It’s time for the 263rd edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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Due to the fact that there won’t be a test event next year, will gymnasts that turn senior in 2020 have any kind of chance to qualify for the Olympics if their teams don’t qualify this year? I’m especially concerned about Silvia Sfiringu and Ioana Stanciulescu, because this is an incredibly unfair situation for them.
Their only chances would be…
- Win a world cup apparatus series title, which is going to be incredibly difficult if not entirely impossible because they’d have to win all three remaining meets outright to get the top score while other gymnasts will have had a total of eight to reach a Perfect 90 (and most of those in this position aren’t top specialists with the ability to qualify this way anyway), or…
- Get a spot through the all-around final at continental championships by finishing in the top two among those not already qualified (more realistic for girls in weaker continental groups where the power teams are likely to have already qualified additional gymnasts elsewhere e.g., the Americas, but in Europe, I could see power teams like Russia or Great Britain easily getting non-nominative spots).
That’s really it, unfortunately. I think the best shot for Silvia or Ioana would be attempting to qualify through the all-around at European Championships. Again, it’s going to be tough, but not impossible. If this year’s Euros counted instead of next year’s, Anastasiia Bachynska (5th all-around) and Jessica Castles (14th all-around) would’ve gotten nominative spots because all of the gymnasts from the power countries helped their teams qualify through worlds, making them ineligible to qualify this way, so the potential is definitely there for girls from non-qualified teams to qualify this way.
But I do think next year, teams like Russia and Great Britain will send its absolute top gymnasts who weren’t part of their qualifying worlds teams, and they both have pretty deep pools to choose from. Russia can send Vladislava Urazova and easily snag a spot, and then Great Britain has girls like Amelie Morgan and Claudia Fragapane who could also be up there in the rankings if they’re back at full health. Assuming neither country already qualifies their two spots via both the apparatus and all-around world cups, they should be eligible to get spots there, and both they and a few other teams with good depth — like France or Italy — could be in a position to earn spots over girls like Silvia, Ioana, and others from non-qualified teams hoping to earn nominative spots.
Basically, the individual qualification system is absolutely heinous for 2004-born gymnasts, and these gymnasts should have been made eligible to compete at worlds this year, since it was the only realistic chance they had to attempt to qualify.
Can male gymnasts from different countries join MAG NCAA if the NCAA is used as a “feeder system” for elite?
Yup! There are several international men competing for NCAA programs right now (the majority usually end up being men who train in the U.S. but compete for other countries internationally, though you do see the occasional foreign-born gymnast show interest and earn a spot on a team).
NCAA isn’t really a “feeder system” for elite in the U.S., but it just happens that men become senior elites as they become college-aged, so they basically have to compete at the elite level at the same time they’re competing in college. This is why men’s NCAA uses the elite scoring system, to kind of keep things consistent so they’re not jumping back and forth trying to change routines to match two different codes. But NCAA has nothing to do with USA Gymnastics or the men’s national team program in that sense, and for those who do compete at the national level as elites, their NCAA programs basically act as their clubs, and the national team is entirely separate from what goes on in NCAA.
Essentially, someone can win every NCAA meet and choose to not do elite, and guys can skip NCAA entirely and go right to the Olympic Training Center to only compete elite. That separation makes NCAA open to guys from outside the U.S., and while there aren’t as many international elites coming through the NCAA system as there are in the WAG program, it still happens.
Can you explain what’s been going on with India? Do you see potential for growth in their program in the coming years?
There’s always a lot of internal drama within the federation and to be honest, I don’t fully understand why…it just seems like there’s a lot of red tape and bureaucracy, possibly because the program is government-funded, and this kind of system isn’t always great for the athletes. This is why they seem to constantly have issues like team selection requirements being released a day before the selection camps only for gymnasts who should be locks for teams finding out that they haven’t prepared enough to meet requirements, causing them to drop out entirely (for worlds in 2018, they told gymnasts just days prior to the selection that they had to do the all-around to be chosen, and so all of the top gymnasts ended up dropping out because most only prepared their best events).
