You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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Bai Yawen

It’s time for the 273rd 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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Why were gymnasts with higher scoring abilities sometimes not chosen to compete in team finals? For example, Gabriela Dragoi in 2008 and Bai Yawen in 2014 were the best beam gymnasts on the team but weren’t selected for the team final?

I thought the Yawen thing was super bizarre, especially because she proved in qualifications that she was good enough to make the freaking beam final, but I think that decision had a lot to do with what coaches see as potential, and they assumed Huang Huidan, Shang Chunsong, and Yao Jinnan all had the potential to score higher than Yawen.

Tbh, qualifications could’ve been a fluke for Yawen, and I think that’s what they kind of expected…at that time, she had almost no experience, and the highest she had scored on beam was a 14.534 at nationals…and then when they sent her to Asian Games to get experience, she had a fall in the event final, so I think they were just being cautious and thinking like, okay, she got a really good score in qualifications for like, her best routine ever, but we still don’t trust that she can replicate that, so let’s stick with the three we had originally planned on using. Based on competitive history and hit rates, they were right to think that way…and then of course Yawen busts out a 15+ in the apparatus final and they’re like “well damn” hahaha. But then she never hit beam like that again, so again it’s like…yeah, they probably were right to question her ability to replicate her qualifications performance, and so they instead went with the three who had already proven themselves at that level.

I think with Yawen competing not only in her home country, but also in her home city, she could probably just feel that extra support from the crowd and that helped her become the best possible gymnast she could be, and maybe they should have taken advantage of that and used her on beam in the team final…but that’s easy to say in hindsight, and we don’t know how she looked in training leading up to worlds/the team final. Maybe she bombed every single routine in practice? They definitely had their reasons to not put her in the team final, and I’m guessing they were fully valid reasons, though in hindsight it looks silly that she was one of only three gymnasts in the entire competition who broke a 15 on beam and she wasn’t used in the final.

With Gabriela, I don’t remember the details as much because I followed Beijing super closely but wasn’t writing about it or thinking about it as analytically, but I think it could’ve been something similar to the Yawen situation? Gabriela was a first-year senior with almost no experience, and coming into her senior career, beam wasn’t her best event. They didn’t even use her on beam at Euros (and actually I don’t think she initially made the Euros team, but came in as an alternate IIRC), but then at nationals, she won beam and it was kinda like…oh okay? Ultimately, I do think Sandra Izbasa, Steliana Nistor, and Anamaria Tamarjan were stronger and more consistent beam workers than Gabriela was, so even though Gabriela outscored all of them in qualifications and made the final, and then had an even huger finals score, I think historically they trusted the other three more than they trusted Gabriela, and like Yawen, they had their valid reasons then, even though in hindsight we’re like “wtf.”

If Simone Biles competed for another top nation, which could benefit most from a teammate with her scoring potential and beat the U.S. team sans Simone?

I mean…ALL OF THEM? Hahaha. I think the obvious answers here would be Russia and China. Right now, if you took Simone off the U.S. team, the U.S. team still has the strength and depth to beat Russia and China…but if you added Simone to either team while also removing her from the U.S. team, they’d both be able to easily get a leg-up over the U.S. if everyone else hits in a three-up, three-count situation.

I just did some math and it looks like it would also work for Italy in the team situation this year.  Let’s say we replace Elisa Iorio with Simone, so Simone gets her spots on bars and beam, Alice D’Amato’s spot on vault, and Giorgia Villa’s spot on floor. Using Simone’s team final scores, they’d be at 170.896, which is INSANE because that’s six points higher than the Italian team scored without Simone, and if you replace Simone with MyKayla Skinner and use MyKayla’s worlds trials scores, the U.S. gets a 168.614.

I just plugged the numbers in for Simone on the French team replacing Claire Pontlevoy, taking Claire’s vault and bars spots, Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santo’s beam spot, and Marine Boyer’s floor spot, and that team gets a 171.763 (mostly because Simone ended up replacing two falls with hit, super high-scoring routines), and with Great Britain, Simone replacing Georgia-Mae Fenton, taking her team final spots (everything but vault), and taking Taeja James’ vault spot, the Brits would have a 170.129.

The only two teams in the final that Simone wouldn’t have gotten to beat the U.S. are Canada and the Netherlands, which were just too far back from the non-Simone U.S. team, but they still get super close (Canada was within two tenths, and the Netherlands within four tenths). And I think if Canada and the Netherlands had better days in Stuttgart, Simone could’ve helped them get the advantage over the non-Simone U.S. team.

So basically, you can add Simone to basically any team that can break a 160 on its own and that team will go to a 168-170 with Simone, which is high-key nuts.

What is the small circular logo the Chinese gymnasts always have on their leos? Is it required?

It’s the National Emblem of China, which includes Tiananmen Gate along with the five stars that are also on China’s national flag (the largest star represents the Communist Party and the four smaller ones represent the four social classes in China). I don’t know why they use the National Emblem instead of the flag, because they have the flag on their warm-ups, and I’ve noticed that Chinese swimmers just have the flag on their swimsuits, and I think most other sports use the flag as well.

Do you know when Larisa Iordache will be back?

I’m not sure if she’s coming back, sadly. I’ve seen her post things where she’s inside of a gym, but she’s never actually in a leo or training. Her only chance to qualify for the Olympics is at European Championships, which are three months away. Of course, not everything exists on social media and there’s always the chance/hope she’s been secretly training, but my optimism level is pretty low for this one and I’m just going to keep my expectations basically at “nonexistent” until we can get some confirmation that she’s at least training.

Did Jade Carey delay going to Oregon State?

Yes. She decided to defer until after the Olympic Games so she can continue training elite the way she’s used to training it, at her club gym with her dad. I think trying to double-team elite and NCAA in the Olympic year is really difficult, so if you can get the option to defer, it’s probably best that you do so (plus, I know other countries can double-team NCAA and elite a bit more easily, but in the U.S. I’m pretty sure the national team staff won’t let you do it).

Do you think Jana Bieger would have had a more successful career had she represented Germany? Why didn’t she try to represent the country after her time in the U.S. was over?

I think if she opted to compete for Germany early on and made it her decision to represent them from the start, she likely could’ve been a star for that program and would have had lots of international success, including going to the Olympic Games. I know in the past, she had always said that she preferred to compete for the U.S. because even though she had German roots, she felt more American and wanted to represent the United States internationally…and she did a great job to become one of the strongest U.S. gymnasts. I think once it became clear she wasn’t going to make anymore U.S. teams, she probably felt like it was best to just retire? Like physically she probably realized she was done, and whether she attempted to compete for the U.S. or Germany, if you’re at your physical limits, it doesn’t matter who you represent…sometimes it’s just time to throw in your grips.

Is the 0.1 stick bonus the only kind of bonus that can apply to the U.S. senior elites in competition? Do other countries have bonuses?

Yes, at classics and nationals, the U.S. seniors can get a 0.1 stick bonus once per each routine (so like, for floor if they stick every pass they still just get the 0.1 bonus). Most other countries have bonuses now to encourage either difficulty or execution. The U.S. bonus encourages execution, but most other countries instead award bonuses if a gymnast does certain skills or connections…like in China, they’d get home bonuses for the triple full + punch front series or for doing a tsuk double, and in Italy, they have a 0.2 bonus for a DTY and other bonuses for various skills across all four events. Russia, France, and Canada also regularly use bonuses at some competitions.

I heard that Giada Grisetti and Caterina Cereghetti used to compete for Switzerland before moving to Italy to follow their coach. Wouldn’t they have had more chances to make the Swiss team?

Yeah, I remember when Giada made the move, she was already pretty huge for Switzerland as a junior, and I was like WHY on earth is she going to Italy, where she’ll have almost no shot at making the team?! It’s great that she has gotten some great international assignments in Italy, and I think she would’ve made it to worlds in 2018 if she wasn’t injured, but yeah, with way less depth in Switzerland she would’ve made pretty much any team she wanted. At first I thought maybe she’d move to Italy with her coach, but then still be able to compete for Switzerland, but I guess with the way Switzerland’s national program works, this isn’t possible. But it’s kinda nice for her coach that she chose to stay with a coach she loved and trusted instead of taking the “easier” way in terms of making teams? Same goes for Caterina…she wasn’t ever as strong as Giada, but she still would’ve had far more international experience as a Swiss gymnast than she’s able to get in Italy.

Why do NCAA teams wear the same exact warm-up leo as their competition leo, but just without sleeves? Is it common for teams to have practice leos that match?

Many NCAA teams with the budgets to afford multiple tank leos along with multiple competition leos will just get matching tank leos because why not? If a leo company can make a competition leo, they can just as easily do the tank version, so for teams that want to be matchy-matchy, it’s not at all difficult to do, so it’s basically a “why not?” kinda thing. Other teams that don’t have the funds (or a sponsorship with a major leo company) might just have the one competition leo, but they also sometimes have a tank leo to match it.

Why do so many college gymnasts get 10s but not MyKayla Skinner? What is she getting deducted for? It’s not fair when she does such difficult routines, whereas Kyla Ross does the most basic bars set that is impossible to get deducted for?

I’ve addressed this a few times, but yeah, the more difficulty you do in NCAA, the more the judges have the ability to deduct, and the deductions are there for MyKayla. MyKayla is doing a floor routine that when you put in terms of elite difficulty is doubly difficult than many of her competitors, and yet she never gets a 10 because judges are being super picky with the difficult skills she’s doing, whereas a gymnast doing a double tuck, front full, and 1½ doesn’t have as many opportunities to get deducted, and so these “easy” routines can easily get 10s, whereas MyKayla finds it difficult to get higher than a 9.95.

It’s definitely not cool, and it’s why I detest the NCAA scoring system…I don’t think NCAA has to be as difficult as elite in terms of being forced to build huge difficulty to win, but I do think there needs to be more of a separation between “good” and “great” and I don’t think a routine that’s essentially a level 9 routine should be able to score as well as a routine with multiple elite-level passes. With the current level of NCAA talent, they need to make it harder to get your routine scored out of a 10, period. I literally HATED that Anne Kuhm showed up to NCAA with a super interesting and difficult bars set at a program that wasn’t known for its bar work, but then she kept getting 9.8s, and so she changed to the basic Jaeger, bail, dismount routine that everyone does, and she suddenly got 9.9s. It’s discouraging and limits creativity in routine construction. The sport deserves more than carbon copies of the same easy routines over and over again. I don’t need MyKayla to get 10s to get recognition, but I do need her routines to be worth more than the routines that simply meet the minimum requirements.

That said, I am all for gymnasts doing “easy” college routines. This is NCAA, and a gymnast shouldn’t be required to do skills that kill her body week in and week out. It’s why I’m also for a two-pass floor routine, which is allowed this season and is great for the gymnasts who need to not push themselves to the point of injury. But I do think NCAA can have room for simpler, safer gymnastics AND allowing for separation between these simpler routines and the more difficult ones. I’m not asking for full points of separation between routines, but rather a few tenths so that a difficult routine done super well can be rewarded with some distinction above a simpler routine done well.

Is a stalder considered an inbar since you’re not using your feet?

Technically an inbar is a “piked stalder” and a regular stalder is a “straddled stalder,” so both are stalders but just in different body positions. A stalder isn’t considered an inbar, but an inbar is considered a stalder.

Why did Peyton Ernst retire from gymnastics? Didn’t she have two more years of eligibility? Did she give up her scholarship?

She had roughly one million shoulder injuries and surgeries, and her body just couldn’t handle doing the sport anymore (though lord knows she tried to keep going). I believe because she medically retired, she got to keep her scholarship for the remainder of her time at Bama, and she ended up graduating from Bama, so I’d guess she kept the scholarship even though she was no longer competing.

I’ve noticed that when Morgan Hurd does her Ricna, her legs come together in a piked position when she’s in the air before going into a stalder. Does this incur a deduction?

No, there are many who compete Ricnas in this way…the skill is a stalder into a stalder Tkachev, but the two stalder skills are separate skills, meaning the gymnast doesn’t have to hold the stalder from the stalder swing into the stalder Tkachev. You can hold that shape, but you can also do a stalder, bring your legs together, and then release into the stalder Tkachev. Bringing your legs together helps create more momentum than staying in the straddle position does, so it makes sense to snap your legs together for the release if you want to get higher up over the bar.

Why didn’t Madison Kocian straddle her casts to handstand in her bars routines? She had a noticeable leg separation on every cast in 2013, and though she got better over time, why didn’t her coaches just switch to straddle casts to save tenths?

I honestly couldn’t tell you…something like straddling a cast versus doing a cast with your legs together comes down to personal preference, sometimes on part of the gymnast, but also sometimes on part of the coach. If you have a coach who’s like “in this house we cast with our legs together,” then you learn how to cast in that manner, and even if it’s not best for you, it’s what you do because it’s what you’ve always known. On easier routines, she was probably fine with the kinds of casts she did, but when she upgraded and began struggling, by that point it was maybe too late for her to change her entire cast situation.

What is the difference between volunteer assistant coach and undergraduate assistant coach in NCAA?

I believe the only difference really is that one is a student (the undergraduate or graduate assistant coach) and the other isn’t. I’m pretty sure the student assistant coaches aren’t paid, but most who are in those roles used to be on the team before retiring for whatever reason. The volunteer assistants probably also have some connection to the school in some way (used to be a student, related to one of the coaches, etc) but they’re not currently students.

Why do you think Danusia Francis didn’t fit the GB team picture in 2012?

So, from what I remember, Beth Tweddle, Rebecca Tunney, and Hannah Whelan were locks, and so with those three killing it on bars and floor, vault and beam ended up being really weak. Imogen Cairns then made herself impossible to pass up for that spot, because she could also fill out a floor spot as these were her three strengths, which balanced the strengths of the others nicely. And then it was Jennifer Pinches and Danusia fighting for that last spot. Danusia was a good choice, but she really only would have been used on beam, where Jenni sometimes outscored her, and then Jenni also added a DTY and had one of the strongest floor routines, so she just essentially made it impossible to leave her behind. I really wish it had been a six-person team with both included!! When they were making those final decisions I knew my heart was going to be broken either way, but I’m thrilled Danusia is finally going to the Olympics this year.

Has Sydney Morris ruined her NCAA chances by creating a YouTube channel for her gymnastics?

I don’t think she’s ruined her chances…I think it could jeopardize it if she’s using her name to get endorsement deals, but I think monetizing a YouTube account without actually accepting endorsements is still on the okay side of that fine line between making yourself eligible and not eligible.

What is the requirement for a hit routine? Is it hit if she stays on but has major deductions for form and execution?

I think it differs for everyone…there’s no “official definition” for what a hit routine is. Some people say that a routine without any falls is a “hit routine,” but I personally consider a hit something with no falls or major mistakes. Obviously if someone loses her swing and has to re-start it 200 times without actually falling, but she gets a billion deductions, that’s definitely not a “hit routine,” nor is a beam set with major wobbles on every skill or a floor routine with lots of low passes and stumbles. Of course, that means it’s super subjective…like, would a beam routine with one major wobble or hands down but is otherwise perfect be considered “hit?” I think it just depends on the overall quality of the routine to me, but I do think it definitely goes beyond just “fall” or “no fall.”

Is MyKayla Skinner aiming for an all-around spot on the 2020 team? What is her most realistic way of making it?

Yes, she’s going to be attempting to get one of the four spots on the actual team for 2020, and is not going to be attempting to earn a specialist spot at the world cups. Honestly, with the way she has competed this year, I’d say it’s pretty realistic that she can make it happen. If they take the top four all-around from trials, which is seeming likely, she has a very strong shot at making it happen. A few months ago I would’ve said that with the current depth, this would be insanely unlikely…but she really proved this year that she’s going to be a major threat, and that was with just a few months of training at the elite level. With an additional year of experience beyond what she had in 2019, I’d say we should be prepared for big things for MyKayla.

Jossimar Calvo had a dismount off the end of the parallel bars. Why is this so rare?

My gut assumption before looking at the code was that most end-of-the-bars dismounts aren’t really worth much? I’m looking at the code now and that’s pretty much the case…most of the end-of-the-bar dismounts are a D or under, and most of the top guys want to be around an F (or in some cases, a G). I think the only end-of-the bars dismount that’s an F or higher is the tucked double double, which doesn’t seem super worth the trouble, not when you’re not really getting enough height off the bars that will ensure you can easily get this around. If you can master dismounting from the side, that just seems like the easier way to get a higher value with a more manageable level of difficulty.

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

9 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. The Gabriela thing is super weird to me. Romania only brought 4 gymnasts to 2008 Euros and when Patrascu went down, they subbed her in for TF. Then at the Olympics, I wasn’t surprised to see her outscore Steliana who was finally being scored appropriately (she went 16+ once at 2007 worlds lmao), but I find it shocking that she managed to make it in over Izbasa/Tamarjan. Tamarjan was my personal fav on that team so I really wish she didn’t wobble as much and was able to claim the last beam EF spot over Koko

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    • I don’t remember Nistor’s beam much at all but I do remember thinking Izbasa and Tamarjan would be in the final in 2008. By not using Dragoi in the TF, they were definitely coming at the situation from a place of like…historically, she would not be the one we want even though she did well in QFs. But maybe her not going in over Nistor is a bit surprising? I need to rewatch that whole meet…I’ve only seen it once and am starting to fade with how most went down.

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  2. A little weird that you would address that MyKayla question without acknowledging A. her form or B. that she consistently got some of the highest scores in NCAA nor that Kyla’s routine is not “basic” and many many gymnast would not be able to compete it and certainly not without deductions.

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    • I understand where MyKayla’s deductions come from, and I’ve discussed them before in detail. I’ve also acknowledged many times that Kyla’s routine isn’t “basic” and even answered a question where I showed using the NCAA COP how her no-same-bar-release routine is actually more difficult than many same-bar-release routines. I’ve said these same things so many times that I’m physically dying of boredom over having to do it. Also, you do realize that I’m ANSWERING the questions, not asking them, right? Just because the question I answered called Kyla’s routine “basic” doesn’t mean that I did. I purposely didn’t address Kyla in my answer because (a) her routine isn’t “basic” and (b) Kyla has literally nothing to do with why MyKayla doesn’t get 10s. Relative to everyone else, tons of Kyla’s routines have been 10-worthy.

      The fact remains that numerous gymnasts throughout many top NCAA programs get 10s without having literally perfect routines. MyKayla’s routines also aren’t literally perfect, but she doesn’t get 10s. I even said in my answer here that I don’t think MyKayla’s routines are literally perfect, but in a sport where 10s are awarded not for perfection but because they’re SO good RELATIVE to other routines, MyKayla should be consistently earning 10s in the same way other “not literally perfect but way better than everyone else” routines consistently get 10s (or 9.975s). If Alex McMurtry “deserved” 10s from judges for her split-legged DTYs, and if the UCLA gymnasts who had level 9 floor routines “deserved”10s for literally every routine despite cheated sticks and wobbly landings and their chests down to their knees because they don’t have enough power for double backs, then MyKayla also “deserves” 10s for going above and beyond with a level of difficulty and quality no one else is doing at this level.

      But again, as I said in my answer, I don’t care so much about MyKayla not getting 10s as I do about how NCAA scoring is ridiculous in that it doesn’t allow for any separation between “good” and “great” routines. Every week we see basic “good” routines getting 9.95s and even 10s from judges, and exemplary routines are getting the same scores. My answer wasn’t “omg MYKAYLA DESERVES A 10 BC SHE’S PERFECT!!!” My answer was that MyKayla typically has exemplary routines and the NCAA scoring system doesn’t recognize that in comparison to mediocre routines.

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      • You choose what questions to publish and what your answer to them will be. It is dd to choose one with an unnecessary blatant insult toward another gymnast and odder still to not even address it. That’s all.

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        • I answer literally every question I get. I don’t “choose” anything. As I said in my initial response to you, I chose not to address the part about Kyla because it wasn’t so much a question as it was their example of a “basic routine.” That doesn’t mean I think it’s a basic routine, which is why I’ve written extensively about why it’s NOT basic, and why I didn’t address their example in my response.

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  3. What if we reward difficulty in NCAA with an offset of a set amount of execution deductions. I’d have to look at the numbers, but say skills with a difficulty over a d tend to get an extra 0.5 deductions over c skills. Then give a 100% matching award up to 0.5. But only 100% matching so it doesn’t turn into elite.

    This would let people branch out, reward difficulty, but not push people to upgrade to injury since you still couldn’t get over 10.0

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  4. I remember the Chinese coaches saying in an interview after the 2014 TF that they were considering pulling Bai Yawen from the beam final as well so Shang Chunsong would be in instead. Glad they didn’t.

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    • Yeah, I think they truly just thought her qualifications performance was a fluke. I think being in her home city really helped her be at her absolute best, because she was brilliant, and then we just never saw that from her again, which like…if you’re going to be at your BEST EVER, that’s the time to do it!

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