It’s time for the 256th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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With continental championships being a qualifier for the Olympics, where does Australia stand? Do they miss out on earning that spot? Could they hop into a continental championships somewhere else?
They’ll begin hosting the Oceania Championships, which will qualify one non-nominative spot to the Olympics. Right now the only two member nations with high-level elites are Australia or New Zealand, so it’s not going to be a huge event and that’s why they only get one spot while other continents get two. It’s basically going to be an extended Australian Championships, and they’re testing it this year at nationals with the inaugural meet, but honestly I think since they have only two countries participating, it would be more fair if they joined another continent for the sake of qualification.
Oceania has two countries up for one spot, whereas Europe has something like 40 countries vying for two spots, so it’s basically the “here’s a free spot, Australia” rule (a couple New Zealanders could maybe potentially make it happen, but Australia is going to be more likely to qualify). Geographically it’d make sense for them to join Asia, but it would also make sense for Africa and Oceania to combine since they’re the two weakest continents in terms of how many countries participate in international gymnastics…and then there’s always the “well, Australia does Eurovision, so they should join the European continent for sports events” argument. 🙂
Either way, it’s just crazy to me that Europe has SO MANY very strong countries trying for two spots while Oceania and Africa have only a couple trying for basically the same number of spots, but at the same time we obviously want to encourage the growth of the sport at a worldwide level, and this is the best way to get more countries from outside of Europe, Asia, and the Americas to the Olympic Games so I can justify both sides of the story…and hopefully now that the Oceania governing body exists, Australia and New Zealand can help bring some smaller countries from the region into the sport through camps!
I love the sport of gymnastics, and the athletes involved, and I want to help shape the organization into something the athletes deserve. What kind of job positions make up gymnastics organizations, or what careers are there aside from being a coach or athlete?
There are several jobs within organizations and specific programs that are more about the administration of the program and have nothing to do with coaching, though these jobs all tend to go to people with a history in coaching/competing in the sport. The U.S. women’s program, for example, had Steve Rybacki handling the administration of the women’s program at one point, Rhonda Faehn’s job was more administrative than coaching, Terin Humphrey’s has nothing to do with coaching…they like to choose from within, which isn’t super healthy especially given everything that happened in the U.S. women’s program in recent years, but it’s just how they do it, unfortunately. These would be the most effective roles in terms of helping athletes and shaping an organization or discipline within it, but then there are other more business-oriented roles like media relations and finance and human resources, though these aren’t really related to the athletes and their well-being as much. Honestly you’d think human resources should also include athlete concerns, but since they’re not technically employed by the organizations in most countries, it’s like shrug, not our problem. Then in addition to roles within organizational structures, there are now athlete safety non-profits that are coming up in the U.S. to work on programs for abuse prevention, but I think these are more volunteer-based than actual jobs for the most part. It’s hard to get in and help, which is unfortunate because there are a lot of people outside the organizations who want to work to make the sport better for everyone, but there’s still just this iron wall that is impossible to penetrate if you’re not already in the system in some capacity.
What is the format for European Games?
It’s kind of unclear on the official site, and the directives on the FIG website aren’t opening for me, but I’m 99% certain they have one day of qualifications (which will also serve as the all-around final), and then two days of event finals. There is no team competition this year, unlike in 2015 when the qualification round also served as the team medal event, so it’s going to be a short and sweet three days of competition for both men and women.
If Katelyn Ohashi spoke with an agent or Dancing With the Stars producers prior to championships, would this be an NCAA violation?
No, not if they weren’t paying her at the time. She couldn’t sign with an agent or accept money prior to finishing her NCAA career, but side conversations on the sly wouldn’t really affect her.
In the past few quads, there has been a first-year senior on the U.S. Olympic team. Which gymnast from the 2004 class do you think is the most promising for next year?