That said, the program is definitely growing and is gaining more funding/government support. Dipa Karmakar put the program on the map with her vaults at the Commonwealth Games in 2014, and she continued to compete her Produnova for the next couple of years and got to the Olympics thanks to the extra difficulty this vault added, but even though that’s what she was known for while the rest of her events weren’t that great, over the years she really started to improve elsewhere, and she began to show a real talent for vault beyond just chucking a technically simple but physically difficult skill. She added variety to her vault families, increased her difficulty on the other apparatuses, and became a truly solid gymnast, which is obviously partly due to how talented she is and how much potential she had, but also due to the program getting more funding, making changes, and being able to teach a higher quality of gymnastics.
In addition to Dipa, the other Indian gymnasts have vastly improved their routines compared to when we first got a good look at them in 2014, with Aruna Budda Reddy, Pranati Nayak, and Pranati Das all getting much stronger to become more of a threat at world cups and meets like the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. Additionally, the federation is really trying to make domestic competitions a much bigger deal, and this year, 113 women competed at the senior and junior levels at national championships, which is huge. They currently have about 15 women (including a few juniors) who can score in the 40s as all-arounders, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a big deal when just five years ago, they only had about two or three who could do this, and that was within a code where the all-around scores were two points higher on average.
A program in a country that lacks the resources and infrastructure of most programs around the world is not going to become a huge, dominating program overnight, and I think it’s still going to be a while before we see India threaten to make the top 24 or so as a team. But that said, they only first went to world championships 20 years ago, and only consistently started coming to worlds 10 years ago. The past five years have been a period of excellent growth for the program, and I hope the next five years will see some strong junior-to-senior transitions as well as a greater emphasis on the developmental program.
Do gymnasts get a deduction if they jump from the podium after a routine instead of taking the stairs?
No, at least not one that I’ve seen in the code of points. I often see gymnasts jump off of the podium after the excitement of a routine instead of using the stairs, but I’m pretty sure that’s usually at like, U.S. or other domestic/low-key meets and not worlds or the Olympics. I think most just do the stairs because it’s considered more ‘professional’ and I don’t think judges appreciate over-celebrating a routine. In NCAA, if regular season meets had podiums at home, I’m pretty sure gymnasts would fly off of the podiums into a mosh pit of their teammates, hahaha. This is probably why they’re corralled at nationals!
If a J.O. gymnastics meet says it includes Level 10/Open, does the open part mean an elite could compete?
While elites can’t compete level 10 and would have to drop down from elite to return to J.O. gymnastics, invitationals with ‘open’ divisions do allow elites to compete essentially as ‘guests’ in a way. You don’t see it often, and it most regularly happens when an elite’s club gym is hosting an invitational…in 2013, for example, MyKayla Skinner debuted her double double layout at her club gym invitational, so we technically saw the first Moors at a level 10 meet, which is kinda cool.
Do you know if Jazmyn Foberg took a redshirt year?
Yes, she redshirted in 2019 to recover from her elbow injury/surgery, so she will be a redshirt sophomore this coming 2020 season.
Since Jade Carey deferred Oregon State, how will this impact her eligibility? If she defers next year as well, will she lose a year?
I’m pretty sure that if she starts in the 2020-2021 season, she’ll be eligible to compete all four years. I don’t think she can defer beyond that and keep all four years…but I know that Bridget Sloan was originally supposed to start in the 2010-2011 season, and then skipped that season and the following season, began in the 2012-2013 season, and competed all four years, so I think it should also be fine for Jade based on that and what I’ve read from Oregon State’s press releases. I think you’re only able to defer one year if you decide to take a year off mid-career, but you have options to defer for a bit longer if you take that time prior to entering the program.
