It’s time for the 260th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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Is there a way for a gymnast to fight the federation on something? Could Maggie Haney have done something more to get Laurie Hernandez an all-around spot in qualifications?
I’m sure she could have sued USA Gymnastics or something, but I don’t think her case would’ve been very strong because with the depth in the U.S. and with Laurie’s all-around scores pretty much identical to Gabby Douglas’ and Aly Raisman’s scores, it’s not like she was “more deserving” than they were in some way, and so Gabby and Aly were easy to justify just as much as Laurie was.
Yes, Laurie was third at nationals and second at trials, so in that sense, she was consistently in the top three and “deserved” to be one of the three all-arounders at the Olympics, but trials were a month prior to the Games, and nationals were six weeks prior, and with their scores so close, it’s likely that in training at camp and in Rio during the lead-up to the competition, Aly and Gabby began to stand out more as having stronger all-around potential…and given that they looked better at Olympic qualifications than they did all season, it’s quite possible that this was the case and that they weren’t just “handed” the spots for who they are instead of what they could do.
So yes, she could have fought USA Gymnastics legally and asked for them to “prove” Aly and Gabby’s worth over Laurie’s, but it’s not like Martha Karolyi chose Gabby Douglas with a 55 AA to compete in the all-around over Simone Biles with a 63 AA or something. It was so close, it could have gone either way, and there was also some issue with Laurie having strained muscles leaving her unable to do bars or something, so if we want to believe that story, it also likely factored into Martha’s decision.
There have been cases where athletes have sued federations about qualification spots and similar situations like these. In 2012, Céline van Gerner was injured during the test event for the Olympics, and so when a gymnast earned the non-nominative individual spot for the country, the federation automatically wanted to give it to the gymnast who earned it, but Céline successfully sued for the right to have a trial for that spot, and she ended up winning, so it’s not unheard of…but I think in Céline’s case, she was the clear favorite going into the Games, and in Laurie’s case, Martha could’ve justified about six different gymnasts for the three all-around spots in Rio, so it would’ve been a hard battle for Laurie to win.
I personally would’ve selected Laurie over Gabby for that all-around spot based on their competitive history that summer, but that’s without knowing what happened at camps and training sessions, and it’s also not taking into consideration the fact that Gabby was the reigning Olympic champion and there’s no way in hell Gabby was going to be taken out of the equation. In that sense, it was just bad luck for Laurie, but at least she walked away with an apparatus medal and had a super successful Olympic Games at just 16.
With continental championships a way to earn additional spots for the Olympics, will Australia or New Zealand have a way to do this? Which continental meet do they compete in?
Yes they will! In the past, Australian Championships (aka just their regular nationals) has acted as the continental meet for Australia and New Zealand. This is how qualifications worked for the Youth Olympic Games last year, for example, and I think next year, they’ll also serve as the qualifier for the Olympics. I think they use the first day of competition as the qualifier, so that part is referred to as “Oceanic Championships,” but then the final day of competition is just regular Australian nationals…though I haven’t seen anything about the format for next year yet, so we’ll see!
What exactly is the ‘block’ on vault?
As someone who isn’t a coach, it’s always hard for me to explain more technical parts of the sport to people who were never gymnasts or coaches, but I’m going to try! Essentially the block is the part of the vault right after a gymnast’s hands make contact with the table…it’s the push off the table or “the block off the hands” that most will refer to as “the block,” and it’s the most important part of the vault!
At its core, the block determines the amount of power the vault has, so even if a gymnast has a super powerful run, if she blocks wrong — too high or too low on the table, with bent elbows, with a body line that isn’t straight, with legs apart — she’s not going to be as efficient in her pop off the table, and so she’s not going to get the same height or distance as someone with a great block. A gymnast can be super powerful but block straight up or block with her body arched, and that powerful run and powerful push mean nothing. People often talk about Simone Biles being so good on vault simply because she’s strong as hell, but that would honestly not mean much without her technically perfect block, and it’s why many other gymnasts who are just as (or more) powerful than she is — including men! — can’t do what she can do on vault.
In At the Heart of Gold they showed a lot of footage from what I assume was a documentary about the Karolyi gym from the early 90s. Is that original video something that can be watched online?
I haven’t seen it online…I think the only “older” training footage I’ve seen online has been from around the early 2000s through 2008 or so, but I’m sure it exists somewhere beyond what I’ve happened to come across on YouTube. For the documentary, they probably sought out legit archives from news stations so they have much greater access than we normally have, though I’m sure some gym nerd has uploaded it at some point!
Is Katelyn Ohashi’s split-leg double layout a skill in elite? Has anyone else performed it? How does it differentiate from a regular double layout?
It was a skill at one point! I think it was more common to see in the late 80s or early 90s from what I can remember, but Oksana Chusovitina did it into a punch front in 2002! It’s not in the code right now, so I’m not sure how it would be addressed if competed in elite today…maybe they’d just credit it as a regular double layout? Though I think it’s a bit harder because having split legs like that slows down your rotation while flipping, so it takes a little more effort than a regular double layout would.
Does MyKayla Skinner have an actual chance to go to Tokyo? If she doesn’t go to Utah for the 2020 season, does she lose her fourth year of eligibility?
I think she does have a chance, and after seeing her at nationals this summer, I think she has an even greater chance than I could’ve anticipated before seeing her comeback. It’s not going to be easy, as there’s so much depth right now, that alone could mean she’s not in the picture, but if she can make herself a top six all-arounder with vault and floor scores in the top two, I’d absolutely take her. I’m so impressed with what she’s been able to do already, I don’t have a doubt in my mind in regards to her getting back to a super high level and making it happen!
As for your second question, no, she won’t lose her fourth year of eligibility. She’s basically taking a year off and can then return the following season if she wants, similar to what Brenna Dowell did in the 2015-2016 season.
Can a gymnast in one of the individual spots in Tokyo compete all-around in qualifications? What happens if they qualify to finals and don’t get two-per-country’ed out?
Yes, both gymnasts who compete in Tokyo as individuals can compete the all-around in qualifications. Two per country means two per country, however, and so it doesn’t matter if a gymnast is contributing scores to the team or is competing as an individual in qualifications…they’re all still on the U.S. team and therefore all six are competing for just two finals spots regardless of their status in qualifications. If an individual competitor outscores all of the team gymnasts in the all-around in qualifications, she will make the all-around final over one of the team gymnasts.
Do GK and Ozone give gymnasts leos for free to compete in at nationals or do they have to buy them?
Yeah, for major competitions like nationals, most leo companies will reach out to gymnasts and offer them a free leo for the publicity, basically. I think for some younger gymnasts who are newer to the scene, they may give them some options of some more generic styles, but for those who are top competitors, there’s usually the opportunity to get in on the design and everything.
Why did NCAA teams start supporting children with cancer? And putting them on their walls?
There are lots of programs that give children with life-threatening illnesses the chance to make a wish or have some sort of dream come true, and this is part of that. With NCAA gymnastics teams, you’ll see a lot of girls who were gymnasts and at one point become sick or limited in some other way, and given their history in the sport, it’s natural that their dream or wish is related to the sport.
I don’t know what “putting them on their walls” means…like their photo or something? I think sometimes when we see a little girl getting her dream workout with an NCAA team, the team gets involved beyond just that one day, and they end up inviting her back to other workouts, to meets where they’ll get them the best seat in the house, and so on…and so they get really attached to these kids sometimes and maybe put their photo up because they support her in the way that she supports them.
Do you think we’ll see a Laurie Hernandez comeback?
Yes. At this point, I think it’s going to be really tough for her to make the Olympic team, but I’m a “never say never” kind of person and am really optimistic about her coming back at a really solid level, at least on one or two events. At the very least, I do think we’ll see her return to competition and I hope she does well because she’s a beautiful queen and the sport deserves to see more of her.
Why do we see whip to triples more than whips to other E skills?
I think it’s partly because it’s easier to get the whip directly into another skill with a single flip, and so doing a whip to triple is still super hard, but it’s a bit easier to do than it would be into a more difficult double salto like a full-in or arabian double front. There are definitely a few whips into full-ins out there, but I think for the reasons I’ve said, the triple is a bit easier to manage even though it’s still super difficult.
Since MAG has more apparatuses do you think they should have bigger teams for worlds and the Olympics?
Yes! I think the number of gymnasts should match up with the number of events so that specialists can be realistically included without sacrificing another event. With four on a team next year with a four-up three-count qualifications, it’s going to be nearly impossible to rely on a specialist because for teams that take specialists, it will mean only putting three up on some events in qualifications, which could be risky if they have a fall.
The women will also face this, but it won’t be quite as brutal, but many of the men’s teams rely on true specialists who only do one or two events out of the six, and this format makes it so that some of the best gymnasts in the world won’t be able to contribute to their teams, like Max Whitlock for Great Britain or Epke Zonderland for the Netherlands, because if you take these guys for two events, it means with two other all-arounders on the team, that last spot has to be for someone who can cover the four events Max or Epke doesn’t compete, and that’s a super specific task that no country aside from China or Japan can really handle…and even for them, it’s hard to find one specific person who is right for all four (or five if they take a one-event specialist).
Compare this to the women, where the split is often broken down between a vault and floor specialist and a bars and beam specialist, or a similar split where a gymnast can do two events and it’s not super hard for most countries to find another gymnast to complement her. If Great Britain wants to take Becky Downie for bars, for example, they can grab someone like Alice Kinsella for vault, beam, and floor, and although they’re risking three-up three-count in qualifications, it’s still a really solid team configuration.
But the men are more or less stuck between the choice of having four all-arounders or a super unbalanced team with their star specialist and then someone random who can kind of take the lead on the remaining events. It doesn’t make sense for literally any team, and it’s going to take away from the overall potential of quite a few programs.
Did Dare Maxwell or Stanford ever release a statement about her stopping gymnastics? Her sister Gracey lists UCLA on social media but I haven’t seen any mention of her from UCLA. Can you confirm her role? Is there a missing sister named Teagan? What’s up with this family?
No, she didn’t…most gymnasts who leave the sport won’t necessarily “release a statement” outside of maybe saying “I’m hanging up my grips” on Instagram or something. I’m not sure why Dare left the team, but I know she was struggling a bit, and I wasn’t necessarily surprised to see her leave, especially because she seemed to really find herself in many other activities…always great to see when many athletes who have dedicated their entire lives to a sport struggle to figure out what to do when it’s over. It was too bad she didn’t have the career many hoped to see from her, but I’m glad she transitioned pretty seamlessly and hope she had fun at the college level while it lasted.
If both Jordan Chiles and Frida Esparza are deferring, is Kalyany Steele the only freshman joining UCLA’s team this fall? Are they going to give the scholarships to deserving walk-ons instead?
Brooklyn Moors is also deferring, so that’s quite the hit to their freshman class this season considering the usual 15 freshmen who usually join the ranks! In addition to Kalyany, UCLA will also have Samantha Sakti transfer from William & Mary (she was a super awesome floor worker who one million percent should’ve made nationals on that event if there was any justice in this world), and they’ll have Emma Andres, who seems to be a walk-on, but like, a legit walk-on who went to J.O. nationals this year and was a level 10 for five seasons, not someone who did a somersault once in rec gym and magically got a call from Miss Val. A light year for the team’s incoming gymnasts, but they still have so much leftover talent rising into the upper classes, they’ll be fine!
Did Giulia Steingruber retire?
No, she hasn’t! She was injured last summer and has slowly but surely been coming back from the ACL tear she suffered then. She plans on going to an internal competition this week, and then her first public competition back will be Swiss Championships on September 7, but she isn’t sure she’ll be able to be back at full difficulty right away. Worlds is her goal, and it’s her most likely chance of qualifying to Tokyo…though I think if she can get back to her top level by Euros next year, she can definitely snag one of the individual spots there.
Do you know why éMjae Frazier didn’t compete at junior world trials? I thought she was a junior elite.
She actually only re-qualified to junior elite the week prior to the junior worlds trials, so she probably wasn’t an elite yet when coaches had to register gymnasts for trials, though she did earn a spot at the national team camp that same week and many of the juniors who competed at trials didn’t get invites, so that was still a pretty big honor even though she didn’t end up attempting to make the worlds team.
Do you think North Korea stands a chance at qualifying a full team to the Tokyo Olympics?
Not really…I think if the two Koreas had paired up, they absolutely would’ve had a chance to get a unified team to Tokyo and that would’ve been so amazing, but North Korea on its own is pretty limited, I think. They have three first-year seniors this year who are all pretty solid, with Sim Hae Won my favorite of the bunch, but I don’t think all three are good enough to replace the three weakest links from worlds last year to take this team from 16th up to the top 12.
How did Catalina Ponor make the floor final after bailing out of her full-in at the qualifier in London? Do they not deduct from the E score for something like that? Was it planned? How was her score mathematically possible?
If a gymnast doesn’t compete a skill she was expected to compete, it doesn’t do anything to the E score unless of course she has some sort of mistake related to balking on that skill. If she had tripped during her run and then ended up competing a really sloppy back tuck that she ended up crashing, she’d get credited for the back tuck but would get deducted for the form and the fall, but since didn’t really have any mistakes like that and just competed a tuck full, there was no deduction they could’ve taken outside of the usual form deductions on the skill.
Additionally, her routine as a whole was still difficult enough for her to get a high D score, and even though she didn’t do her E pass there, a tuck full is still a B (in this code anyway…not sure what it was in 2012 off the top of my head!) so she only lost three tenths in difficulty, which hurts a bit, but isn’t a massive dent in her routine when the rest is still highly difficult.
Why wasn’t Ashley Priess used in the 2006 team final even though she was in the all-around final?
She actually didn’t qualify to the final, but was subbed in when Chellsie Memmel had to withdraw due to injury. In qualifications, Ashley didn’t have a top-three score on any event, so for the team final, it made more sense to have the top two all-arounders (Chellsie and Jana Bieger, both of whom had top-three scores on multiple events) as well as Nastia Liukin on bars and Alicia Sacramone on vault, beam, and floor in the team final, while Ashley and Natasha Kelley sat out because they weren’t going to contribute scores higher than those four. After the team final, Chellsie withdrew from the all-around final due to injury, and as the third-best U.S. all-arounder in qualifications, Ashley got her spot in that final.
When a gymnast adds a quarter turn to a turning or twisting skill on beam to prevent a wobble or fall, is that a deduction?
It gets a deduction for showing a lack of balance or control. A turn has to be stopped in the perfect positioning to not get any deductions like these, so even if the entire turn looks perfect, if she just slightly overdoes it, she’ll get deducted, usually around 0.1 or 0.3 depending on the severity of the “save.”
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Article by Lauren Hopkins