You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 283rd 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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I just watched the 2008 women’s team final and noticed quite a few women do four tumbling passes plus a fifth short pass. Did that give them extra bonus with the code? Is it still an option now?

This is no longer an option, but under the 2008 code, gymnasts could have five passes, so the stronger tumblers would take advantage of this to build their difficulty through the higher-valued tumbling passes, giving them a major boost over gymnasts who lacked power. In fact, Vanessa Ferrari is said to have won her all-around title in 2006 for this alone, and this piece of the code became very contentious because everyone whined about how it wasn’t fair for this girl to have won an all-around title just because she’s an “acrobat” who can “chuck” a million passes on floor…and this rule and Vanessa’s win were used as reasons why people hated the new code so much.

I’m like, honestly, all events (aside from vault, obviously) count the same number of skills…why is a gymnast who does five separate tumbling passes considered “cheating” when the long and lithe bars gymnasts can connect a million pirouettes that all look identical and basically score a 17 and no one considers that unfair?! I think the bigger issue for people was that this code (and specifically this floor pass rule in the code) opened the doors for the super muscular power kids to start to really excel in the sport over some of the more waif-like gymnasts who ran the sport for literally its entire modern history, and a lot of old school coaches and officials did not like that one little bit. Obviously we’ve come a long way since 2006, but there are still many ways that the FIG pushes back on “power” that reflects this attitude (like with Simone Biles’ beam dismount value, or devaluing the Amanar so much to make it basically not even worth doing).

In the U.S., both WAG and MAG have used the first day of a two-day competition to determine rankings, team selection, and so on. Do the athletes prefer one competition deciding their fate? Taking the results of two days seems safer, because it allows an athlete to overcome a major mistake. Who is deciding day one as the push?

From what I’ve heard when talking to athletes, it really is just a personal preference kinda thing based on how it affects them. I think generally, for those who are in a good position to make a team and are generally considered the strongest all-arounders, they’re happy with the one-day decision to speed up the process, but also don’t mind having two days…and the same goes for those who aren’t really as high up in the mix but who could potentially benefit from having one fluke really excellent day…but that only really applies for those who get lucky in a situation like that! For those who have a fall in a single-day decision-making competition, their opinions tend to go more along the lines of having multiple days decide their fate because then a fall or mistake wouldn’t be as impactful in their overall performance. So in that sense, it’s not even a personal preference as much as it is a situational preference. Basically, athletes like systems that are beneficial to them, and while I think the majority prefer a one-day competition decision just because it’s easier on their bodies and minds, if they end up having a bad day or something, they’ll very quickly voice their opinion for preferring multiple days. 

In the U.S. it’s the coaches and national team staff deciding that just one day will determine various team situations, at least for past competitions, and I think they and many athletes see that as the most “fair” way to handle things because competing is about hitting when it counts, and if you can come into a high-pressure team selection meet and reach the top five, then clearly, you should be on the team for that very reason. I do think that this is what the majority prefer most of the time…but again, if a gymnast seems like a lock to make a team and then has a bad day, you do hear a lot of “I wish this selection had been a two-day competition” haha.

Overall, I personally think that team decisions should be based on a competition history over an extended period of time, because I think this matters more than just “hitting when it counts” on one particular day. If a gymnast consistently has issues but then has a fluke good day “when it counts” can you really rely on her to hit in a team competition? I like how Canada does things, where they apply percentages to various meets throughout the season…like your Elite Canada early in the season is worth 5% toward your team selection, nationals are worth 20%, an international experience is worth 25%, and the final selection meet is 50%, or something along those lines. You’re still putting the majority of the decision into the most recent competitions, but you’re also recognizing that being a good competitor means proving over time that you are a reliable athlete. If the U.S. is going to stick to its “top XX all-arounders” selection criteria for the Olympics, I think they should make it so that it’s the top four with combined scores from both days at nationals and both days at trials, which I feel like would make things a lot more clear and a lot more fair. I’d rather see a gymnast on the team who can get a 56 at every single meet she does than one who gets a bunch of 54s all season long and then randomly gets a 57+ at the one meet where it counts.

Has anyone ever connected a shap to a Jaeger? Seems like a good way to get out of the empty swing deduction.

Yup! I’ve seen a Maloney to Jaeger before…it’s a popular connection series to try out in the gym in Italy, with Maria Vittoria Cocciolo the most recent that I’ve seen. It’s a creative way to get out of an empty swing deduction, but MUCH harder than just swinging back down from the Maloney into another transition element, because most gymnasts don’t really get enough back swing out of the Maloney to then get the height needed to complete the salto with the height that you should be getting for a Jaeger. The deductions that would come from a Maloney to Jaeger combo wouldn’t really make the series worth it, so they’re better off sticking to the more common Maloney transitions…though if a gymnast has a ton of power on bars (think levels similar to Beth Tweddle, Anna Li, Elizabeth Price) it would be cool to see them attempt to get really good at it.

Can you please explain the dynamic and division of labor between personal coaches and national coaches in China and Russia? I assumed personal coaches wouldn’t have much of a role in more centralized systems.

So I think the “personal” coach aspect in China just kind of means that these athletes end up in training groups with these particular coaches, not that these personal coaches followed their athletes all the way to the training center from a home gym or something. In China, gymnasts have coaches at their provincial gyms, and sometimes these coaches are promoted to a national level, but generally if an athlete makes her way through the system and goes to train with the national team, she gets put into a training group with a specific coach, and that coach would be considered her “personal coach.” 

In Russia, it can be more of a mix of personal coaches and national coaches at Round Lake, though often the personal coaches of really successful gymnasts will get national-level jobs, so like when Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova were around, both of their personal coaches were also on the national team staff (but they weren’t like, the head coaches for the senior team or anything, this was just a way to get them on the Ministry of Sport payroll and use their expertise to help the team overall). The personal coaches generally come from the regional or local gym where the gymnast trains outside of Round Lake, but I don’t believe they all end up at Round Lake with their gymnasts…like Lilia Akhaimova and Elena Eremina are both from St. Petersburg and have the same coaches from their gym in SPB, but I don’t believe all of those coaches are consistently at Round Lake because they’re also training the dozens of gymnasts in SPB who aren’t on the national team. I think they make appearances and keep training the gymnasts when they’re not physically at Round Lake, but they’re not all always there, if that makes sense? 

But I think you also have to think about “centralized” in Russia also being inclusive of the regional federations where these personal coaches tend to be located…just because they’re not physically at the centralized national team center doesn’t mean “personal” coaches aren’t part of the centralized system. It’s not like the U.S. where a personal coach means someone who owns a gym or who coaches at a private gym and then travels with the gymnast to national-level meets…they’re still part of the overall federal system of gymnastics in Russia, but just don’t happen to be part of the national team staff or center.

What happened to the chalk bins that say “Athens 2004” or “Beijing 2008” or whatever year used at the Olympic Games?

They likely end up getting donated to local gyms, or being purchased by local gyms. That’s generally what happens with all of the equipment after any major meet with branded equipment/accessories.

It looks like either Lara Mori or Vanessa Ferrari are going to win the individual floor spot, but wouldn’t whoever doesn’t win be a good fit for the Italian team, since they’re weak on floor?

I’ve been saying since literally 2018 that the team for Tokyo should be three of the Brixia girls plus Lara Mori, because Lara would add so much on floor…and technically, if Lara or Vanessa don’t get individual spots, they could both be back in the mix for the team, though I think Vanessa has said that she doesn’t want to go through that process and just won’t try for Tokyo if she doesn’t get an individual berth. However, over the past year, I think Desiree Carofiglio has begun to prove herself as even more vital to a four-person team than either Lara or Vanessa could be, so if the Brixia Four are broken up and a non-2003 Brixia girl makes the team for floor, I think it will be Desiree, who not only has a great floor set, but could sub in on any other event with really strong results. In her growth on floor, Lara has lost a lot of her abilities elsewhere, and Vanessa has stopped training vault and bars all together, so I can’t see either of them really outperforming Desiree at this point…though who knows, now with things pushed back another year, I guess anything can happen. But based on what we were seeing earlier this year, if the Olympics were happening this summer, I’d want Giorgia Villa, Asia D’Amato, and Desiree Carofiglio as my locks on the team, with that last spot between Elisa Iorio and Alice D’Amato. 

Has a date been set for the postponed Olympic Trials? I need to know if my tickets will still be valid and whether I need to fight the airline for my money back.

Nope…I don’t think they can really set a date until we know what’s happening with COVID-19. They said they’re gonna try to keep things in St. Louis, but one billion things need to be rescheduled right now, so it’s not as simple as USA Gymnastics being like “hey, we want this week next year!” I don’t think we’ll have dates for the postponed trials until at LEAST late fall this year, and I would actually expect to wait until early 2021 when we know if Tokyo will be able to be held at all, because the latest news is that the rescheduled 2021 Olympics might not even be able to take place. I’d honestly just request a refund at this point, if possible.

Is the equipment used at world and Olympic competitions brand new? Where does it end up once those meets are over?

Yes, equipment for major competitions is typically brand new. After the meets end, it’s usually sold to gyms in the region, with some of it also donated.

It appears the NCAA tabled the legislation to increase the number of gymnastics scholarships to 14. What does that mean for the legislation? Will they vote on it at a later date?

Tabling the legislation just means it’s going to be postponed, so yeah, they’ll probably vote on it at a later date. I think right now the priority for literally everyone is COVID-19, so a gymnastics scholarship vote probably won’t happen until the NCAA knows for sure if sports are even happening at all next year…and then they can think about the future again.

Can you help identify a televised competition that aired in the late 90s? It was a team competition where gymnastics clubs competed against each other…at least one of the Kupets sisters was featured and I think it may have been all mid-Atlantic clubs competing. Do you know what this was?

I’ve never heard of this…was it aired nationally? If it was a clubs competition, it was probably J.O. I’d imagine…maybe like, the Hill’s Maryland Classic or something? Anyway I just googled Hill’s Classic 90s and got a lot of Lauryn Hill YouTube videos and I’m not even mad about it. But anyway, since Hill’s was quite popular and well-known in the 90s, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that this was just like, the level 10 competition of the Hill’s invitational randomly aired on television, hahaha. Anyone else know?

Do you think Australia has a chance to qualify a full team to the 2024 Olympics after they were so close to qualifying a full team to Rio and Tokyo?

I think it’ll be harder for them in 2024 than it was last quad or the quad before…in 2016, they were still hanging onto their glory days as a program in terms of who was still around and competing, and in 2019, the team was basically like the final remaining members of that old system, so if that generation of gymnasts – Georgia Godwin, Georgia-Rose Brown, Emma Nedov, all in their mid 20s this year – retires, I’m unfortunately not super confident that the ones who remain will be able to keep the team afloat on their own. There have been some strong talents and some lovely gymnasts come up over the past couple of years, but none who have the all-around abilities that the older gymnasts do, and two of this quad’s most promising new seniors have already retired, so…I’m not feeling super confident right now. I feel like if Mihai Brestyan had worked out and continued building up a program with some consistency going into the 2020s, then maybe by 2028 they’d have a really strong developmental program with girls right now who are currently developmental or junior gymnasts coming in to succeed as seniors, but with yet another major national overhaul, I’m worried that the lack of consistency in development is going to delay the process of getting Australia back on track. Given the current situation, if the girls born in the 90s and super early 2000s (like Emily Whitehead and Kate McDonald and a few others) all retire, then I think the team will devolve in 2024 rather than improve. But there’s still a hope that someone will come into the system and make things better to increase depth for 2028, so…fingers crossed.

Could a gymnast perform a release move on the low bar? It seems like it could be less scary and painful if it goes wrong. Is it prohibited in the code?

Yes, it’s allowed, and it’s been done before, but it’s just super difficult due to the lack of momentum you’d be able to build with a baby swing on the low bar. It’s like when I was talking about earlier where you’d need a power-swinger to knock out a Maloney to Jaeger? It’d be the same kinda thing here, where someone who really knows how to use her strength to work the bar would be able to do it, but most would just incur height deductions, so it might not be super worth it. I do feel like most falls from the low bar would be a lot easier to manage than those from the high bar, but when falling from the high bar you also have more time to get air awareness while falling so that you can reposition yourself to fall correctly in many cases, and a fall from the low bar wouldn’t quite have that time, so while a fall onto your bum or stomach wouldn’t be as much of a smack onto the mat, if your leg or arm is positioned in a way that you could potentially fall on it, you’re also not going to have the reaction time to correct something like that, so it’s like, better in some ways but worse in others, haha.

Do you know if Nastia Liukin’s laid-out Gienger was ever downgraded for being piked?

No idea, we don’t have access to the judges’ in-depth records and I can’t recall her D score ever getting docked in a way that would suggest that this happened. She had an angle in her hips at times but it wasn’t severe enough for a downgrade. At the most, she probably only ever got 0.1-0.3 in deductions for the angle. A true pike shape is much more severe than anything Nastia did in her layout position.

Hi, I have been a gymnastics fan since 1968! As you catch up on watching older competitions, I would love to read your thoughts on these. The choreography in the 70s and 80s was just stunning, as most gymnasts in the Soviet Union and Romania started their workout with a ballet class and could handle challenging dance skills. Please let us know your thoughts on everyone!

Maybe I’ll go back and do a weekly rewatch starting with the much older meets! I’ve been meaning to put out a live blog schedule for meet rewatches, but have also been busy with work, so it’s been difficult to plan. I’ll put this on my list because I’d LOVE to do it.

How do you think Shallon Olsen’s bars at Elite Canada this year would have scored in the NCAA? It seems like her technique on bars has improved!

She has definitely improved a lot! Over the past few years, actually…bars isn’t a high-scoring event for her, BUT it’s become an incredibly consistent event for her in elite, and with Ana Padurariu’s struggles in training at worlds last year, I was saying after podium training that I’d put Shallon on over Ana because while she scores like a full point lower, you can literally always count on her to hit there, which is awesome. I feel like her NCAA scores still wouldn’t be super high because the NCAA is super mean to her in general compared to many others who seem to have every flaw ignored, but a solid 9.8-9.85 wouldn’t be out of reach!

Have any gyms begun planning for reopening? Do you know of any gyms that are open with restrictions in place? 

Being on the east coast in a major city center that also happens to be the epicenter of the disease where literally nothing is open or running, I assumed the entire country is just as shut down as New York is…but apparently there are many places were “non-essential” businesses still aren’t fully shut down, and I know of several clubs that are still holding practices regularly. For the most part, they’re keeping it to small groups of team-level gymnasts (like higher-level J.O. gymnasts or elites/Hopes), and they’re training using social distancing measures, which is really all their states require, I guess. A lot of gyms, especially on the east coast and in major cities, are shut down completely, and with no competitions for the foreseeable future, a lot of other gyms just decided to shut down as well because with nothing to train for, they’re not doing the usual 20-30 hours a week that they’d normally do…so I think any gym that’s open in some capacity right now is modified, but I was surprised to hear that some are operational at all given what a wasteland I’m personally in.

I am captivated by the compulsory routines while I was watching competitions from the 80s and 90s and have a few questions. Who choreographed and decided the compulsory routines? Are there any documents that describe the elements, criteria, and deductions of the compulsory routines? Why were compulsories canceled after 1996? I am specifically interested in the routines from 1993-1996.

Federations were given the responsibility to create the compulsory routines each quad, and I believe they bid for the opportunity to do so. I’m not 100% sure how that process worked, but it might be like, okay for this quad Germany is going to design the bars routine, China can design beam, Australia is in charge of floor…and this would change each quad. 

I don’t know if there are documents that exist that describe the routines…from what someone told me, they’d have an FIG conference where representations from each federation would learn all of the compulsory routines and then go home and assign coaches and gymnasts to demonstrate the routines, so it was all done physically from what I gather. I’d imagine there’s some written record with illustrations, but I’ve never seen any official compulsory-related documents (though I’d love to). I can’t even find a PDF of the code of points from that year, though this video is something I always go back to.

It seems like there was a major uptick in the depth of the U.S. team after 2008. What do you attribute that to?

I think a key aspect was that 2008 was so depleted compared to previous quads, the depth that came after was especially noticeable, but at the same time, I think post-2008 was the first time you had all gymnasts who fully came up through the more semi-centralized system that was created in the early 2000s, and this is a testament to just how strong that system was. I mean that in the sense that club coaches could go to the national team training center and learn from older, more experienced coaches, and then they would in turn share that information with even more coaches…so that spread of knowledge created opportunities for coaches who never had gymnasts at the national level before to help their kids really stand out at a high level. 

Under an incredibly tricky open-ended code of points that most countries struggled to get used to and that ultimately caused a majority of programs to lose depth, the U.S. was able to really take a running leap ahead of everyone else by using their new training and education system to really build on their talented young gymnasts. The new code coming five years after the new U.S. training system was kind of kismet, because the U.S. was prepared to handle large-scale changes like these, and then you add a group of super talented kids into the mix, and it just meant good things for the U.S., which could keep growing and adding depth while other programs kept losing depth and shrinking. I think that made the increased depth in 2012 even more prominent…the U.S. had about ten young women who became seniors that quad, all of whom could’ve made the Olympic team, while most other countries were begging veterans to stay, and for some, once those veterans disappeared, their programs basically collapsed.

I think other countries took a bit more time to get used to the new code before being able to grow more high-level depth again, but the U.S. was able to do it so immediately because of that training system. Obviously the system also came with a lot of abuse, so I’m not praising the culture of the U.S. system at all, but it was honestly genius to start that chain of knowledge between coaches because that truly changed things for this program.

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

19 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought the laid out Geinger and the piked Geinger in the 2008 and 2012 code were both worth a D? So there’d be no point in devaluation.

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  2. imagine if simone or jade or skinner were allowed to do 5 fx passes…lol…. The last 4 major team competitions have seen how the US has used fx to distance themselves from the competition instead of vt since the cheng and amanar esp has been devalued a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my! Biles could do a trip-dub, Moors, front 1/1 to double tuck 1/1 (or to a double tuck 2/1, if she would stop being polite), double layout side pass, and finish with the double tuck 2/1!

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  4. It would be so great if you could do a rewatch of older meets ! The oldest competition I watched (on an old VHS film) is the European championships in Skien (Norway). The baby Comaneci, 13 years old, won 4 gold medals and a silver one over Nelly Kim.

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  5. Oh my Gosh, I watched that late 90s competition in that one question! It aired on HTS, which was Home Team Sports in my area (Washington DC). I can’t remember what it was though. I watched it during a blizzard which happened in either January 96 or 97, though I have no idea when the actual competition took place, it could have been months earlier.

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    • In an email I just got someone said it was the Peachtree Classic, also known as the Hilton Invitational! Dynamo attended, and this person also remembered Jennie Thompson and Soni Meduna competing.

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  6. On another topic….Maggie Haney is now suspended. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/29/sports/gymnastics-coach-banned-maggie-haney.html”
    She was accused of “verbally abusing and mistreating athletes… forcing athletes to train through injuries.”

    On the one hand, that should be grounds for suspension. On the other hand, why just her? If those are grounds for suspension, many other coaches should be suspended as well. Just listen to “Searching for the Perfect Parkettes” Their coaches been guilty of the same behavior for decades and is one of many, many examples of successful gyms where this behavior is the norm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFbzVbujQZk

    Not that it’s right, but it seems as if this is the way gymnastics works. The U.S. didn’t dominate in gymnastics until it began adapting rigid training methods from other countries during the Cold War (a topic for another day) – maybe the desire to win allowed this abusive culture to prevail? I don’t see USA Gymnastics doing a widespread crackdown on abusive coaching and risk its dominance.

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  7. It seems to me that a Comaneci release would be reasonably well-suited to the low bar, because it’s done out of an uprise and you don’t need a full giant. If one was inclined to do such things. In my mind a release on the low bar would be more dangerous than on the high bar, precisely for the reasons Lauren mentioned

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    • Some of the non-giant releases might work for the same reason. I feel like though the bigger issue would be catching them without hitting the floor, the way they catch on the high bar wouldn’t work.

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      • Yeah, you’d kind of have to hold your body in a straddle or pike after the Tkachev and wouldn’t be able to swing your legs through which would be another challenge. Like…Tkachev to immediate stalder?

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  8. Pingback: You Asked, The Gymternet Answered – SportUpdates

  9. After watching these Olympic gymnastics replays lately, I noticed Khorkina changed to a practice leo for the AA awards ceremony. Do you know why?

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