Have you ever seen a full-in pike dismount on uneven bars? What would the D score be?
Adrienn Varga was the first to compete a full-twisting double pike, but it was more like a half-in half-out. Also, because the pike shape is considered to be “impossible” to twist in (most piked full-ins you see on floor are actually laid-out or super open pikes in the first flip), it was actually considered a half-in back layout, half-out front pike, which is how it was referred to by the technical committee. It disappeared from the code in 2007, however, so I’m wondering if it would be possible to add a legit full-twisting double pike to the code today if someone did a “legit” full-in? Varga’s version was a D in the first open-ended code, but I think if someone were to compete a full-twisting double pike today, it would/should be at least an E.
Is Shang Chunsong still active?
She’s still training, but at the provincial level, not the national level. She competed a couple of times in 2019, including at national championships, where she won the gold on floor. While she’s still pretty good on beam and floor, she’s not quite at the level she once was, and her vault and bars have pretty much deteriorated. With the depth China has right now, I doubt she’ll be seriously considered for major teams in the future, including the 2020 Olympic team, but I love seeing her stick with the sport she loves out of pure passion, especially in a country where most gymnasts are expected to move on once they’re no longer on the national team.
Since 10 gymnasts were added to the U.S. junior national team, does that mean no others can be added?
It means we’re not likely to see gymnasts added until 2020, which is when some of this year’s 2004-born juniors will become seniors and have the ability to be bumped up to the senior team, which would open up some spots on the junior team for newcomers to be added. This will likely happen at the camp where they name the teams for Gymnix (assuming they go again next year) and/or Jesolo.
Not trying to start drama here, but just curious…do you think it’s possible Maggie Haney pulled Riley McCusker out of nationals because of the investigation, thinking it would show that she doesn’t push her athletes through injuries? It seemed uncharacteristic for her, and for WAG coaches in general, especially since Riley wanted to push through.
I doubt it. I think she did exactly what I was expecting her to do as a coach watching her athlete about to melt down. I’ve seen Riley have some really scary beam routines when she isn’t at a hundred percent in training, and I think it was best for her mentally to withdraw. Even if she wasn’t actually about to be sick after bars, it was still best to pull her because she’s not really the kind of athlete who comes back from a rough patch and then does angry beam and murders it for her best set ever…she’s often the kind of athlete who carries a bad moment through to the next routine, and I think it was best for her mentally to stop, and I think Maggie knows that about her. It’s not the first time Maggie has made decisions related to Riley’s mental game, so it didn’t seem all that uncharacteristic to me. Even if she has forced other athletes to compete through injuries in the past, with Riley I think she knows when it’s time to call it quits.
Do you know why Emma Malabuyo took her YouTube videos down? Is it an ad revenue/NCAA thing?
I’m not sure, you’d have to ask her, but I know if I were a gymnast with NCAA eligibility on the line, I would not be monetizing literally anything in my life because it would be so easy for NCAA compliance to find out and end my NCAA career before it even began. Having worked in influencer marketing, my advice to anyone who needs to maintain amateur status would be to not do literally anything online with your name that could potentially affect your eligibility. Some social media activity is okay in terms of repping brands and getting a few bucks from ads on your YouTube videos, but the lines are so blurry right now, I wouldn’t bother risking it.
How did Jade Carey go from level 10 to making the worlds team so quickly? Her rise seems pretty unheard of. Were people sleeping on her for years, or did she change her mind about elite?
There was talk about her in late 2016, because Valeri Liukin – then the developmental coach – noticed her at J.O. nationals that year thanks to her power and potential on vault, and going into a year that seemed like it would be pretty low on strong vaulters at the elite level, she started getting invites to camps. She went to a few and at first, it didn’t look like she’d really amount to anything…she didn’t make the Jesolo team in 2017, and it seemed like while she was great in J.O., she just didn’t have the elite-worthy difficulty on that event at the time.
But then, Jade got an Amanar, and that along with her kaz full gave her the highest combined vault difficulty in the world in the summer of 2017, alongside China’s Wang Yan. She won vault, beam, and floor at the American Classic – her first elite meet – and quickly became a top option for world championships as the only senior doing two vaults in addition to also upping her difficulty tremendously to also become one of the best floor workers in the U.S.
Based on what she did in J.O., this super quick rise would have been pretty much impossible to predict. Valeri was beyond brilliant to notice her potential on vault, but I think floor came as a surprise to pretty much everyone…she was fine on this event as a J.O. gymnast, but in 2016 her most difficult pass was a tucked full-in (her other passes were a front layout + front full, and a double pike). The fact that she was opening with a double double and full-twisting double layout and finishing with a full-in less than a year later in her first elite routine is literally insane, and shows just how beyond talented and skilled she is.
So to answer your question, no one really slept on her because she was never an elite hopeful and never had plans to do elite. People noticed her kaz vaults in J.O. because we so rarely see them, but based on those alone, no one was like “she’ll be the next big thing on vault for the United States!” I think being scouted by Valeri, getting invites to camps, and being given the motivation to do more than she probably ever dreamed she could do is what took her to the next level. It makes you remember how lucky the U.S. is to have the J.O. program as this endless wealth of talent. Jade’s story is unusual, and it’s rare for a national team coordinator to be so desperate for a specific talent that they feel the need to scout J.O., but I think there are lots of diamonds-in-the-rough in that program, and feel like if bars was an issue, Tom could go watch J.O. nationals to find some kids with bars potential, and we could see something similar happen with a bars kid. Or a beam kid. Or a floor kid.
We also can’t forget that Jade wasn’t the first to have this ridiculously fast turnaround! In 2009, Kayla Williams went from J.O. gymnast to world vault champion in six months, and that was without being spotted by the national team. At 16, she had a DTY and was training front handsprings, and she decided elite would be fun to try. She ended up being the only U.S. gymnast with two higher-level vaults, and in a year that was pretty weak internationally, her DTY + Rudi combo was enough to take gold. Then we never saw her in elite again! Though she became incredibly memorable as an NCAA standout for Alabama.
Again, the J.O. program is invaluable to the United States’ success on the international stage, and both Kayla and Jade are the most obvious testaments to that success because they happened to be 16 when they made the transition, which is pretty rare. But every U.S. elite gymnast comes through the J.O. program. Some enter elite developmental programs when they’re eight or nine, and others wait until they’re teenagers to consider it, but they all come from that incredible foundational system, and I’d say there are at least a hundred level 10s competing right now who would do very well as elites if that’s what they wanted to do. It’s depth beyond the wildest dreams of what any other country in the world could imagine, and as long as kids keep joining clubs as toddlers or preschoolers, and as long as a good percentage of those kids keep feeding into their clubs’ competitive programs, the U.S. will be pretty much unstoppable.
In your opinion, was Aly Raisman more successful in Rio or in London?
It’s honestly difficult for me to say, and I think this would come down to what she considered a bigger success for herself. I think she was equally successful at both but in different ways. In 2012, she came in as the underdog on the U.S. team, but walked away the most-decorated, getting a score that tied for third (even though she lost the tie-break) and winning two event medals, including the gold on floor. London was beyond what I think anyone would have imagined for her even months earlier.
But then in Rio, her success was that she managed a successful elite comeback after initially struggling with it, all while dealing with abuse that she was forced to shove down and ignore. She also managed to win her first major international all-around medal with her silver there, and even though she wasn’t going to defend her floor title with Simone Biles around, getting silver was still incredible given some of her earlier issues when coming back.