I don’t think we’ll see that this quad based on the 2004-born gymnasts and what they’ve done at this point, but you never know who will really step it up in the next year to get on that level. In the 2008 quad, we knew Shawn Johnson was going to make the team when she was like 14, in the 2012 quad we knew Kyla Ross was going to at least be a major contender going back to when she was 12 or 13, and in the 2016 quad, we knew if Laurie Hernandez was healthy, she was going to get on that team back when she was also about 13-14 (I actually still have an email I wrote in 2012 when Laurie had no difficulty but such star potential and I said in that email when she was 11 years old that she was going to Rio). But right now, there’s no one who stands out to me in the way Shawn, Kyla, and Laurie did back in their time.
The top 2004 junior in the U.S. right now is definitely Kayla DiCello, but she fits right in with that huge group of current seniors who can all score about the same, and as she’s not a big standout on any event, I think she’ll kind of get lost in that crowd unless she can really find a way to get ahead of them. She had a super big jump in her ability/potential between 2017 and 2018, so it’s possible they’re holding her back with bigger skills and routines that she might be capable of, but based on what we’ve seen over the past year she’s just going to be another really talented all-arounder in a pile of really talented all-arounders.
Sophia Butler is my favorite, I think, but I think she’s going to be like MyKayla Skinner and have an okay first-year senior career but then really get it together and make herself more of a contender when she’s a bit older. I think the other likely contenders would be Olivia Greaves, Ciena Alipio, Lilly Lippeatt, and JaFree Scott, but with all of them I think they just have like, one or two great events and then need work overall. But I could see JaFree doing some kind of Elizabeth Price 2012 magic where she just comes in as the dark horse in the Olympic year with major upgrades. If I had to pick going off of my gut, it’s JaFree for me.
Do you think anyone will ever get a perfect score in the open-ended code?
I think if it’s going to happen, it’s going to be Simone Biles at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials sticking a vault. That’s probably the most likely scenario, and I think it would have happened in 2016 had she stuck her Amanar in either day of competition! I think she can honestly make it happen with the Cheng this quad, though.
Why do almost all Chinese gymnasts have top difficulty on certain events but never get the highest scores?
I mean, Fan Yilin won the world bars title in 2017 and Liu Tingting won the world beam title in 2018, so they definitely do get some of the highest scores. I think sometimes, however, that high difficulty is counterproductive if they don’t have a great routine in the moment, which happens. Yilin is almost perfect with most of her bars, but sometimes struggles with the dismount, which takes her E score down a bit (obviously especially if she falls), and when Tingting is on in her beam routine, it’s basically heaven, but her routine is made up of so many quick connections, so if she’s even slightly off with them, she can also take a major hit. The same goes for any gymnast with super high difficulty…you have to be able to match that difficulty with an equally good performance level if you want to win medals and get the top scores. That said, there has definitely been some scoring bias against the Chinese internationally, especially in the 2016 quad, but in recent years it’s gotten better and has just been more about them not always having their best possible routines when it counts.
In the women’s apparatus world cups, will the top three athletes on each apparatus qualify, or only the winner of each?
Only the winner of each at the end of the series in 2020 will qualify to the Olympics, for a total of four qualifiers in the women’s field, and six in the men’s field.
Why was Brielle Nguyen’s score always a 9.85-9.9, even when she wasn’t in the leadoff position?
It’s hard to say without having the judges’ exact reasons for deducting, but if I had to guess I’d say it was her switch leap and/or transverse split jump half not always looking like they hit 180 (in videos if you slow it down it gets just to 180 but in real time they always looked a bit short), or perhaps her knee form (and sometimes her extension in general) and chest position in her layout stepout? I think these are problems that would be (and have been) ignored if her name was Kyla Ross or Katelyn Ohashi, to be honest, but while she often hit really amazing wobble-free routines, which would be an automatic 10 for Kyla or Katelyn, they couldn’t realistically give everyone 10s, and so for some girls they had to actually take those more form/technique-based deductions that exist.
What if an ambitious young gymnast has hopes of making it to elite or college, but their family doesn’t have the means to move around the country to go to the best clubs? Are gymnasts who train at these clubs from wealthy backgrounds?
They don’t have to go to the best clubs to reach the elite or NCAA levels. In New York, where there aren’t a lot of strong clubs, you still see a ton of kids get NCAA scholarships from gyms like a YMCA in Long Island, and many top elites end up being the first kid from their club to make it big. Simone Biles, for instance, was the first elite to come out of Bannon’s, and of the current senior national team members, almost half of the gymnasts on the list are from clubs where they’re either the first elite, or the club only recently became a big name club (like MG Elite). The biggest clubs with the best coaches are going to have the most consistent stream of top-level gymnasts coming out of them, and some gymnasts whose parents have the means to get them to these top clubs will come to these clubs as transfers from smaller clubs, but if a kid has a ton of talent and a coach willing to put in the work to help them succeed, that’s all you really need.
That natural talent is sussed out at TOPs testing, and once it’s clear that a kid has what it takes to maybe make it to the elite level, they start getting invited to camps where their new-to-high-level coaches can get instruction and information from other more experienced coaches and national team staff to help their kid succeed. In most cases, kids tend to stay with their gyms or move to a slightly stronger program nearby, and it’s definitely way more rare to see a kid move across the country to go to a top club. It does happen, but it doesn’t necessarily imply wealth…some of the kids who have moved in recent years will end up leaving their families and staying as a guest with a host family so the whole family doesn’t have to be uprooted.
All of that being said, it’s hard to do gymnastics in the U.S. without being middle class in a household with an income that can afford expensive training fees, leotard/gear costs, competition and travel costs…if you have a lower-income family choosing between a free soccer or baseball program sponsored by the town and a $500/month gymnastics class, they’re probably going to choose the free sports program, which is why these sports tend to be more popular and why the majority of kids in gymnastics programs end up being from more well-off families. But a lot of gym families who aren’t wealthy or even moderately well-off do make sacrifices if their kids have the talent, and then some gyms will offer scholarship programs for kids who have the potential to someday make it big with elite/NCAA potential.
I think honestly it’s more a personal decision for families rather than a “we have to move to this bigger gym to be relevant” mindset. Some parents are willing to sacrifice everything to get what they think is the absolute best for their children, and other parents are more from the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. But from my experience, the parents who are like “WE NEED THE BEST GYM BECAUSE OUR CURRENT GYM IS NOT DOING ENOUGH FOR OUR PRECIOUS SUPERSTAR ANGEL” tend to have kids that aren’t going to be among the best of the best, but the parents would rather blame a “crappier” local gym for their kid not being the best instead of just accepting that their kid isn’t going to be the next Simone Biles. I have friends who coach J.O. and will have parents of level 6 kids blowing up at the coaches if their kid falls 50 times at a meet or doesn’t win states, but that kid will then move on to every other “better” gym in the state and have the same issues, so…it’s definitely absolutely not at all crucial to move programs to reach those levels.
Is Maggie Haney still training Laurie Hernandez for 2020 or does she have a new coach?
No, Laurie is currently training at Gym Max in California.
Will the U.S. Classic and U.S. Championships be streamed on YouTube like last year?
Most likely, yes!
Will the junior world championships be televised?
I believe it’s going to be streamed, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be televised…I’d guess no, since NBC doesn’t even televise U.S. junior championships, but maybe it’ll be on the Olympic Channel?
Who do you hope the new head coach will be at UCLA now that Val Kondos Field has left?
I was really secretly hoping it would be Amy Smith from Utah State, since she went to UCLA and is AMAZING and one of my favorite college coaches…but I was also really glad it went to Chris Waller, as he put in a ton of time with that program, and was a large reason for their success.
Do you know how the U.S. will select the team for junior world championships? What’s the format for this meet?
They will select the team based on U.S. national team camp verifications, similar to how they select teams for Jesolo and Pan Ams and other meets like that, and my guess is that since most of the juniors are at a similar level and since the team doesn’t really require any strategy with specialists getting involved, they’ll likely just take the top three all-arounders.
The competition will have qualifications that will also serve as the all-around and team finals, and then event finals. Teams have three gymnasts each, and all three will be allowed to compete the all-around in qualifications, though only the top two will count in the rankings for the all-around final. I think for the U.S., it’ll likely be Kayla DiCello and Konnor McClain with the third spot up for grabs depending on how everyone does at verification.
Any word on where and when nationals will be held in the U.S. next year?
Is Brooklyn Moors injured? Is Brittany Rogers retired? How has Isabela Onyshko’s transition to her new gym gone? Could she make any major teams soon?
Brooklyn was dealing with a minor injury earlier this year and they decided they didn’t want to push her too early. Brittany is kind of in limbo with her retirement, I think? She’s actively training, but is coaching at her old club and hasn’t officially said that she’s done. I personally hope she comes back because a vault/bars gymnast was exactly what they needed at worlds last year, and I think a team with Ellie Black, Brooklyn Moors, Shallon Olsen, Ana Padurariu, and Brittany on vault and bars at worlds this year could win a medal. Isabela is doing well at her new gym, but injuries over the past year have made it difficult for her to stay at a high level in terms of her skills, so she’s a little bit behind what we’re used to on vault, beam, and floor, and her bars have gotten a little messier/less consistent, but I’m glad she’s sticking around and working through these issues because I love her as a gymnast and think this is something she can get past.
Without the ‘perfect 10’ in elite I find myself lost at the scores sometimes. Can you give a sense of what a medal-contending score would be on the women’s events and in the all-around? What score does a gymnast have to reach to be competing for a top finish on these events?
Based on the highest scores in the world over the past few years under the new code, for a vault final, gymnasts want to be in the 14.6+ average range to medal, bars should be around 15+ ideally but in a weaker field you could get by with about a 14.6+ to be in contention, beam varies from competition to competition based on the judges but I’d say a solid 13.8-14+ is average (though judging is nuts on this event this quad so it’s impossible to say until we can gauge how they’re going to judge each meet), and floor is about 13.8+ to be solidly in contention at the moment. As for the all-around, most of the top gymnasts in the world who aren’t Simone Biles are consistently earning somewhere in the 55-56 range, whereas Simone is around a 58-59 on average, and she scored almost a 61 at worlds in qualifications last year.
What will happen with Mary Lee Tracy now that she had to resign from her ridiculously short-lived position as developmental coordinator? Will she go back to coaching? How will this affect her reputation?
She’s back to coaching at her gym, and most people who have always been on her side – which is a lot of people in the gymnastics community – have stuck by her side, thinking USA Gymnastics was ridiculous in this situation and that Mary Lee did no wrong. I do think that if USA Gymnastics wants to hire people that the survivors are going to call out as being problematic, they should (a) realize in advance WHY the survivors find them problematic, and (b) if they still decide to hire them, STAND BY THAT HIRE! So many times they’re like “you’re hired!” and then Twitter explodes and 20 minutes later they’re like “just kidding, you’re fired.” It makes them look completely ridiculous, and while I don’t agree that Mary Lee ever should’ve had that role due to her history, her reputation at the end of it all was exactly what it was before that all went down, whereas USA Gymnastics lost more points from many people who found their process to be incompetent, to say the least.
When will Gabby Douglas announce her retirement? What is she doing now? Does she plan on training?
I don’t know if she’ll officially announce…not everyone does. She’s doing her own thing now, with various ad campaigns still, and she’s been a guest on a ton of reality/game show TV programs. I also heard a rumor at one point that she was going to be on Celebrity Big Brother or something? That was a while ago, though…I remember seeing her name on a call sheet for filming so I think it happened but I just Googled and it looks like a teaser came out for the 21st season yesterday so I’d imagine she’s going to be on it in some capacity.
Do you think Emma Malabuyo has a chance of making the worlds team or even Tokyo 2020? What about Maile O’Keefe or Gabby Perea?
Emma, yes! She’s been doing amazingly well recently and I think she has an especially good chance at worlds this year, and then we’ll see about Tokyo next year. Maile has since retired from elite and is competing level 10, and Gabby has been dealing with a lot of injuries over the past couple of years so when she returned this year she wasn’t at a hundred percent, though I hope she can get back to a stronger place and at least make it to the selection camp this fall.
I noticed a lot of skills in the 80s and 90s that changed shape in the air (often from a pike to a layout) very noticeably. What happened to them?
I think they just kind of phased out at first, and then the code began requiring both flips in a double salto pass to be the same shape, so they’re no longer in the code of points. They were cool, though!
What deduction does a gymnast get if he/she can’t control the landing and touches the vault table?
I’ve seen gymnasts stumble forward or backward and crash into the vault table before, but there’s no penalty for actually touching the table, they just get deducted for the stumble back and the fall. If they were close enough to the vault table to touch it upon falling, they’d probably also get a deduction for lack of distance.
Do you think Elena Eremina has the potential to return at full strength and save the Russian team?
I hope so! She looked solid at nationals this year, but I can’t imagine how hard it is to get high-level difficulty back after the kind of surgery she had, so who knows if it’ll happen…at least they have lots of fantastic upcoming juniors!
Can you explain how the men’s training center works for those on the national team and those not currently training there?
I’m not as familiar with how this works, but I think those who train at club gyms or at NCAA programs just come to the training center if they’ve made a big team and then train with the rest of their team in the lead-up to that competition. They do have camps at times, so club/NCAA gymnasts would also attend these, but for the most part it’s similar to the women where their club is their main training center and the USOTC is just for national team camps or training for competitions like worlds.
When you’re going around the bar with your toes on the bar, does it matter whether your feet are between your hands or outside your hands? Is that considered the same skill (a toe-on)? Is it stylistic or dictated by something else?
I think it’s more a stylistic choice…there’s no difference in worth, anyway. Technically one would be a piked toe-on and the other would be a straddled toe-on but both are acceptable and are valued the same.
Why do gymnasts in elite not use a springboard to mount the low bar? Is there a rule against it?
I don’t know if there’s a rule against it (I can’t find anything in the code), but…they don’t really need it? The low bar is low enough to grasp without jumping, so unless they’re doing some sort of rarely-performed roundoff back handspring salto mount, there’s no need for a springboard.
If a gymnast decided to take the knee in protest during the national anthem at U.S. Championships, would there be consequences? Are there official rules against this?
There are no rules that I know of. I think some coaches and staff members might freak out, but I also think in the current climate with gymnasts just coming out of an era of being silenced, if someone actually reprimanded them for something like this, people would burn USA Gymnastics to the ground. If Simone Biles was like “I’m taking a knee” this summer for example, I doubt there’s much anyone could do. In some cases, sponsors might get mad and pull funding either for USA Gymnastics (not that they have any sponsors anymore anyway) or from an individual gymnast…and maybe USA Gymnastics could claim that it somehow goes against the national team code of conduct? But it doesn’t explicitly say that this isn’t allowed and again, if an athlete decided to use her voice in this way and USA Gymnastics retaliated, there would be hell to pay for USA Gymnastics. In NCAA, Alexis Brown from UC Davis took a knee for the national anthem in her senior year and her teammates (as well as gymnasts and parents from other teams) treated her like garbage, so there might also be some drama on that level.
In which moment does the bars/beam routine start when a gymnast mounts using a springboard — the moment her body leaves the springboard or when she touches the bars/beam? If a gymnast chooses a salto mount and completely misses, what deduction does she get?
I believe it’s the moment she leaves the springboard because the mount is considered a skill. Someone doing a salto mount would begin the skill when she leaves the springboard and if she misses it, it would count as a fall.
What is John Orozco’s beef with USA Gymnastics? He was publicly bitter at nationals last year and then this year he was bitter about Donnell Whittenburg. I thought it was about being in solidarity with the survivors but it seems like he was personally affronted somewhere along the line.
Yeah, I think his beef is entirely personal, honestly. I’m not sure what it’s about, specifically, but I know on the men’s team there was a kind of disconnect between the guys who did NCAA and the guys who didn’t. John and Danell Leyva had a kind of reputation for not being as team-oriented, whereas the NCAA guys were all about the team and each other, so I don’t know if that was just how those two were perceived and if it was the NCAA guys pushing them out, or if they were truly divas and didn’t want to be good teammates…either way, there was a divide, and so my guess has always been that John felt slighted due to this situation. But I don’t know if that’s the issue, or if the coaches did something he didn’t like, or if USA Gymnastics did something he didn’t like…I mean, he got an Olympic spot in 2016 despite not being at a hundred percent, which was kind of amazing given his injury history and errors at previous major competitions, so it’s not like he can claim that he was like, left off of teams or whatever. But beyond what we know publicly about him and his career and can gauge from that information, I don’t know a pinpointed reason for his anger.
Is Ragan Smith injured again, or still injured?
She’s basically still injured. I think that ankle has just been bothering her for a solid 18 months at this point, and she/her coaches/her family all insist that she’s fine, but she hasn’t really taken any time off and just keeps training and competing on a bum ankle which I think makes it harder for her to fully recover, and easier for her to keep re-injuring it, but that’s just me guessing and she would know more about her situation than I would. It’s just a bummer to see her in a boot in basically every picture she’s been in for the past almost two years now.
Is Morgan Hurd really committed to Florida? Can she go whenever she wants or can she wait until she sees if she makes it to Tokyo 2020?
Yes, she’s committed to Florida, and she’s waiting until after the Tokyo 2020 process before she attends! I guess technically she could start her NCAA career in the coming season, but that would mean doing four months of NCAA and then only having two months to get back to elite-level difficulty, which would make no sense. Most gymnasts who would normally start college the year of the Olympics end up deferring until after that process is over because it would be insanely difficult to make the transition from elite to NCAA in January, then make the transition back from NCAA to elite four months later. They’re usually better off deferring.
Can you explain the entire process of qualifying to the Olympics as an individual? Like what Jade Carey is trying to do.
To qualify to the Olympics through the world cup apparatus series, a gymnast has to have the highest point total at the end of the overall series on the event on which she’s trying to qualify. The series comprises eight meets (four held in 2019, four held in 2020), and the minimum to achieve a “perfect” overall series score of 90 is three meets, but a gymnast can attend all eight with the best three of her rankings counting into the total. As for the points, each ranking in a meet is tied to a point value (first place is 30 points, second place is 25, third is 20, fourth is 18, fifth is 16, and so on), so a gymnast who wins gold at three meets gets 30 points at each one and comes out with a total of 90 points. If two gymnasts finish the series with a “perfect 90,” then a tie-breaker based on the actual event scores will be used. At the end of the series, four gymnasts (one for vault, one for bars, one for beam, one for floor) will qualify to the Olympics, but they’ll be allowed to compete all four events in Tokyo, not just the event they qualified on.
Is the Derwael-Fenton just the same-bar release that looks like a Tkachev with a different grip to catch, or is it the combo of the release plus the Ezhova?
It’s a stalder Tkachev with a half twist caught in mixed grip. Most who do it connect it into the Ezhova because that’s the most logical skill to connect to if they want to build more difficulty through CV. They could catch and kip cast to handstand out of it if they wanted, or they could connect into an easier transition like a straddle back, but neither of these would come with any additional CV, so they go for the Ezhova because the Derwael-Fenton to Ezhova gets 0.2 in CV.
Who is your favorite female gymnast from the last four Olympic teams?
Assuming you mean from the U.S. but let me know if you meant otherwise. In 2004 it was Courtney Kupets, in 2008 it was Nastia Liukin, and in 2012 and 2016 it was Aly Raisman, though Laurie Hernandez was a close second in 2016.
What lineups does Norah Flatley have a realistic chance of making?
I must have gotten this question prior to the NCAA season so apologies for this getting lost in the shuffle, but my guess going into this year was that she’d make the bars, beam, and floor lineups…but then floor ended up being INSANE with a level of depth beyond my wildest dreams. Eventually I think she’ll be an all-around talent for UCLA, though! It takes some time to break into some of the lineups, but I think she proved herself on bars and beam this year, and then in the future she can add the other two.
Do you know how I can watch NBC live if I’m from Ireland? I don’t have a provider login.
