Tina Erceg, a Queen
It’s time for the 281st 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).
Something you want to know? Ask us anonymously by going through the contact form at the bottom of the page.
Has a roundoff + arabian mount been done before on beam? Would it be more or less difficult than a punch front salto?
Yup! The arabian mount on beam is called the Erceg, named for the fabulous Tina Erceg, a two-time Olympian from Croatia, and it’s the highest-valued mount in the code of points along with a layout full, rated a G. She’s the only gymnast to have successfully competed this mount at a major competition, though Tisha Volleman landed it at Bundesliga once, and Lieke Wevers has also trained it somewhat recently.
In addition to debuting one of the most difficult mounts in the world, Tina also debuted a tuxedo leo at worlds in 2009, and then wore it at basically every single competition after that (though sadly not at the London Olympics).
Do you think Laurie Hernandez’s comeback is more realistic with the Olympic Games in 2021? Has she said anything regarding this topic yet?
Yes, absolutely! I haven’t seen her say anything about it yet, but even though she has been making strides in the gym, it was clear that she was kind of rushing to get to Tokyo this summer. She looked fabulous on beam, and I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised to see her pull off getting an individual spot just for beam…but now she has time to focus on her other events as well. Obviously she’s taking time off from training during this period of quarantine/social distancing, but I think that if she can get back to doing what she was doing in the gym when she started getting more serious about training late last year, she can absolutely have a better shot at getting herself back in the mix.
As the Olympic Games are postponed, will the elite gymnasts who were supposed to start their freshman year in the NCAA postpone so they can train for the Olympics? Is it possible some of them will start university while preparing for the Games?
I think most who are planning on going to the Olympics, especially those hoping to make the U.S. team, will postpone so they can keep training. Technically you can only defer one year, and some gymnasts were already deferring a year to train for 2020, but since these are extenuating circumstances, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw athletic programs make arrangements for Olympic hopefuls so that they can train elite for an extra year before coming to college.
There are also a few Canadians planning on going to college after Tokyo, with Brooklyn Moors and Ana Padurariu most notably on their way to UCLA, and since Canada is a bit more lenient with letting its gymnasts double-team NCAA and elite, it’s possible that we could see them move on to college and prepare for Tokyo there, but since they’re both such major contenders next year, I can see them (and their coaches) wanting to stay at home for an extra year since a major life change a year before the Games could be detrimental in getting them there.
Which gymnasts will benefit from having the extra year of training now that the Olympic Games are postponed?
So, going off of the above where we talk about Laurie Hernandez, I think MyKayla Skinner has been granted a huge gift here, though I know it probably really affects her personal plans with wanting to finish her degree and start a family. But MyKayla is the kind of gymnast who can learn a skill in a single day, and she’s been having fun playing with various skills throughout her training that she wasn’t seriously planning on adding but now it’s like, who knows? She has my bet for getting her difficulty up to a 7 on every single event during this time, hahaha. But in all seriousness, remember how far she came last year? From classics to nationals was like night and day, and then from there to worlds…it was insane. I think with a whole extra year she can become unstoppable when it comes to both adding new skills, and cleaning a few things up.
For the U.S. I think the younger gymnasts like Kayla DiCello and Olivia Greaves will also benefit from the extra time, especially since Olivia is in such a crappy situation without a coach right now. And on that note, Riley McCusker getting more time at her new gym will also be incredibly beneficial. I felt like with the last-minute changes this year, she really only had time to work on getting competition-ready in terms of consistency and getting her mental game strong, but now she’ll have more time to get better-conditioned, fix the struggles she’s had on vault, maybe upgrade on floor…I don’t think she’ll be doing Amanars or triple doubles, but there is absolutely room for growth on both of these events now that she has the time to focus on them.
Outside of the U.S.? ALIYA MUSTAFINAAAAAA! And also really anyone who was injured this year and were going to miss out on competing this summer, most notably Asuka Teramoto, who was hoping to represent the host country at what would have been her third Olympic Games this summer, though an Achilles rupture this year looked like it was going to take that dream away from her…though now? Anything’s possible!
Will 2005-born gymnasts be able to compete at the 2021 Olympic Games?
Yes, the FIG has just announced this week that gymnasts born in 2005 will be eligible to compete in Tokyo with their reasoning being that since this competition falls in a year where these gymnasts are age-eligible to compete as seniors, they must be allowed to compete. There’s a lot of “but it’s not fair” arguments happening, and while it is definitely not beneficial for some gymnasts who could potentially lose spots to someone younger, what would be less “fair” would be taking away an opportunity from an age-eligible gymnast.
I’ve talked about the inherent issues that come with gymnasts and their coaches potentially trying to speed up their training to be ready for the Olympics in one year instead of three years, but there also may be gymnasts around the world (because remember, this decision was made for the best of all federations, not just the U.S. federation) who are fully mentally and physically ready to compete, and I think it would be plain wrong to take a potential opportunity away from them just because we “feel bad” for older gymnasts having more competition. This is a global-level sport, not an elementary school playground, and the best of the best among age-eligible gymnasts should not be limited.
I personally would caution coaches against pushing for these new deadlines, especially if they have been careful in pacing their gymnast for 2024. Since Tokyo was never an option to begin with, they’re not “losing out” on anything by skipping these Games, and it doesn’t make sense to suddenly try to “squeeze” the next Olympics in. But for those who are at a senior level of competition in their countries and do have what it takes to make teams, I’m all for seeing them make it happen (looking at you, Viktoria Listunova).
Can Viktoria Listunova compete at the 2021 European Championships? Let’s say she wins the all-around competition and earns a spot for Russia…but then she can’t compete at the Olympics because she’s not age-eligible?
So, this is a non-issue now because 2005-born gymnasts are allowed to compete at the Olympic Games. But as of right now, 2021 European Championships aren’t the qualifier for the Olympic Games…the UEG is hoping to push this year’s Euros back to this fall, and the discussion for the rest of the continental and world cup qualifiers is also related to making them happen around October-November so that all remaining berths are filled by the end of this year, so just wanted to clear it up that just because the Olympics are happening in 2021 doesn’t mean that all of the remaining qualifiers will be the 2021 versions of these events!
If the timing doesn’t work out for this fall, then I’d assume they’d have to do things in 2021 (or just revert back to the all-around qualifiers from 2019 worlds, which is the back-up plan), but again, since 2005-born gymnasts can compete at the Olympics, and since they’d be age-eligible to attend the qualifiers in 2021, then yes, Viktoria could qualify a non-nominative spot for Russia at Euros if they happen in 2021, and yes, she’d also be able to compete in Tokyo.
Do you think Simone Biles will keep going until 2021, or do you think she’ll retire?
I think that even though it’s clearly been difficult for her to accept that she’s going to have to keep training and preparing for another year despite seeing 2020 as “the finish line” for her career, she clearly still wants to go to another Olympic Games and I feel like even if she does get discouraged because she’s just so mentally or physically done, that goal of making her second Olympics happen will probably keep her going. I think she’s also lucky in that she is able to stay in much better shape than most gymnasts when she’s out of the gym for a period of time, so even if she does feel like she needs an extended break, she has shown before that she tends to come back from this super well and I hope that the same would happen for her this time around.
Out of all the Tokyo frontrunners in the lead-up to the Olympic Games, who do you think is most likely to turn pro?
I honestly can’t see any of them going pro, but maybe Suni Lee? She and Morgan Hurd both seem to have that “it” factor that would make them a hit with advertisers and other public-facing opportunities, but they’re obviously both committed to NCAA programs, and while I don’t know how invested Suni is in terms of academics, I feel like Morgan might want to go to college over going pro? But you never know…if she does make the team and enjoys the lifestyle that comes with being an Olympian, it’d be super tempting for her to take advantage of the many opportunities she’d undoubtedly get! And then she can be a business mogul and attend college on her own time.
Now that Tokyo is postponed, what kind of an impact do you think Riley McCusker’s gym move will make?
I answered this in a response to an earlier question, so I won’t get super in-depth with it again, but at the most fundamental levels, I think it will have an IMMENSE impact on getting her to a level where she’d be a legitimate threat to make the team.
Is it likely that the NCAA will grant eligibility back to winter sports like gymnastics?
Apparently not. They’ve granted it back to spring athletes already, but seem to have said no about winter athletes. I get it…logistically, it’s a nightmare, because since scholarships are already taken up for the next year, the NCAA has to fund potentially thousands of athletes from various sports, and I don’t know how feasible that is. On that hand, the NCAA has made potentially millions of dollars from these athletes during their four years, so maybe give less of a bonus to your executives and use that money to stick kids in dorms so they can compete for another year and get to finish out their senior careers with a postseason? SHRUG.
What’s the status of All-Around? Obviously they can’t film, so is the show just canceled?
I think since All-Around isn’t really on a set schedule in terms of when they’re releasing episodes, it actually works out somewhat well for them to revamp how they’re going to do the show going forward. They tend to film a bunch of stuff, then release an episode with that footage, then film a bunch of stuff, then release another episode with that next set of footage. It works for them, and it works when there’s a big hiatus like this. Also, even though they can’t film right now, they can still compile iPhone videos from the three featured gymnasts, and maybe do a special COVID-19 episode based on self-footage? And then obviously when everyone’s allowed back in gyms again, they can get back to filming and ask a bunch of questions about this hiatus and what it means going forward. Things will change for the show for the time being, I’m sure, but with the way they do it, they definitely have options beyond their usual structure.
With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down gyms across the United States, which senior and junior elites are shut out of their gyms completely, and which have still been able to be in a gym training as usual?
I just assumed pretty much anyone whose family owns a gym or who is the only elite in the gym and can just kind of shelter-in=place at the gym instead of at home is probably taking advantage of those unique situations…but that kind of was only happening in early/mid March before things got super serious…now it seems like pretty much no one is in the gym with Tokyo getting pushed back a year, because there really isn’t a point to do anything beyond conditioning with zero competitions looking likely for the next few months.
I think MyKayla Skinner was able to stay in her gym as the sole athlete training after everyone went home, Simone Biles looked like she was in her gym a little longer than anyone else and made a comment that she was in the gym training when she found out the Olympics were postponed (but has since said that she is now sheltering in place at home), and then internationally, many Olympic-focused training groups – like the Brixia girls in Italy, the Belgian seniors, the Russians, a group of French seniors – were all basically quarantining together to keep training at first…but then once the Olympics got postponed they all pretty much shut it down and went home because like I said above, there’s not much of a point to train when there’s nothing happening (though Belgium apparently went back to training this week). I think these federations just wanted to keep their gymnasts training assuming the Olympics were still happening this summer, so they’d be at an advantage over teams that might not be training, but again, with no Olympics, they all figured it was best to go home.
Do you think the quality of gymnastics will be higher in Tokyo because everybody got an extra year to train? Can you see any NCAA gymnasts making a run for the Olympics now that they have time to prepare?
I don’t think it’ll necessarily be higher, especially since so many athletes are going to be away from their gyms for a significant period of time, which could end up really hurting a few athletes, especially if they’re going through growth spurts during this time, which is like, its own special hell, or if they’re older and their bodies are just done with elite and start breaking down. I think we’ll more or less see the same quality we would have expected for this year, though a few gymnasts who will benefit from the extra training time will obviously have a higher quality that we may have seen this year, while the few gymnasts who struggle with this extra time will obviously have a weaker quality. But on average, I don’t think the change will be too drastic.
What happened to Isabela Onyshko after Rio? Did she get injured?
She has had a couple of injuries since Rio, but she also took some time off and then ultimately changed gyms, and I think she also just grew up after 2016, so that coupled with injuries and time off really affected her getting her full difficulty/skill level back. Isabela came into 2016 looking better than she ever had, and she gave Ellie Black a run for her money in the all-around and on beam on multiple occasions, which was awesome – she became the best she possibly could be just in time to help her team at the Olympics. She just happened to hit a brilliant peak exactly when she needed to, and so I thought given her age and physical limitations, we’d probably see a decline if she continued on in the sport, but I think that decline was a little more noticeable due to the growth, the injuries, the gym change, and everything else she had going on. That said, she’s had some really stellar competitions this quad, and I was thrilled to see her get back to fighting shape for the worlds team last year even though she ultimately had to skip out on her alternate role due to injury.
When an NCAA team wins the national championship, are the accolades only given to the gymnasts who competed that day, or are they given to the entire team, including injured athletes?
Everyone on the team that year regardless of whether they competed or not is considered to be a national champion. Whether you competed all four events, moved mats, or watched from the stands, if your name is on the roster, you’re an NCAA champion because you were part of the team that season and still contributed in some way to making that national title happen.
Where do you think Emma Spence would be a good fit in NCAA?
I see her at a variety of programs and don’t think she (or anyone, really) has a specific “style” that only matches one specific program. I’d personally love to see her somewhere like Denver or Washington or Cal…a team that is more of an underdog but is still consistently doing big things and could use someone like Emma to be a solid contributor on all four events.
Now that Tokyo is postponed, is there any chance that 2020 Euros are postponed and not completely canceled?
Apparently 2020 Euros are postponed to this fall, from what I’m hearing, but of course that depends on if sports are able to come back in time to exist again by 2020, and of course, if athletes are able to get back into the gym with enough time to prepare to compete this fall. I’d say that if athletes can’t get back into stable training situations by the beginning of August, we probably won’t see Euros happening this year.
Who were the Oklahoma scholarship athletes from this past season?
I think Jade Degouveia, Vanessa Deniz, Maggie Nichols, Evy Schoepfer, Brehanna Showers, Ragan Smith, Allie Stern, Karrie Thomas, Olivia Trautman, Anastasia Webb, Brooke Weins, and Carly Woodard were the scholarship gymnasts, with Jordan Draper, Jenna Dunn, Erin Hutchison, and Emma LaPinta the walk-ons. Actually I’m not a hundred percent sure about Draper, but I am sure that all of the scholarship gymnasts I listed have scholarships, in which case Draper would have to be a walk-on.
How did Oklahoma sign six gymnasts on their team for next season even though they only have three scholarship seniors graduating? Wouldn’t that make them have more than 12 scholarships?
I think they actually have nine who are planning on coming in next season, with another three in the mix in addition to the six who were in the release, but with only three scholarship spots open, most are probably signing as walk-ons.
I believe Audrey Davis, Julianne Fehring, and Quinn Smith are the ones coming in with scholarships, while the rest from the release – Bell Johnson, Katherine LeVasseur, and Meilin Sullivan – are all walk-ons. I’ve seen that Cael Bixler, Audrey Lynn, and Sheridan Ramsey have also verbally committed to the program at one point, but Lynn and Ramsey are both local, so if they also join the roster, I’m sure they’ll be walk-ons.
Cael, however, is a former elite from Pennsylvania, and while she was once an elite hopeful and a top level 10, in recent years she hasn’t been as strong, finishing 23rd at nationals in 2018, not making nationals last year after finishing 11th at regionals, and only averaging about a 36.5 AA over the past three years (most top level 10 gymnasts are consistently earning a 38.5+). Based on this, I can see them potentially revoking her verbal offer prior to the signing period. A program like Oklahoma is an “our gymnasts finish in the top 10 AA at J.O. nationals” program, so while she may have been a solid recruit as a younger level 10/elite, with a noted decline in her performance over the last few years, it’s definitely not going to result in an NLI despite the earlier verbal…and chances are, if they revoke a potential scholarship offer, she’s not gonna want to walk-on, so it’s possible she’s looking for an opening at another program.
Who were the Florida scholarship athletes from this past season?
Oh goodness, this is going to be a theme now, is it? Florida’s scholarship athletes this season were Alyssa Baumann, Maegan Chant, Leah Clapper, Jazmyn Foberg, Rachel Gowey, Amelia Hundley, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, Nya Reed, Payton Richards, Savannah Schoenherr, Megan Skaggs, and Trinity Thomas, while the walk-ons were Sierra Alexander and Halley Taylor.
Has Long Island University said anything about whether they still plan to start their gymnastics team next year in light of COVID-19 (especially since they’re basically at ground zero of the pandemic).
Not that I’ve seen…it’s obviously going to come down to whether NCAA sports even exist in the next season, depending on what happens with the control of the coronavirus outbreak. We’re flattening the curve now, but we don’t yet know if there will be subsequent outbreaks or if we have immunity to the virus yet, so I can see if schools and sports are shut down for the fall semester, which would limit athletes from practicing and would also obviously affect the season starting in January. It’s all a lot of “wait and see” right now for literally everything on earth, and gymnastics – whether a new program or an old one – is part of that.
Since UCLA graduated more seniors than they are bringing in freshmen, would there be an extra scholarship for Samantha Sakti? Or are more of the seniors walk-ons that didn’t have scholarships in the first place?
It’s possible. Sometimes programs are able to reallocate extra scholarship money to someone who came in as a walk-on initially, but how they reallocate it depends on a lot of things. Sometimes they split it up and give half to one walk-on and half to another, and if they have like ten walk-ons with several deserving of scholarship money, it’s not easy to decide who gets it.
Can you offer more insight into the Yul Moldauer/American Cup situation? Tim Daggett started talking about it like there was something shady, but then cut himself off.
So apparently, he was told that regardless what went down at the Winter Cup, he was going to compete at the American Cup in the wild card spot, but then he had a bit of a rough competition at the Winter Cup and he was told that he would no longer get that spot because the Winter Challenge Cup was the final deciding competition for who would earn that and the remaining world cup berths.
I saw a USA Gymnastics article and a coach’s Facebook post the week before the Winter Cup that both said that the Winter Challenge Cup would serve as the final test meet for the world cup spots, and I believe Mark Williams even had a Facebook post that said that he was happy that Yul earned the American Cup wild card spot, but he added that he’d still need to “prove himself” in Las Vegas, so I literally just assumed going into the Winter Cup that all of the previously-announced world cup spots for the men were nominative and were only announced because USA Gymnastics had to submit names for the nominative rosters by a certain date. That’s what it’s like for the women – they submit names and announce the competitors they’ve submitted, but it’s always subject to how those gymnasts perform at the camps just prior to each of those events.
With all of that in mind, I wasn’t surprised to see Yul’s spot pulled based on his Winter Cup performance, so I was like “what’s happening” when I saw all of the backlash…but I guess because USA Gymnastics/the men’s program didn’t explicitly tell him that he was only nominatively given the wild cup spot, a lot of people – including Yul and his coaches – assumed that his Winter Cup performance wouldn’t affect his standing, and were shocked to get the news that he’d no longer compete in Milwaukee.
I didn’t listen to the American Cup broadcast, but would imagine Tim was going to say something shady about the men’s program screwing Yul over or something along those lines, and considering he didn’t seem to have a clue that the spot he was originally named to could be taken away depending on his Winter Cup performance, then it’s clear that there’s some sort of transparency/communication issue between the men’s program and the gymnasts/their coaches.
Again, having read materials going into the Winter Cup, I was fully expecting a shake-up based on how athletes performed there, and even talked about the potential for athletes to lose their spots in my preview for the event…but athletes/coaches shouldn’t have to proactively read USA Gymnastics press releases to find out what’s expected of them at various competitions, so I think the “shady” thing here is that the men’s program just wasn’t fully transparent about the situation and should’ve been more upfront with Yul and the others when originally announcing world cup assignments.
Why can’t gymnastics clubs train their best athletes during this period? Two people in the gym? How are they supposed to do home training for months? What if they own their gym?
Some gyms were doing this in March before things got more serious, and honestly, if a family owns a gym, they can absolutely shut it down to the public but still spend their time training in it because if only the same people quarantining together at home are also the only ones going to the (hopefully cleaned/sterilized) gym, there’s no real issue with spreading the virus (especially if they’re being responsible with wearing masks if they enter any public spaces between their home and the gym).
However, once the Olympics were postponed to 2021, those who were taking advantage of being the only ones in their gym suddenly no longer felt the need to go because they were no longer getting into “the Olympics are in four months” shape with working full routines and training at top difficulty. You train differently with a major competition four months away than you do with a competition 16 months away, so right now, with no competitions in the near future, it’s like the winter months post-worlds where training is all about conditioning and basic drills/skills, not about bigger skills or full routines.
Since they can do this kind of training at home, with their coaches giving them exercises via Zoom or something, it’s safer to just stay home and condition/lightly train than it is to go into the gym. Is it tough? Yeah, but as long as they can get back into their gyms in the next 3-6 months, they’ll likely be fine for Tokyo, physically. It’s the competitive aspect I’m worried some could lose.
Now that Victoria Levine is also suspended, what will this mean for Olivia Greaves? Is there another coach at MG Elite that can fill in while the investigation is being handled?
I’m not sure, honestly. Victoria’s mom owns the gym, but don’t think she trains athletes, at least not at the elite level. Olivia’s mom actually owns a gym where she lives on Staten Island, so I’d imagine for the time being, she can take advantage of using the facilities there, and even if she doesn’t have an elite-level coach, she still has access to other coaches for the time being (well, after we’re allowed to go back into gyms post-COVID-19) and can just work with them until she figures out a more permanent situation.
Is Larisa Iordache training? Does she have a chance to compete in Tokyo now that it’s pushed back a year?
She hasn’t been training seriously, but I think a lot of people are hoping that she can try for a last-minute push now that the Games are postponed. However, her only way in would be via a top-two all-around finish at Euros, and if those happen in the fall, I just don’t see it happening for her to get together a competitive all-around program in the next six months, especially considering she won’t be able to train for at least another month or two at minimum. I’d say she has a 0.01% chance of making the Olympics happen at this point, but I’m gonna keep my heart open for a miracle.
If Chellsie Memmel competed again, would there be some sort of conflict of interest with certain judges that she may have judged with in the past? How could they avoid this?
Not really. The elite gymnastics world is incestuous in that basically every judge is also a coach or a parent or somehow connected to multiple gymnasts they’re judging, so there’s never any true lack of conflict of interest, even at the top national levels. There’s more of a conflict of interest in a coach judging her gymnasts at nationals (like Sylvia Brestyan judging Aly Raisman or Anna Li judging Faith Torrez) than there would be with a judge being judged by fellow judges.
Coaches spend every waking moment with their gymnasts and know the ins and outs of their routines, but are still expected to be impartial when they judge their routines at competitions, but judges are just low-key pals at best, so I doubt there’d be some conspiracy where they’d all go to town with overscoring Chellsie’s routines…and it would also be super obvious, anyway. Tom and other national team coaches/the selection committee know what a routine’s score should be and they wouldn’t be fooled by Chellsie getting 15s from her judge pals for a routine that would get a 13.5 at the Olympics.
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