I think if you asked Aly directly, she’d say her biggest success at both Olympic Games was that she was in a leadership role, and that the responsibilities she took on in leading the team to gold both years was incredibly special. Again, 2012 was special because they had some tough competition that quad and she pretty quickly had to go from the baby of the team in 2010 to the veteran leader just a year later. Watching her really grow into such a team player who pushed more for the team’s success than for her own was incredible to witness. But then again in her comeback, she quickly went right back into that leadership role, becoming team captain and having her teammates vote her “sportswoman of the year,” and she talked more about this than any of her personal successes, so I think it was clear the team was again at the heart of everything she did, and carrying them to gold once again in Rio was probably just as magical for her as when she led them in London.
The elite qualification chart in the U.S. shows a 50.5 at nationals as the automatic qualifying score to next year’s classics. Do you know if that can come from either day or does it have to be the average of both days? Do you think they’ll raise the score for next year?
It can be from either day, and no, they won’t raise the score for next year. They keep it the same all quad, and only adjust it if the code of points changes an athlete’s scoring potential significantly. From what I can remember, the qualifying score stayed the same between 2009 and 2016, and only changed in 2017 because the average all-around potential dropped by two points in the current code of points, so the USA Gymnastics women’s program dropped the qualifying scores by two points each. If next quad’s code will leave all-around scoring potential relatively the same as it is now, I don’t think we’ll see the nationals qualifying scores change in the U.S. going into next quad.
Where is Tabea Alt?
Unfortunately she’s just had a million injuries back-to-back and can’t seem to get back on track. Right now, she knows time is running out and she doesn’t seem optimistic that she’ll be back at full health in time for Tokyo, though with some of her therapies finishing up this month, she is going to give it a shot and thinks she has time to get some solid routines together.
That said, she recognizes that the other girls on the national team have had much more time to prepare for the Olympics, and she knows that even if she gets back to a good level and stays healthy, she’ll still have to beat out the other girls for a spot on the team, and she knows that’s going to be very difficult. I think that’s especially true now that Sarah Voss is such a huge threat who has proven two years in a row that she is uber reliable on vault and beam, which are also Tabea’s two biggest strengths. It’s not going to be easy, and she’s prioritizing her health over her gymnastics goals, but I’d love to see her at least able to come back and be in the mix, even if it doesn’t ultimately work out.
Are there any “dark horses” right now that you could see as potential surprise challengers for a spot on the U.S. team?
I think Kayla DiCello could be a dark horse just based on how easily she not only picks up skills, but on how and when she does add them in — they’re clean and solid and safe. So often you see gymnasts push for higher difficulty but then become super inconsistent with skills they probably aren’t ready to compete, but Kayla always seems ready for whatever skills she’s doing. I think her vault is also gorgeous and fully upgrade-able, and with all of the all-arounders looking super close and impossible to choose between over the past few years, an Amanar will give Kayla — or anyone else who gets one — that edge they need to stand out even further.
Kayla to me is like an Aly Raisman in terms of having solid routines everywhere, and even though I think beam is a weak spot for her, it’s still a dependable enough routine with a super impressive hit rate, just as Aly was with bars. She’s good right now, but I find it difficult for her to stand out among some of the current seniors with the kinds of routines she had this year…but once she becomes a senior and starts adding in just a couple of small upgrades across all of her routines, I think she has the potential to be a standout ahead of many of this year’s top seniors, and if she gets an Amanar, I’d say she has about a 60% chance of making the team.
Most others I’m considering for Tokyo are already those who have been consistently in the mix over the past two years, so even though Morgan Hurd and Leanne Wong didn’t go to worlds this year, I still think they’re not really dark horses based on their histories, and this is how I feel about many of the girls who are on the bubble of making the team. But I think outside of that bubble is Jordan Chiles, who hasn’t really been a legitimate threat over the past couple of years but with a little more time at WCC, I think she could just sneak in and get right back in the mix.
I’d also love girls like Ciena Alipio or Sophia Butler to come out swinging, because I’m obsessed with their beam routines, and then while Riley McCusker is definitely one of those often considered as someone with potential for Tokyo, I could see her club teammate Olivia Greaves eclipse Riley if Riley continues struggling with her health…I love them both but Olivia’s growth really impressed me this year and while I think she still needs a lot of improvement to become a legitimate threat, watching her go from brand-new elite in early 2018 to decent elite in late 2018–early 2019 to pretty excellent elite at classics and nationals this summer makes me think that her momentum could be rocketing her forward to a pretty big 2020.
Why is Maggie Haney being investigated? Why is she still coaching elites if she has abused gymnasts? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about coaches who are accused of abuse being around children?
Gymnasts from MG Elite reported emotionally abusive behavior on Maggie’s part (edit: there were also physical abuse complaints that I wasn’t aware of). I don’t know any details, so I’ll refrain from commenting or making any judgments about this case specifically until they’ve dealt with this in some sort of hearing through SafeSport.
Moving away from Maggie specifically and focusing on the second part of your question more generally as it relates more to cancel culture and not this specific situation…
I do think in some of the current emotional abuse cases going through SafeSport, the complaints seem to be things like “the coach yelled a lot and said horrible things,” which is unfortunately pretty common in many high-pressure settings where kids are involved, but I think the issue is often more that the coach needs a warning and an attitude/anger management check, not a full-on abuse case against them…but that’s also me coming from a similar high-pressure environment as a kid regularly experiencing adults behaving like dicks, which I thought was terrible, but I didn’t necessarily consider it abuse. An adult screaming “you f—ing moron, why can’t you get this right?” to me was horrible and if there had been something like SafeSport in that situation I wouldn’t blame a parent for reporting it, but it also happened once, and having also been in actual emotionally abusive situations, isolated incidents of an adult screaming out of frustration and full-on emotionally abusive situations are entirely different. The one-off situation was embarrassing and terrible, but I knew the person who yelled didn’t want to actually harm me, and in the abusive situation, there was that intention to harm, and I think that’s the key difference between a good person making a mistake, and an abusive person.
However, the line between the two can be a very fine one and super difficult to recognize in the moment, and while I do think some of SafeSport’s emotional abuse cases are overreactions, I’m glad that kids and their parents who are forced to deal with bad attitudes and insults are being extra cautious in the current climate because often this behavior can be indicative of something much worse under the surface, and if parents are seeing coaches act in this manner outright, there very well might be something even worse that they’re not seeing. I think we should put the physical, mental, and emotional health of children as a priority above the coach’s reputation, and even if a case turns out to be nothing more than a coach having a bad day or saying something super mean-spirited to a child, it’s still worth investigating because if it goes unchecked for a longer period of time, it can grow from these little isolated bad day/anger management incidents into something more systemic, and it’s better to have people handle it than to let it continue.
At the same time, I think jumping to “cancel” any coach who has SafeSport complaints for emotional abuse is unfair without knowing the full story. It’s important to thoroughly investigate any coach a child or parent says is emotionally abusive. We need to believe accusers and their complaints, but we also need to wait and see what investigations uncover before completely taking down and destroying a coach’s life, and these initial gut reactions to seeing complaints and wanting to take down the coach is super irresponsible and witch-hunty, especially when we know exactly zero percent of what happened first-hand. This is an incredibly dangerous way to think and react when literally anyone can easily and anonymously file a complaint online. It’s important to take all complaints seriously and put the safety of the children first, but it’s also important to not destroy lives based on something that hasn’t yet been investigated and that we know absolutely nothing about.
Again, I have no first-hand knowledge of what went down at MG Elite, and my thoughts above are just based on the current climate of “someone reported a coach and so they must be a terrible person and they should never ever be around children again.” These thoughts have been building for a while after seeing Twitter campaigns to “cancel” various coaches whenever we see something new come out, so I wanted to attempt to approach the topic of prioritizing child safety without completely destroying an adult’s life and hope that what I said makes sense.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins