You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

It’s time for the 291st edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!

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Please note that I am offline for the month of June, and am posting a backlog of questions and answers in the meantime. If you submit a question, it will not be answered until at least July!

Thank you, and stay safe!

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Do you think Mihai Brestyan or Valeri Liukin made a real impact on their respective international teams? Or are Australia and Brazil the same they were before?

With only a few years in each program, it’s hard to do enough work to create a lasting change. In Valeri’s situation, he seemed to really help the young seniors and the juniors get to a consistent place in their training, and even though they had a rough worlds in 2019, that was because of too many last-minute injuries and not being able to bring someone in after Jade Barbosa then also got injured on vault. Overall they had a great quad, and it sucked that the meet that counted the most ended up being rough for them, but prior to that they were looking amazing and I think a lot of that was due to Valeri’s help. I heard Mihai was really tough and that the Australians weren’t used to that level of training, so in that sense it was hopefully good, especially in terms of the Brestyan’s leg circuit, lol…and they ended up having a fabulous world championships even though they didn’t make it as a team to the Olympics. I do think they looked a lot tighter and more together than they did one quad earlier, and that was after a lot of high-level retirements that came post-2016. 

On the short-term, both seemed to do great work. But the work that needs to be done for both programs needs to be happening at the developmental level, and that doesn’t happen in just three years. Both programs need these high-level coaches in place for like a decade to have it matter. I think the real benefit to having Valeri and Mihai at these programs was that they could impart their knowledge on local clubs and coaches, so hopefully some of their methods have stuck, and these coaches can use those teachings going forward, which is a start. But the constant shifting of the highest-level roles is really bad for any program, so I hope both can eventually figure out the consistency they need for long-term success.

Is there a rule saying you can only do one back handspring before a tumbling skill? Or are you allowed to do as many as you can fit and it’s just traditional to do one?

You can do more than one support skill in a tumbling pass, but the issue is that you end up taking more space across the floor, which puts you at risk for going out-of-bounds. If you have a really long run into your passes, this is especially true! Obviously there are some gymnasts who will do a lengthy roundoff back handspring whip whip back handspring into whatever their final skill is, so they just use less of a run so they can fit all of that in, but the run is really important for building momentum into the biggest skills, which is why when someone is doing a super difficult skill will choose to take a powerful run (often taking up half of the acro line!) into the roundoff and then a single back handspring before that skill, and why the longer passes with multiple whips or with a 1½ through will usually end with an easier skill. 

Can you please explain how the old ‘class’ system in the U.S. translates to today’s J.O. levels? If someone competed as a Class II in the 80s, what is the equivalent level today? When did the U.S. switch to levels?

I competed around 1994-1997 so my time came after the class system existed…I believe they stopped using the class system in 1988, maybe? Right after Seoul?

There’s not a lot of great information out there that discusses how the Class system worked, but I believe there were three “classes” in total, with Class III being roughly equivalent to level 5-6, Class II being roughly equivalent to levels 7-9, and Class I being roughly equivalent to level 10, so if someone was Class II in the 80s, they were probably around a level 7-9. Each division also had age groups, so you could be a Class IIIC which meant you were in the children’s division (age 9-11) of the earliest competitive levels, or you could be a Class IJ, which meant you were basically a level 10 in the junior age group (12-14), or you could be a Class IIS, which meant you were in the middle class as a senior (15-18). 

Now, USAG starts kids competing at a much more basic level, with level 4-5 being super basic compulsories only before you graduate to optionals, but in the Class system, competitive gymnastics started at a much higher standard and skill level, comparatively. Kids were still going into the gym as babies, but they weren’t joining the competitive teams until a later age with more skills.

For the Olympics next year, if a country such as Great Britain earned an all-around spot, would that gymnast compete in the team event?

No, gymnasts who earn individual spots can’t compete in the team event. Only gymnasts named to the team can compete in the team event, unless one of them gets injured and leaves the competition, and they then use the individual competitor as the alternate and swap her onto the team.

Is it really the best decision for Jade Carey to get the nominative spot? She has a better shot at being an Olympian, but with Simone Biles in the mix, Jade is limiting herself to two silver medals at most. Isn’t a team gold worth more than two silvers in terms of marketability? She might have shot herself in the economic foot.

For Jade, I think the best decision is getting to the Olympics to begin with, and that’s essentially what she’s securing by getting a nominative spot. She’s taking off the months of stress that come with working toward the Olympic Trials and just hoping for her name to be called as a member of the team, which is a really tough prospect when there are over a dozen gymnasts going for just four spots. Instead, Jade gets to lock down her spot early and prepare to do her best at the Olympic Games. 

When you’re on the U.S. team, just getting to the Olympic Games is half the battle. That’s your main concern for the bulk of the quad. Medals are an afterthought at best, unless you’re Simone. And while some people do value a team medal more highly than they value individual medals, it really comes down to you and what you want. It’s great being a part of a team and getting a gold, and I know Martha Karolyi was all about the team medals, but most gymnasts would be lying if they said “I’d rather just help the team than win an individual medal!” A team gold and two potential individual silvers would obviously be “more” than two individual silvers, but two individual silvers is actually a LOT. In 2016, only six gymnasts got two or more medals, and only three gymnasts – Simone, Aly Raisman, and Aliya Mustafina – got three or more. Jade getting two individual medals would still be a HUGE deal, and would still be “marketable” – but tbh, I laughed at your “shot herself in the economic foot” and “marketable” comments because I think that’s what Jade cares about the LEAST in this situation, hahaha. Jade has an NCAA scholarship waiting for her and has said she doesn’t want to go pro, so I’m pretty sure she’s not spending sleepless nights wondering if Nike will sign her with ONLY two silvers instead of two silvers and a gold.

Jade is doing what’s best for her in a situation that is basically set up to crush gymnasts. She has potential to walk away one of the most decorated gymnasts of the quad, whether or not she’s on the actual “team.” Most gymnasts would kill to be in Jade’s shoes, and while I’m sure it will be bittersweet to see her teammates up on the podium with team golds, clearly if that moment was what she cared about, she’d be going the team route instead of the individual route.

What is the rule for using sting mats on floor? At the U.S. Classic it was allowed, but is this also true at bigger meets or international events?

They can’t use a sting mat at international meets. They’re pretty common at the U.S. Classic, and gymnasts try to get rid of them by nationals so that they can show they’re in good shape, but sometimes still use them if they’ve had nagging injuries and want that extra support. Some of the sting mats end up being more problematic for landings because they absorb differently and it’s harder to stick…and I’ve also seen gymnasts trip over the sting mats on landings, which is like, great way to break your ankle while trying to keep your ankles safe, haha. I think many would prefer to not use them at all in any competition, but I’m glad that they have the option if it makes it better for them to ease their way back onto the floor while overcoming an injury or protecting against future injuries.

Are certain college gymnastics teams known for certain things?

I guess most are known for something? What do you mean? Like, at what level? Florida is known for doing Gator Chomps. UCLA is known for being more liberal. Georgia is known for the moonwalk on beam. Alabama is known for prayer circles. Utah is known for large crowds. I don’t know? These are the top things that come to mind when I think of “standout” parts of collegiate teams. 

If you mean like, stylistically, I think it comes down more to the gymnast than to the program. You could say that some teams are known for having certain choreography, I guess, but for the most part that’s not even true, aside from UCLA previously being known for Miss Val’s choreo. Like Oklahoma is often known for having more flowy non-NCAA routines whereas most NCAA routines tend to be more in-your-face crowd-pleasers, but even something like that comes down to a gymnast-by-gymnast kind of level, and I don’t know of any gymnast going to any program because it fits her best stylistically. Teams often recruit for what they need, not for what “fits their style,” and I know of a team known for excellent floor work that turned down looking into recruiting an international gymnast who was absolutely beautiful on floor because she couldn’t vault and they really needed vaulters that season.

I notice that Madison Kocian is very rarely featured on UCLA’s Instagram stories. Do you think she won’t make lineups this season?

Generally the key factor for making lineups is to be featured in as many Instagram stories as possible, so no, she will not make any lineups unfortunately. (Kidding, obviously, I hope. But there are a variety of reasons why someone wouldn’t be in as many IG stories as others, and it doesn’t have anything to do with her place on the team in terms of making lineups or not! Some of the girls on teams tend to gravitate more towards being active on the team’s social media whereas others like being a bit more private, whether that’s with their routines in practice, or for other reasons.)

Why is it that most top level 10s don’t go elite? Are they not good enough or is it a personal choice?

It almost always comes down to being a personal choice. Many top level 10s would be great in elite, but don’t want to double their training time because they value having a balance between gymnastics and the rest of their lives more than they value making it at the elite level. There are those gymnasts who are more all-or-nothing and want to sacrifice everything for the chance at making it to the Olympic Games, but others are happiest just doing the sport for fun and don’t think it’s worth the sacrifice at all.

I remember talking to Alex McMurtry about this before she went to Florida, because a lot of people expected she would go elite just based on how talented she was, and she was like “I thought about it when I was younger but that’s just not what I wanted” and she thought it was funny that fans wanted this for her way more than she wanted it for herself. Maybe Alex could’ve been a tremendous elite competitor, but you also have to realize that even the top level 10 girls often struggle with the transition to elite because you’re more than doubling the skills your competing while adding insane difficulty, so a gymnast who is a star with a level 10 routine might not be able to handle elite-level routines. Some level 10s want to at least figure out if they can possibly make it happen, but others are like “I don’t really care about elite enough to give up these other parts of my life to try” and that’s totally fine. 

I love seeing gymnasts getting to make those decisions for themselves, honestly, because so often you see parents and coaches pushing them into taking it to the next level, and they absolutely hate it and it ends up affecting them mentally or physically or both. Maybe they could’ve been an Olympian, maybe they could’ve won world medals, maybe they would’ve loved elite just as much as they loved level 10, but I’m glad when they get to have that autonomy and make that choice for themselves rather than being pushed into a decision when they didn’t want it.

Is a double double layout dismount on bars more difficult than a double double tuck? Commentators make it seem like the tuck is the most difficult.
Yes, a double double layout is definitely more difficult than the tucked version. Don’t get it wrong, a tucked double double, aka the Fabrichnova, is also suuuuuuuper difficult, and is so very rarely competed, but the layout version is even harder. Originally competed by Elise Ray in 2000, I think the only gymnast I’ve seen compete it since then was Shawn Johnson in 2008…I’ve been watching gymnastics pretty closely since Beijing and can’t recall seeing it in competition since then, though some have trained it or at least tried it out in the gym, with Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos the most recent I’ve seen.

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

26 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Madison Kocian actually trained quite minimally during the week, because of her injuries, saving her body for the competitions. I guess the difficulty was so far below what she was used to that she could do most of the skills in her sleep! But that is probably why she wasn’t featured on social media as much – just not that much footage.

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  2. I think conceding Jade to silver medals is a bit much. She qualified ahead of Simone on vault at Stuttgart and a lot can change in basically two years.

    People do make mistakes and it’s entirely possible even Simone can get 2 per’d out if she makes a big one on basically any individual apparatus since it’ll be against 5 from USA.

    I think Jade made a wise decision in 2018 to pursue this route, she had Grace on her heels and was a weaker AA athlete. Multiple teammates are expected to have Amanars and Chengs by Tokyo.

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    • Mykayla has both, Grace was training both before quarantine, Shilese, Jordan and Leanne have amanars we’ve seen, probably a couple others training it. Only one vault is needed for team final spot. Jade made the right choice.

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    • Yeah, I agree…I think yes, Jade is LIKELY to get silvers behind Simone, but we all said McKayla was “guaranteed gold” in 2012 and look what happened there. Nothing’s for certain, especially on vault where they have the same difficulty, but most likely Jade will be fighting for silvers.

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  3. I am an oldie from the class system. There were actually 5 classes, and classes 4 & 5 were further divided into A, B, & C levels. A being the more advanced. There were different compulsory routines for each of those levels. Most gymnasts didn’t actually go through all 6 of these levels. Class 5 and the A,B, & C levels of class 4 were only around for a few years at the end- prior to that there was just 1 class 4. Class 3 started optionals, but also had compulsories. Some gymnasts would start out only doing class 3 compulsories & add optionals later- almost like another level. I never competed in the new system, but I have typically seen class three equates to level 7.

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    • I remember some of the routines: Class IV (they were listed with Roman numerals) had a kick over bar mount, mill circle to catch the high bar (yep the bars were that close then), belly beat to squat on while you held high bar with one arm, a kind of swing half turn, stem uprise to the high bar, back hip circle on high bar swing over low bar and turn and a sole circle dismount off low bar.
      Class IV FX biggest skill was RO BHS. Class IV beam was a forward roll , the dismount was a RO off end of beam. I can’t remember if the cartwheel was class IV or III. The Class IV vault was I think like a straddle over or tuck over.

      Class 3 started kip on bars, front hip circle, I want to say tuck flyaway? I remember having a sole circle to catch the high bar. Class 2 had stuff like free hip to and eagle grip catch on high bar (ouch)

      Class III beam was a BWO (and I think cartwheel) and a front tuck off the end of beam. FX was RO BHS and back tuck (or back layout). Vault was the front handspring.

      Class 2 was BHS on beam. Can’t remember all the skills as there was a list, as you picked them. It wasn’t exact compulsory

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    • Thank you! I did so much research on this but everything I could find was mostly message boards of people debating what the classes actually were from what they could remember as kids. This is helpful and I’ll have to jot it down for future reference!

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      • I don’t know if I can find it again, but a few months ago I came across some
        of compulsory routines from the 80s written out, like a guide for coaches I think? If I manage to find it again I’ll send you a link

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    • Yes, I competed class 4 compulsory in the 80s! Another detail is that you could do the A, B, or C routine at a different level for each event (like I think I did the A or B floor but the B or C bars).

      I remember the floor routine music was “As Time Goes By” and it started with a front walkover and included a round off backhand spring. Bars was a knee swing onto the low bar, front mill circle (I think that’s what it was called, but a forward rotation with one leg over the bar), knee swing catch the high bar, pullover onto the high bar, back hip circle, then somehow you got back down to the low bar and did a straddle swing dismount (can’t think of the exact name – sole circle?). Vault was just like a basic tuck jump, and beam included forward and backward rolls, a body wave (lol), simple tuck jump mount, and maybe a round off dismount.

      When they switched to levels I went into level 5, which was definitely more difficult (and there I stayed for like five years haha).

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  4. Alabama is known for prayer circles.

    I’ll just never understand how this kind of thing is acceptable for a public school. As an atheist, I would be so incredibly uncomfortable on a sports team that did this. I’m sure there have been athletes there (or at other schools that do this) that felt uncomfortable but feared being ostracized for speaking out about it.

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      • Well, considering that I’m 40 years old and not a gymnast, I wasn’t planning on it. But that is not the point. Which is that Christian displays are not appropriate for a public school. It is discriminatory.

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        • No, mandatory participation in religious rituals is not appropriate. Publicly performed religious rituals are fine. That’s what ‘freedom of religion’ means.

          I agree that it’s not appropriate for team members to be pressured into participating in something like a prayer circle, but that’s a culture problem, not a freedom of religion problem. Athletes are entitled to do a prayer circle if they want to, no matter where they go to school.

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        • The athletes can do the prayers circle on their own. If it is led by a representative of the school (e.g. a coach), it is a Constitutional violation.

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      • That shattered my heart, I love so many of the gymnasts there and to know that some of them actively participated in racist acts against their black teammates and Dana’s whole “she wasn’t REALLY black” thing with Aja, i can’t really support them anymore. I hope they throw out Lorenz and Duckworth. It’s one thing to do something racist, even if you don’t see it as such, but at least own up to you’re mistakes without exceptions and truly commit yourself to doing better (and neither have even said “I’m sorry” to Tia). Instead, Luisa basically gaslighted Tia (even though she wasn’t even there for the events Tia was referring to) with varying support from her teammates while the coaches gave word salads that weren’t even apologies.

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  5. Jordyn Wieber stuck a layout double double at the 2009 American Cup. I don’t know if she competed it any other time.

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  6. Oh didn’t jordyn wieber compete The double double straight off bats at 2009 American cup?

    Also jade is the one I can’t wait to see at the olympics. What she did was insanely smart and I agree with the comment above she COULD win gold on either of her two events so don’t count her out I know I haven’t. Also jade keeping that soot means it’ll be even harder for mykayla to justify her on the team having so much vault/floor strength for the US team spots or individuals hmmm

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    • To secure a Tokyo spot: Top 2 AA at Olympic Trials OR Top 3 routine AND strong AA. Tom said the last off team spot will not be a specialist either, they will be an AA’r that could be swapped in case of injury. That doesn’t make sense to me, but that was his explanation.

      MyKayla was only behind Simone and Suni on AA difficulty before quarantine, unfortunately her execution was not up there and was always an issue. Her best hope is to get a top 4 single vault, top 4 floor and a high AA score at trials. I think her chances are about the same as Rio which says a lot about her determination and skill, but I think she’ll need other athletes with similar strengths to slip at trials.

      It’s over a year away, a lot can happen though.

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      • It’s interesting that you say her chances are about as good as from Rio because that Could be a bad thing too. She’s in almost the same position which means she’s on the cusp of also being an alternate instead. To me it’s all about her execution, if she just tries to match Simone in difficulty it prob won’t work for her she loses a point on every apparatus to Simone in execution minus vault. She has got to clean up skills she can perform well while she has the time off. She’s sooooo close I’m rooting for her to be honest.

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

  8. I think for Brazil it’s also important to mention that they had came up under different coaching environments than the current girls, with Barbosa and Hypolito both coming up under Ostapenko, and Barbosa in particular having been in developmental/early Junior stages when he first came to Brazil and Saraiva and Andrade both coming up under Alexandrov. Lima and Soares both look super promising at a young age, but they need to transition that talent (look at what happened to Valentim) a ton more depth and a more substantial foundation on bars going forward.

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  9. the double double layout dismount club (to my knowledge)
    – Elise Ray 2000 Olympics AA
    – Kana Yamawaki 2000 Olympics AA (crashed)
    – Shawn Johnson 2007-08
    – Jordyn Wieber 2009
    – Tan Jiaxin 2014-15
    – Wang Yan 2017

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