You Asked, The Gymternet Answered


Flavia Saraiva

It’s time for the 268th 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).

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How do you think the Brazilian program is doing right now? What do you think they could achieve in 2020?

God, I feel horrible that I probably got this question in the summer, and my answer then would’ve been like “they’re doing amazing sweetie!” and talked about how promising they looked going into worlds, where they once again had a shot at the team final and potentially even a medal. And then literally everyone got injured, and they missed out on qualifying a team to the Olympic Games.

I think if Jade Barbosa hadn’t been injured on her first event and had been able to contribute scores on bars, beam, and floor so they wouldn’t have to do a super risky three-up three-count situation, they still would’ve pretty easily qualified, even without Rebeca Andrade. But going three-up three-count on beam and floor in qualifications is really what hurt them, and it’s painfully sad, as next year, they would’ve been one of the teams to benefit from four all-arounders in qualifications and could’ve been a team final threat for sure in Tokyo.

Now looking at the situation for 2020, they obviously have Flavia Saraiva already qualified to the Olympics, and I think Rebeca will qualify through Pan Am Championships, assuming she doesn’t get injured for the 500th time in her career. But with all of the growth they’ve had as a team over the past five or so years, this is honestly the worst possible situation I could’ve imagined for them.

What do you think the D score of a Yurchenko double front would be? Is it even possible for a lady?

You can’t do a double front out of a Yurchenko…a Yurchenko takes you backwards onto the table, and since there’s no twist, you leave the table backwards as well. You can do a Yurchenko double back, but not a double front, unless you were to do a Yurchenko half-on into a double front, which is actually a thing in MAG (and wildly undervalued at just a 5.4), but no one ever competes it. I think some women have the strength, power, and skill to compete a Yurchenko double back, but I think it’s such a dangerous skill, most don’t ever want to risk it, which is why we haven’t seen any serious attempts. Even when guys do it, I want to scream…if you’re even remotely off in your timing, it doesn’t just mean a torn ACL or broken bone. It means a serious neck injury.

If we did see a Yurchenko double back from a woman, I’d say it’d be a 6.2 under the current code. Maybe a 6.6 but I’m not sure they’d go quite that high because that starts getting into “I’m gonna go for it even though I shouldn’t be physically doing it because I’ll still get a 14.5 with a fall!” territory.

Of the current juniors, whose artistry do you like most on floor?

I think Sophia Butler of the United States is a fantastic performer, Guan Chenchen of China is really fun to watch, a lot of the Belgians are terrific, with Noémie Louon a favorite of mine…she serves the judges so many looks and it’s fantastic. Zoé Allaire-Bourgie of Canada is an absolutely stunning performer, and I love fellow Canadian Clara Raposo for being so freaking entertaining. Many of the French girls are gorgeous, many of the Italians have really cutesy routines that I squeal about every time we see them. Magdalini Tsiori of Greece is tremendously artistic as well. There are a bunch I’m sure I’m forgetting, but these were the most memorable for me this year.

I am also absolutely obsessed with Viktoria Listunova on floor, but I think it’s more about her general presentation and the way she carries herself than her actual artistry…and that presentation makes up for her not being one of the more natural performers. Though I do think that’s an area where she’ll grow. She’s so close to being a total package on floor and just that last little spark in her routines will make her a superstar on this event.

Why didn’t the Texas Dreams gymnasts wear the same leos in 2017? Don’t gymnasts from the same gym usually match?

Yeah, gyms usually just get the one team leo for everyone so they all match because they want people to know they’re all from the same team, but in 2017, I believe Kim Zmeskal’s partnership with Ozone leos was still pretty new, and so she basically had a lot of room to play with designs, and she probably also got all of the leos for her elite competitors for free, so I think it just came down to having the means to get a bit more creative than usual and then just really going for it.

Where can I see a list of the 35 cities planned for the Simone Biles post-Olympic tour next year?

I don’t believe it’s out yet…I’m guessing they’ll release something in the next few months, likely along with more competitors they’re able to lock down, but this information wasn’t included in the initial breaking news announcement.

If Russia is banned from the Olympics, shouldn’t they be allowed to get a non-nominative spot via continental championships, because that is given specifically to the federation?

No…if the entire country is banned, that means no one can compete, regardless of how they qualify.

I know there are conflicting rules by the FIG, but I wonder if the following is clear: what is the intra-country tie-break rule for the apparatus world cup spot? How will it be determined between Weng Hao and Liu Yang, both of whom have a perfect 90?

So I don’t know where the rules are spelled out because their qualification rules PDFs are a mess, but I heard that since it’s unfair to compare scores across different events (because events like vault and bars would basically automatically win over events like beam and floor, as the vault and bars scores tend to be much higher on average), in a situation where they have to tie-break series winners from the same country to determine who goes, they’re going to average the gymnasts’ rankings. I don’t know if they mean the rankings before or after the points were redistributed, or if it will include all rankings, or just the three that count into their total score…I don’t think there’s any clarification on this, and I can’t wait until the world cup series ends and the FIG has to figure everything out on the spot, lol. Totally a normal thing to not know a single rule going into your own sport’s Olympic qualification.

How common is it for U.S. worlds teams to be similar in consecutive years?

I think it’s pretty common…usually one or two spots will change, but gymnasts tend to stick around for a few years at the senior level, and those who are at the top of the pack one year often stay at the top for more than just one year so there’s always going to be some carry-over.

The non-team years maybe are a bit of an anomaly here because that’s a chance to bring someone who could be a legit medal contender as an individual even though that person might not be the best fit for the team, and after individual worlds is often when we see a lot of the previous quad’s gymnasts retire (the ones who didn’t retire right after the Olympics, anyway)…so I think the biggest turnover generally comes between the first and second years of a quad, but after that, I think the U.S. likes bringing gymnasts to multiple worlds to build on their initial experiences and have it carry over into subsequent years.

Do you think having a junior world championships will potentially hurt the future senior U.S. teams? Causing junior gymnasts to peak too soon and in turn, burn out or get too many injuries before they have a chance to be successful as seniors?

I don’t think so. The rules at major international junior meets that require juniors to compete at a lower level of difficulty than they’re capable of means that no juniors are like “I need to have a triple double to make this junior worlds team!!!” because they can’t really compete anything more exciting than like a full-in. I think junior worlds for the U.S. and for most teams is meant to be an experience builder where no one is coming in at the same strength they’d hope to be as seniors, and I think that showed this summer. The U.S. didn’t do anything differently from the other international junior meets they attend, like Jesolo, Gymnix, Pac Rims, or Pan Ams. A major FIG meet that includes the whole world is a bit more prestigious than continental meets and invitationals, but the preparation is the same, and actually competing to make a junior worlds team is no different from competing to make one of the other junior teams.

What happened to Laney Madsen at European Games? What does this mean for her shot at Tokyo?

So I’m guessing I received this question in June, lol. Sorry for the six-month delay! Anyway, what I said about her back then was that she is a very hit-or-miss competitor. She has a lot of talent and a lot of great skills, but she also struggles with competing under pressure, and when she has one thing go wrong, everything tends to go wrong. I was at Euros, and was so impressed with how she looked there. Even though she had a couple low scores, she had a great day overall, and I thought she got an all-around score that would’ve been within range of qualifying to the Olympics. But then she had one of her “miss” days at Euro Games, and unfortunately, that’s also the day she ended up having at worlds. I think having only about five years as a competitive gymnast under her belt is what really hurts her…and think if she sticks with elite into the next quad, she could overcome many of the difficulties she’s had so far and really have a shot at qualifying to Paris.

Are the two Andreea Munteanus related? Has there ever been another case of two high-profile elite gymnasts having the same name?

No, they’re not. Munteanu is a super common last name in Romania, and Andreea is a super common first name, so alas, here we are.

There have been a few gymnasts with the same name, especially from Spanish-speaking countries. Right now, I can think of Giorgia Campana (both of Italy; one competed at the 2012 Olympics and the other is a first-year senior but not at the national team level), Sofia Diaz (one from Spain, one from Puerto Rico), Karla Gallardo (one from Colombia, one from Mexico), Andrea Gonzalez (one from Mexico and one from Spain), Lauren Jones (both in Great Britain but one is from Wales and the other is from England), Sophia King (both competed previously at the junior level and both are 2004 babies but one is from Canada and the other is from the U.S.), Liu Sijia (both from China, one from the Shanxi province and the other from Tianjin), Laura Martinez (one from Colombia, one from Spain), Clara Navarro (both currently competing in Spain, though one is a bit more high-profile than the other), Ana Palacios (Guatemala’s current top elite, and a Spanish gymnast now at Iowa State), and Caitlin Smith (both did elite in the U.S. in the past few years with the older of the two now at LSU).

Is a Zuchold considered an inbar skill?

I guess you could kind of consider it one because it passes through a similar position you’d be in at the start of an inbar circle, but the actual position is an underswing, so it’s still a little different.

Does Simone Biles get deductions for the shape of her Pak?

I think she should based on the code’s depiction of what a Pak shape should look like, but I also feel like judging a Pak can be super subjective because even though the Pak technically has a defined shape, some people prefer them more straight-bodied, and I think because hers isn’t fully straight, judges who like her position more than a really arched Pak might give it to her because it’s close enough.

Do you think anyone can connect a shaposh half skill to an Ezhova?

Yeah, I do! If they catch after the shaposh half and swing forward out of it, they should definitely have enough momentum to go into an Ezhova from there. I’d love to see it done!

Why is there a distinction between gainer dismounts from the end of the beam compared to the side of the beam? Why are ‘end of the beam’ gainers rated higher? Is the gainer double twist from the end of the beam in the code or named?

Gainers done off the end of the beam are a bit more difficult than gainers off the side of the beam, because you have to get a bit more momentum into them so that you actually clear the end of the beam. Off the side of the beam, you don’t have the beam as an obstruction, so you can just kick right into it from a standing position. Off the end, the additional amplitude required is what makes it harder. And yes, last year Katarzyna Jurkowska-Kowalska of Poland finally got the gainer double full off the end of the beam named for her! She attempted it for a couple of years, and then landed it successfully in Doha.

Do you think some actual elements in the code on bars and beam should be upgraded to an H or more? Which not-yet-competed elements could get an H value on these events?

Yes I do! I think there are many skills that are undervalued. On bars, I think both the Mo salto and the Def should be at least an H, and I’d imagine when someone competes a Nabieva full, that’ll absolutely be an H…and so should a Kovacs element if any gymnasts figured out how to do one despite the low bar being in the way. On beam…I’m not sure if there’s anything difficult enough to be an H. Well, dismount-wise, the Biles should be a J, haha. But actually on the beam…if anyone managed a front full in any shape I’d want it to be an H if only because it’s basically impossible. I think a laid-out Maaranen or Produnova should also be an H, but they’d probably give it a G.

Are gymnasts expected to demonstrate turnout? Do the judges care? There’s such a wide range in leaps and other dance elements.

So there’s nothing in the code about turnout, and I think leaps and dance elements in general aren’t really expected to be as perfectly turned out as they are in ballet. I think if a gymnast has had some legitimate ballet training, or has really strong natural turnout, it’s something she can use to her advantage in her dance elements, but many gymnasts are kind of weak in that area, likely because their focus is on literally everything else they’re doing, and so the things we admire in dancers kind of come last (which makes sense…this isn’t dance, it’s gymnastics). I loooove when I do see elements of a dancer in a gymnast, but I’m also not going to be mad at a gymnast dancing in a non-dancer way, because that’s not what she’s trained for or how she learned to do it.

Why was Valeri Liukin never seen on the floor again after Nastia retired? Top gymnasts from his gym were training with the Landis, so did he just continue owning the gym without coaching?

He continued coaching elites at WOGA through 2013, when Katelyn Ohashi retired and he took a role as the developmental coach for the U.S. national team. He and the Landis split the elite coaching duties in the quad following Nastia’s retirement, but he had planned for Katelyn to be his last elite, and so he didn’t take on anyone new after her. I think had she been able to physically last throughout the 2016 quad, he would’ve stayed with her and done double-duty with his job at the ranch, but with her ending up dropping down to level 10 and moving to a new training group, he finished up his actual coaching duties at WOGA in 2013.

Has anyone (man or woman) ever attempted a Tkachev with a forward flip in flight?

Not that I know of, at least for the women…I’m trying to mentally wrap my brain around how this could possibly work, because there is already counter momentum in a Tkachev on its own, and if you were to add in a front flip, that would add more counter momentum making it literally insane. I don’t think you’d be able to catch in regular grip because you’d basically travel back over the bar and you’d have to catch behind your head, similar to the catch on a Gaylord/Mo. I guess if you got REALLY good distance back on a Tkachev, you could do a front flip and catch in regular grip, but I think if you’re getting that kind of distance, you’re usually sacrificing height, and by the time you finished the flip you’d be too low. I could only really see men going for this, since they have a better chance at getting the momentum from their tap swings, similar to why the Kovacs works better for men than women (thanks, low bar).

Edit: Coach Rick just sent me two MAG attempts! One from Sam Mikulak in 2011, who doesn’t catch, but it looks INSANE. There’s also a video of Kazuki Nakao of Japan trying one…he also misses but again, it’s nuts. I’ll post the video links as soon as I get back to my computer!

Where is JaFree Scott?

She had an injury this year and was unable to train for the elite season, but she returned to camp this fall and will hopefully be back in the mix next year, just in time for her senior debut! Hoping she ends up being one of the dark horses, especially as she kind of left everyone’s consciousness being out this year.

Morgan Hurd always peaks for worlds, but the Olympics are in August, not mid-fall. Do you think pacing will be a problem for her next year?

Not at all. She’s not like a poinsettia who can only bloom during certain months! Her peaks are basically manmade thanks to her coaches planning for her to hit certain milestones at certain points throughout the year. Next year, those milestones just move up a couple of months, and it’ll be the same for every athlete. You always go easier early in the year and then slowly build up to 100%.

Why didn’t Kara Eaker try to qualify for an individual Olympic spot through the world cups?

Last year, she didn’t meet the insanely strict requirements that the national team staff set, and so she wasn’t eligible to compete at the world cups. She then helped the U.S. qualify a full team to the Olympic Games as a member of the 2018 world championships team, so now even if they decided to send her to the world cups, she’s no longer eligible to earn a world cup spot based on the FIG’s rules.

Do you think it would be a good idea for the FIG to combine all of the codes of the past three quads? More specifically, I mean the rules for routine constructions, connection bonuses, and so on. For example, the aerial to back handspring layout stepout combo that everyone was doing in London would get 0.2 CV, but you could also do the aerial to sheep jump combo for the same 0.2. I feel this would give us so much more diversity in routines, and gymnasts would have more options for training unique combinations that fit them better.

Yeah, the second I started reading your question I was like “imagine the variety!” because then gymnasts would have way more options for putting together unique combos. The way they do it now where only X+X is valuable means everyone finds one thing that works and we have to see that thing from literally everyone in the world (like the aerial to back handspring layout stepout combo you mentioned that was so popular in the 2012 quad). Even if they didn’t bring back old combos that have already existed, just making room for a greater variety in general would be beneficial to the sport. The FIG desperately wants variety and unique composition, but they do everything in their power to limit 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

12 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Regarding Liu Yang – Weng Hao situation. The tie breaking procedures are posted as a link to Google Drive documents inside the Olympic Qualification Rules pdf (the current version of Rules is dated 22.05.2019 and is posted on the FIG website on 19.08.2019). Here’s the link to tie breaking procedures This document is dated 19.04.2018. Under Criteria 5, for the situation when athletes from the same country are on top of the list on different events or when one athlete is on top on more than one event, the first tie breaker is the highest average World Cup points on the respective apparatus from all competitions attended. Liu Yang has attended three times and won each time. He has the highest possible average – 30 – and no-one can touch him, unless another Chinese that has not attended before, now comes in and wins all three remaining World Cups on his event = not going to happen. Weng Hao already loses to Liu Yang, since he has competed four times and his average is less than 30. However, Liu Yang is not completely safe. There are three competitions remaining and if Petrounias or Tulloch or someone else also manages to get 90 points on rings, then their total final scores from the best three competitions get compared. For Liu Yang the total is 15.2+15.166+15.133=45,499 which is hard to match, but theoretically possible. Of other gymnasts who have 30 points from rings, Lan Xingyu has 15.1, but it is doubtful that CHN will enter him twice more. They may enter him once just to prevent Liu Yang’s competitors to win a competition. Tulloch has 14.933 from his win, so he must improve considerably to beat Liu Yang’s total. Petrounias is currently on square zero, as he has not managed to get 30 points yet from a single competition. It seems that the best tactics for the Chinese is to let Liu Yang to sit out and compete Lan Xingyu and You Hao, just to prevent Petrounias or Tulloch to get wins. Competing Liu Yang might possibly hurt his average points, should he not win. Maybe he should just sit out the Melbourne and/or Baku and see how the things are developing. The Chinese have a pretty good chance to get non-nominative spot from AA World Cup, or should this fail, a sure chance from Asian Championships, which they can give to Weng Hao. You Hao may even make it to the team of 4, but then they definitely have to fit in Zou Jingyuan.


  2. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: More than you could ever know | The Gymternet

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