You Asked, The Gymternet Answered


Eleftherios Petrounias

It’s time for the 262nd edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!

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How can Eleftherios Petrounias still qualify to Tokyo?

His only option right now would be to win the world cup series on rings and qualify that way. He hasn’t competed at the world cups yet due to an injury last year, and right now the rings series title is between You Hao, Courtney Tulloch, and Liu Yang as the three leaders. But if Eleftherios showed up at the next three world cups and won all of them, he’d get a perfect 90, which would put him in a pretty good place to take the series title. Even one 30 and two 25s, or a 30, 25, and 20, would put him in an excellent standing, which I think is definitely manageable for him in this field. He’s registered for Cottbus, so he’s obviously attempting this path, and I think he has a pretty great chance at making it happen.

Can you explain what happens during an inquiry at a competition? They receive a breakdown of what was deducted, and the judges rewatch a routine, or do the coaches tell them what should have been credited? What exactly happened with Kara Eaker’s beam routine in qualifications at worlds?

When the coaches file an inquiry, it means the judges will then watch the routine again on a video replay, and the technical committee judges the routine over again to see what they come up with this time. Sometimes, the judges will get the same D score the other judges got previously, meaning the inquiry is rejected and the D score stays the same. Other times, the judges will see that a skill that wasn’t credited the first time and actually should have been credited, meaning the inquiry is accepted and the D score is raised.

But in incredibly rare instances, the judges will see that not only should they not have credited the skills they already didn’t credit, but they also shouldn’t have credited additional skills, and so the D score that they initially rewarded is decreased. This is what happened to Kara…when the U.S. filed the inquiry, hoping to get a few tenths back after seeing her D score was much lower than usual, the judges rewatched the routine and realized they were actually generous, not stingy, in their initial assessment, and so that’s why her D score decreased after an inquiry.

It’s a risk you take. I think most were stunned because it almost never happens…but with ring elements, judges are already incredibly harsh, and giving them that ability to get an even better view of her rings close-up on a screen made it even more clear that they shouldn’t be credited. That close-up re-watch usually helps a gymnast with a skill that didn’t get the benefit of the doubt in real-time. Often I’ll watch leaps in real life and think “that was nowhere near 180” but then I watch on a video later on and you can much more easily see that 180 was hit, even for a split second. But with rings, it’s so easy to see flaws in real time, and that close-up view on a television screen can make it even more evident, so it’s not often that you’ll see rings initially not credited and then credited in an inquiry.

I think it was a bad decision to inquiry Kara’s routine, especially since she had already made the beam final even without full difficulty, but in a way I’m glad it happened because I think every gym fan in the world has been saying “those rings are risky” for two full years, but then the worlds judges last year were seemingly fine with them, giving her no reason to change her routine construction or work on her ring shape. Now, though, I think it’s pretty clear what has to happen going forward, and it’s an important lesson learned for the U.S. program. It sucks that it had to come at Kara’s expense, and rings aside, she is one of the fiercest beam workers on the planet and I don’t care what the D score says.

Of the 12 Olympic-qualified teams for WAG, do you know which countries will hold a selection competition like the U.S. Olympic Trials?

A major trial meet like the U.S. holds is actually pretty rare! Most countries stick to the meets they already have on their calendars — like nationals and the Russian Cup for Russia, or just nationals in China — and then use more internal/camp-based knowledge of their athletes in addition to international results to determine their teams.

In 2016, the U.S., Canada, and Germany were the only countries to have meets with public results that they called their Olympic trial meets, and even among these, Canada’s was more internal and small, not a huge public event in an arena. The Netherlands have been doing a lot of trial meets recently — like their friendly meets this year that they called “The Trials” and were the competitions used to select the worlds team — so it’s likely we could see them continue this trend going into Tokyo, and I can see France also making a bigger deal about selecting its team this quad now that their program is pretty huge. But I think the rest of the selections will be more internal or based on recent national/international results.

I think the reason the U.S. does a large trial meet is because they have so much depth and so many gymnasts who are legitimately being considered for the team, it makes it more of a big deal to celebrate all of those athletes at a large-scale event, and the athletes often say that just getting named to compete at trials is a huge deal even if they don’t make the Olympic team. But most other countries don’t have this level of depth, and it’s generally pretty clear which athletes are going to be on the team within a few months of it being named. That said, most countries do celebrate the naming of their teams…Belgium had a particularly fun team announcement in 2016!

I noticed that the Chinese and Russian teams’ worlds apparel said “Chinese Gymnastics Team” and “Russian National Team,” respectively…in English, not in Chinese or Russian. Do you know what that’s about? I’d think a country’s national team would want words on their apparel to be their own country’s primary language.

I think since English is considered to unofficially be the international language in terms of sports, pretty much all countries will include their country name and/or other lettering in English for that reason…but they also usually have their own language/lettering systems represented somewhere on the uniform. At most international meets in any sport, you typically hear announcements in the language local to the arena, as well as in English, and the international governing bodies are also generally English-speaking, primarily, so I think it’s just common for most teams to use English even if English isn’t an official language of their country.

What’s the difference between a full-in and a full-out?

It’s all in the wording! Both are a double back with a full twist. In a full-in, the full twist happens in the first of the two back flips. In the full-out, the full twist happens in the second of the two back flips. Full-outs are pretty rare on floor, with most full-twisting double backs tending to be full-in or even more commonly, half-in half-out (I would say many “full-ins” on floor are partly half-in, half-out, because you can still see some twisting in the second flip). On bars, full-outs are pretty common, however, generally because you have a bit more height coming off of the bar than you have on floor, so it gives you more time to complete the first flip and then do the second flip with a full twist.

Do you think anyone can beat Nina Derwael for gold in Tokyo? Specifically Aliya Mustafina?

I don’t think Nina is as set for gold as her scores might say…I think she generally ends up putting together the most complete efforts on bars compared to anyone else in the majority of her competitions, but there are some that should come close and I wouldn’t consider her a real lock for gold…even though it’s likely that she could very well win it. I think Fan Yilin will be her biggest competition if both are in top shape, and while I don’t think Aliya is going to come back at a super high level again, if she does decide to get back in the gym and train a super difficult bars set and manages to get where she was on this event in 2012 and in 2016, then yes, she can likely also have a shot, as can several others with the ability to match or get close to Nina’s level of difficulty.

Since Laurie Hernandez is going to camp again in November, and Riley McCusker will be there with Laurie’s old coach, will Laurie have to interact with that coach? Is there much interaction at all between coaches and athletes from other gyms?

She won’t have to interact with her if she doesn’t want to. They’ll still probably pass each other or bump into each other, and I’m sure it’ll be awkward, but they’re both adults in a professional setting and I’m sure they can handle it. There have been other instances of gymnasts moving on to different gyms after awkward splits with old coaches, and seeing them interact at nationals and other big meets was always…entertaining. But Laurie and her old coach have been at multiple meets together since their split, so I’m sure they’ll know how to handle the situation maturely.

Did anything ever come to pass legally regarding Tatiana Gutsu’s allegations against Vitaly Scherbo? Or outside the legal system? Was there ever any reckoning for him, or any closure for her?

No, I don’t think she sought any legal justice, I think she just wrote about her experience as part of the #MeToo movement especially as it relates to abusive situations in gymnastics. In a way, even though she’s not taking legal action, saying his name is pretty powerful, as he is now a coach and if parents heard of these allegations, they could be motivated to pull their kids out of his gym…though as is always the case, I’m sure many people believed his story over hers and he probably wasn’t affected much. But again, just having his name out there is important, and even if she didn’t want to take any other action against him, it was a great thing for her to come forward.

What was the outcome of Michigan gymnast Sydney Townsend’s court hearing? She’s not on the team roster any longer. Do you know if that’s by choice or as a repercussion? Might she compete again later or for another school?

I believe Scott Vetere, the coach she had a relationship with, was fined, getting his charge reduced to a civil infraction rather than the misdemeanor he was initially facing. I’d imagine if he was able to reach an agreement with prosecutors, Sydney also likely was able to walk away without any severe legal penalty. However, I’m not sure if leaving Michigan was the school’s decision or hers. If she still has eligibility, then yes, she could likely compete for another program somewhere down the line, but it doesn’t seem like she’s training, so I doubt that’s likely.

Is Kristal Uzelac’s comeback over? I noticed her social media switched from training videos to a general fitness focus. Is her family’s gym closed now as well?

Her family’s gym is still open. I’m not sure what’s happening with her elite comeback, but I do know that as good as she looked in training, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for her to get the scores needed to qualify elite, and sadly based on the routines she showed last year, she wasn’t really close. I can see that leading to her deciding to call it quits, as it can be very demotivating. But at the same time…it can also be incredibly motivating to “fail” and then want to do better! I know she recently had a foot surgery, so maybe she’s just taking a break on training for now and has plans to come back again in the future? I’d love to see her return just to compete for herself regardless of actually qualifying or not.

Can you please explain why Laney Madsen gets such low execution scores? I know she doesn’t have great basics, but how does this turn into deductions? A 6.6 on beam and a 5.2 on bars, even with a fall, just seem so crazy low. 

Most of her deductions come from the quality of her skills. She can have a perfect routine in terms of not making any mistakes, but still barely crack a 7.0 E score because the quality of her skills isn’t really high enough to make it through without getting multiple deductions on everything. Compare that to someone like Riley McCusker, who has nearly flawless basics. Riley could fall twice on these events and still get close to a 7.0 E score because almost everything else she does is just correct.

Here’s what I would’ve taken from Laney’s bars at worlds…

  • Cast to handstand – leg form, body alignment, -0.2
  • Maloney – lack of height, leg form, and hip position, -0.5
  • Pak – lack of height, leg form, body shape, angle of completion, -0.8
  • Cast to handstand with half turn – rushed, -0.1
  • Cast to handstand – short, leg form, -0.4
  • Toe shoot – leg form, -0.1
  • Cast to handstand – leg form, -0.1
  • Blind change – late, leg separation, pike in hips, -0.3
  • Jaeger – underrotated, lack of height, fall, -1.2
  • Cast to handstand – arched, adjustment, -0.2
  • Blind change – leg separation, pike in hips, -0.2
  • Front tuck half dismount – step, -0.1

That’s 4.1 points in deductions just from me quickly watching for mistakes on each skill, which gives her a 5.9 E, and I feel like I was being generous (especially with her elbow form, which I didn’t really look at super closely, and there were some deductions where I took 0.1 that could’ve easily been 0.3). There are also deductions related to the general rhythm of a routine, which can be 0.1 per skill…so I can see why this would’ve been a 5.2.

Basically, if Laney fixed her leg/hip form alone, she would add back over a point. Even some gymnasts who have rhythm far worse than Laney’s get through with clean leg form and can still get decent scores because they’re much tidier. You don’t have to be a brilliant bars worker to get higher E scores, but when you have rough basics and a rough rhythm and you fall, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to score well.

Personally, I think Laney coming so far as an artistic gymnast after starting so late in her life is incredible, especially on bars, because she had absolutely no bars training until she was about 12 or 13! She’s already made incredible improvements there, and I have no doubt she’ll just continue to get better and better if she sticks with it, so hopefully she stays in the sport and keeps trying because I think the talent is there…she just has to finesse it.

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

11 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. If I remember correctly, didn’t Laurie have some kind of injunction thing against Maggie? I know they had a falling out of some kind. I seem to remember a meet in NJ soonish after Rio where Laurie was handing out awards and Maggie was there coaching, and she had to clear it with Laurie’s agent that she was allowed to be there…? I hope they can both be mature adults and not let it affect either of them (or Riley if she gets caught in the middle, poor thing’s had enough to deal with).


  2. I am waiting for mustafina to go for broke and get the ub gold again in 2020 to prove whos the russian goat once and for all against


    • LOL same. Honestly I didn’t think she’d win gold in 2016, even during QFs, I was like she has a shot but it’s not like, a guarantee…and then she did her EF routine and I was like WHERE THE HELL DID THAT COME FROM? So I wouldn’t doubt if we didn’t see her again until literally Tokyo QFs and then she casually just wins gold again. That would be so Aliya.


  3. I always assumed U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials stemmed mainly from the U.S. overall culture, which is, or at least was, more individualistic, with a more merit-based line of thinking. Not that one can’t be selected without a competition based on merit, but the U.S. typically has had an ingrained aversion to “government controlled systems” and a strong lean towards “earning your success every time” based on a measurable procedure. A public competition based on scores is a much more U.S. way to go about it, because Americans are distrustful of too much government controlling an outcome. Countries that are, or were in the past, more state-controlled in terms of their sports programs are probably more used to having teams simply chosen. Americans are very conscious of their individual rights and very ready to protest (or sue ha ha) if they don’t agree with a subjective decision. My theory, anyway.


    • I think you’re reading a little too much into it. Trials were necessary back in the day because there wasn’t a Martha Karolyi type person to actually pick the team, and so there had to be an objective selection procedure because otherwise it would be a group of elite coaches all fighting for their individual athletes and there would be no fair way to set priorities for results. Now they’re an ingrained tradition.


  4. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Fool me twice…strike three. | The Gymternet

    • It’ll just be one spot for WAG and one spot for MAG…the athletes have until the end of 2019 to submit a request to be considered and they’ll probably announce in the spring. For WAG, it’ll most likely be Milka Gehani of Sri Lanka, and for MAG I believe it’s going to be Matvei Petrov, a Russian gymnast competing for Albania. The tripartite committee usually considers those who are eligible based on the tripartite rules (which included two WAG gymnasts and like five MAG gymnasts this year), and then from those who are eligible, they usually choose whoever did best in the worlds AA, so going by that logic, it’ll be the two I mentioned.


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