The neutral Russian team at the 2018 Olympic Games
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What will be the effect of the Russian ban on gymnastics? Can Russia still send a team under the Olympic flag? Will Australia be allowed to send a full team in Russia’s place, since Australia is the reserve team based on worlds? Will the team be neutral in team finals? Will Russian gymnasts choose not to participate?
So basically, I got a lot of questions about this and thought I’d wrap them all up into one question so I wasn’t answering the same thing 50 times. Basically, Russia would be able to send a full team for gymnastics under a neutral flag, like they did in 2018, where they were referred to as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” instead of as “Russia.” So a team of four gymnasts (plus whatever individuals they qualify) will still be allowed to compete as a team (including in team finals), however they won’t be allowed to wear the Russian flag or have the Russian anthem play should they win any gold medals.
This means that Australia, the reserve team, will not come in and take Russia’s spot, because it’s not a total ban against Russia. A total ban would’ve meant that no athletes, regardless of the sport or whether they personally tested positive for banned substances, would be allowed to compete, in which case the team spot Russia earned in 2018 would’ve been made ineligible, and in that case, Australia would’ve come in as the alternate. But without a total ban, certain sports and athletes are still given the ability to compete in 2020 on a neutral level even though “Russia” as a federation can’t.
In terms of gymnasts choosing to not participate, apparently Aliya Mustafina said she would refuse to compete if it wasn’t for the Russian flag, and I’d guess any other athlete with strong national/patriotic leanings would feel the same way…but there are plenty of athletes, especially in gymnastics where competitive careers are so short, who will still choose to compete despite the neutral situation, so I don’t think we’ll really see anyone bowing out given the opportunity to compete at the Olympic level, something they’ve worked for all their lives. Also, like, let’s be real…you’re still Russian on the inside, and you’ll still be able to say that you won your medals for your country. Even though you don’t have your flag and you’re technically an “Olympic Athlete from Russia” instead of a “Russian Olympic athlete,” it’s all semantics, and ten years from now, we’re gonna be like “Russia won silver at the 2020 Olympic Games,” not “the neutral athletes won silver.”
Had she not been injured, how would Cheng Fei have fit into the 2012 team situation for China? Do you think China could have challenged for bronze?
Vault and floor were definitely at a deficit for China in 2012, and I think having Fei on the team would’ve helped them up their team total by…oh, probably about three points? which would’ve gotten them a medal in London. I think she probably would’ve been on the team over Deng Linlin with what we knew going into the Games…but in hindsight, I would’ve replaced Huang Qiushuang.
But at the same time I think it was more China’s mistakes in the team final that hurt them more than placing fourth was about them lacking in some way. Russia and Romania were also lacking in 2012, and I’d say while Russia was probably the strongest team outside of the U.S., given Romania’s bars issues along with Larisa Iordache’s injury and then given China’s vault and floor deficit, but I think China probably should have won bronze over Romania but just had the greater number of mistakes in the team final. They were legitimately five points higher than Romania on bars, and on a good day, Romania wouldn’t have been able to make that up elsewhere, even with China being relatively behind on vault…but then China came up rough on beam and floor, and that’s what really did them in.
Fei would’ve added more of a cushion on vault, and assuming she hit floor, obviously she would’ve helped there (and on beam) as well, but while we can obviously predict what she would’ve added, we can predict how she would’ve competed. Going into the Games, I was expecting that Deng Linlin would’ve given a 15+ on beam in the team final, but she was nearly two points below that, and I was expecting that Huang Qiushuang would’ve been more consistent overall to get around a 14 on both of those events, but that didn’t happen.
So you can’t say that Fei would’ve been the sole reason for a team medal had she not been injured…the team was strong enough that it should have gotten a medal even with a weaker vault and floor. But you can say that Fei could’ve created more of a bubble above Romania that could’ve protected them a bit more from missing out on the podium, assuming she hit.
If a gymnast wins two apparatuses in the world cup series, how is it determined which one qualifies them for the Olympics?
If a gymnast wins two or more apparatuses in the world cup series, there will be a tie break procedure to decide which apparatus qualifies him or her to the Olympics. In the tie break, the highest average world cup points on the respective apparatus from all competitions attended in the series prevails, but if they remain tied, the best average rank on the respective apparatus in the qualifications of all competitions attended in the series prevails.
There used to be a super common bars mount where a gymnast runs, uses a springboard, goes over the low bar, and catches the high bar. Would it be considered a transition from low bar to high bar? Why don’t we see it anymore?
There are a few variations of this type of mount, some that use the hands to push off of the low bar on her way to catching the high bar (I’ve always referred to these as “vault” mounts), and then there are hands-free versions as well, which are a bit more difficult because you don’t get that extra propulsion that you get when you push off from the hands. Some are done straddled, some are with legs together…and the best one of all is Houry Gebeshian’s, which pushes off of the low bar with straight legs, and then has a full turn in the air before catching the high bar (she debuted it in qualifications at the 2016 Olympic Games and is a badass for doing it).
I don’t feel like these mounts are gone, and in fact I think we see vault-style mounts with propulsion somewhat often in NCAA to this day? I feel like ANY bars mount in elite is rare because the gymnasts don’t want to risk falling or making a mistake on what should be a simple part of the routine when they have to then go on and do so much difficulty in the interior of the routine, which is why most just stick to a simple glide kip or jump to kip on high bar, so I think it’s more about all more difficult bars mounts in general disappearing than it is about this particular style of mount.
But no, a vault mount wouldn’t be considered a low-to-high transition. Mounts are a different element group than transitions, and this type of skill can’t be done not as a mount, so a similar version can’t also exist in the transition element group (like, on beam, a layout stepout mount is different from a layout stepout acro skill, so you could compete both and count it both times as it’s from two different element groups).
Why don’t gymnasts do a tucked arabian (B) into a roundoff back handspring into any D+ skill? It fulfills the front acro requirement plus you get 0.1 for connecting B+D indirectly. It’s common in cheer to do this type of pass into a double full.
I don’t think they’d get nearly enough momentum to do pretty much any D skill if they’re taking out the running aspect of a tumbling pass. A tucked arabian would have to start from a standing position, and then going directly from that into a roundoff back handspring would give them SO much less power than when they run into a roundoff back handspring. They just wouldn’t have time to build literally any momentum, so skills like double backs would be super dangerous and wouldn’t get around really at all. And like yeah, maybe they can get a double full or even a 2½ out of it, but without momentum, they’re not going to get the height they need to look good while doing it, which is why in cheer, they land these types of passes stumbled over with their chests practically at floor level, which would be an insane deduction in gymnastics and thus not even remotely worth it for just a 0.1 CV.
Do you know if Chen Yile’s little sister Fei Fei is taking gymnastics classes or has any interest in the sport?
I don’t believe she’s involved in gymnastics at all, though now that “happy gymnastics” (China’s version of rec gym) is becoming more popular, it would be cute to see her get involved with something like that!
Why were NCAA scores so insane in 2004, and what happened that scores got so much lower across the board in 2005?
I didn’t watch NCAA in 2004, so I can’t really explain why scores were so high and why it shifted the following year, but scores started trending higher and higher beginning in about 2000, and they just kept increasing every year…and I feel like only a couple of programs started out with ridiculous scoring but then as years went on, more and more jumped into it because they had to keep up, and by 2004 it was a high-key nightmare, lol. Like, we complain a lot now, but based on videos I’ve seen, 2004 was atrocious in comparison.
Considering it was many of the same athletes between 2004 and 2005 competing routines of similar quality, my guess is that there was some kind of judging review where judges were told to keep it in their pants and that not every routine needed a 10 just for existing, so then things tightened up a bit the following year. I know judges do on occasion get emails that are like “a code of points exists, please actually take deductions” but I’d guess with things getting so insane between 2000 and 2004, someone finally was like “NO MORE” and shut that nonsense down, because team highs went down a full point from one year to the next despite the quality of gymnastics remaining pretty consistent.
In cases where a gymnast has a choice between competing as a senior or a junior, what would be the strategy behind choosing to remain a junior (I’m thinking specifically of Courtney McCool in 2003)?
I would imagine it’s just not feeling ready to compete at a higher level. You might have the score potential, but if you’re not fully “mature” as a competitor, it can really hurt your performance level, and probably also hurt your confidence if you’re in a situation like that and have a rough time. I think for some gymnasts who are ready at 14 or 15, going into a senior-level situation can be amazing for them, and so Carly Patterson in 2003 and Shawn Johnson in 2007 were able to gain super valuable experience against competitors they’d be up against at the Olympics in the following year, so for them, it was worth it to kind of jump up a level…but for others who are just not as mentally ready, it’s not worth pushing them into it. Like, if this was still a thing, last quad I would’ve felt great about having someone like Laurie Hernandez compete senior elite as a junior in 2015, but with someone like Ragan Smith, I would’ve liked to see her stay at the junior level because she just wasn’t as ready.
Do you think it’s true that Martha Karolyi was so against using alternates because of how traumatic it was for Morgan White to be replaced in 2000? Or was there another reason? I’m skeptical because (1) Martha doesn’t seem that nice, and (2) wasn’t the original source of that information a Larry Nassar interview?
So, as much as we hear about Martha being “not nice” and terrifying, based on what I’ve heard from many of the top gymnasts who worked with her consistently, as tough as she was on the exterior, she truly cared for them and had incredibly emotional reactions to everything, from triumphs to heartbreaks. Knowing what many other gymnasts have said about her being emotionally abusive in how she treated them, however, I’d guess that she had “favorites” (like Aly Raisman, who is so outspoken about abuse but refuses to say a bad word about Martha and seemed to really care about her and vice versa), and I’d guess that it probably was heartbreaking and “traumatic” for Martha to see one of her “favorites” replaced in the way Morgan was, and in that sense, I wouldn’t doubt that this was the reason Martha was against having to swap out alternates at the Olympic Games.
In terms of the story coming from Larry Nassar, obviously that adds an air of suspicion because literally everything he did in his entire life was an act, but at the same time, part of his “appeal” to gymnasts and other people in the gymnastics community was that he regularly shed light into some of the garbage practices at camps, obviously now to deflect away from his own behavior so he’d seem like one of the “good guys,” but I think just because he turned out to be a monster doesn’t mean that absolutely everything he ever said was a lie? Again, obviously his reasoning behind sharing information was because he was trying to win favor and trust with people in and around the sport by pretending he was an advocate for gymnasts, and I’m not saying that his willingness to share stories about camps in any way adds anything positive to his character especially because he was using those stories not to help the gymnasts but rather to manipulate people (as someone who was personally manipulated by Larry, multiple times, it worked). But he did share a lot of truths about the national team camps and the Karolyis, so I don’t think we have to think this story wasn’t truthful just because it came from a monster, if that makes sense. In my own experience of speaking with him somewhat regularly, which mostly took place around 2010-2012, he never had a good thing to say about Martha, so it’s not like he was ever “protective” of her or felt like he had to invent good things to say about her, so sharing something that’s pretty positive about her in this story just makes me feel like, okay, he clearly thought she was terrible, but I guess every terrible person has a few redeeming qualities, and based on that story and what some of her “favorites” have publicly said about her, a redeeming quality for Martha was the fact that she was very much emotionally invested in her girls (again, at least in her “favorites”).
Anyway, I don’t doubt the veracity of the story just because it came from Larry, especially because what a few others have said about Martha and her love for her faves seems to back it up, and I do think that Martha had girls on teams that she cared for very deeply, and if someone like Aly had to be replaced in London or Rio, Martha would have been devastated…but I also think that these feelings absolutely didn’t apply to everyone across the board, and think that how she treated many gymnasts (most brutally with Mattie Larson in 2010 and Brenna Dowell in both 2013 and 2015) speaks to what a heinous person she truly was despite having some feelings of affection for a handful of her gymnasts.
Why is it more common for men to do NCAA and elite at the same time than women?
Women tend to mature at younger ages in the sport, and often are getting close to elite retirement by the time they become college-aged, whereas men don’t really begin to mature in the sport until they’re 18 or older, which obviously coincides with the ages most people are in college.
Around the world, women are competing at older and older ages, but in the U.S., the peak age still trends a bit young for the most part, and by the time the majority of elite gymnasts are 18-20, they can’t keep up with many of the younger girls at the elite level, so they opt to head to college where they can downgrade their routines and still compete, but at a much lower level of physical demand. Occasionally we will see one or two gymnasts every quad either come back from the college level to continue with elite-level difficulty, or double-team college and elite, but that’s incredibly rare because most of the older female gymnasts struggle to stay healthy at a high level of difficulty, which makes them unable to make teams in the U.S., where high difficulty is absolutely necessary to make teams. However, the level of difficulty needed to be successful in other WAG programs around the world is much lower, and so gymnasts can have a bit more longevity because they can compete at a lower level of difficult at older ages and still make teams because their programs don’t have as much depth, so it’s not as rare that NCAA athletes from other programs will be able to double-team NCAA and elite competition.
For MAG, the NCAA program actually ties into the elite program in the U.S. because many of the top gymnasts in the country are college-aged or older, and so the elite program can use NCAA as a talent pool in a way the WAG elite program doesn’t really have with its NCAA equivalent. Men’s NCAA gymnastics uses the elite code of points, just slightly modified, so gymnasts can come into NCAA with routines and elements they plan on having in elite, work these routines all season, and then be better prepared for the elite season.
I always think of women’s NCAA as like, the end-game for former elites in 99% of cases, whereas men’s NCAA is like the beginning stage for elites just getting started at the senior level.
If Nina Derwael connected all of her skills on bars, what would her D score be?
She’d get G + F + D + D + D + E + D + D for a total of 3.8 in element values. For connections, the Nabieva + Derwael-Fenton would be 0.2 (though if someone could pull that off they’d have to petition for at least 0.3!), the Derwael-Fenton to Ezhova would get 0.2, the Ezhova to Chow gets 0.1, the Chow to Pak gets 0.1, the Pak to van Leeuwen gets 0.2, the van Leeuwen to toe full gets 0.1, and the toe full to full-in gets 0.1, so her total in CV would be 1.0. Adding these to the 2.0 CR, her total D score would be 6.8, three tenths higher than what she currently has.
The majority of her routine is connected as it already stands, so she’s really just picking up the extra 0.2 from the back-to-back releases at the start, and then the 0.1 for the toe full directly out of the van Leeuwen (which I feel like physically wouldn’t work super well and should also probably be worth more if someone is capable of doing it well).
Considering Riley McCusker’s technique is perfection, how do you think she’ll do in NCAA? Can we expect a lot of 10s from her?
Oh, I think Riley will CRUSH it in NCAA. Especially when her difficulty is cut down quite a bit…when you do see her lose her technique on some skills, it’s always her more difficult skills where she just doesn’t have as much strength or control…but cut her down to a compulsory routine or a J.O. routine and she’s gonna have huuuuuge scores. I always feel like no routines that get 10s are actually perfect, but I think Riley, especially on bars and beam, could have some literally perfect routines at the NCAA level.
Do you know why Emma Kelley switched her commitment from LSU to Arkansas?
I don’t know the reasoning exactly, but the way she talked about it on social media about God closing a door and opening a window or something made it sound like LSU pulled her verbal commitment. Considering she’s had some less than ideal level 10 seasons (in 2018 she competed once and got a 7.475 on beam and an 8.550 on floor, and in 2019 she competed twice, getting multiple 7-8 range scores on all events but vault, with an all-around high of 34.125, which is literally unheard of for a commit going into a top-ranked program) I wouldn’t be surprised if LSU was like yeah, sorry, we can’t take you. Honestly, I’m surprised even Arkansas would risk her, though I guess she could be somewhat helpful on vault? And she’s had some decent floor routines as well, but like, years ago, so hopefully she’ll get it together and be able to succeed at the collegiate level.
Is there any potential that someone could lose their qualification spot through the world cups?
I don’t think I really understand what this means…do you mean like, is there a way that someone who qualifies through the apparatus world cups could have their nominative spot taken away? I’d imagine if they break some sort of rule (like failing a drug test) the FIG would have to take their spot away, and then if they got injured and couldn’t compete in any way, they’d have to withdraw and give up their spot…but this would all be directly between them and the FIG, and wouldn’t involve their federation at all (so the federation can’t take away a gymnast’s nominative spot and give it to another gymnast for any reason, basically).
Do you think Faith Torrez would have made the worlds team last year had she been in the top six all-around at trials?
Given that the U.S. is stuck on their “top all-arounders on this particular day go no matter what” rule, then yeah, she would’ve made the worlds team had she placed top six at trials because they seemed to follow that rule pretty strictly. Tbh, had she hit beam, she would’ve made it over Grace McCallum, and I think that would’ve made the U.S. program freak out because they seemed to desperately want Grace on that team, thus some of her hyper-inflated scores that summer (and on beam at that trial meet). I feel like had Faith hit beam, we would’ve seen Grace get a 14.8 for her beam routine so she could edge Faith out by a tenth, hahaha. #ConspiracyTheoryCentral
Do you know who else Simone Biles was considering to be her new coach before she ultimately chose Cecile and Laurent Landi?
I don’t…I only knew Cecile and Laurent were in the running because they had just left their jobs at WOGA and I had heard that they were seen visiting WCC, so given their prior relationship with Simone, I assumed they were the super heavy favorites, if not the only ones going in for the role. I also think at that time most people were thinking not of Simone and WCC interviewing potential coaches, but more of Simone going off to various gyms looking for good fits with the idea being that Simone would be the one moving to the gym of her choice…it was like yeah, she has her own gym, but without any high-level coaches there, it seemed like she was just going to find a training situation elsewhere despite owning her gym. But then obviously the Cecile and Laurent moving to WCC situation made much more sense and I’m glad they’ve been able to build an incredible program there overall in addition to helping Simone reach even crazier levels of her potential.
Why doesn’t Kyla Ross get deducted when she does her toe-ons one foot at a time?
Because it’s not a deduction! Doing toe-ons one foot at a time can be easier physically for gymnasts who deal with back pain, because the pressure that’s put on your back when piking down normally is much greater than when you ease into it by putting your foot on the bar and then piking down fully when you get your other foot on the bar. Even if the pike shape itself still gives you some pain, easing into it is definitely a relief compared to just piking down all at once.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins