It’s time for the 259th 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 was watching the American Classic and saw that Shania Adams didn’t make the 52 AA nationals score, but she did make the three-event score. Can gymnasts choose to drop a score in order to make a lower event cutoff? How does that process work?
A gymnast doesn’t have to “choose” to drop a score to make a lower event cutoff! If she competes all-around and doesn’t get her all-around score, but if her other events add up to either a two or three-event score in any way, she qualifies as a “specialist” in that way, so Shania officially qualified on three events to nationals even though that wasn’t her intended goal. Some gymnasts will purposely decide to do just a few events or reach for the two/three-event scores, but many seniors end up going to nationals for just two or three events despite being all-arounders.
Do you think the U.S. team’s performance at junior worlds in comparison to the Russian and Chinese junior teams suggests that the U.S. women might be less dominant next quad? Or do you think this was just a result of who was age-eligible to compete, and that overall the U.S. junior program is stronger?
I wrote an article that goes into all of my feelings about this, but basically, no, I don’t think the results of this meet are emblematic of the future at all! Basically, the U.S. juniors weren’t at full strength, both in who competed and how they competed that day, but even if they had been the absolute best the U.S. could offer, this Russian team was STELLAR and more than deserved the gold.
That said, the U.S. is pacing its juniors to survive at the senior levels, and the U.S. junior program has far more depth than any other country at the same level. I can see the Russians and the Chinese gymnasts going on to have excellent senior careers, and in the coming years if they keep ramping up at this level while the U.S. stays where they are, perhaps we can see them get a bit closer. But if the U.S. loses two or three top gymnasts to injury at the senior level, they have enough depth to carry them through, whereas countries like Russia and China often have to replace a top all-arounder with an alternate who earns five points less and that’s what it’s going to come down to.
While the juniors who represented Russia in Györ were incredible, that’s basically it for the Russian program (which you could kind of see a month later at EYOF, where Vladislava Urazova and Elena Gerasimova were replaced with the next-best juniors Yana Vorona and Irina Komnova, both of whom were about 3-4 points behind Viktoria Listunova and the two who were at worlds). The Russian team at EYOF would’ve placed behind even a weak U.S. junior team, and that’s still with Viktoria heading the team with a 55.550 AA, whereas the U.S. could’ve brought a team of Ciena Alipio, Olivia Greaves, and Konnor McClain that could’ve been as good as — or better than, based on scores at nationals — the team that actually went.
I think the Russian juniors right now are brilliant and I really want to see them thrive as seniors. I’d also really love for the U.S. to have some healthy competition at major international meets again, because junior worlds had the most dramatic team final I’ve seen in almost a decade. But to truly be competitive, they need to work on depth at the lower levels to ensure that there is a steady stream of solid gymnasts coming up into the senior ranks. Unfortunately, the Olympics is basically it for gymnasts in Russia, as opposed to the U.S. where a couple thousand gymnasts are at a pretty high level hoping to earn NCAA scholarships. The U.S. has level 10s who can transition into elite at 16 and win world medals — hi Kayla Williams and Jade Carey! — because even though it didn’t make sense for them to go elite as juniors, they stuck around for the college scholarships, and then suddenly at 16 they realize they have what it takes to go elite. In Russia, and in most other countries, once you reach 15 or 16 and realize you’re not going to the Olympics, you really have no reason to stick around unless you really love it (hi Nabs!), and so the drop-off happens super quickly in these countries, and many gymnasts who are super talented but would be a B-team choice at best end up quitting the sport before we even realize their full potential.
I ended up writing a lot more than I wanted to, but basically, it’s ALL about depth, from building that depth through developmental levels, transitioning that depth into the junior elite levels, and then keeping that depth once the athletes become seniors, and unfortunately, for most programs outside of the U.S., even if they have depth early on it can be super hard to maintain it going forward, and that’s why the U.S. has been so dominant while most other programs have struggled. If the U.S. continues pumping depth into the elite program through J.O. and the promise of college scholarships, they’re going to keep being dominant even if their very best athletes are maybe not quite as good as the very best Russian athletes. A worlds team with Simone Biles getting a 60 AA and then four girls getting 51s or 52s would not be super competitive, but a worlds team with five gymnasts who can get a 55-56 AA would be, and that’s because depth is the most important.
Do you think it made sense for the U.S. to just pick the top all-arounders at trials for competitions? I know it’s three-up three-count but it just seems like there’s no strategy involved.
In a country with so much depth like the U.S. where multiple spots are interchangeable and there’s really no need for a strategy involved, then I don’t think an ultimatum like “place in the top three or top five and you’re on the team” is necessarily bad. If anything, it tests the gymnasts’ preparation and ability to hit under extreme pressure when it counts. You want the gymnasts who can be given a mission and crush it, because that’s what they’ll have to do at worlds.
HOWEVER. I think this qualification rule should come in with a built-in “but.”
Often at trial meets, there can be freak mistakes that have never happened to the gymnast before, or weird minor injuries that keep her out of the gym or slightly downgraded for that one given day, and it could mean that a gymnast with major potential is not considered when she should definitely be on the team.
I’ll use junior worlds as the example here, because it’s the most glaring, but basically Konnor McClain absolutely should have gone to worlds. I think she’s the junior with the most potential in the country right now, and the fact that her all-around score at the junior worlds trials was four tenths outside of the top three with a fall and mistakes is all that we need to know in terms of why she should’ve competed. A gymnast with multiple mistakes who scores roughly the same as a gymnast who had a pretty much fully hit day is clearly the better choice here, and that’s when you have to take into consideration the wider body of work and think about the bigger picture, because one fourth-place day is not who Konnor is as a gymnast, and I’m sure the selection committee knows that.
Because this was junior worlds, I think the selection committee probably held back in terms of strategy, though. They knew whoever they sent would get roughly the same results, and so instead of spending hours deliberating over stats and potential scenarios, they made it easy for everyone and said, “top three compete at worlds.” Everyone going in knew the situation, and everyone knew what to expect, and while I personally would’ve made the easy decision to take Konnor, I do like that they made rules and stuck to them even though they were probably just as bummed as I was to not see Konnor on the floor.
As for the U.S. seniors, I’m weirdly not super against just taking the top five in the all-around to worlds because I think no matter who gets in, it’ll be a pretty great team. If the U.S. took the top five at nationals, for example, they’d have Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum, Morgan Hurd, and Leanne Wong attending, and even though this isn’t the team with the most potential if you look at all of the numbers, it’s actually not that far off, and the U.S. is pegged to win this thing by close to ten points anyway. This team is also super complementary with all four events covered incredibly well, and it has the potential to place two gymnasts in every final but vault.
Even if you look at the weirder day one top five — Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, Jade Carey, Riley McCusker, and Leanne Wong (she’d beat Trinity Thomas in the tiebreak if we’re gonna play it dirty) — it’s still an incredible worlds team where again all bases are covered and you have the potential for two gymnasts in every apparatus final.
Apparently, it’s the coaches who prefer this “top five make it” rule, because with everyone so close in terms of scoring potential, they think this is the way that makes it most straightforward in terms of athletes being selected. I won’t say it’s the fairest, exactly…but I do see why coaches are into it. At trials next month, if they had a clear top four they wanted on the team and then had Grace McCallum and Leanne Wong fighting for the last spot, how do you even pick?! I’m not saying I think it’ll be between these two for the last spot, but just want to use them as examples because they both have strengths and weaknesses, but overall neither will make or break the team and neither would be the wrong choice. The argument is literally like “Grace got a 14.7 on vault on day one but Leanne got a 14.75!” or “Grace got a 14 on floor but Leanne got a 14.05 on bars!” or “Grace got a 14.45 on beam but Leanne got a 14.55!”
Since everyone is similarly close to one another with their own strengths and weaknesses, you might as well just do a “top five make it” sudden-death match and take the five who proved to be best prepared the closest to worlds. I have my own favorites I think should make it, I think some have shown a bit more potential for the future this year compared to others, and I can put together numbers-based strategies until the cows come home, but the “top five” strategy is a strategy even if we hate it or have arguments for why it’s not the right strategy.
But as I said before when talking about junior worlds…it only works if you take into consideration the standout issues like Konnor not making the junior worlds team. I’m not against the “top five” strategy, but I do think it needs to come with a caveat (like the top three or four make it, and the last one or two spots are wildcards).
Where is Jordan Bowers? She seemed like she was going to be the next big star but then she dropped off the radar.
Jordan unfortunately had some issues with her coaches earlier this year and had to leave her gym. It’s a major bummer and so unfortunate given how great she looked last year. On top of that, Jordan injured her lower back earlier this year for the second time (her first injury was at nationals last year, where she had to withdraw from competition after the first day). Because of this, she hasn’t trained in about six months, but she apparently recently got back into the gym and hopefully will be able to compete next season!
Why did Brooklyn Moors downgrade her beam (she did a fhs to front tuck instead of a front aerial to front tuck on day two) and floor routines on the second day of competition at Canadian nationals? Is she injured?
No, not injured! I think she’s good at sensing how she feels before a competition and she can often decide in the moment which is going to be best for her on that day. The front aerial to front tuck is super difficult, and so my guess is that she was only planning on debuting it on the first day to see how it went and then going back to her old series, or she was struggling in warmups on day two and chose to go back to the old one then. She does the same with vault on occasion, going between the handspring front half and the front full, and I’ve seen her mix it up on floor before with one of her passes…I like that she has the ability to decide what’s going to make her comfortable on that day, and that she can go for the bigger difficulty, but knows when to pull it back.
With regards to the U.S. dominance do you feel it’s because they’ve become more dominant or other teams are less competitive?
I think it’s a bit of both simultaneously. Once the open-ended code came into play, gymnastics got a lot harder, and countries with perfectly great gymnasts that would’ve succeeded at their current difficulty levels in earlier codes are now stuck with a 4.5 D score on their best events while the top gymnasts on those same events have a 6.5 D, putting two full points between them on difficulty alone as opposed to just a few tenths in the “perfect 10” structure.
Many countries have struggled to build difficult routines as a whole, which has made countries like the United States, Russia, and China kind of run away with things over the past decade. Now we see more countries upping their games to get on this level, but for these, and even for Russia and China, it really depends on who’s competing because most programs just have a handful of standout athletes at a super high level that matches the U.S. in terms of having a combination of high difficulty, and consistent, well-executed routines, but the U.S. has like 15 seniors doing this, and that puts them at a major advantage.
In an earlier answer I talked about depth and why the U.S. is so far ahead of everyone else, and that’s truly what created such an insane gap between them and the rest of the world. So my answer is that the U.S. made themselves more dominant thanks to a never-ending supply of strong gymnasts at the elite level, but I also think other countries have absolutely become weaker since the start of the open-ended code, as a lack of depth at the highest of levels comes into play for them.
Do you think the female Brazilian gymnasts stand a chance for medals in Tokyo?
Well, now that Rebeca Andrade is injured again and we don’t know how well she’ll be able to come back yet again, it’s hard to say in terms of her own success, or the team’s success, as she was a huge part of the team score. Aside from Rebeca, the only one who really has a chance at an individual medal is Flavia Saraiva on beam…though it’s not going to be easy, as beam is always the soul crusher, and she’s been notoriously iffy in finals this quad. One of her routines at Pan Am Games was phenomenal, and I think she can be in the mix if she can compete like that all the time, but again, the Tokyo beam field is potentially going to be nuts.
Did Jordyn Wieber ever compete elite again after the 2012 Olympics?
No, she didn’t! She started training again in 2013 and she seemed like she wanted to return to elite, but then it seemed like she made the decision overnight to quit elite and go to UCLA for school. I’m sure it was more than that, but I remember seeing some training videos with her doing a Weiler full on bars and showing really strong promise coming out one week, and then a week later she was like, “just kidding, goodbye!” haha.
Of course, she didn’t actually retire until a few years later, and there were rumors of her training at UCLA and Waller’s GymJam when she had some spare time, so there was some hope about her coming back for quite a while, but I think when she made the decision to go to college, that was also her making the decision to be done with elite gymnastics.
Why didn’t any NCAA gymnasts go to the Summer Universiade this year or in 2017?
The NCAA women’s programs are entirely separate from the U.S. elite program, so I think the only way it would’ve worked out would have been similar to what Canada did, where gymnasts who were interested could kind of get permission from the NGB but then figure out the process on their own. In 2017, I believe the Canadian federation actually selected and sent a team, but this year the gymnasts self-funded the trip.
I honestly think some of the coaches from top programs with multiple higher-level former elites or super strong level 10s — like Florida, Oklahoma, UCLA, and so on — should form some sort of committee for 2021, get permission from USA Gymnastics to send a team, and then select among those who might be interested in competing. They could honestly just go and compete at their NCAA levels of difficulty and while they might be behind some of the teams that tend to send really strong groups — like Russia or Japan — they’ll still likely be top contenders in many areas. Of course, they’d have to work out some sort of funding, and the competition usually happens when NCAA gymnasts are on break and don’t want to be training for a full two months after the season ends for this competition, so that’s probably the biggest issue…but Canada had some girls do it this year, and I think the U.S. would also find some who would be more than interested in going.
Do you think MyKayla Skinner’s reputation after 2016 will affect her chances of making Tokyo?
Not at all. She actually only has a “reputation” with gym fans on social media. Her reputation in the gymnastics world is actually pretty stellar. I heard in 2017, before Jade Carey was super well known, Valeri Liukin was hoping MyKayla would return to the national team camp after her first semester because they really wanted her for vault and floor that year, and I think even though the depth has gotten much stronger and they’re no longer hoping and praying for a vault/floor specialist, I think they’re more than thrilled to add her into the depth pool as a viable option for future teams.
What is happening with Sweden’s gymnasts? Is anyone left other than Jonna Adlerteg?
They’ve been in kind of a rough spot this quad after basically every top gymnast from last quad retired. Jonna was pretty much it, until Marcela Torres came out of retirement for a bit, and they unfortunately haven’t had very many high-level juniors come up aside from Tonya Paulsson, who became a senior this year and is excellent, though always injured.
They also have Jessica Castles, who is Swedish but lives and trains in England, and she’s a super solid all-arounder…but unfortunately they can’t really make a team with just three gymnasts, only one of whom is ever healthy enough to compete in the all-around.
As for juniors, I love Jennifer Williams and the Westlund twins, Emelie and Nathalie, but the majority of their juniors aren’t going above a 45 AA, so it looks like we’ll continue the drought in the coming years as well, which is kind of a bummer. I thought they had a really solid and cohesive team in 2014 and 2015, so to see that come to an end so quickly has been so sad!
What’s going on with Sae Miyakawa? She was banned from the Japanese team last year for defending her coach who physically abused her, right? Is she banned forever?
She’s not banned, and she competed at nationals this year…but unfortunately with all of the drama, she returned at an incredibly low level, getting just a 46 all-around as well as weak scores on her best events — a 13.933 on vault, where she would normally get close to a 15, and a 10.266 on floor, where she has gotten a few high 13s and low 14s this quad. It’s definitely sad, especially going into Tokyo which I’m sure was a huge goal for her and the key reason for her to stick around this quad…I hope if she continues training into next year she can get back in fighting form, but I think we’ll most likely see her quietly retire.
Why did Ellie Black only get a 4.8 D in the beam final at worlds? Is it because she was missing a dance series requirement? I thought her opening mount into a switch leap counted.
Yes, it’s because she was missing the leap series CR, as the mount connected to her first switch leap doesn’t count as the series! In the code, even if a mount is a leap or dance element, it’s still in the “mounts” element group, as opposed to the dance element group (the same way a layout stepout mount counts as a “mount” element, not an “acro” element, because the two groups are separate).
The code requires “a connection of two dance elements (one of which must be a 180 degree split)” and it literally means two elements from the dance element group. It does not allow for one dance element from the mount element group and one dance element from the dance group. Her opening series was a switch leap mount into a switch leap into a switch half, but switch to switch half was her dance element series. When she had a slow connection between the two in her finals routine, she missed her CR entirely, getting her D score cut way down.
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