It’s time for the 255th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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Do you think MyKayla Skinner has a chance to make it to Tokyo on the team, or will she go to the apparatus cups like Jade Carey?
She hasn’t meet the requirements the U.S. set for attending the apparatus world cups, so my guess is that she will try to do what she did in 2016, becoming a top all-arounder with a focus on vault and floor so she can attempt to make the team that way. With Simone Biles pretty much a lock right now, she’ll just have to make herself as competitive as possible on all four events and hope that the other two aside from Simone have bars and beam as their standout events so she can be relevant with vault and floor as hers.
I think while the U.S. is going to take four all-arounders to Tokyo, they’re not just going to take the top four from trials and call it a day. It’ll likely be the two best all-arounders, and then two all-arounders who are really great on one or two events, but might finish sixth or seventh all-around because they’re weaker on others. If MyKayla finishes sixth all-around at trials but has the second-highest vault and floor scores behind Simone, even if her bars and beam aren’t among the best in the country, she’ll make more sense as someone with a 15+ vault potential and 14+ floor potential over someone who finishes third or fourth all-around but with a DTY and 13.5s on every other event. I think the ideal situation is the two best all-arounders, an all-arounder with big vault and floor scores (like MyKayla or Jade Carey, if she wasn’t going for the individual spot), and then an all-arounder with big bars and beam scores (think Kyla Ross in 2012).
I think she definitely has a chance at making it happen, especially if she ends up looking like she did at the 2016 Olympic Trials…right now it looks like there’s a lot more depth than there was in 2016, but at this point last quad with more than a year to go before the Olympics, there was also a ton of depth…some of that depth drops off as the months wind down. We’ve already seen a few of the gymnasts we thought would be big this quad end up moving on, and over the next year it’s going to keep happening. If MyKayla can stay in top shape and consistently end up a top gymnast on the team, she can absolutely make it happen.
Is Ashton Locklear still training?
No, in fact…she just announced her retirement last night!
Why is an illusion turn called an illusion turn?
It’s not just a gymnastics skill…it comes from dance and was called that in dance, so the name transferred over to gymnastics along with the skill itself. I don’t know why exactly it was named as such, but I’d guess it has something to do with it looking like a magic trick (ILLUSION, Michael) because it starts out looking like the turn is going to look a certain way but then the torso pivots down and it’s like woah, that’s not what I was expecting. I don’t know how much sense that makes but I think it’s the kind of skill described by how it looks…it definitely doesn’t come from a name!
How do you think Jordyn Wieber will do going from a volunteer coach to head coach with no assistant experience?
I think she’ll do an incredible job. Even though she was “just” a manager and “just” a volunteer coach at UCLA, she went to that school in 2013 and spent six years around Val Kondos Field. Even though she didn’t get that assistant experience, I honestly don’t think it’s necessary. Courtney Kupets went right into a head coaching role with NO experience aside from coaching kids at a gym, and Jen Llewellyn went from NCAA athlete to head coach in just a couple of years, taking Lindenwood from a brand-new Division II program to a regionals qualifier. Age ain’t nothing but a number and experience can be found in many ways. The only thing she probably won’t be used to doing is the administrative side of head coaching, but she’ll have the Arkansas athletic department to help her with that. I think she’ll be more than fine.
Do you think Arkansas will attract better athletes now that Jordyn Wieber is the head coach? Will her lack of coaching experience work against her?
I think they’ve been attracting some of the top level 10 athletes and even a few elites for years now, but yes, I think more elites especially might include Arkansas on their list of top choices, especially since she’s a bit younger and they’ll be able to relate to a woman who’s essentially their age more than they would with coaches at other programs. I think that’s her biggest draw, honestly, and no, I don’t think her lack of coaching experience will work against her.
I’m surprised it’s not a conflict of interest for Jordyn Wieber to hire her boyfriend as the Arkansas assistant coach. What do you make of this?
There are many husband/wife and boyfriend/girlfriend coaching teams throughout NCAA, and Jordyn wouldn’t necessarily be the one hiring Chris Brooks. She’d be in on the decision and probably (obviously) recommended him and pushed him up the ladder but ultimately the decision is with the athletic department and they approve situations like this all the time. I think if it’s between him and someone else with similar credentials, it’s kind of like a “why not” situation. It would be one thing if he was vastly inexperienced with zero NCAA-level coaching under his belt and went up against a 20-year NCAA veteran with proven results, but I don’t think it’s a big deal for teams of significant others to take on roles like these.
Since Simone Biles and Aliya Mustafina almost never participate in world cups, do you think they were paid large sums of money to participate at the Stuttgart World Cup?
I think with all of the hype around the Stuttgart World Cup due to worlds being held in the same arena later this year, there was possibly some sort of benefit drawing both to come compete, like “hey, come do this PR for us and we’ll pay you” or something like that. The U.S. and Russia were both going to send gymnasts anyway, and Aliya was getting ready to potentially compete at Euros so seeing her on the roster wasn’t SO surprising to me, but seeing Simone was definitely a surprise and I wouldn’t be shocked if Stuttgart asked USA Gymnastics if they could send her.
Do you think Zoé Allaire-Bourgie looks as promising as Ana Padurariu did when she was a junior? Had she been eligible to compete at the Youth Olympic Games, would she have a chance at medaling?
Yes, she is absolutely as promising as Ana Padurariu was as a junior, and I think she would’ve been one of the top medal threats at the Youth Olympic Games in the all-around and on several events had she been age eligible! She’s also going to be a huge threat for the Olympic team. Her difficulty isn’t huge on most events but she’s so clean at everything, and so consistent, she’s going to be hard to leave behind next year.
Do you have a list of all of the U.S. women that have gone pro? And when in their career they made the switch?
I don’t have a list of absolutely everyone and when they made the switch…it’s not a big deal to me or something I think that really matters in terms of the sport itself; it’s more a personal decision. USA Gymnastics keeps a list of athletes and their agents, which isn’t absolutely everyone who has ever gone pro (like other Mag 7 gymnasts were also pro), but it has all of the current big names as well as those who continue to be heavily featured in media.
The majority of female gymnasts who go pro tend to do it once they’ve had a couple of years of international experience behind them, and once they seem like locks for the Olympic Games, because that’s really the only way they’ll get opportunities big enough to choose going pro over going to college. Some – like Nastia Liukin and Rebecca Bross – have gone pro very early on before any big teams were a guarantee, and while it worked out for Nastia, it didn’t work out for Rebecca, so I think most would prefer to wait it out. Some have also gone pro regardless of whether they were going to be the next big thing, like Darling Hill, who went pro in 2008 so she could fundraise and get local sponsors for her competitions in the Olympic year, which were difficult for her to afford otherwise.
Why do power gymnasts generally peak later and not really get affected by puberty?
I think it’s to do with body type, as more muscular gymnasts tend to just have the strength and durability to last longer than those who aren’t as well muscled and end up with bird bones that break every time they land a bars dismount. Obviously that sort of body type also lends itself well to these gymnasts having a lot of power, which is why the greater number of long-lasting gymnasts also happen to be the “power gymnasts” but it’s definitely because they just have a build that allows for them to do these hard-landing skills for an extended period of time.
I always use Aly Raisman because it was always hilarious to me that she’d land in a way that would literally kill other gymnasts and she’d just get up and walk away. She landed the punch front out of her double arabian straight on her head in a touch warm-up in London, and she just got up and did her next pass like nothing happened, and at nationals one year she landed her Amanar so lock-legged I thought she was going to blow out both knees and I literally almost screamed and covered my eyes because it was the worst landing I had ever seen, and she…saluted and ran off the podium. She’s muscular to begin with, but then also doing the Brestyan leg/plyometric workouts helped her basically become indestructible. Anyone that naturally muscular who then also works on strengthening that intensely is going to far outlast someone who is more lean and who doesn’t condition quite as much.
What successful gymnasts do you think didn’t have that much raw talent?
I honestly can’t think of any and think all of them have great natural talent, which is how they get to that level to begin with…even gymnasts who are at lower J.O. levels are super naturally talented…as someone who could barely do level 4 skills at my peak because I just had zero natural gift for flipping and twisting, no amount of training helped me get skills that came easily to other kids. That said, you can’t just rely on only talent to become an elite, so it’s definitely a combination of that natural talent, hours and hours of hard work, and an insane level of discipline.
There are definitely some at the elite level who are considered harder workers because they don’t have a natural elite-level talent…like Aly Raisman was always talked about in this way because when she first started elite, she was talented but had lots of little issues that she needed to work really hard to iron out, and there are others in similar positions who weren’t quite as elite-level amazing when they were younger…but I think pretty much ALL of the successful gymnasts have had incredible gifts on top of the work that it took to bring them out to reach their full potential. I think there are far more people on the other side of the coin, who have endless amounts of natural talent but lack the drive and work ethic that it takes to be an elite gymnast. Talented kids are a dime a dozen, but the real rarity is how you use it.
How do gymnasts learn new skills like a double double? How do they acquire the skill of rotating and twisting? Would they be tied to a rope so the coach could control rotation in the air?
Once you learn how to flip and twist, the number doesn’t matter so much if you have that motion down, so it becomes more about just having the power to do more. If a kid can learn to do a back full, then a back double full is just a matter of training more power and air awareness to have the time in the air to complete the skill, and the same goes for other skills that have progressions from easier to harder. But that’s what it’s all about, progressions and drills. Coaches can use harnesses to help out, especially as then they can control the rotation so the gymnast can get the feel of the skill, but getting from one skill to the next in gymnastics is all about building on foundations and making progressions from easier to harder so while a double double seems totally wild, a gymnast who is doing back tucks, and then back tuck fulls, and then double backs, and then full-in double backs will be able to progress to a double double. I’ve seen kids who only compete full-ins throw quadruple-twisting double backs into the pit for fun without actually being trained to do them, so it’s definitely more about just having the power to do those bigger skills.
Are there more lefty or righty tumblers? What about turning and flexibility?
I never actually pay attention to the direction gymnasts tumble, honestly…if I had to guess, I’d say righty just thinking off the top of my head about most roundoff back handsprings I see on floor. For turns, it depends…I’m better at left en dedans turns and right en dehors to the point where I can barely do them on the opposite leg. I’ve seen several gymnasts who are righties for tumbling end up turning left, so I think with turns in general it just really comes down more to what feels more comfortable and not so much about which is their dominant leg. For flexibility I think the dominant leg ends up being more flexible but again, that could really depend on what exactly they’re doing.
What is your favorite floor music?
I hate this question (no offense!!) because I have one billion favorite pieces of floor music and I never know what to say. Right now I’m super freaking into Bach’s cello suites in general, and I recently heard a Piano Guys cover of the Prelude to the Cello Suite No. 1 which is amazing and I want someone to do a really cool routine to it stat. I think my favorite in the past ten years is Lieke Wevers’ “Nuvole Bianche” music, and I also really love this…that “Skeletons” music that Laurie Hernandez made famous became so overused but that cut I just linked to is my favorite that came out of that trend. I also love anything really dramatic/action movie-esque like “Battle for the Beat” and Alicia Sacramone’s music from 2011. Okay, maybe I love this question.
How did Olympic qualification work last quad?
Last quad, for teams the top eight from 2015 worlds qualified to the Olympic Games, and then the teams ranked 9th through 16th at worlds qualifications qualified to the Test Event, where the top four teams there moved on to Rio. For individuals, any gymnast who won a medal at 2015 worlds automatically qualified a nominative spot, and then a total of 40 individual non-nominative all-around spots were open for gymnasts to qualify from 2015 worlds through to the Test Event. The countries that finished 17th through 24th in qualifications at 2015 worlds each qualified two non-nominative all-around spots to the Test Event, and then the gymnasts that finished in the top 24 individually (minus the nations with full teams at 2015 worlds) also qualified non-nominative gymnasts to the test event. At the Test Event, four individual non-nominative spots went to the teams that had full teams at the Test Event but didn’t qualify full teams to the Olympics (Australia, Switzerland, Romania, and South Korea), and then the top 30 gymnasts in the all-around outside of those teams earned nominative spots to the Games.
Which gymnasts compete a double double vault?
No gymnasts compete a double double on vault! The closest we’ve come is gymnasts who do full-twisting double backs on vault in MAG (the Ri Se Gwang). I’d think a double double would be pretty much impossible, especially in WAG where we’re still yet to see a Yurchenko double tuck, but maybe someone crazy enough in MAG will go for it, hahaha.
What was Liu Jieyu’s floor music in Birmingham at the world cup?
I don’t know the name of it but if anyone has a guess, let us know in the comments!
Who is the oldest gymnast to have ever won a gold medal at the Olympics?
A few gymnasts in their early 30s won gold medals back in the 1950s and 1960s, but the oldest to win an individual gold medal was Agnes Keleti of Hungary, who won the bars, beam, and floor medals (in addition to contributing to the team portable gold) in 1956 when she was 35 years old. The Soviet gymnast Galina Urbanovich was also 35 when she helped her team win the gold in 1952, and Zdenka Vermirovska of Czechoslovakia was 35 when she contributed to her country’s team gold in 1948.
Why do you think Alicia Sacramone was able to avoid being blacklisted by Martha Karolyi after Beijing?
I honestly don’t think she totally avoided it…and I think that contributed to her initially retiring following Beijing. But I think when she came back, she was such a confident and solid force, Martha couldn’t leave her behind based on mistakes from two years earlier, and when she got that second chance, she did everything she could to prove why she was worthy.
Do you think there was any scenario under which Hollie Vise could have made the Olympic team in 2004, or do you think her issues at worlds the year before sealed her fate? Was she ruled out immediately after Anaheim?
I don’t think she was ruled out immediately after Anaheim, but I think based on the needs of the team and where she fit in, she just didn’t make sense in 2004 when it came down to pick. She still had great bars and beam in 2004, but I think they also wanted four all-arounders just in case, which they ended up needing when Courtney Kupets got injured in the team final and Mohini Bhardwaj had to sub in on beam…I think they wanted as many options as possible for the team competition, and we also don’t know every single thing that happened at camp. I remember being super shocked that she didn’t even get an alternate spot, so I always thought something must have happened to hold her back.
What is going on with Laura Jurca? Is she coming back to Romania or is she done?
She’s done. She moved to Germany and initially wanted to train there and either keep competing for Romania or somehow get onto the German team, so she did a few Bundesliga meets, but then ultimately she decided to retire. While this was all going on, she hit a growth spurt and wasn’t able to get back to her old skill level, so I think that also had something to do with her no longer training at a high level.
I know some gymnasts are training with the hope of competing at the Olympics next year but they haven’t competed at anything recently. How likely is it that they’ll make an Olympic team? How late have you seen a gymnast start entering competitions and successfully make a team?
It happens often, especially on teams that don’t have a ton of depth. In the U.S. it’s more rare, but Laurie Hernandez missed almost two years of her junior career, but then came back about 18 months before the Olympics and she obviously was fine. Also, not the Olympics, but Alicia Sacramone got back to elite in July of 2010 and was on the worlds team a few months later, but that was a comeback, not a first-time situation so it’s a bit different. I’d say if gymnasts are back by this summer and make the worlds selection camp, they’ll likely be at least in contention whether or not the likelihood of them making the team is super high.
How is Mao Yi coming along after her injuries?
She’s actually doing great! She just competed at Chinese nationals last week, and while she’s not at a hundred percent on vault and floor, she’s doing both of them and seems to be happy and healthy!
What is the status of Stella Savvidou at UCLA? Did she red shirt? What are the chances of her getting a sixth year if she red shirted but got injured again?
She was injured this year but she’ll be taking a fifth year and finishing up her career in 2020!
What is the first vault in this video? Is it named?
The first vault is a handspring front layout half, which is fairly common, especially for gymnasts who are trying to work their way up to a Rudi. I believe it was first competed by Wang Huiying at world championships in 1987, and I’m pretty sure it’s named for her in the code to this day! Most people just call it a handspring layout half, though.
Following the news that Chinese tumbling world champion Jia Fangfang switched over to artistic gymnastics and is working big passes on floor, are there cases in the past where athletes successfully switched from other disciplines? What about from other sports? Have gymnasts had successful careers in other sports?
There have been a few changes from one discipline to another. I think it’s most common to see artistic gymnasts move to other sports, especially tumbling, trampoline, and acro, but some tumbling gymnasts have moved to artistic in the past (which can be difficult for them because they’re not used to the more performative aspect), and some rhythmic gymnasts have also moved to artistic. I think most of the artistic switches to trampoline and other non-artistic disciplines come at a younger age (especially in the U.S. where gymnasts who don’t do as well in competitive artistic gymnastics decide to switch to what they see as an “easier” sport because there aren’t as many kids doing it) and it’s definitely more rare for girls like Fangfang or Melissa Doucette (who switched from artistic to tumbling in the U.S.) to have successful elite or high-level NCAA careers and then make the change.
If a team qualified for Tokyo 2020 managed to get two qualification spots from individual apparatus world cups, would they have to forfeit one?
Yup, only one apparatus spot is allowed per country, so they wouldn’t get two spots to begin with! An immediate tie-breaker at the final meet would determine which athlete gets the spot.
If a team earned three or more individual spots for Tokyo 2020, do they choose which spot they forfeit? Qualification for other countries would be dependent on these decisions. When will FIG be notified so they know which next-best gymnast to award the spot to?
No, a tie-breaker exists to determine which spot is awarded to that gymnast/country and at the final apparatus cup meet in the series, everyone will know exactly who has qualified.
What happens to an individual spot if the gymnast is injured prior to Tokyo?
If it’s a nominative apparatus world cup spot, it would go to the alternate based on results from that meet (so if Jade Carey wins vault and Maria Paseka comes in second, but then Jade gets injured, it would go to Maria). But if it’s a non-nominative spot, the country could choose who the replacement would be.
Is a hop to change your grip on uneven bars an element? Would it interfere with CV or be considered a break in the flow of a routine?
A hop change is an actual legitimate skill, and you see them occasionally in routines. Some routines start out immediately where they’ll mount the bar in regular grip and then kip cast to handstand and do an immediate hop change into a front giant before a Jaeger or something. Others will do them mid-routine, but either way, it’s allowed and considered an element!
If one person qualifies to the Olympics twice by getting the bars and beam apparatus world cup titles, for example, which of the runner-ups will get the spot?
There’s a tie-breaker in place that will determine which event she qualifies on, and I think this is my one hundred billionth time answering this question over the past few months. THIRD IN THIS POST ALONE!
Simone Biles liked a tweet that said she is the second woman to win nationals five times, but I’ve read a bunch of articles saying she’s the first. What’s the real story?
A gymnast named Clara Schroth Lomady won six all-around titles between 1945 and 1952, so technically Simone is the second. I’m guessing the articles that discuss it consider her the first of the modern era, since gymnastics in the 1940s and early 1950s was basically unrecognizable compared to what the sport is today.
Who are some of the tallest and shortest elite gymnasts?
The shortest seniors are probably around 4’7 or 4’8…I know Simone Biles was around this height at one point, though I think she’s a tiny bit taller now, and there are some others who have been around this height as seniors/adults. The tallest elites have been around 5’7 or 5’8 I believe…Georgia-Rose Brown and Nina Derwael are two of the tallest I’ve seen in recent years. There are a few others around this height, but they’re probably the most prominent in terms of being at a high success level.
Why do Russians salute the judges with one arm instead of two?
It’s just a stylistic choice. The salute is just done to acknowledge the judges and let them know they’re getting ready to compete, so pay attention…but it’s not required to do two arms up.
Where is Nica Hults’ sister Sofia now?
She was a level 7 at the end of the 2018 season but I haven’t seen her compete this year!
Do you think Aly Raisman is fully done with gymnastics? Why isn’t she announcing her retirement?
Yes, she is done with gymnastics. She has basically said a few times in various interviews that working on advocacy for sexual assault victims is what she wants to dedicate her time to now, and so rather than returning to the sport, this seems to be her priority. Most gymnasts don’t do an official retirement announcement…usually those of her notoriety do, but I’m guessing with the way the sport looks now in the post-Nassar world, it made more sense for her to make it about her advocacy rather than just simply announcing she’s done with a career highlight reel or something.
Where is Victoria Nguyen training?
She is now training at Everest Gymnastics.
I saw Viktoria Komova performing a triple tuck off bars. Is it a Magana?
Yup! A Magana, named for Mexican gymnast Brenda Magana at worlds in 2002, is a triple back dismount off bars. It’s rated a G.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins