Sophie Scheder, Elisabeth Seitz, and Kim Bui
It’s time for the 275th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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Which countries do you think will rise next quad, and who will take a hit?
It really depends on who decides to stick around and who decides to retire. I feel like we’ve been really lucky over the past few quads in that we haven’t seen many top international gymnasts retire. The girls who are leading many teams right now – like Ellie Black for Canada, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui for Germany, Giulia Steingruber for Switzerland, Asuka Teramoto and Mai Murakami for Japan – are all in their third quad at the senior level (actually, fourth quad for Kim!), and leaders of many other teams – like Ellie Downie for Great Britain, Angelina Melnikova for Russia, Flavia Saraiva for Brazil – are in their second quad.
I do think we’re going to start seeing a wave of retirements after Tokyo, but I think the U.S. and China are in a really good place to stay above water because they have lots of really young seniors in addition to super promising juniors who can compete at about the same level as their veterans can, with China especially in a position to rise compared to where we’ve seen them in the recent past. And then Russia is coming in with a few super talented new seniors in the next two years, so while they don’t have as much depth as the U.S. or China, I think they’re in a really good place to get better than they were this quad, especially if Melnikova sticks around.
I think Japan and Germany are going to see the most severe drops…Japan has a lot of depth, but no one who really comes close to what Mai and Asuka can do, and even their younger seniors right now – Hitomi Hatakeda, Aiko Sugihara, Nagi Kajita – are still in their second quad and are likely going to contemplate retiring after Tokyo. They’ve had some promising juniors rising through the ranks, but none of them so far this quad have worked out in a way that we expected, so if they have a big mass exodus after Tokyo, they could be in danger.
Germany, though…OOF. If Elisabeth Seitz, Kim Bui, Sophie Scheder, Sarah Voss, and Pauline Schäfer all retire after Tokyo, I honestly can’t see them qualifying a full team for 2024. Their only real junior prospect this quad was Emelie Petz, with Lisa Zimmermann also decent but not entirely consistent, and while they have some talent in the junior pipeline going forward, it’s…not great. Like, barely anyone who can break a 50 AA. It’s going to be rough. I don’t know if all of those key five gymnasts – all of whom are in their second, third, or even fourth quad at the moment – will retire, and maybe we’ll see one or two stick around, but if there are multiple retirements, Germany’s gonna go from having a pretty deep, solid group of seniors to a group that could find the next quad a really rough one. Even now, when their seniors have an injury or two, it puts them at major deficit, so when they’re all gone, it’s going to be crushing.
The Netherlands is also in this boat, now that I think about it…Sanne and Lieke Wevers are going to be in their 30s next quad, their younger top seniors are almost all second-quad seniors already with the exception of a couple, so we could definitely see some high-profile retirements, and their junior pool isn’t that great. For some reason I have a better feeling about them than I do for Germany, probably because they do have a few juniors as well as much greater senior depth this quad…they had a few new seniors this over the past year who never really got a ton of senior experience because there’s already so much senior depth, and I think once the older seniors start to retire, the young ones – like Naomi Visser, Sanna Veerman, Laura de Witt, Sara van Disseldorp, Astrid de Zeeuw, and so on – are in a really good place to come into their own and do a great job at taking over the reins. Germany doesn’t really have as much young senior depth in that sense.
Other top teams, like France, Canada, Great Britain, Brazil, Italy, and Belgium, all seem like they have juniors right now who are in a good place to come in and add senior depth, and despite a few “older” seniors who might retire, they also have some strong younger seniors who could last another quad or so, so I think they’ll stay about where we’ve seen them in the international rankings, though Canada could be rough if Ellie Black retires, Ana Padurariu and Brooklyn Moors go to college and stop competing elite entirely, and Shallon Olsen also focuses just on NCAA.
Now that the Yurchenko double full is valued at a 5.4 and the 1.5 is valued at a 5.0, does it not make more sense to do the 1.5? I feel like many gymnasts are getting deducted at least 0.8 for the DTY, while the 1.5 is much safer, less difficult, and a really well-executed one could only incur about 0.5 in deductions. It would score about the same as a heavily-deducted DTY. Why not save your ankles and knees on vault, and rack up difficulty on bars and beam?
In theory, it’s a good idea, but in practice, many gymnasts looking to upgrade from the Yurchenko full will just go right to the double because they’re used to competing Yurchenkos where they can spot the landing, which makes the 1.5 – which has a blind landing – not an option for many. Generally the progression is a Yurchenko back with no twist, whether that’s in a tucked, piked, or layout position, and then pretty much no one does a Yurchenko half…they go right to the full. From there, the double is the goal, and those who can’t get it around will start considering the 1.5, but it’s not super common at all because the blind landing can make it very tricky to land…and so those without the power to do the double will often just stick with the full.
I do think most of the gymnasts we see doing DTYs have the power and ability to do them safely and consistently…but there are of course a few who are just doing it to get the difficulty and maybe should downgrade and give the 1.5 a shot. I don’t think a 9.5 E score is super realistic or achievable for most of the 1.5s, however. If you don’t have the power for a DTY, then one of the things you’re getting deducted for on easier vaults is that lack of power, amplitude, distance, and height. That’s why in elite, even when you see a pretty perfect FTY or 1.5, the E scores are still fairly low compared to E scores for similarly well-done DTYs. I think in most cases, if you had the power to do a huge 1.5, you’d be powerful enough for the DTY, and if you didn’t have the power to do a DTY, you’d be doing a 1.5 or full that would get deducted for a lack of power.
Looking at 1.5s from worlds last year, the top E score was a 9.133, making the total score a 14.133, which is on par with a weak DTY that gets an 8.733…but most of the 1.5 E scores were in the 8.8-8.9 range. I don’t think any of the women who did 1.5s at worlds have the power to be doing DTYs, but they clearly want to be a step ahead of an FTY, so a 1.5 is a good compromise in that sense, but it’s still not a super high-scoring vault in terms of execution, even when performed beautifully. In comparison, most of the top DTY gymnasts at worlds had a 9+ E score…in the all-around final, 12 gymnasts had DTYs, and only four had E scores below a 9.
Instead of using the sum of four scores for the all-around final, do you think the same gymnasts would be rewarded if they averaged the four scores? Would this better reward “true” all-arounders compared to gymnasts who have a pet event and can climb the rankings with that score?
Well, because the four scores would have to be added and then divided by four to be averaged, the results would be the same…because if someone got a 60 with her scores added, that’s obviously going to average higher than someone who gets a 59, which will average higher than someone who gets a 58. A “balanced” gymnast could get a 55 with a 13.750 on all four events, and a gymnast with a “pet event” could get a 55 with a 15 on her strong event, and a 13.333 on her other three events…it doesn’t matter how they reached a 55, whether being “balanced” or having a “pet event”…they’re still going to average out to the same.
Now, if you got into median averaging, this could change things…the gymnast with a 13.333, 13.333, 13.333, and 15 would have a median of a 13.333, whereas the gymnast with a 13.750 for all events would have a 13.750 median, and in that case, the balanced gymnast would come out on top of the “pet event” gymnast. But this would never happen, because it essentially throws out the lowest and highest scores, which makes doing the all-around pretty much pointless.
There are also more complicated ways to go about it, like weighing scores based on difficulty would be one idea, but I don’t know if the FIG would get that mathy about this.
In a recent interview, Aliya Mustafina said that the U.S. team only won at world championships because of Simone Biles, and that the rest of the girls are more or less at the same level as other top athletes. Do you agree? Will the American reign end after Simone retires?
So, in a sense, I do agree that the majority of the current U.S. seniors are more or less on par with most other top international talents, with the exception of Sunisa Lee, who is a step ahead of the rest if she hits all four events. However…most other programs only have one or two girls who are at that top “non-Simone” level and the U.S. has like 20.
Yes, it’s absolutely fair to say that gymnasts like Grace McCallum and Morgan Hurd and Leanne Wong are at the same level as international gymnasts like Angelina Melnikova with around a 56 ish all-around potential. But the U.S. can have Grace, Morgan, and Leanne all on the same team, whereas Russia can have Angelina on a team with a bunch of gymnasts who get like a 52-54 on a good day. That’s the difference. The U.S. doesn’t win because of Simone…she ups their score, but the team without Simone this year still would’ve won by about a two-point margin without her even with two falls because everyone on the team is at a really high level, whereas every other team has one or two high-level gymnasts, and then three or four just filling out the ranks.
If the Americans can continue to produce a solid amount of depth, other teams can come in with top all-arounders that are perhaps even stronger than a top U.S. all-arounder, but the U.S. team will still come out on top because of that depth. I always think of it like this…if a top (non-Simone) U.S. gymnast has to withdraw from a team, they’re replacing her with someone who can score roughly the same as her. If Russia’s top gymnast had to withdraw from a team, they’re replacing her with someone who is scoring five points less. That’s what it comes down to, and that’s why the U.S. team will remain successful even without Simone. If your program has enough depth so that the alternate is as good as the team, you’re always going to be in a better position than a team that has one really stellar athlete and then no one else to back them up.
It seems Jade Carey is the most “intriguing” gymnast this quad (as in you probably get more questions about her than anyone else, lol). Who would you say was the most “intriguing” last quad? Was there someone people kept asking questions about?
I think Jade is mostly “intriguing” because of her super unique situation where she’s essentially guaranteed an Olympic spot in a way that no one else in the U.S. is. That opened up a lot of questions, especially from people trying to understand that qualification process and wanting to know why Jade is so “special” in that sense. I also think it’s because of her unusual turnaround from a J.O. gymnast to an elite at 16 years old, which happens so rarely in general, let alone with a gymnast who goes from J.O. to multiple individual world medals in such a short span of time.
I think the most questions I got for a gymnast last quad were about Norah Flatley and whether she’d be a contender for 2016, mostly because she took so much time off and no one really knew how she was progressing with her injuries, if she was coming back to elite, and so on. When she finally announced her elite retirement I was like BLESS YOU LORD because I got probably 20 questions a week that were like “where’s Norah?!” I also got a lot of questions about MyKayla Skinner last quad, asking if she was a legitimate Olympic contender as well as lots of form-related questions, and then there were a lot of Madison Kocian vs Ashton Locklear questions as well. But Norah definitely wins.
Do you think Shallon Olsen would be better off taking a year from NCAA to focus on training for the Olympics?
Personally, as a human who values sleep and wouldn’t want to be taking a full college course load while competing every weekend for three months while training for the Olympic Games, I’d be like “hi, yeah, I’m taking a year off, thanks.” But Shallon is definitely a superhero, and also, I think what she adds on vault makes her a lock for the Canadian team, so if she can handle multitasking, why not try to do both at once? It worked out well for her last year, and honestly, I think competing in college regularly is doing wonders for her consistency on her weaker events, which is great, because she’ll need to do the all-around in qualifications in Tokyo. It’s nice knowing that Canada can use her on bars and beam, knowing that she won’t get the biggest scores on either, but that she’ll hit and be dependable.
Why do you think Laurie Hernandez was left out of the bars rotation during qualifications in 2016? Do you think it had anything to do with monetary gain and scholarships?
The official word was that she had an injury that limited her from doing bars, but honestly, there was no way Steve Penny was going to allow Gabby Douglas or Aly Raisman to skip the all-around qualification, even if Laurie was more proven as a stronger, more consistent all-arounder that summer. Gabby was the reigning Olympic champion, and Aly was the underdog who snuck into the all-around final in 2012 in one of the biggest twists in the sport’s history. Could she do it again, and get the upset over Gabby?!?! It was all about marketing and money to Steve, who made many similar decisions in his career, I’m sure much to the dismay of Martha Karolyi. But yeah, Laurie could’ve gotten a 62 every single day in camp and they still wouldn’t have picked her. Despite her success at nationals and trials, I knew deep down that there was no way we’d see her contend for an Olympic all-around finals spot in Rio.
If a gymnast were to do a front 2.5 twist off of bars out of a front giant, would it be a D or an E? The front double full is only a C…does that seem low in comparison to other dismounts?
A front 2.5 would likely be a D, though I think a double full should be a D and a 2.5 should be an E, at minimum. The single salto twisty bars dismounts are so undervalued…especially the front salto versions, which I believe are rated the same as the back versions, which is just silly.
When college teams travel, does the entire team make the trip? If an athlete isn’t competition-ready or is sick, it would make sense to leave them at home. Or are there rules stating that everyone who can physically travel has to be in attendance?
It depends on the team, their rules, and their budget. A team like UCLA with a big budget, or some of the SEC schools that have private jets, can bring basically whoever they want, including 25 “team managers” and injured athletes and walk-ons who don’t actually train, so they can have this gigantic team along with them and that’s their norm. But other teams without budgets or who need to travel light will often have to choose who they can bring along, and that might just mean currently healthy competitors only, aka those who would be expected to compete in that particular meet. On a larger team where everyone generally travels, I’ve seen certain athletes left behind at times for whatever reason, including illness and injury, but I think often even those who aren’t competition-ready do end up going along for the ride because they’re used in other ways, like mat-moving and just being supportive teammates.
Why are bars execution scores so harsh this quad? I remember Aliya Mustafina got less than a point in deductions pretty much every time she competed, but now it’s like 1.5-2.0 in deductions.
Well, in Rio, the bars deductions were pretty loose, and I think sometimes maybe a little too loose for some routines, but prior to Rio I thought the E scores were similar to what we’re seeing now, where the top competitors are getting in that 8.5-8.9 range pretty consistently (including Aliya when she competed internationally, though she was at the higher end of that range). For Rio, granted, some routines did get really cleaned up, but I also think the judges at the Olympics tend to be a little crazier on all events compared to when they’re more strict at worlds in the years leading up to the Games. Maybe that’s to please the people watching at home, or something? But I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some of this quad’s top bars sets magically getting 9s this year.
Are the Woo sisters still training? What are their chances of getting to Tokyo?
Yes, both Victoria and Rose are still training, and both were part of the worlds team last year (Victoria was on the team, while Rose stepped up as the alternate after Isabela Onyshko withdrew). I think both will be B-team options for Tokyo this year, in that they won’t be in that top group of girls who seem most likely to be selected, but they’ll be really strong options to replace anyone who ends up not working out. Rose is still a little weak following some injuries, but Victoria has looked the best she ever has over the past year, and I’d love to see if she can step it up even further to be in more legitimate contention for Tokyo. At the very least, I think she could be an alternate, but we’ll see if Rose is able to get healthy and get back to a higher level to also contend.
When I first began watching NCAA, I was confused by the ranking during the regular season, which is determined by score averaging and then RQS rather than a record of wins and losses. Do you think that changing to wins and losses would help balance out some of the discrepancy in scoring between big name schools and everyone else?
So, the issue with “wins” and “losses” – which are more or less irrelevant in the regular season aside from bragging rights or having fun with rivalries – is that ridiculous scoring still determines the wins and losses, so if you have Alabama and Georgia competing against each other in the SEC, the host team could be the weaker team of the meet, but still win by like a tenth because NCAA judging is trash. In an averages/RQS ranking, this wouldn’t really matter because the team’s score is still going to be a high one despite the loss, so it wouldn’t affect the losing team much at all, but in a win/loss ranking, the losing team would take a major hit, especially if something like this happened to them consistently while on the road.
The other issue is that for the most part, the teams that are scoring particularly well are in fact much stronger teams than those that don’t score well. You could have a team that competes for one of the weaker conferences that wins every weekend while scoring a 194, and then in a tougher conference like the SEC, you could have a team that loses every weekend while scoring a 197. This means a weak team could be at 10-0 and rank near the top, while a very strong team could be 0-10 and rank at the bottom, which doesn’t make much sense. Win-loss rankings just don’t work in judged sports.
I think the rankings system is fine, but it would obviously be even better if judging was consistent across conferences. I don’t think team rankings would be too affected, and just being a human who has eyes, there’s a very clear difference between teams that generally end up in the top ten compared to teams that are ranked 25th or lower, but I do think on an individual level, it would make a huge difference when you have standout gymnasts in more strictly-judged conferences getting 9.8s for similar (or better) quality routines that are getting 10s in the SEC and Pac-12.
Is KJ Kindler’s name really KJ? Or is it some kind of nickname?
It stands for Kathie Jo!
Why is it okay to put ones hand down on the beam/floor during illusion turns? Does everyone do it that way or are there gymnasts/dancers who do it without putting their hand down?
Pushing off the floor with the hand is part of the turn! I’ve always considered a turn an illusion turn when the hand touches the floor, and a penche/pivot when it’s hands-free, but that could just be how I learned it…I just googled and apparently aerobic gymnastics differentiates between an illusion turn and a “free illusion” turn, which is the hands-free version, which looks way different to me than a true penche pivot (which you see in rhythmic).
If Jade Carey secures her specialist nominative spot, would she still train all-around or would it make most sense for her to focus her attention on vault and floor?
I think she’ll still compete all-around, if only because she’ll have a slight chance of qualifying to the all-around final in Tokyo if the other all-arounders who make the team end up having bad days. It’s a slim chance, and I don’t think she’d get past three other U.S. girls to be the second-best for the country, but anything’s possible and I don’t think she’d let that possibility, however slim, pass her up. Also, when she brought bars and beam into the mix for elite, it didn’t affect her vault or floor at all, so she’s clearly used to it and doesn’t need to focus on just her two best events to still succeed at them.
Will there be a junior world championships in 2020?
No…apparently going forward, junior worlds are going to be held every other year, which I think is a good idea! Takes a bit of pressure off of the programs but still gives juniors the chance to get great international experience at a high level.
For NCAA gymnasts who don’t make the lineup, what do they do each day? Are there gymnasts on teams for four years who never get to compete?
They train the same way their teammates train. Many teams determine the lineups based on how training goes, and lineups change on a weekly basis for this reason. If someone consistently makes lineups but then starts really struggling in practice, it can be confusing to see her out of the lineup the following weekend, but that’s usually because she just had a rough week and someone else “earned” that lineup spot over her.
There are some gymnasts, mainly walk-ons, who never get the chance to compete and don’t make lineups, though many will at least get to do exhibition routines, especially if it’s their senior year and they showed real dedication to the program throughout their four years there. And then if those exhibition routines go well, they’ll get thrown into the lineup more regularly. I think walk-ons who get discouraged without competing in their first or second year will eventually become team managers or drift away from the team entirely, but those who stick around are often rewarded.
Is there any hope that a Colombian gymnast could qualify to the Olympics for MAG or WAG?
My biggest hope for Colombian WAG is a long shot because there’s going to be some pretty significant depth in the women’s competition at Pan Ams, but Sabrina Cortes is fabulous and I hope she at least gets close to getting there…and if not, I hope she sticks around until 2024 because I think she could get there eventually. For MAG, Jossimar Calvo is definitely the biggest hopeful, and while I think he’ll be closer to the top of the pool for the men at Pan Ams, and has a pretty good shot at making it happen, it’s still not a guarantee.
What would the Brixia Four need to improve on to be more secure in getting a team medal in Tokyo?
Beam consistency and execution, floor difficulty. I’ve been saying this since I first saw them compete at Gymnix in 2017, and it’s still true to this day, though they’ve definitely gotten better at both. They had some help on floor with Desiree Carofiglio last year, and overall their floor routines are really nice, but they’re just not at the same level when compared to teams like Russia, France, and China, so it would be nice to see them make just a few changes to make them more competitive.
Beam…I mean, it’s everyone’s downfall, especially in a team final, but if they can improve with their consistency here and clean up a bit, they’ll be in an even better position to stay among the top programs in the world. I think floor is more important for them right now, because seriously, all it will take is a few upgrades across the board, and that can take them from “good” to having potential to be a top-three floor team. But I also don’t want them to sacrifice their execution, which is some of the best floor execution in the world right now.
Is Madison Kocian injured?
Madison had a torn labrum that she competed on for roughly a full year, and though she had surgery, apparently her shoulder pain is just too much for her to be competing uneven bars at the moment. I’ve heard from one person that she won’t be competing bars at all this year, which is kind of a bummer if true, though hopefully she’s just playing it safe for now and will get back out there when she feels better. Since beam has such a strong roster and that’s where Madison has tended to struggle in the past, I’m not sure if she’ll be a top choice for that lineup…but hopefully we’ll see her back in some capacity this year.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins