Level 10 again, but MLT made that decision for Alexis without including her. She wasn’t “filing against her to have her elite status taken away” but rather just deciding that Alexis shouldn’t do elite, even though Alexis still wanted to do it.
When a gymnast like Trinity Thomas commits to an NCAA program and is starting this season, is she basically saying she’s not going to the Olympics? Are there pros and cons to organizing your career like this?
No, that’s not what she’s saying…she’s basically saying it’s not worth it for her to stick around and do nothing academics-wise for two years because she likely doesn’t want to push back starting college until she’s 20. She’s not prioritizing elite or the Olympics over her academic/NCAA career, but she’s still saying she wants to see how far she can go as an elite, and if the Olympics happen, great, but she’s not giving up everything else just for the slim chance of making it to Tokyo. It’s obviously easier to train as an elite at a club gym without also having to compete NCAA simultaneously, but Trinity is a great multitasker and if anyone can pull off elite and NCAA at the same time, it’s Trinity.
Not including injuries, do you think LSU has a shot at being a top SEC contender in the 2019 season when Georgia and Florida have such strong incoming classes?
I think it’ll definitely be between Florida and LSU. It’s hard to say which team will look better at SECs in 2019 at this point, and both teams are likely to be so strong that they could go back and forth with who’s “the best” at any given meet just like last season and the past five seasons, basically. Unless either team has multiple season-ending injuries, it’s probably going to be down to the wire for the SEC title once again.
Do you see any of the newer upcoming Canadian stars maintaining their NCAA eligibility?
I’m pretty sure all of the young Canadians are maintaining their eligibility…I know Brooklyn Moors, Ana Padurariu, Emma Spence, and all of the others who are first-year seniors this quad are hoping to go to college, and really the only two who are pro right now on the Canadian team are Ellie Black and Isabela Onyshko. Oh, and Brittany Rogers, but that’s after a full NCAA career. The only one I’m not sure of is Rose-Kaying Woo…her sister Victoria was supposed to go to Ohio State, but I think she’s pushing it back…and I’m not sure what Rose’s plans are but I don’t think she’s committed anywhere yet. With Rose, I’m sure she has 2020 in mind and might just wait until that process is over before going to school…but I’m not sure.
Did the coaching changes at Eastern Michigan allow Catie Conrad and Rachel Slocum to go looking for other schools to complete their careers at?
I think so! With all of the changes, I think it was easier to request a release and have it granted compared to girls trying to get released from teams that are more stable (and wouldn’t give them as much cause to want to leave). I believe they were allowed to be released to teams that weren’t in EMU’s conference, but I’m not a hundred percent sure on the details there.
Are there college gymnasts that never get to compete their entire career because their team lineups are that deep? Do gymnasts think about that when choosing a college?
A lot of walk-ons are in this situation, but most gymnasts who are recruited as scholarship athletes are brought in because the program wants or needs them to compete, so even in extreme depth, they’re still going to be able to carve out a spot for themselves as a contributing athlete. UCLA has a huge team and more depth than most, so gymnasts who come to school on scholarship hoping to be star all-arounders might end up doing just an event or two, but usually by the time they’re juniors or seniors, they end up filling roles that were once held by athletes who have since graduated. The circle of life! Some gymnasts might choose to join a smaller program as opposed to a top five team for more competitive experience than they’d get as a little fish in a big ocean, but I think most prioritize the team and their education over whether they’d be a “star” on a particular team.
Why don’t you see arabians as much as standing fulls in combination on beam?
I think the blind landing is a bit harder for many gymnasts to master on a narrow-ass beam. A standing full is technically harder to do physically for most, but the landing is pretty easy to spot, so you can see what you need to adjust as you land in order to save yourself from falling, whereas on an arabian, you can be just a hair off in your set and miss the beam entirely because you can’t spot for the adjustments you’d need.
What do you think gymnastics will look like in a hundred years? Do you think all of the apparatuses will be the same?
I think there will definitely be tons of changes in what the apparatuses look like and what the sport consists of. I can see apparatuses being added or taken away or modified completely as technology continues to improve and as the human body continues to get faster and stronger and adapt to new challenges.
What’s the reasoning behind capping the difficulty of certain elements?
The belief is that the most difficult version of some skills are still nowhere near as difficult as easier skills in other categories, so they cap the difficulty of the inherently easier skills to make sure gymnasts don’t construct routines full of difficult ‘easy’ skills. I kind of agree in terms of dance elements on floor…compared to tumbling, turns and leaps are much easier, and it’s crazy that doing a double L turn (something I can do easily) is given the same difficulty value as a front double full or a double pike (I can’t even do a front layout or a back pike on a trampoline). If they opened up the difficulty cap on leaps and turns, you could essentially just go out as a dancer and do an elite-level floor routine with a couple of A-level tumbling skills, which is nuts to me. So I get that…but I don’t get some of the other E caps, especially with transitions on bars. I don’t think a transitional skill is inherently easier than a release in the way dance skills are physically easier than tumbling skills, so I don’t really get the logic there and think someone attempting a Seitz or Bhardwaj should absolutely deserve more than just an E.
What is the D score for a routine with an inbar full to toe shoot, inbar half to layout Jaeger, Bhardwaj to Komova II to Pak to Chow half, and a stalder full to full-out dismount?
I believe it would be 2.0 for CR, 3.8 for skills, and 0.8 in CV for a total of 6.6.
Why aren’t shorts allowed for bars and beam and leggings for vault and floor? Can men choose to wear shorts for the whole meet instead of changing into pants?
Technically women could wear leggings or shorts, and some do choose to do this for religious reasons. I think it’s not really preferred for judging because it’s aesthetically preferable and shorts/leggings break up the body line, so I can see people getting deducted for ‘faults’ that are actually just kind of optical illusions from what they’re wearing. And the men’s uniform is specific to certain events, but men are technically allowed to wear long pants on floor and vault…they just choose not to.
Could Asia D’Amato perform the Amanar?
I think she’s been training it and I hope we get to see it either at worlds next year or the Olympics in 2020! I’m glad she didn’t whip it out as a junior when she didn’t really need it.
Can you tell me what amplitude means when talking about a gymnast’s jumps?
Yup! Amplitude generally refers to the height a jump gets thanks to a really strong takeoff. I usually use the word when referring to the air someone gets while attempting a jump or leap on beam. Gymnasts who have really big amplitude have more time in the air to complete the skill cleanly and thus more time to prep for a strong landing, so jumps and leaps with big amplitude tend to be rated better than those that don’t get as much lift. Amplitude can also generally be used to discuss a gymnast’s block on vault or set on her tumbling.
Why does WOGA have so many girls that compete for other countries?
I think there are some gyms out there that are welcoming to athletes from other countries, and so when athletes who compete for other countries are looking to train in the U.S., they end up at gyms that have this openness and that have prior experience with international elite. They might see, like, “oh hey Ava Verdeflor competed for the Philippines while at WOGA and her club coach traveled with her to compete at the Youth Olympic Games, and they have Irina Alexeeva training there when she’s not at the national center in Russia, and they had Mitzi Unda-Sosa on the worlds team for Mexico…with that track record they’d probably support me and my international goals” and so they continue to attract gymnasts who need this from a gym (because not every club gym would be as supportive or have the resources to help gymnasts with non-U.S. elite ambitions). I think because they also host the WOGA Classic international invitational every year and also invite gymnasts from other national teams to come for camps and stuff, they’re fairly well known among international clubs as a place that is willing to work with a variety of gymnasts outside of just training kids for the U.S. elite program.
Which elite gymnasts have done a counter Kim release aside from Kim Gwang Suk?
I can’t think of any other elites who have done it recently but M’rcy Matsunami of Alaska did one in NCAA competition regularly…I feel like there was someone recently who was training it but I can’t remember. Sara Ricciardi of Italy maybe? There was also a 12-year-old girl from Hawaiian Island Twisters training a toe-on counter Kim at one point a few years ago but she wasn’t elite.
Why wasn’t Jordan Bowers used in more events for the team at Pac Rims?
The team competition at Pac Rims was the same as the all-around competition. Jordan competed all four events, but only the top four scores counted on each event. With the seniors and juniors mixed in competition, the seniors were expected to contribute higher scores than the juniors on most events, so they were positioned in the lineup to contribute on three events apiece, and then for the juniors, based on training and the selection camp, Kayla DiCello and Sunisa Lee were looking likely to outscore her on the other events, so she was only in the lineup for bars. Let’s not forget this was Jordan’s first international meet, so they likely weren’t sure what to expect. Kayla and Sunisa had been outscoring her on vault and were more consistent on beam, so that was kind of the deciding factor there, and then on floor they expected the three seniors and Sunisa would be the top four, and they almost were, but Jordan actually ended up slightly outscoring Jordan Chiles, which was kind of unexpected. Jordan Bowers ultimately won the junior all-around, so it’s definitely surprising to see that it looks like she wasn’t used anywhere but bars, but again if you look at who was top four on each event, bars was really the one place where Jordan was expected to do that.
Who is Sarah Jantzi? What’s her background in gymnastics?
I just realized I know almost nothing about Sarah, her background, if she was a gymnast and what level she competed…and so on. Twin City Twisters doesn’t have any bio info about any of their coaches, and I think Jantzi is her married name so I don’t know if she used to compete in college or whatever not knowing her maiden name. She definitely was a gymnast but I don’t know what level she was at. She is a mystery!
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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