The 2016 U.S. Olympic team
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If it was up to you what would be your selection procedure for picking the 2020 US women’s team? Would you change it for 2024 with no individuals?
I would honestly just take the top four all-arounders based on a combination of nationals and trials, adding all four meets together, which is probably the best way to make sure any gymnasts who have one really bad fluke day at trials still make the team.
However, while this method is most likely going to result in the best possible team, there’s still the likelihood that it could end up being an unbalanced team and I like balance, so if Simone Biles, MyKayla Skinner, Jordan Chiles, and Grace McCallum were the top four I’d be like sorry, no, this is not our Olympic team, and swap the two weaker ones in this group for two who could add more on bars and beam.
This is less about the team doing well and more about bringing in more individual medals. A team with Simone, MyKayla, Jordan (with an Amanar), and Grace might be the best scoring team, but then with Jade Carey also (likely) going as a nominative individual and likely to make the vault and floor finals over everyone on the team aside from Simone, only one of the four team members would make apparatus finals, which is silly. I’d want the best possible all-arounders going, but also those who would be most likely to maximize the medal haul, and so I wouldn’t make a “top four all-arounders are guaranteed a spot” rule. My rule would be more like “Simone will make the team, and no one else is safe.”
As for the non-nominative individual spot, I’d want someone like MyKayla circa 2016…a consistent top 5–6 all-arounder who also has apparatus final potential, preferably apparatus final potential on an event where those four who make the team aren’t likely to get in. So like…Kara Eaker (with less risky beam skills) or if Sunisa Lee didn’t make the actual team (say she’s injured and had to downgrade vault and floor, but could still have bars and beam final potential).
For 2024, I’d probably want to take the top three all-arounders based on combined nationals and trials, and then bring in two gymnasts who are considered to be more specialists and complement each other well, though preferably at least one of them is an all-arounder who can step in on any event if needed.
In the current code, are gymnasts limited to one acro + leap connection on floor? There was a discussion about being allowed to do more if the leaps are from different families…how would this work? Why don’t gymnasts leap out of two passes if it’s so advantageous?
No, they’re not limited to just one connection…I don’t remember this discussion or where it came from so I’m not sure what the context is or why it came up. Was it a Lauren Mitchell discussion? She used to jump out of every pass and people were always up in arms about it because her jumps weren’t great and she was clearly doing it to cover up landings out of her tumbling. But as a gymnast, it’s literally your duty to exploit every loophole in the code to increase your D score, and bless Lauren for taking that up as her primary mission.
You can definitely leap out of multiple passes on floor under the current code, but you can get deducted for the composition of your routine, which requires a variety of elements, so if you did a split jump after every pass, you’d definitely get a deduction even if the code technically allows you to do the same jump out of every pass.
Also, the CVs for acro + jumps is pretty difficult…you only get 0.1 no matter what you do, first of all. If you want to do an easier A jump, it has to be out of an E pass, and if you want to jump out of a D pass, you have to do a more difficult B jump. So like, okay, you have a 2.5, which is a D pass. It’s a blind landing, so you want to add a jump instead of taking any steps out. Your easiest options are like, a split jump half and a stag ring jump. Coming out of a 2.5 (or a double back or a front double full) and then immediately going into a jump with a half twist or where you have to throw your head back is super hard. At that point, you’d be better off just doing a punch front, which is easier to do out of a D pass than one of the B leaps, for most gymnasts!
That also brings us to the current code, which requires front tumbling (instead of using a front or side aerial like in the last code). For gymnasts who don’t really front tumble and get their CR for front tumbling from a punch front, they’re gonna want to punch out of D and E passes, which limits the passes they’d be able to use to get credit into a jump.
I think most gymnasts now just prefer to focus on competing and landing their acro lines cleanly so they don’t lose any tenths, rather than adding an iffy/easy-to-deduct jump to add a tenth that they’ll probably lose from the inherent form deductions. This code allows for the jumps, but it doesn’t exactly value them very highly in the way earlier codes did.
Say Jade Carey gets a nominative spot for the Olympics but gets injured before the last opportunity to get a non-nominative spot. Could she step back from her spot so the U.S. would be eligible to get another non-nominative spot?
So I heard at one point that if an athlete from a country that has qualified a full team “officially withdraws” from the race for a nominative world cup spot prior to that series ending, they would redistribute her points. I can’t find anything like this in the rules, however, and there are multiple world cup series rules out there that contradict each other so who knows if they’ve even actually thought about this situation?
If they do allow her to “officially withdraw,” then her points would be redistributed and the U.S. would be eligible to earn the two non-nominative spots through the all-around world cup series and continental championships. But if they don’t allow her to withdraw, and if she won the spot despite being injured, she would either have to keep the spot and then do what she could to compete at the Olympics (if she got injured in the next few months, chances are that she’d still be able to get healthy enough to do something by August), or she’d have to give up her spot to the world cup series alternate for her event.
There are several gymnasts who have earned world cup series points who have since retired, but despite retiring, their points will not be redistributed (though they all have like 10 points so it doesn’t really matter). But my guess is since they’re not automatically redistributing these points, they’re absolutely not going to redistribute the points of someone who gets injured…unless perhaps that athlete requests to withdraw.
How do the U.S. women look compared to how they looked at this point in the last quad?
I’d say pretty similar in that they’re not at a hundred percent right now, and they weren’t the best they could’ve possibly been at worlds, which is basically how the U.S. women looked in 2015. I think the next six months will be all about cleaning up and getting consistent, and then by next summer they should be in a pretty excellent place when considering how we should expect them to look for the Olympics.
Do you think USA Gymnastics will get sponsors in time for the 2020 Olympic Games?
I’m not sure…maybe some brands will want to get involved in order to help the athletes, but unfortunately for the athletes, I don’t think it’s going to be super likely that we’ll see a bunch of brands throwing money at the program as they did in 2012 and 2016. Though…I don’t think the majority of that money went to the athletes back then anyway, so as long as this generation’s needs are met with the resources USA Gymnastics currently has, I don’t think it’s imperative for the athletes to have sponsorship money coming in.
Why didn’t Irina Alexeeva compete at Russian nationals?
She took some time off to focus on school and getting into college. Apparently, the Russian federation wasn’t too thrilled about it, and there were lots of Valentina Rodionenko quotes about how she cared too much about school and just “used” Russia to make her college application look better, which is high-key insane, but that’s Valentina for you. Irina ended up committing to Stanford, so I’d say things worked out for her!
Do you think marketability is taken into consideration when choosing an Olympic team? Do you think this would give Morgan Hurd a boost over the other all-arounders, because she is the most popular/well known after Simone and is also a little more outgoing?
It absolutely has come into several team decisions that I know about for a fact in the past, but those decisions were all under Steve Penny. I haven’t seen anything like that since Steve was ousted, and I think part of the reason the national team staff has been so adamant about selecting the top all-arounders by ranking at particular meets has to do with the previous lack of fairness and transparency.
If they continue with this, I’d say there won’t be any marketing decisions coming into play next year, unless (conspiracy theory time!) they instruct the judges to mark certain gymnasts higher than others so they can ensure they make the team, hahaha. I mean…it sounds crazy but I don’t doubt anything ever after the last few years. If marketing decisions did come into play, I’d definitely want Morgan on the team and I’d bet USA Gymnastics would too.
Do you think Katelyn Ohashi will get backlash for using Michael Jackson music in her routine in light of the Finding Neverland documentary on HBO?
She did, and she changed it. Honestly, this has been a pretty well-known thing for many years even without the documentary, so I don’t know why they would have used it in the first place…and the music absolutely got backlash before the documentary came out. But ultimately she did admit to it being inappropriate especially given the current culture in gymnastics, and so she changed it in the middle of the season.
How did the Nastia Liukin Cup come about? Was creating a level 10 competition already in the works or did Nastia actually come up with the idea and bring it to fruition?
I don’t think there was any mid-season high-profile level 10 meet in the works, but I think USA Gymnastics and Nastia Liukin/her team wanted to capitalize on her win and get her out there as much as possible, and having your own meet is one way many gymnasts are able to use their branding in a way that connects to the sport that made them so well known.
There are tons of meets around the world named after legends of the sport, so this was nothing new, and I like that they made it a level 10 meet that gymnasts have to qualify for instead of a random lower-level invitational or on the other end of the scale, a more exclusive elite meet, because we so rarely see level 10 gymnasts highlighted in a big way (which was also helped by pairing it with the American Cup). Even J.O. nationals aren’t a big deal for most fans who follow the sport, but it seems like almost everyone tunes in to watch the Nastia Liukin Cup broadcast, which is amazing.
Is Gracie Kramer’s floor routine as difficult as routines from top NCAA floor workers?
Not really…her opening pass (a double full to punch front) came with a solid level of difficulty, but it wasn’t anything super difficult, and her subsequent passes (a 1.5 to front layout, and then a Rudi) are pretty simple. But there are similarly easy routines in NCAA, and they all meet the floor requirements to have a 10.0 start value, so it doesn’t really matter! Not really worth it to risk super difficult passes if it means sacrificing execution in a discipline of the sport where execution is really the only thing that matters.
What are the deductions in Grace Glenn’s beam routine usually? It feels like she nails it but only gets a 9.9 because she’s going first. Could she get a 10 in the anchor spot?
I think part of her 9.9s has to do with being the lead-off. She has some of the better extension in her choreo and dance elements and is usually pretty fluid, but as if NCAA judges care about any of those things, hahaha. If I had to be picky as a judge in a routine with no faults (e.g., wobbles or uncharacteristic form errors) I could see them taking for her chest position at the end of her flight series, which is usually angled about 45 degrees forward, and maaaaaybe they’d take away from the split jump out of her front aerial depending on the day (though her leap series show some of the best extension on the team). But anyway, yeah, I feel like if she was in the anchor spot she’d be getting a 10 every now and then.
Who designs the national team leos in the U.S.? How do they decide? How far in advance are decisions made? How many do they order and how do sizes work with teams unknown at that point?
I know when Martha Karolyi was around, she had probably the most say, but I don’t think she actually designed them. I would imagine they have a design team at GK responsible for coming up with options, and then the national team staff probably gives their input and they go back and forth until they have the full kit.
Do you know why the women at the Canada Games used the J.O. code of points instead of elite?
I’m pretty sure it’s so they could give a greater number of athletes a chance to compete at a major Games experience. In 2015, they used the elite code of points and several higher-level elites competed, but the majority of the athletes were lower-level elites or level 10s competing under a difficult elite code, and most of the scores ended up being very low.
This year, however, it was mostly level 10s competing, as well as some lower-level or very young elite/espoir gymnasts. The team from Quebec, which dominated the Games, was the one province to use mostly elites or former elites who are now really successful college-bound level 10s, and Ontario also included a number of current elites, but overall the majority of competitors were from the J.O. program so I’m glad they stuck to the code that their J.O. gymnasts normally compete under and was happy to see so many J.O. gymnasts get recognized for this bigger success.
Where is Bre Showers?
She’s a senior on the Oklahoma gymnastics team this season after suffering a season-ending injury last year that limited her to only a few meets. Things were looking a bit desperate on floor at one point, so I’m glad she’ll be back and hopefully we’ll see her as one of the leaders for the team there this year!
How do gymnasts compete through serious injuries, like Carly Patterson with a fractured elbow in 2003 and bulging discs in 2004? It’s so common, but don’t you instinctually change the way your body moves to compensate for injury to minimize pain? There isn’t really leeway to do that in gymnastics. Are painkillers enough to make it possible to perform with precision when your body is broken?
I have a slightly tweaked knee right now and when I plié in fifth position with my right foot back, it feels like everything is tearing in that one spot that’s being affected in that moment and I want to scream like I’m dying, so I literally just plié with my front leg and keep my back leg kind of dangling behind me like a dog with a thorn in its paw, hahahaha…so yeah. You definitely change how you move to compensate for injury and pain and it’s impossible to do this in gymnastics and still physically be able to compete most skills without getting form deductions for how you compensate (look at Maggie Nichols’ floor landings with the staggered legs…better for her injuries, but would get deducted every single time in elite).
And I have literally no idea how anyone can compete on actual injuries without continuously shrieking and crying. I can’t imagine a normal dose of ibuprofen will save you in those instances. Obviously they have trainers icing them before and after routines, they can also probably get shots for various injuries (cortisone shots? I’m not a medical person), and they’re also likely at a higher level of adrenaline that makes them not feel pain as much when competing, so there are probably ways they can force themselves to ignore the pain for a little while?
There are also little ways they can change routines to compensate, like doing a no-hands beam routine when they have injured wrists or elbows, though this is something that’s easier to do in NCAA, and I think it would be pretty hard to put together a difficult elite routine that doesn’t involve hands. To easily put one together, anyway…like, you could do a side aerial + loso + loso, but that’s not exactly something you can throw in overnight. And if you have an elbow injury there’s really nothing you can change on bars to not use your elbows, and if you have an ankle injury, there’s really nothing you can change on floor to not use your lower extremities (aside from maybe changing your turning leg, which like, big whoop when you then have to go stick a double double).
Do men get worse deductions for not sticking their floor passes or dismounts?
Yes, they can’t take controlled lunges on any of their passes…any step would be a deduction.
Is it a deduction for a gymnast to complete a skill on bars and reverse her swing when reaching a handstand (e.g., a toe full to a Jaeger)?
Nope! It’s rare to see something like a toe-full to Jaeger (IIRC, Asuka Teramoto and Youna Dufournet both did it but I can’t remember seeing it recently) or really any skill where a gymnast will do a regular grip element and then reverse her direction at the end of it, but these exist and are allowed! A deduction would come if that toe full into the Jaeger finished super late (or had other deductions on its own), but I think it’s cool when a gymnast reverses her direction sneakily like that and wish we could see it more!
What is the UCLA Gymnastics 720 conditioning?
It’s a circuit that they have to finish in 7 minutes and 20 seconds. It involves your typical conditioning drills, but having to finish within that time limit is what makes it hard. Here’s a sped-up video of the circuit in action!
What is going on with Zoe Gravier? I haven’t seen her competing for a while.
Zoe left MG Elite and began training at First State. I assume the gym change made it difficult for her to compete last season, but hopefully we’ll see her back in 2020!
I read a post about connecting wolf turns to low-to-beam B acro skills. What are your opinions about this making back-to-back wolf turns more appealing? For instance, a triple wolf + roll forward to tuck stand + double wolf.
I would looooove that. I actually don’t hate wolf turns…I just hate when they’re used as a way to sneak in highly valued dance elements. Even though I just said a few questions ago that gymnasts should exploit any terrible loophole in the code that they find. So I get it. But I hate it. Though I do love a beautiful wolf turn when done NOT back-to-back with another wolf turn, and I would absolutely be on board for a series like this. Even just a forward roll to tuck stand into a wolf turn would be awesome without adding a second turn at the beginning. Alicia Wendland, an espoir in Canada, has really cool choreo into her wolf turn, and I absolutely love it…but connecting to one of the roll elements is even cooler!
Realistically speaking, what are Kristal Bodenschatz’s chances of making it to the Olympics?
I’d say incredibly low, but only because she came into the picture so late in the game by starting to attend qualifiers just about 18 months prior to the Olympic Games. Even for someone who took a year or two off, that’s really difficult, so to go over a decade without competing and then give yourself just 18 months…it’s likely not going to happen. I think if she had more time, she could get to a higher level of difficulty and be able to compete it a little more consistently, but unfortunately I just don’t think she has the time to get where she needs to be if she wants to be competitive against the super talented class of young seniors who have been solidly in contention over the past few years.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins