It’s time for the 266th 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.
Why are inbars so difficult? Why is it such a big deal for gymnasts to have them?
They’re difficult because they require an incredibly deep pike shape while completing a full circle around the bar. The pike shape on its own is manageable for most gymnasts, but holding that position while swinging by your arms is super hard, especially when you then have to finish in handstand, and it can be really difficult to transition up from the inbar circle into the handstand, why is why so many inbar skills (especially with pirouettes) end up being short or late or arched or crooked or a damn mess in general.
Also, if gymnasts often have back pain or issues with their low back, even if the skill is physically easy for them on its own when they’re healthy, those back issues make it painful as hell, which is also why gymnasts who used to do inbars but are dealing with back pain or take time off and don’t have the flexibility to do them any longer usually trade them for toe-ons.
It’s not really a “big deal” for gymnasts to have inbars unless you have a routine where your difficulty comes from a million connections between easier elements. Then you basically need inbars to give more value to some of your connections (a toe half to Jaeger is worthless, for example, but an inbar half to Jaeger gets you an extra tenth, and these connections add up).
None of the gymnasts on the bars podium at worlds this year had a single inbar in their routines, and those three routines were also the three most difficult routines in the final. In fact, only two who made the final had inbars (both of the Russians, obvs) and these were two of the weakest hit routines in terms of E scores because almost all of the inbars they showed had 0.3-0.5 deductions apiece basically just from the handstand position at the end of the skill (I think Daria Spiridonova’s inbar half before her Jaeger was the only exception). That’s a bummer because the rest of their skills and their routines in general are pretty lovely.
I think people got it into their heads a few years ago that inbars are like the holy grail of gymnastics skills because Ashton Locklear couldn’t get her inbars back and some people were like “how dare she make the worlds team without inbars?!” so everyone not as well-versed in the intricacies of the sport was like “yeah, inbars!!! SHE NEEDS INBARS!!!” without really knowing what that means, and it’s created this kind of frenzy around inbars that doesn’t actually exist in the real world.
Ashton losing her inbars took her difficulty way down, and adding them back would’ve increased her chances to medal in 2017, but that’s specific to her and that one routine (as well as anyone else who has inbars and takes them out, like Kyla Ross did when she was recovering from back pain). Getting inbars will not magically make you a bars queen. If you have a lot of toe-on skills and are looking to upgrade, inbars are the next logical step, especially if you want to gain CV from connections, but they’re not at all a “big deal” in the sense of being necessary to have if you want to be the best on bars.
If WADA doesn’t allow Russia to compete in Tokyo, what happens to the Russian MAG and WAG teams that have already qualified? Can they compete under a neutral flag?
It sounds like they’re going to be allowed to compete under a neutral flag, similar to what happened at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. If they end up not being allowed to compete under a neutral flag, then the reserve teams would come in, which would be Australia for the women and Italy for the men.
Why doesn’t UCLA have a men’s team? Would this ever be a possibility for the future?
UCLA used to have a men’s team and they were quite successful in the 80s and early 90s. Tim Daggett, Mitch Gaylord, Peter Vidmar, and current women’s program coach Chris Waller all competed for UCLA. Unfortunately, the program was cut in 1995 due to budget issues. Men’s gymnastics in general struggles to find an audience in the U.S., and as you can probably imagine, NCAA men’s is even more difficult, which is why there are only 18 collegiate teams now. In the early 80s, there were about 80 men’s collegiate teams.
It’s quite sad. Former USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi called the disappearance of men’s programs “a consequence of Title IX” hahahaha. Because when men have problems, we must blame the women! But women’s teams have also dropped tremendously, from around 180 in the early 80s to just around 80 now, not as severe a decrease percentage-wise, but it’s still pretty bad. But it’s the same for other Olympic sports like fencing and wrestling. These sports don’t bring in money. Football and basketball do, and the sports that bring in money are the sports that get money. It sucks for gymnasts, but financially it’s what makes sense for universities.
So based on this, no, I don’t really see UCLA adding a men’s program in the future after it was dropped 25 years ago, but you never know. Since the women are starting to bring in more of an audience, if they had a men’s team and did Beauty and the Beast meets at home, I’m sure they could get some people interested.
Which individuals do you see in the top of the race for the individual spots for Tokyo at the Pan American Championships next spring?
If Rebeca Andrade is back and at a hundred percent, I totally see her getting a spot pretty easily. I think if Canada sends someone like Zoé Allaire-Bourgie, they could also be right up there in the mix to qualify, though if she did, it would be a non-nominative spot since Canada has already qualified a full team (aka it would belong to Canada and they could choose who to send, not to Zoé).
Apparently Jessica Lopez of Venezuela is going to try to come back for Pan Ams so she can attempt to qualify, which is really exciting, though having not competed since 2016, it’s obviously going to be tough. Then Mexico and Argentina both have several strong all-arounders who could fit into the group of most-likely contenders. I’m thinking Elsa Garcia and Ana Lago could be pushing for spots assuming they continue for Mexico, as could Frida Esparza and possibly Anapaula Gutierrez. For Argentina, I think Abigail Magistrati and Ayelen Tarabini are also capable of making it happen.
Is there any possibility that Flavia Saraiva could still compete at the Olympics even though Brazil didn’t qualify a team?
Flavia qualified as an individual through the all-around at worlds this year, so she’s all set even though Brazil won’t have a full team there.
Can someone who didn’t participate at world cups until now win a spot to the Olympics if they were to participate next year? Are there enough chances?
Yup! You need to count three scores into your total to have a chance at winning the series, and since there are three world cups left — Melbourne, Baku, and Doha — it means a gymnast can show up in Melbourne for the first time, win all three, and then win an Olympic spot. For most events, the race is already at full speed and it won’t be super likely, but if a killer beam queen stepped in, I could see it working out for her, since that series title is still up for grabs, though Emma Nedov keeps doing great work to push forward and stay in the lead. I feel like it would be smart of Russia to send Elena Gerasimova, who would have a very strong shot of getting a perfect 90 on beam if she competed well at all three. But selfishly, don’t do this, Russia. I need Emma to get her spot.
Which NCAA gymnasts have had the most difficult routines on each event?
Overall, it’s MyKayla Skinner, hands down. I don’t think anyone in history has had the combined difficulty she’s had across the board. On each event, for vault it’s basically anyone who has done a DTY, on bars and beam it’s kind of hard to say because most of the more difficult routines are kind of similar? No one has really and truly gone above and beyond on either…though I guess probably Courtney Kupets on bars? She had a Maloney + bail + toe shoot, hop full + Tkachev, and double layout at one point, which is insane for NCAA. Definitely the most difficulty I’ve seen in the past decade. But beam, though, I can’t really think of anyone…honestly, MyKayla is up there again (she had a D acro and an E dismount in the NCAA code, plus a greater number of skills than most routines have there which is difficult in itself, though recently Sarah Finnegan and Maggie Nichols when she had the double tuck both had some solid difficulty, and anyone who does a standing full or arabian also gets a nod for most difficult skills on beam even if the routine as a whole wasn’t necessarily the most difficult…I don’t remember Sam Peszek’s entire routine but I’d bet hers is up there). I’m sure there’s more. And floor, it’s MyKayla hands down. No one else really comes close there.
Do you think that there should be some sort of diversity rule for NCAA team rosters?
I don’t think enforcing a specific percentage makes sense, because if no athletes who would add diversity want to attend your program you have no way of really meeting that standard, but I think coaches enforcing their own personal internal percentages when recruiting would help things along (e.g., for every white suburban gymnast they scope out, they should look into two who don’t fit that mold).
I think there are some schools where a lack of diversity has been such an issue over such a long period of time that athletes who aren’t straight white girls decide these programs aren’t for them, and that makes sense. An athlete who is in the minority for her race or ethnicity or sexual orientation (not only in that specific athletic program but when considering the entire university) should have the right to choose a program where diversity happens more naturally, because these programs and schools are generally the ones that are actually going to be more open and accepting in addition to these universities often having more programs and resources for minority students. With the programs that do lack diversity, coaches might be actively doing outreach to help move things in the right direction, but when students visit the program and see that literally no one is like them, I’m sure many want to look elsewhere.
Even though I don’t think there’s a way you can actually enforce a diversity percentage on team rosters, I do wish that in instances where coaches aren’t already making an effort to change things, they’d step it up and do greater outreach, or make the program more appealing to a wider group of people so that they could have greater representation.
Why did Anna Li not replace Alicia Sacramone on the 2011 team? Surely it would’ve made sense to add her in case someone was injured during the competition.
Anna reportedly also had an injury, something with a torn ab muscle or something? But I think that was basically a cover for Martha Karolyi not really wanting to put her on the team. I think she really wanted to test how her five young all-arounders could do under pressure, and as badly as I wanted Anna to be on that team at the time, I think the decision Martha made ultimately was a brilliant one in hindsight, especially for what that experience did in helping Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman go from good to incredible over the next few months into 2012.
That experience showed Gabby that she was a legit competitor, and it showed Aly that she was a legit leader. When Alicia got injured, people said the U.S. had no chance at making the podium with how strong Russia, China, and Romania were, which sounds insane now, but in that moment? Yeah, it crossed my mind that they could potentially miss out on a medal, both for the lack of experience in the majority of the girls on the team as well as for the fact that they were only putting five up instead of six, putting them at a major disadvantage. I think most people expected meltdowns, and yet they delivered exactly the opposite.
I think Martha knew what she was doing when she made that decision, and as much as I hated it then, now it just makes sense. Of course, she could’ve named Anna to the team and just had her not compete, but I think she also wanted Alicia to get her medal, so she kept Alicia on the team despite her injury, which is…I guess partly admirable and partly questionable, hahaha.
When did leotards become such a statement? I feel like they keep getting more showy and am wondering who/what prompted the shift.
I don’t think it’s so much about making them statement pieces, but I do think gymnasts like to show off their own personal style, and so having the ability to do that is kinda nice, especially when it’s often the only little thing they have control over. Especially when picking leos for nationals or classics, getting to help create a design and have a leo brand turn it into reality is so much fun. Same goes for gymnasts who generally compete individually or part of small teams at worlds…they can also have a bit more control over their designs and I love seeing what people come up with because some options are really creative.
At the national team level in the U.S., I honestly prefer the simple and sporty leos (the 2007 team final Adidas is what perfection looks like to me *chef’s kiss*) and I don’t tend to love most of the designs we see for the U.S., but I guess there was something with Martha Karolyi wanting to make them really blingy and show-offy, and so I guess that just became the trend that other countries started following and so now it’s like the battle of the bling. Which is fine, just not what I personally prefer. It’s all about me!!!
Why does every Chinese gymnast hurdle left and is a lefty gymnast? Is there a benefit to teaching all gymnasts one direction even if it’s not their naturally dominant side?
I don’t know if it’s about having a benefit so much as it’s just about coaches teaching what they know? At my gym when I was a kid, everyone tended to learn things on the left, and I don’t think we ever really even thought much about the “why,” it just was what it was. I’m a righty but to this day I turn and twist left (I do ballet and take trampoline classes and naturally go left for both), and I’m guessing if I tried to tumble, I’d probably still hurdle left as well. I would assume coaches in China just teach what they know, and the same probably goes with most coaches, though some kids start tumbling and playing around with cartwheels and things on their own and might naturally go right, in which case they’d probably stick with going right when they’re in the gym.
I completely believe gymnasts when they talk about how exhausting competitions are. Can you elaborate on the reasons why, though? They train twice a day every day, so how does a competitive schedule differ from a practice schedule?
It’s a mental thing more than a physical fitness kinda thing. The mental energy it takes to compete like that is super draining. They’re actually out there doing gymnastics for under four minutes across all four events combined, but mentally they’re going from the time they wake up in the morning until that final routine is done, their adrenaline is going at full speed, and it takes a lot out of them. They’re used to training sometimes eight hours a day, which uses a lot of physical energy, and sometimes training can be mentally stressful, but it’s not the same as being in a competitive mindset, especially in the higher levels like elite where there can be so much on the line.
This has been the worst NCAA season yet in terms of leos that don’t cover even half of the athlete’s butt. At what point is this a deduction?
I don’t think lack of leo coverage is a deduction in NCAA…in J.O. and elite, yes, but I don’t think NCAA really follows those rules. Between the drooping backs and high cuts, yeah, many of the leos are a bit much, and I don’t care about modesty or anything like that but I’m just like…isn’t it uncomfortable?!
Which gymnasts have medaled on all four events at worlds or the Olympics?
At world championships, Simone Biles (United States), Svetlana Khorkina (Russia), Larisa Latynina (Soviet Union), Lavinia Milosovici (Romania), Aliya Mustafina (Russia), Ludmilla Tourischeva (Soviet Union), Elena Shushunova (Soviet Union), Ecaterina Szabo (Romania), Helena Rakoczy (Poland), Natalia Kuchinskaya (Soviet Union), and Olga Korbut (Soviet Union) have all managed to medal on every apparatus (some at the same world championships).
At the Olympics, Larisa Latynina (Soviet Union), Vera Caslavska (Czechoslovakia), Maria Gorokhovskaya (Soviet Union), and Daniela Silivas (Romania) are the only four who have achieved this.
What is the definition of an aerial? What makes it different from saltos that you step in or out of?
An “aerial” is basically a hands-free version of a basic acro skill that involves hand support. A front aerial is also referred to as an “aerial walkover” because it’s the hands-free version of a front walkover, and a side aerial is referred to as an “aerial cartwheel” because it’s the hands-free version of a cartwheel. The “aerial” version of the back handspring also exists, but we just call it a whip (or whip-back, but whip is what you’ll hear more commonly).
Aerials and their hand-support counterparts are different from saltos. They all involve flipping over, but aerials and hand-support skills flip differently than how a salto flips. A salto is when a gymnast flips 360 degrees forward or backward around a horizontal plane across the waist, with the body either tucked, piked, or laid-out, but aerials and hand-support skills don’t compete that 360 rotation in the same way/on the same horizontal plane, if that makes sense.
On floor do gymnasts need to face the center of the floor when they start a tumbling pass or could they face the corner and start with a backwards element?
They basically have to face the center because they need to run/hurdle into the roundoff back handspring before a pass, which requires forward momentum. If they started backwards with only back handsprings, they wouldn’t be able to generate the momentum needed to execute a difficult pass. I suppose if a gymnast was just doing a back tuck or back layout or other simple element as a tumbling pass, they could start in the corner facing backwards and just do a back handspring to single back salto, but that wouldn’t really work for an elite-level routine that requires greater difficulty and more momentum to carry out that more difficult pass.
What rhythmic gymnasts have switched to artistic?
Not very many. The most well-known is Elizabet Vasileva of Bulgaria, who competed artistic gymnastics at a few meets, and is apparently still training in some capacity, but never really got super far with her artistic career.
Once a gymnast qualifies elite and competes at classics, she doesn’t have to do compulsories again, correct? But she has to get her optionals score every year to qualify? What level is a gymnast who qualified elite the previous year but fails to get her optionals score the next year? If she’s not considered elite, does she still need to petition back to level 10?
Correct, she’s done with compulsories once she initially passes them, whether she actually qualifies elite or not (it’s possible to get your elite compulsory score but then not get your optional score, and your optional score is what actually qualifies you to elite).
And you’re also correct in that a gymnast has to get her optionals score every year. If she doesn’t, she doesn’t have to petition down to level 10…she just can’t compete at classics or nationals. She basically would’ve spent the whole J.O. season attending elite qualifiers to attempt to get her elite scores, and by the time the elite qualification season is done, J.O. has been over for about a month, so there’d really be nothing to drop down to in the immediate future. She’d just essentially skip the elite summer meets, and then go back to the qualifying meets the next year, unless she wanted to drop down to level 10, in which case she could do that and then go back to J.O. the next year instead.
Many of the best female gymnasts have male coaches. Do any elite male gymnasts have female coaches or staff members?
There are several female MAG coaches in the U.S. and around the world. I think most tend to be male, but every so often you do see female coaches and even judges in MAG, which is cool and I hope that’s something that we see continue to grow. One of the biggest up-and-coming Ukrainian men, Nazar Chepurnyi, has a female coach, Iryna Nadyuk. He should start competing at the senior level next year, and hopefully he makes some teams, because I’d love to see a woman coaching MAG on the major international senior stage.
What happened to Kohei Uchimura this quad?
Injuries, basically. He’s 30 now and has been going hard as a top all-arounder for 12 years, which takes a major toll on the body. I think that ankle injury he sustained at worlds in 2017 kind of started his “downfall” so to speak, in that it’s what caused him to take a step back from peak-level training for a bit, and when he returned, he just wasn’t able to get back to full strength due to continued injuries.
I still think he has a lot of great strengths, but this year, he had a really off day at nationals in terms of mistakes, meaning he couldn’t qualify to the final at nationals, meaning he couldn’t qualify to the NHK Trophy, meaning he couldn’t be a contender for worlds. #JapanThings I bet if he got a second chance at a Japanese domestic meet and didn’t have any of the falls/issues he had in qualifications, he would’ve been pretty close to the top.
Is Margzetta Frazier still training elite?
No, Margzetta is done with elite, and just focusing on NCAA for now!
Does Leanne Wong have Chinese descent? Is Kara Eaker adopted?
I’m not sure what Leanne’s background is, but I do know that Kara was adopted from China, apparently from the same city where Morgan Hurd was adopted from, which is super cool.
Do you think it would be a good idea to have a series bonus on floor? Like 0.1 for a tumbling pass with three or more acrobatic skills.
I think they’d have to make it more like, three or more acro skills that are a C or higher, or something like that, otherwise basically every pass would be a “series” if you include the roundoff and back handspring, which are technically acro! I think a series with three C+ skills (or a C + C + B or higher, like Aly Raisman’s badass opening pass), should absolutely get more credit than what it’s currently worth, and a “series bonus” could be the way to do that.
With big coaching names no longer coaching in the U.S., will this have a long-term effect on USA Gymnastics? Will they come back to the U.S. and start coaching again? Are the Chinese gymnasts a much bigger threat to the U.S. now that they have Liang Chow?
I don’t think it makes such a huge difference that we have to be concerned, mostly because these “big name coaches” are the ones who taught the young coaches who are currently finding success with their elites and will someday become the “big name coaches.” National camps were partly about keeping tabs on the gymnasts, but they were also about coach education, and I think that’s one of the reasons why the U.S. is so successful, because it isn’t about just one or two “big coaches.”
I do think programs like Australia, Brazil, and China are benefiting from having coaches like Mihai Brestyan, Valeri Liukin, and Liang Chow, but the U.S. actually once benefited from bringing in both from foreign countries, and it’s kinda cool that they’re still spreading that wealth, with Mihai and Valeri bringing their experience to less developed programs and Liang going back to China. The work Liang is doing is especially noticeable, and China is becoming a huge threat, not quite at the same level as the U.S. just yet, but their junior and developmental programs are going to keep getting so much better, so I do think they’ll be difficult to contend with again in the future.
BUT again, at the same time, I don’t think the U.S. program is at a major loss without them. It would be great if they decided to come back, but we also don’t need to beg them to come back, which is kind of nice, and that’s partly thanks to them sharing their wisdom with the up-and-coming coaches at camps.
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