You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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Dipa Karmakar

It’s time for the 272nd edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!

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What are the chances of Dipa Karmakar qualifying for the Olympics? Is it possible for her to earn a continental spot or the tripartite spot?

Basically close to zero percent, unfortunately. Maybe that’s a little low, but realistically, she will not have much of a chance at the continental championships as only all-arounders can qualify this way, and she hasn’t competed the all-around in about a year and a half due to injury.  Even if she gets all four events back in time, there’s going to be a lot of competition from China (if they don’t qualify two spots through the two world cups), Japan, the Koreas, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia…I don’t know, maybe she can do it, especially if she has a big vault boosting her score, but I’m not optimistic.

The tripartite spot can only go to a gymnast whose country had eight or fewer athletes at the last two Olympic Games, and they had to have competed at worlds. For WAG, it’s really only Sri Lanka and the Cayman Islands who are eligible, and Milka Gehani of Sri Lanka had the stronger performance in Stuttgart, so she’s likely to go.

Is artistry just another name for “good at dance/performing”? Would it be beneficial for young gymnasts to take dance as well?

I think it’s more “good at performing” than good at dance. People can be good at executing dance elements and/or choreography but not be able to “sell” a routine. I think of artistry as being just that…not just doing the movements, but breathing life into them. It’s showing genuine emotion and portraying something — whether it’s joy or sorrow or silliness or mystery or drama — so that the audience can see your “story” coming to life.

Very few gymnasts have “artistry” as a real talent, and I don’t think it’s something that taking dance class can help on its own. Part of it comes naturally, though taking dance classes more seriously to the point where you’re competing or performing regularly does help build artistry. But I don’t know if it would be possible to dance at that level and also train gymnastics at a super high level…usually kids who do both end up choosing one or the other because the time commitment to do both is too great. I think that often the kids who do both and have more natural artistry end up going into dance, because that better suits their talents. The strongest gymnasts end up being the kids who think about everything from a technical perspective, and so they’re really strong at executing difficult movements, but the “art” doesn’t come as naturally to them. It’s like a left brain/right brain kind of thing.

Why do gymnasts compete just one vault at apparatus world cups/challenge cups?

Some do it because they’re trying to get as much competitive experience as possible going into a major competition, so they’ll register for vault so they can compete all four events and get an “all-around score” but they have no intention of doing a second vault (so that’s why the Paris Challenge Cup had a bunch of single vaults…everyone was trying to get ready for worlds).

Other times, if a gymnast with two vaults falls on the first and knows she won’t make it into the final, she won’t bother with the second vault if she doesn’t feel like it’s worth it. Some might do it anyway and hope they still have enough to make it, but sometimes falling on a first vault can be so frustrating that the gymnast will be like BYE, or she’ll tweak something and not want to risk a second vault (or she gets injured and can’t do it).

Could the U.S. have left Simone Biles off the team in Rio and still come back with the same number of medals?

If Simone Biles was off the team, the alternate who made the most sense would have been MyKayla Skinner. They still likely would have won team gold by a pretty big margin. Based on everyone’s Olympic qualification scores and MyKayla’s Olympic Trials and nationals scores, I think we would have seen…

AA: Aly Raisman bumps up to gold (CAN YOU IMAGINE, I DIE), Gabby Douglas gets silver, so the U.S. keeps the gold and silver medals with these two.

VT: MyKayla would have done two vaults, taking Simone’s place there. She averaged a 15.25 on day one at nationals, and a 15.350 on day two, and she matched Maria Paseka for the highest combined D score in the Rio final. I think she’s slightly stronger than Maria, who averaged a 15.253 in Rio, so I’d say with two hit vaults, MyKayla would’ve had a shot to take the Rio vault gold, but both Maria and Giulia Steingruber were pretty close to what MyKayla was capable of, so it could’ve been close. But doable. So the U.S. likely keeps the vault gold.

UB: This isn’t affected by the absence of Simone, as she didn’t compete in the bars final, so they keep the bars silver.