I think the only way to watch NBC is with a cable provider login…even I can’t watch it without logging into my parents’ cable because I don’t have cable, so whenever I want to watch a meet, I have to get my parents’ info. But when I was in Europe recently, I tried to watch something on their cable and couldn’t because it’s only available in the U.S. and even though I had a VPN, I still struggled trying to get it to load. There are like, illegal streams if you google things like “live stream of NBC” or whatever, but these have one billion ads, and there are also cable packages through companies like Sling that make U.S. channels available internationally, but you have to pay for them.
Why does Kara Eaker have a switch leap to Johnson in her beam routine? She doesn’t need the values and the 0.1 CV doesn’t seem worth it.
I don’t know, honestly. My guess is it’s the backup series for a leap connection in case any of her more difficult dance skills don’t work out, but I think as amazing as her beam is, there are ways to restructure it to keep the difficulty while making it more efficient.
Looking ahead to the elite season, what elites from Texas Dreams will we see compete? Are most of the former elites now in level 10?
Emma Malabuyo, Ragan Smith, and Sydney Barros are the ones we can expect for sure, but I’m not sure in terms of the others. I’m not sure how Annie Beard is doing but it’s possible we’ll see her if she’s healthy again, and I believe Deanne Soza dropped down to level 10, as have pretty much all of the older former elites like Abi Walker and a few others. They had a couple of gymnasts attempt to qualify elite at a few national qualifiers this year but it hasn’t worked out for any of them yet.
Laney Madsen hinted that she’ll be going to UCLA for gymnastics. Do you think she has a shot at a scholarship? I could see her being a walk-on but she lacks the consistency and cleanliness that NCAA requires. What do you think?
I don’t think she’s committed to UCLA at the moment, but being a California kid who trains at a gym that produced several great UCLA gymnasts, I’m sure it’s on her mind! Since she doesn’t really compete level 10 and isn’t a top U.S. elite, it’s hard to say where she’ll stand compared to the J.O. and U.S. elite gymnasts who would be in her class…but I think she could definitely be considered for a scholarship even if they only want to use her on one or two power events like vault and floor. I think if she’s not pushing for higher difficulty, she can do some pretty great work on both, and I think if her focus switched from difficulty to clean consistency, she’s talented enough to make it happen.
After watching the team final at the 2010 world championships, my heart broke for Mattie Larson. Why wasn’t her coach there to tell Martha Karolyi to shove it?
She had issues with her coaches even beyond what her issues with Martha were. I think if it was someone like Simone Biles who had Aimee Boorman on her side, it would be a different story, but Mattie’s coaches were basically more pro-Martha than they were pro-Mattie. That was the biggest problem with Mattie, was that she was taking hits from every direction, whereas gymnasts from better coaching situations could better handle the national team nonsense because their coaches were on their side.
Is Nastia Liukin no longer working for NBC?
As far as I know, she is. She commentated the American Cup most recently.
What is the point of the Hopes program in the U.S.? Eight-year-olds are training skills for level 10 and 11-year-olds are training elite skills. When I attended an NEQ, it was young girls doing hard skills that shouldn’t be done, and college coaches see girls at these competitions and try to recruit girls in 6th and 7th grade! What does USAG hope to accomplish with this program?
I think that’s more a coach/club issue than a Hopes issue. Hopes is supposed to be a middle ground between J.O. and elite, giving kids aged 10-13 a chance to give the elite system a try without actually committing to being elite-level gymnasts. They’re not required to do any wild difficulty levels, which is why many kids are still doing Yurchenko layouts and Yurchenko pikes at this stage, but some coaches will push more difficult skills on kids because those same coaches would do that at any level regardless of it being Hopes or not.
Most people I know who have had kids in Hopes (meaning either their children or kids they’ve coached) have loved that the program provides them the ability to test out the elite waters before actually qualifying elite and having to actually push for that harder difficulty. Before Hopes became more popular, you had girls who were 10 or 11 trying to get DTYs and double doubles to be competitive against junior elites who were already 14-15, and now it’s far more rare to see someone who’s 10 or 11 going into elite because they can do Hopes for three or four years instead where they’re not as pressured to get junior elite levels of difficulty, and then if they’re still interested, they can turn elite at 14 or just keep going at a J.O. level. That’s the other thing about Hopes – kids can compete both Hopes and J.O. at the same time, so they’re again not fully committed to being elite, which doesn’t allow kids to also compete J.O.
Can you explain the elements Liu Tingting showed in her bars routine at Chinese nationals? It looks like she does two front giants with full turns in a row, but that would be a repetition, right?
She does different grip versions of her two front giants, first a Ling (which is a front giant from L grip into reverse grip and back to L grip), and then a Healy (which is a front giant that starts in reverse grip and finishes in L grip). Slight differences, but they’re two different skills in the code and thus both are allowed.
What are the chances of the Mexican women qualifying a full team to Tokyo?
I think if they have every single person on their roster competing at a hundred percent at worlds this year, they’ll have a slight chance at making it happen, but they’d also need other bubble teams to make mistakes. Basically, it’s going to be tough, but I do think they can get pretty close, and I’m bummed there’s no Test Event qualifier this quad because I do think they’d be one of the teams to make the Test Event.
Is it not a conflict of interest for Chris Waller to be the head coach at UCLA and own his own private club in California? Isn’t this murky with all of the recruitment rules? Do other head college coaches own clubs?
I was actually wondering about this during the discussion about who would take over once Val Kondos Field left, and thought that Chris owning a club would be a reason for him to not be up for the job at all. My guess is that he can absolutely no longer coach club gymnasts, not that he’d have the time anymore, but I’d guess he can still have a stake in ownership, similar to how Valeri Liukin and Tom Forster could still own their USA Gymnastics member clubs but could no longer coach when they became the national team coordinator.
I think it’s also going to be super obvious and would raise many red flags if he began prioritizing his own gym’s kids for scholarship spots on the team…and I think he’s smart enough to not pull something like that because he’d be out very fast. It’d be like if Valeri made up a worlds team of all WOGA kids who scored 15th at nationals – way too obvious to get away with because everyone would jump on it instantly. With USA Gymnastics, they were upfront about Valeri’s conflict and made rules to ensure that there wouldn’t be any issues, so I’d imagine something similar will happen with UCLA.
What happened to Alisson Lapp from France? Her floor as a junior brought me so much joy and I really looked forward to seeing her as a senior.
She was injured a bit and also didn’t really upgrade as she grew so her scores are just a bit low compared to most of the powerhouse seniors in the country, which puts her at a major disadvantage with just how strong France is right now. She still competes pretty regularly at the domestic level, including in the Top 12 meets where she has done some great beam and floor work this year, and she also competed at French Championships, Elite Gym Massilia, and Gymnasiade last year.
Does the British women’s team have a chance at top five in the team final in Stuttgart or Tokyo?
They have the talent to get there if everyone’s healthy; I think last year’s finish was just a fluke as they had mistakes in qualifications in addition to dealing with injuries leaving the team a bit depleted. But there’s so much depth right now with some teams that have truly been on the rise this quad, like Japan, Brazil, and France, so it’s going to be a difficult battle and they’ll have to be at a hundred percent to make it happen.
Did Silvia Zarzu retire and was it for similar reasons as Laura Jurca?
Yes, Silvia retired in 2016 after not earning an Olympic spot. She competed on some big teams that year, like the Test Event team and the Euros team, and she also competed at Romanian Championships, but I think not getting to the Olympics and realizing that she likely wasn’t going to last another full quad (considering that she had hit her peak already in 2014-2015 and was regressing a bit) made her decide to retire. Laura wanted to go for another quad, but just couldn’t physically make it happen, but I think Silvia’s was more of an active decision… she didn’t really grow a ton until after she retired anyway, but that growth spurt would have definitely hurt her already declining skill level.
Why do some gymnasts wear grips on vault and floor?
Those aren’t grips, they’re wrist guards! Many gymnasts will vault with them, and a few use them on floor especially if they have issues with their wrists because these help to stabilize them, kind of like a knee brace. When your wrists are constantly flexing for skills like roundoffs and back handsprings, it causes a lot of wear and tear, so while some will use them as they heal from legitimate wrist injuries, many others just have consistent wrist pain from that constant flex the sport requires and these help a bit as a layer of protection.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins