You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 244th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered! We apologize if we haven’t gotten to your question yet, but we try to answer in the order in which they were received (unless they are super relevant and need to be answered in a timely manner). Something you want to know? Ask us anonymously by going through the contact form at the bottom of the page.

I want to know your opinion about the Romanian team, specifically the juniors (Ioana Stanciulescu, Antonia Duta, Ana Maria Puiu, Silvia Sfiringu, Daniela Trica, and Lisa Marchidanu). Also, about the seniors, is Denisa Golgota already a world-class gymnast? Will Ioana Crisan ever be consistent? Is Larisa Iordache back in the gym? Is Laura Iacob the next Andreea Iridon? How is she now that she is injury-free? Where is Nica Ivanus and the two Carmens?

Larisa reportedly returned to training in the fall but I don’t know how it’s going or how much she has progressed at this point. She said over the summer that she had about a 50% chance of getting back to full strength, so we’ll see what ends up happening or if she’ll be able to get back in time for the Tokyo qualification process.

As for the current seniors, Denisa is definitely the strongest but while she’s very talented, especially on vault and floor, she still has a lot of form issues that hold her back from being truly competitive on a world stage. I think Ioana is okay, consistent enough, but just not like…what I thought she’d look like given her talent at the junior level. I think that kind of goes for every Romanian junior who has become a senior in the past five years, though, which speaks to their inability to transition juniors to the senior program. Even with Denisa, I remember seeing her at her first nationals when she was about 12 or 13 and thinking “wow, she’s going to be amazing someday!” but then…she just kind of stayed at the same level for the next four years. All that potential and they didn’t really do anything with it. She didn’t regress or anything, but she just didn’t build on what should have been an incredible foundation. It shows how talented she is, and it also points at the weaknesses/flaws in the Romanian program. I think if she was in a better program we would have seen her continue to build on her skills, and the same goes for pretty much any current senior in the program.

So getting to the juniors, there is a lot of talent in that group right now, which I think they really proved at Euros with a fourth-place team finish on top of multiple event finals and getting a gold on floor from Ioana. Those who are turning senior this year, Iulia Berar and Ana Maria Puiu specifically, can barely get a 50 AA on a good day, so they’re kind of out unless they make major upgrades/improvements…but while the ones who turn 16 in 2020 have fantastic potential, that’s not going to really matter if they just stay at the same level they’re at now. They’re great FOR JUNIORS, but at some point the coaches have to get them to upgrade and get even better so they can also be great as seniors. I want to say that many of these girls will be fantastic as seniors because based on how they look now, that potential is there…but with Romania’s history of wasting potential in the last two quads, I don’t wanna get my hopes up.

Did Maggie Nichols get hurt on floor against Georgia?

I’m not sure, it was weird…she was definitely limping and tearing up a bit but then they didn’t talk about it at the end of the broadcast, which you’d think they would because it’s like, kind of a huge deal? I hope she just ended up stinging her ankle or something and isn’t actually injured. I feel like if it was a legit injury we’d hear about it and her plans for missing a number of meets or whatever, so the fact that we haven’t heard anything is like, hopefully a no news is good news kinda situation. I guess we’ll see, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing to rest her on the leg events for a few weeks either way since she always seems to be a little bit injured.

Who is Canada sending to the American Cup?

They’re sending Ellie Black!

Do you think Alicia Sacramone was capable of an Amanar, Cheng, or front handspring double full on vault? Which would suit her best and which would she have been most likely to compete?

I think she was definitely capable of the handspring front double full and think if she hadn’t gotten injured in 2011, we probably could’ve seen it happen. It would’ve been cool to see her attempt the Amanar since her DTY was so good, but I get why she and others with really strong DTYs don’t bother…if their DTY is clean and solid enough, but they’d struggle with form issues or hops on a blind-landing Amanar, it makes more sense to keep the DTY. I think she also had the power and skill to get a Cheng, but because her focus had been the front handspring family rather than on the Yurchenko half-on, she probably just kept her focus on upgrading in the same family instead of hopping over and trying something new.

When do you think Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina will be back? If they go to Tokyo will Viktoria get a gold and will Aliya defend her bars title?

Well, Viktoria I believe has retired again after not being able to reach a high enough level to make teams in 2018, but knowing her, “being retired” means she could start training again at any time. Aliya came back last spring for nationals, but then got a knee injury which slowed her down a bit, though she was still able to make the worlds team where she did pretty well all things considered! I think Aliya could defend her bars title if she does exactly what she did last quad, waiting until the bitter end to put in all of her biggest difficulty, and taking it slow and steady on the way there. I think with the way Viktoria looked last year, it was clear that Olympic gold on any event wasn’t going to happen without major improvements, though. I think her peak was really in 2011-2012 and while she has looked lovely on bars in her various comebacks, overall she was just never able to get back to where she was in her prime and doubt that yet ANOTHER retirement and potential comeback will change that.

I heard that once a gymnast goes elite she can’t compete J.O. anymore. But so many gymnasts who compete at elite qualification meets, Hopes, and TOPs go on to do J.O. It seems to be a strategy now to gain college interest and not because they want to be elite and go to the Olympics. Thoughts?

First, a gymnast who qualifies elite CAN later go back and compete J.O. She just has to drop back down to that level. A lot of the time you’ll see a junior with a lot of potential qualify elite and do it for one season, but then she realizes she’s not having as much fun, is putting in too many hours, isn’t going to make the national team without major improvements, and would rather go back to level 10, so she’ll give up her elite status after just a year and be done with it. It’s a simple process.

Going to an elite qualifier isn’t a “get into college” strategy. College coaches will be far more interested in the top J.O. gymnasts who are consistently winning invitationals and major regional/national titles than they will be in a girl who attempts elite qualifications but doesn’t qualify to J.O. nationals. Case in point = Alex McMurtry, who was a top level 10 for her entire J.O. career, repeatedly said she had absolutely zero interest in elite, and was one of THE top recruits, even above several actual elites.

College coaches know what’s up and I guarantee you, not one college coach out there is like “omg I know she placed 45th at level 10 regionals BUT she went to an elite qualifier when she was 14 and didn’t even come close to qualifying but STILL, she went to a QUALIFIER, I MUST HAVE HER!” Most gymnasts who compete at elite qualifiers who then go on to J.O. instead do it because they didn’t qualify for elite, or they qualify, compete for a year or two, realize they had more fun in level 10 (or they’re just physically done with elite), and petition back down. Some girls will try a year after to get their elite qualification scores because they REALLY want it, but others will just give it the one shot and then see how hard it is and go back to training level 10.

Also, not everyone who wants to qualify elite necessarily wants to go to the Olympics or has that as an end goal. Many gymnasts attempt to qualify elite because the Olympics are in their minds, sure, but the majority realize how hard it is and know that it’s not super likely to happen, though they continue training elite because they like it. Someone like Leah Clapper, for example, knew that the likelihood of her making the national team let alone the Olympic team was not within reach, but she stayed in elite for several years because she enjoyed it and she had the scores to go to nationals a few times, which is awesome. And sometimes you never know. In 2011, there were a million injuries in the U.S., and girls like Brandie Jay and Jessie DeZiel – who weren’t on anyone’s radar for the national team – got to go to Pan Ams Games, a major international multi-sport event with Shawn Johnson as their teammate and where they both did incredibly well, so there’s always that possibility that something big will happen for you as an elite even if you’re not a top prospect.

What happens if one of the competitors who qualifies to event finals from a country that has 3+ gymnasts who would’ve made it but were two-per-country’ed out ends up getting injured?

The gymnast who got two-per-country’ed out would take her spot in the final.

Why do some vaults get a tenth higher in difficulty? For example, a DTY is worth a 5.4 but some gymnasts get a 5.5. Is there a reason for this?

Some countries have bonuses for difficulty and/or execution. At domestic meets in the U.S., gymnasts who stick a landing will get a tenth in bonus, and juniors who do DTYs get a tenth in bonus for having that difficulty, so even though a DTY is a 5.4, a U.S. junior who competes and sticks a DTY will be awarded a 5.6 D score, and a U.S. senior who sticks a DTY will get a 5.5 D score. This wouldn’t happen internationally, though. Other countries also have various bonuses for gymnasts who do DTYs, though they create a separate bonus column on score sheets rather than adding to the D score (which Italy and China both do, god bless them), or they add the bonus in the E score.

What’s your input on the Georgia freshmen for 2019? Could they help get Georgia to the top again?

I just wrote about this in my preview for the first week of competition last week, but let me tell you, I am SO BEYOND EXCITED for Georgia this year and think they are going to have the biggest turnaround among top teams. I don’t know if this will be a team finals at nationals kind of year for them, but I do think they’ll at least stay consistently near the top 6-8 depending on how well they and other teams perform, and I think we can expect them to be putting up much bigger numbers this year now that they have so much depth. That’s really what’s going to help them the most, having people there to sub in if needed, whereas last year they were SO depleted, making it impossible for them to catch up even with a great meet.

How much do you know about the new Mexican national champion, Frida Esparza?

A lot! Frida trains at Head Over Heels in California, where she qualified to level 10 in 2013 and then in 2016, she qualified elite as a junior in the U.S., making it to classics and nationals that summer and then again as a senior in 2017. After her 2017 season as a U.S. elite, she decided to try competing for Mexico because she has citizenship and thought she could help the team, so she went to nationals where she won the title, and then she also won the Pan Ams and worlds trial meet, so she was named to both teams and did a fantastic job at both. She’s committed to UCLA for next season but I’d imagine she’s going to defer if she looks likely to potentially qualify to the Olympic Games.

Is it more advantageous to have long or short legs in gymnastics?

I’d say short legs because shorter/more compact gymnasts tend to be more powerful which is what the code currently rewards, and you have a lower center of gravity which also helps…but long legs look great aesthetically on most events and even if you’re not doing a skill as nicely as someone with short legs, having long legs can distract from form issues and make you LOOK like you’re doing it right so it’s a toss-up…but I’d say for better difficulty and higher scores in the current code, generally short-legged gymnasts tend to have more success.

Why do you think the U.S. women have J.O., elite, and NCAA all separate instead of unified like the men? Do you think it would be better or worse if they changed it?

I think there are pros and cons to both ways of doing it, but it works as it is because it gives girls the chance to decide if they want to attempt one system or the other, so someone who just reaching level 10 can say “you know what, I want nothing to do with elite” and continue on the J.O. track with college in mind, or they can try elite out and either stick with it for years or go back to level 10…with MAG it’s almost necessary because the path for most men is J.O., then college, then elite, with a few who excel at a really young age skipping college, but most will go the NCAA route and it makes them better athletes and then when they’re at a good age to start becoming more dominant as seniors – which is usually around 21 or so for the men – they’ve gone through college and can take the next step if they want to, or they can retire.

But with WAG, they’re literally deciding at 11 or 12 if they want to go the elite route, way before they even think of college. The path isn’t straightforward there like it is for MAG because women reach a physical peak in the sport at a younger age than the men do, and they’re either doing J.O., then elite, then college, or just J.O. and then elite. It’s very rare to see someone do the same J.O., college, elite path that the men take, because most women physically do not hold out until their early 20s at an elite level of difficulty. Since J.O. and NCAA require less in terms of difficulty, training time, and commitment compared to elite, girls and young women who want no part of that elite lifestyle can just bypass that whole side of the sport and stay on the J.O. to NCAA path, and those who DO want it can make the decision to take the other road. I think it makes sense, and don’t see any advantages to forcing J.O. athletes to adopt the FIG code just because 5% of them might end up qualifying elite someday, but for the men with the way they age from one to the next, it makes sense to keep it all uniform.

Why did they stop having world championships during Olympic years? Why do the championships following an Olympic year not include a team competition? Why do Euros alternate team and all-around competitions each year?

To answer the first question, worlds weren’t as well-attended when held the same year as the Olympics because the Olympics were the focus for almost every program (both in terms of budget and in terms of peaking athletes), so it made sense to just cut it down to one major international world-stage competition per year, and every other year got worlds, so the Olympic year became just about the Olympics (also there were only a couple of years where the two existed at the same time, aka 1992 and 1996…they basically tried it out and saw that it didn’t work at all and quickly changed it back).

Worlds in the post-Olympic year are individual only because most programs don’t have the depth to field a full team for a team competition since so many gymnasts either retire or go on a hiatus following the Olympic Games. The top countries could do it since they have more depth, but countries that have only a handful of elites and then lose a bunch in the Olympics aftermath need a rebuilding period to let everyone rest, and so they don’t put the team pressure on at worlds like they do in the other years. The same goes for Euros and other major international events that alternate or just spend some years focusing on individual only…the team competitions are every other year so that they have time to kind of chill and not make it a constant focus, allowing teams to regroup and focus elsewhere.

Can you explain the new NCAA championships format for this year? What are your predictions for the top four?

The biggest change to the new format sees four teams in the final instead of six, but this will also change how regionals work. It will still be the top 36 teams that get to attend regionals, but instead of being a one-day thing with six teams at six different sites around the country and the top two from each advancing to nationals, regionals will now consist of a three-day competition at four sites around the country with nine teams at each site.

The top 28 teams (seven at each regionals site) will be automatically seeded into the actual regionals competition, but the teams ranked 29th through 36th (two teams per regionals site) will have to compete in a kind of prelims called a “play-in.” These two teams will compete at a dual meet on the first day of the competition, and the team that wins at each site gets to join the regionals competition held on day two.

That means a total of eight teams per site – the seven that seeded in and the one that wins the play-in – will compete in the regionals competition. Each site will have two different sessions with four teams each, and the top two teams from each session will advance to the super regional, held as a single meet on the third day.

The top two teams from each of the four super regionals (so eight teams total) will qualify to national championships. Nationals will be pretty much the same as ever, with two sessions of prelims and then the one final meet, but it’s just eight teams split into two prelims sessions with four in the final instead of twelve and six as it’s been in the past.

Basically, long story short, 36 teams qualify to regional competition, 32 compete in the main regionals session, 16 compete in the super regional, 8 compete in NCAA prelims, and 4 compete in the NCAA final.

Does the age limit decrease to 17 for the Summer Universiade apply to gymnastics? Could Brooklyn Moors or Ana Padurariu compete for Canada this summer?

Yup! I believe the rule states that any athlete who is at least 17 or under 28 on January 1 in the year of the event is eligible to compete, regardless of the sport they’re in. However, they have to be student athletes at the time they compete, and since many 17-year-old gymnasts aren’t yet enrolled in college, I don’t think they’d be eligible. I think the rule for being in college is something like you have to have been enrolled at the university level within a year of the Universiade competition and since many gymnasts will defer college until after the Olympics, the majority of gymnasts you see in the competition tend to be a little older.

There are some exceptions, though, and it is possible to attend in the summer prior to starting university. Using Universiade in 2017 as an example, Pauline Tratz and Antonia Alicke had both just turned 18 when they represented Germany at Universiade a couple months before going to UCLA and UIC, respectively, and Sara King of Slovenia was also 18 when she competed that summer, and on her way to Springfield in the fall. These were the youngest gymnasts at this competition, with the majority aged 20-22.

It’s possible a couple of countries will send incoming freshmen this summer as well, so we may see some girls around 17-18, but neither Brooklyn nor Ana would be eligible this year because even though they’re the right age, neither will be enrolled in college within the year (I believe Brooklyn is starting in 2020 and Ana doesn’t have NCAA plans yet, but if she does end up committing to a program, she won’t attend until after Tokyo).

When gymnasts compete in the world cup series and they qualify through to Tokyo that way, do they only get to compete the events they won?

Nope, they get to compete whichever events they’d like! Originally the rule was that they could just compete the event they won, but it got messy with some girls potentially qualifying multiple events so they were just kinda like, who cares, let’s let them do whatever. Most probably will stick to their one event especially if they’re true specialists, but I could see a few of them deciding to just do the all-around even if their chances in that competition or on the other events were low.

I could’ve sworn there was a rule in the code a few years ago stating that if an athlete wears beam shoes during QF or TF, then every member of the team also has to wear beam shoes…but I can’t find this rule in the current code. Was this ever a rule, has it changed recently, and would it apply to lyrical shoes or just the full white shoes?

I never saw this rule…I have seen a bunch of ‘uniformity’ rules over the year but am unsure if this specifically was ever part of that. I know many teams now have some gymnasts who wear gym shoes while others don’t (Canada comes to mind specifically) so it definitely isn’t a penalty right now.

Assuming there was a 2013 Kyla Ross at the Olympic Trials in 2016, whose spot would she have taken?

I would imagine Gabby Douglas, if anyone, but I don’t think she would’ve taken that spot, to be honest. I don’t think even Kyla at her absolute best would’ve been a stronger all-arounder than Simone Biles or Aly Raisman, and they would’ve wanted Laurie Hernandez on the team as well for her beam and floor…and then Madison Kocian for bars, Kyla wouldn’t have changed anything there. So that leaves Gabby, and she was a stronger all-arounder and bars worker in 2016 than Kyla was in 2013, so I think Kyla would’ve been the one left out, though she’d probably be the top choice for an alternate unless she got even stronger than her 2013 self with upgrades and stuff. Basically if she stayed in the same physical condition she was in 2013 and didn’t grow 20 feet and had been able to upgrade, I think she could’ve been in the mix over Gabby or Madison based on her strengths.

Have a question? Ask below! Remember that the form directly below this line is for questions; to comment, keep scrolling to the bottom of the page. We do not answer questions about team predictions nor questions that ask “what do you think of [insert gymnast here]?”

Article by Lauren Hopkins

 

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12 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

    • Yeah…it’s unlikely that a team ranked 29th through 36th will make it to the very last round of regionals but still, even two competitions back-to-back is a lot, especially because then the top teams will have to do it AGAIN at nationals. And if a lower-ranked team DOES end up surprising, then three meets in three days? It’s way too nuts.

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        • I think it’s because teams on the bubble of the top 36 were upset that it gave them fewer chances to qualify to regionals…it definitely seems silly to me and if anything, the play-in should be like the wildcard game going into baseball postseason where it’s entirely separate from regionals and it’s like a final death match to qualify the last team to a regional site where only the top 32 compete. That way the 33rd-36th ranked teams still get to say they made postseason, but it doesn’t mess up the bracketing.

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  1. Agree that there’s quite a few gymnasts who do elite without having the Olympics and national team as the end goal. Wasn’t Macy Toronjo another one who wanted to see what the elite experience was like in 2014?

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    • Yeah, she and Kim at nationals that year were just thrilled she hit. They had no goals other than hitting, and thought it was an honor to qualify to nationals, so even though they knew she wasn’t going to be in the running for the national team, they didn’t want to pass up on an opportunity like that. I think a majority of elites know or at least have a sense of their standing in terms of making teams, but many will continue doing it anyway if they love it because it’s super prestigious and a huge deal for them to make it to that level even if they don’t ultimately make the very top teams.

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  2. Lauren, when do juniors attempting to qualify elite have to stop competing J.O.? Is it after they’ve qualified to classics? I know a lot of girls will do an L10 season and then go straight into the elite season, but what about someone who doesn’t qualify to Classics? Or someone who qualifies to Classics but not nationals? This has always confused me.

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    • Someone who doesn’t qualify to classics hasn’t qualified elite so they can still keep competing J.O.! Qualifying elite and qualifying to the American and U.S. Classic are the same thing. Once they make it to classics, however, they are considered elite and no longer can compete L10.

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      • So could a gymnast who qualifies to Classics in, say, March still finish her L10 season before she actually competes at Classics? Because otherwise that would seem to disadvantage girls who attend the earlier qualifiers.

        Sorry for all the questions, this has just always really confused me!

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        • Oh, yup! Yeah some will actually choose to finish up their level 10 seasons and it’s fine to do so even if they qualify elite before their level 10 season is over. Some won’t, they’ll just go right to classics, but some prefer to because it gives them more competitive experience to get ready.

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  3. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Hold my beer | The Gymternet

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