BB: Without Simone in the final, Aly and Gabby are tied as the second U.S. beam gymnast. Let’s say Aly goes into the final. Laurie Hernandez would’ve kept the silver medal spot, but Aly got a 14.833 in qualifications, a 15.000 in the team final, and a 14.866 in the all-around final. The fourth-place beam gymnast in the Rio final, Marine Boyer, had a 14.600, so Aly’s scores would’ve been enough for bronze. The U.S. keeps the bronze.

FX: Here’s the one I’m not so sure about. Without Simone, Aly’s score would’ve bumped her up to gold, and MyKayla likely would’ve been the second U.S. gymnast to qualify into the final (with Laurie a close third). In the Rio final, Amy Tinkler’s 14.933 was right behind the two U.S. gymnasts, and then they had Vanessa Ferrari with a 14.766 and Wang Yan with a 14.666. MyKayla’s four routines between nationals and trials were all within a 14.700-14.900, and Laurie’s qualifications routine was a 14.800. I think either could’ve challenged for the silver to keep both gold and silver in U.S. hands, but it wouldn’t be as clear as the other events. Based on scores, I’d say the U.S. would’ve gotten at least bronze, with the order being Aly, Amy, and then MyKayla/Laurie.

Looking at everything here, the U.S. swapping Simone for MyKayla would’ve kept the majority of their medals, which is kind of insane (and a testament to how strong the U.S. depth is…Simone is a legend, and no one can replicate what she did, but split up between the other members of the team, they could’ve combined to come close). However, MyKayla was also the “perfect” replacement for Simone, since her strengths were mostly the same as Simone’s…if they didn’t have a “perfect” replacement, they definitely would have lost the vault medal for sure.

Is Jade Carey still training bars and beam now that she’s going for a specialist spot?

Yes, she is. Even though she’s likely to qualify to the Olympics as an individual and a specialist, she still plans on competing the all-around in Tokyo.

Do you think going the apparatus route is actually the best route for Jade Carey? It means she can’t go to worlds in 2018 or 2019. What if she has a top all-around program by 2020? Wouldn’t she rather get a guaranteed team gold medal than MAYBE medal on vault and floor?

The only worlds she was restricted from was 2018…if a gymnast was on a team that qualified to worlds when they qualified, it meant no individual qualification because then technically she would have qualified twice, and the whole point of individual spots is for countries with extra depth to get them (so you have to actually use that extra depth to earn them and can’t use “repeat” qualifiers). But since the U.S. qualified in 2018, only members of that qualifying team couldn’t contend for individual spots. In 2019, Jade was eligible.

I think just getting to the Olympics in itself is a huge deal, and to Jade, it’s probably more about guaranteeing that she’ll be there. Going the individual route guarantees that she’ll go to the Olympics and no one can take that away from her. Going the team route, she has a shot at getting on the team, but it’s not a guarantee. Her way, it’s the Olympics for sure, plus maybe a silver medal or two, and the other way it’s possibly winning a gold medal, but possibly not going at all. With all of the U.S. depth now and going into the Olympic year, I think she’s choosing the safer path for simply becoming an Olympian.

Has Simone Biles ever done a double arabian or other big front tumbling skills?

Simone used to compete an arabian double front back in the day, I think when she was about 14 or so, and she actually trained an arabian double front full-out!

What will it take for Jade Carey to improve her dance and performance value? Or is this pretty much it?

I think there are ways to choreograph moments to make a gymnast look more artistic…like before Kyla Ross “discovered” her artistic side, they had a choreographer work with her as an artistry coach, adding in little moments to enhance what she did in her routine. If a gymnast doesn’t naturally emote during choreo, you can actually choreograph in expressions. It’s not as genuine but it’s better than nothing, and it can help. A kid who thinks more technically/analytically about her choreo is too focused on accurately getting the movement correct, because that’s what brings in big scores for gymnastics, so if you can try to break down an artistic expression in that more technical way, it can help the gymnast learn how to be artistic in that way, and maybe eventually something will click for her and she’ll become more natural at showing expression. It could work for Jade to have some artistry coaching, absolutely. But I don’t know if it’s necessarily a priority for her.

On uneven bars, gymnasts sometimes do a few pirouettes in a row which makes them travel to the end of the bar and then they have to shuffle walk their hands sideways to get closer to the center. Are there any deductions for this?

No, there are no deductions for this…I don’t like the shuffle, but that’s what happens with multiple pirouettes in a row, or a pirouette that has one-and-a-half turns. I guess routine construction could be better with maybe figuring out how to do another turn to get back to center or something but I don’t know how realistic that is.

What do you think is next for Alyona Shchennikova? Does she have a realistic chance at a world or Olympic team? What is she doing wrong in training?

She’s going to LSU a year earlier than everyone expected, so she’ll be competing for the Tigers this spring and won’t be attempting to make the Olympic team. It’s too bad; her bars were so promising from such a young age, but while you would have expected growth from year to year, we never really saw that happen in the five or so years she competed, which was pretty surprising to me. She did improve, I think, but with where she started from, I was expecting her to be a bars legend and was bummed to not see the little things getting fixed year after year (like her feet). I don’t think she had a legitimate worlds or Olympic spot this quad with all of the depth, mostly because there were bars gymnasts who also had strong events elsewhere, but I’m glad she made the decision to go to LSU early. I think some would try to hold on just to get that shot at making it to the Olympics, but with her injury this summer, I’m glad she was able to say yeah, I’m just gonna not kill my body anymore and head to NCAA. It’s gonna be so weird not having a Shchennikova next summer after at least one of the two has been at basically every nationals for a decade!

I’ve noticed some gymnasts with high-neck leotards that clasp behind the neck undo the clasp when they do bars. Why? Does it dig in or get tight with all of the shoulder work?

I’ve never noticed that before, but yeah, I can imagine a high-neck leo really affecting a gymnast’s range of motion, especially on bars.

How many competition leos do the U.S. gymnasts get for a season? Does the national team staff decide which are worn at each meet? Where do they get the leos they wear at events like the selection camp?

I believe they usually get about 7-10 depending on the year. The national team staff decides which ones are worn for team situations, and that also goes for practice leos during training sessions at worlds, but for the individual finals, the gymnasts are usually allowed to choose which ones they want to wear. The leos they wear at selection camps are usually their national team leos (but I believe they can also wear club leos?) and then for Olympic trials, they can request which national team leos they’d like to wear, even if it’s not one they’ve worn before (though I think most choose to wear leos that have some significance to them).

Is it wise to have a schedule that is as grueling as doing classics, Pan Ams, and nationals all within a few weeks? Next year’s schedule is similar. Could they move the date of nationals next year to give the gymnasts a break?

I feel like having the gymnasts do both Pan Ams and nationals was a bit too intense this year, and it really showed at nationals. Not in a dangerous way, but just like…sometimes it’s too much. I do trust that the gymnasts know what’s best for them and think if they feel they can handle it all, then they should be able to make that decision, but personally I don’t think the national team staff should give them the option to do that many competitions in a row, especially when we also have to consider that they’re also nonstop traveling. I think a lot of the times when the national team staff gives them the option to do all three, but says “you can skip nationals if you do Pan Ams,” the gymnasts are so competitive they’re gonna be like “oh I can do both” even if it’s like, dude, chill. Like, all the power to them for trying to do it all, but there definitely should be some sort of restriction on the number of competitions they do…even if they’re physically fine, mentally, that pressure can really take a toll.

Do you think a ballet dancer could ever go far in gymnastics starting at 13? I’m not saying elite, but say a level 8 or 9?

I’ve been training in ballet pretty seriously for the past three years (and just went on pointe!) and I can’t do a single gymnastics skill that isn’t immediately related to dance elements…it’s just so different. Unless you’re also taking acro classes along with dance classes (which is common, especially for lyrical dancers), dance isn’t building many of the foundations you need for gymnastics. Maybe a ballet dancer who is just naturally gifted athletically and can pick up any sport in a second could easily learn the gymnastics foundations at 13 and reach a higher J.O. level over the next few years, and it has happened where super athletic kids will start gymnastics at 10 or 12 and go super far with it. But ballet on its own won’t be enough to make it an easy transition into higher-level gymnastics, and vice versa from gymnastics into ballet.

Of the current promising U.S. juniors, who is eligible for Tokyo?

The strongest 2004-born gymnasts are definitely Kayla DiCello, Olivia Greaves, Ciena Alipio, and Sophia Butler, but I’m also here for an upset or two. I’m excited for JaFree Scott to come back after a year away, because I think she’ll be pretty unexpected among the top new seniors next year, and then there are some lower-key new talents like Karis German, éMjae Frazier, Ava Siegfeldt, Lilly Lippeatt, Anya Pilgrim, Sydney Morris, and maybe a couple others who could end up surprising.

I noticed that none of the U.S. gymnasts who competed at classics this year is committed to Oklahoma. Are they having more trouble recruiting elites than other schools? How will this affect their winning chances in the coming years?

I don’t know if they have trouble recruiting elites, but I do think that they historically have had teams with a small number of former elites and then super talented level 10s who end up being just as productive. Often the teams that take huge amounts of former elites end up seeing many of them burn out pretty quickly because their elite careers were so hard compared to the majority of J.O. careers (which is still super difficult, but not as hard as an international elite career). I think it could be a strategy for them to try and recruit elites when there are some available, but the key to a strong, well-rounded team for them has always been in their J.O. recruitment. I don’t think a lack of elites will affect them much if they continue bringing in top J.O. gymnasts who hit clean, hard-to-deduct routines.

What is the purpose of a spotter? Are they literally supposed to catch the gymnast if they fall in the middle of a routine?

It depends on the skill…spotters can catch gymnasts on some skills that go particularly wrong, but gymnasts know how to safely fall on most skills (like Jaegers and Tkachevs), so it’s usually better to just let them fall when it’s a “safe” fall because sometimes interfering can make it worse. But I’ve seen a few releases go super wrong, like when a gymnast whacks her legs on the bar, which causes the gymnast to lose her sense of air awareness and then her fall can end up incredibly unsafe, in which case the spotter is there to catch if possible, or just sort of help the gymnast get back to a safe position so that the fall isn’t as bad. They’re also there to kind of guide certain skills, like bails…having the coach there acts as a sort of reassurance or visual cue to keep them from getting lost in the air.

Could Jade Carey get a deduction for a “fall” in her current floor routine if an E-panel judge considers the flairs in her choreography as a skill?

Judges can’t really consider something a skill if it isn’t in the code of points (or doesn’t fit the criteria for becoming a skill in the code, which flairs on floor do not fit), so they can’t just decide it’s a skill…but technically, they can count a fall if a gymnast falls during choreography, so if Jade misses a hand or something and clearly falls, they could definitely deduct.

I find Laney Madsen’s trajectory really inspiring. She is bound to UCLA and will do well there. How did she start gymnastics only after 2012 and become able to get a national team camp invite after only two years?

Apparently she isn’t UCLA-bound anymore, but I hope that means she’s planning on sticking around at the elite level a bit longer…I truly think she’ll have a shot in 2024 if she keeps gaining experience and building on her current level. Going on to answer your question, she basically had a really strong level of tumbling coming up as a top cheer athlete, so she was able to build on that and both vault and floor were relatively “easy” for her, as were the skills on beam (though obviously it takes some time to actually get used to doing those skills on the beam). Considering she had zero experience doing bars, I was most impressed with her being able to start training there from scratch and get to a pretty solid level. I think she got invited to camp because her coaches showed videos to the national team staff and they were interested in her potential, but then when it became clear she wasn’t at a high enough level to compete for the U.S. program, she had  to go through the regular qualification route instead of getting a special pass through the camp (unlike someone like Jade Carey, who got invited to camps before doing elite, but showed she was at a strong enough level to stay at the camps). Occasionally you do see gymnasts get invites with zero experience in elite, but Laney getting an invite with zero experience in gymnastics period was pretty freaking cool.

What’s the most “pretty” wolf turn you’ve ever seen?

I think even the best, most technically excellent wolf turns still aren’t “pretty” to me, haha…but the way Canadian espoir Alicia Wendland gets into hers is really cool. For me, it’s definitely more about the choreography and creativity around doing wolf turns than the wolf turns themselves.

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

21 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

    • Of all the people they let go through the Apparatus route, they chose a vaulter, the most likely to get an injury. It’s going to be devastating to more than just Jade if she injures herself.

      A part of me really hopes she doesn’t complete the series and someone else gets vault and floor. Not that I don’t want Jade to go it’s just so risky and the team would be better with her on it.

      I’m sure the US can easily win a spot through AA Cups and Pan Ams.

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  1. Aly Raisman won gold over Gabby Douglas?? 🤔 Raisman was just lucky the judges are being generous to her bars and beam (her scoring the same as Douglas on beam is unforgivable 😒). Had Simone Biles not been there, Gabby could’ve defended her AA title.

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  2. JIRATCHAYA Aly was consistently better than Gabby after 2015 Worlds, at least leading up to the trials that is. Aly may have been slightly overrated but Gabby was pretty much just given the chance to compete the AA because they had to because of picking her at all. Beating Aly was not even considered a possibility at that point. Aly had an exceptionally bad Worlds and we all know why by now, but by the time the Olympics rolled around, she was way better than Gabby,who was OVER IT BY THEN.

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  3. But saying Aly bumps up to gold and Gabby gets silver forgets the fact that if Simone weren’t there, Laurie Hernandez would have done AA in prelims and there’s a good chance she would have beaten Gabby. Laurie only needed a 14.766 on bars to beat Gabby in AA prelims and that score is barely higher than what Aly received. So as long as Laurie stayed on bars, it’s likely she would have advanced instead of Gabby. Then with Aly and Laurie competing against eachother in AA finals, it could have gone either way. Without Simone there, it very well could have been Laurie as Olympic champ.

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    • very true. show again how insanely dominant the US team depth was. A team of aly, gabby, hernadez, kocian, skinner is actually a very strong team that can only be beaten with simone in place on the team.

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    • Somehow people forget that at the Olympic Trials, Laurie beat Aly both days in AA (121.15 vs 119.75). This is part of why she immediately went pro after that competition. She was robbed of doing AA in Rio. Someone even made up a small injury on twitter to deflect the controversy, which Laurie immediately denied and maintained that she was never hurt.

      To this day I am confounded why after she announced she was training for Tokyo, she did not train as part of the Puerto Rican team and request that official change this past summer (the official time required after competing for another country). Both her parents are from there and she’s been there many times, even in their parades. Had she done so, she easily could already have a spot if she’d been ready in Stuttgard. RIP Tokyo chances.

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  4. What do you make of Jade’s dad’s comments that they are going the apparatus world cup route as a backup? I agree with you that she should take the apparatus spot if she gets it (and go to more world cups to make sure she does!), but I’m nervous she’s going to try for team. Which…look, this year’s world’s camp show it could be possible but I think it’s unlikely.

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    • Tom has already said that if she gets the apparatus spot, she’s automatically out of contention for the team. If she gets an apparatus spot and then got on the team, the U.S. would lose a spot and only have five gymnasts instead of six in Tokyo. There’s absolutely no way the U.S. will give up a spot, so if Jade gets her spot, her team chances are over.

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  5. One of china’s national RG champion started RG at 12 ya old. She was a ballet dancer before! I guess RG is easier to transfer than AG for ballerinas.

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  6. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: All I want for Christmas is you | The Gymternet

  7. Hi. This is probably a stupid question because it differs from case to case, but what do you think is the best way to find your balance again if you are almost falling of the beam? I see a lot of gymnasts grasping their knees or legs or making arm circles but that does not always work out. Is there a standard way to rebalance or do they have zero control over it?

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