You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 292nd 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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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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What’s the difference between a ring leap and a Yang Bo and all of the other split jumps that look like that?

There are so many leaps and jumps with such slight differences, it’s honestly really hard to tell them apart unless you’ve done your homework and are paying super close attention…and even then, it sometimes happens so quickly, it’s like, what did she just do?!

To answer the first part question, about a ring leap compared to a Yang Bo, I’m actually going to first say that a ring leap is a leap, and a Yang Bo is a jump. However, a ring jump also exists, so I’ll compare the ring jump with the Yang Bo, because the difference is subtle between these two jumps, but it is there. Both involve a split position in the air with the head thrown back, but in the ring jump, the back leg makes a ring shape with the knee bent and the toes brushing the head, while the Yang Bo doesn’t involve a ring shape, but rather an oversplit and a greater arch in the back. 

The difference in leg shape is really the deciding factor, but often when a gymnast attempts a ring element and her leg ends up being nowhere near there, so when you see that happen you’re kinda like…is she doing a ring jump with a straight back leg? Or is she doing a Yang Bo without the oversplit and back flexibility? WE NEVER KNOW!

You also have the straight up split jump and the sissone, which are both relatively easy and are often used by gymnasts who aren’t strong at dance elements but need to get the 180 connection requirement out of the way. These are both jumps with a full split, with the split jump parallel to the beam and the sissone at an angle, but sometimes the body shape and positioning in the air can make it really unclear which is which. And sometimes, a gymnast doing a ring jump with a low back leg just looks like she’s doing a straight up split jump, while a gymnast going for a Yang Bo without the back flexibility or oversplit just looks like she’s doing a sissone.

When you throw leaps into it, it can get even more difficult. The split jump and ring jump both have leap variations as well, with the key difference being that a jump starts off from two feet and goes straight up and down, while a leap takes off from one foot and travels forward a bit in the air. But sometimes a gymnast who means to leap actually ends up jumping, and so again, the positions can be quite ambiguous. Someone could come into a meet with a ring leap they expect to get rewarded with a D-level element, but with an incorrect takeoff or a low back leg and no arch, they could end up getting a B for a split jump or split leap.

What’s the deal with Romania? Will they ever be a threat again?

Never say never, but they definitely won’t be a threat in the next couple of quads. It doesn’t matter how many talented gymnasts they have right now (which isn’t very many). If they don’t figure out the situation with who’s running the federation, who’s responsible for training the developmental and national teams, and who’s putting in the work to improve resources and training facilities, they’re not going anywhere because the kids coming into the sport – again, no matter how talented – won’t have what they need to be successful in the long run.

Who are some of the most robbed gymnasts in history?

I generally don’t like the phrases “she was robbed” or “she deserved this more” in terms of talking about titles, because that kind of suggests that the other gymnast “took” it from her or was “less deserving” which is never true. Anytime there is a clear “wtf” situation where someone looked way more likely to win than someone else, it’s always on the judges, so I know it’s semantics, but maybe look at it more like “who did the judges cheat the hardest?” Or something? 

As for an answer, I feel like every time I watch a competition, there are always like 20 people where I’m like “wtf was that score” so I’d probably have 50 different answers for this question with all of my grievances, haha. I feel like of all time, maybe Ecaterina Szabo in 1984? Obviously the Olympics are the BIG DEAL meet and where these little scoring discrepancies matter the most, because you’re gonna fight about missing an Olympic gold more than you’d cry about missing a national gold or something. But yes, Szabo, and then I also think the scoring in the late 80s was insane. Bulgaria and the United States in 1988 were especially hurt, Bulgaria with being a bit low-balled, and then the United States with the East Germans whining about that bars penalty…I also don’t think Svetlana Boginskaya should’ve won the 1989 world all-around title. I just recently watched that meet and had pretty strong feelings about it, haha.

I think a lot of people also think Shannon Miller was “robbed” in 1992 and I know that’s a bit of a controversy with people swinging one way or the other, but I go back and forth with that because she and Tatiana Gutsu were both SO good, so I wouldn’t call either really “cheated”…if anything, I wish they had just both won gold, I guess? And I guess the big cheat to me is really Andrea Raducan not getting to keep her all-around gold in 2000, but that’s not related to judging, obviously. If we’re adding worlds in, I think the snub I’m most offended by is Asuka Teramoto not getting a beam medal in 2014. THAT ONE HURT.

Imagine the width of the beam is increased by an inch. Would it reduce the chance of falling, or actually increase it? Gymnasts are used to grabbing the sides of the original beam on skills like back handsprings, but their palms would no longer “wrap” the new beam.

I think they’d figure out a way to adjust to using their hands differently on the beam than they do now, like more like one hand behind the other than wrapped I guess…or they’d have to figure out how to have their arms further apart with their hands still grabbing the sides even though their hands would be further apart? I’m sure the manufacturers would work with experts in gymnastics to determine the best way to make it work if they were serious about going forward…I feel like there would have to be a way around it and that hand placement wouldn’t be the thing to keep a major change like this (if it were actually happening) from moving forward.

What is going on with Viktoria Komova? Has she retired?

Yeah, I don’t think she ever officially came out and said “I’m retired!” but I mean…yeah. She’s done, and has been for a while at this point.

Where do NCAA programs with large budgets get their money? Do the teams bring in more money or do they get more support from their schools?

The athletic departments usually budget out per sport out of an overall budget for the department, not based on the money each individual sport takes in. Gymnastics doesn’t make a ton of money at all compared to sports like football, but it’s one of the most expensive programs to run at the NCAA level, so athletic departments are essentially investing more into gymnastics programs than they’re getting out of them, which is why it’s so hard to get a university or college to include gymnastics in its department at all, and why MAG especially has dwindled down into almost nothing over the past 30 years. They justify the high spend for teams that do well, but many teams that aren’t top programs end up taking budget cuts and making sacrifices to keep the team running, like taking coach buses 15 hours for road meets instead of flying, or having only one competition leo each season. If a program is like, Oklahoma or UCLA or one of the big SECs, they obviously get a lot of support because they’ve proven themselves as being at the top of their game nationally, and so these are the teams you see with private jets and state-of-the-art gyms and trunks full of leos, but many teams struggle to get the funding needed to have the same advantages as the top teams.

Why do scores tend to build at the end of a team lineup?

It’s kind of psychological…I think because the standard has been basically forever that the weaker gymnasts go first and the best go later, judges have it in their head that it’s always going to be that way, and so they tend to start out being a little more strict with their leadoff routines, and get a bit more lenient as they move on. It’s partly a known strategy, partly subconscious, but I absolutely hate it because just because a gymnast went last doesn’t mean that she was the best, and unfortunately in NCAA judging, they will end up rewarding really mediocre routines with 9.95+ scores because the routine just happened to be last. 

I’m here for giving out scores that rank gymnasts correctly, but I feel like judging has gotten lazy in NCAA because they just assume that the best are going to be at the end of the lineup, and so they build and rank by what the perceived “best to worst” ranking is based on the competitive order instead of doing the work to rank routines appropriately by taking the actual deductions that exist. It drives me crazy to see one of the weakest routines in a lineup outrank routines that were better just because that weak routine went up last and the better routines happened earlier on.

Is the Nabieva the only layout Tkachev that a WAG athlete has competed? Why don’t we see others?

Internationally, yes, so far, and I think it’s just because doing a Tkachev (or most skills, tbh) out of a toe-on is easier for most gymnasts than doing a Tkachev out a stalder or clear hip entry. This year, Karis German of WCC started competing a stalder layout Tkachev, which is awesome, and several gymnasts – including Sunisa Lee – are starting to train layout Tkachevs that they catch in mixed grip, and I’ve even heard rumors of a WAG version of the Liukin happening in one gym, which would be so cool. It’s been ten years since Tatiana Nabieva debuted her skill, but other gymnasts have only really started taking this skill seriously in the past couple of years, so now that these gymnasts are beginning to master it and work on other variations, I think we’re going to start seeing a bit more variety with the layout Tkachevs in the coming years.  

What is the dismount called that Riley McCusker competes and what is the value? Does anyone else currently do it? I sit done from L grip or reverse grip? I can’t determine if it’s the Fan or the dismount competed by Huang Huidan.

Riley competes a half twist to a double back, which is kind of like the opposite of an arabian dismount (aka a half twist to a double front). This is a Fan dismount, aka the dismount Fan Yilin got named in 2017. Huang Huidan does the Arai, which looks similar, but in the Arai, the half twist is done within the first flip, so it ends up being a front flip with a half twist to a back flip.

These dismounts can be really ambiguous if you’re watching in real time…most who attempt it are probably hoping to go for the Arai, because it has an E rating, but this dismount is definitely more difficult, and most who attempt the Arai just end up doing the Fan, which is easier at a D. Just look for where the twist comes in…if it happens before either of the saltos, then it’s the Fan, and if it happens during the first salto, then it’s an Arai. I actually think Fan ended up competing her eponymous dismount because she was trying an Arai and not getting credit for it…so she was like, well, I might as well submit my own version, haha.

It’s so sad to read about how many former elites actually experienced terrible things at their gyms. Can you think of prominent elite-level coaches from the 90s and 2000s that have maintained reputations of being good coaches and providing well-rounded experiences for their athletes?

The only one who comes to mind for me is Kelli Hill. This is hard to say knowing some of the things she has defended and said on social media, but I know several gymnasts who trained with her in the 90s and early 2000s, and they would defend her to the death because while she was tough and stubborn, and while they didn’t always agree with her, she kept them safe and healthy, and ALWAYS stood up for them, which at that era is apparently completely unheard of. I feel like she has recently behaved problematically with some of her comments, and in hindsight, she’s probably done some things in the past that would be not okay now, but at a time when verbal and physical abuse were common and normal in every elite-level gym, she was like a beacon of hope and all of her gymnasts I’ve talked to have said they basically would’ve died at some of the other gyms, and the other gymnasts at camp would always tell them they wished Kelli could be their coach. Recently, I’ve heard that Dominique Dawes spoke out this year about the tough training environment she faced, and how she’s said that she no longer speaks to Kelli because she’s coming to terms with everything she had dealt with in the sport, but I think even with that said, based on what lots of other gymnasts have talked about, Kelli is still basically the gold standard of the 90s compared to literally every other coach that existed.

I’m sure there are probably others who were a little more low-key, like Tom Foerster, who had the occasional elite and is still very well-respected, but Kelli stands out as one who had a lot of gymnast at a very high level and still to this day continues to do that while more or less maintaining a reputation as a good coach who stands up for her athletes (though again her reputation on social media leaves something to be desired, lol…I guess at least that hopefully doesn’t affect how she treats her athletes).

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

14 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Did anyone catch the interview the fig did with one of the Romanian coaches (maybe Forminte?) after worlds last year? It was on fig’s website but I don’t know if it’s still up. He straight up blamed Golgota for everything that went wrong at that competition. Even the mistakes of the other gymnasts were Golgota’s fault because “her mistakes made the others nervous”. Golgota singlehandedly carried their program for the last 3 years or so, and this is how they thank her?

    A few years back I watched a series on youtube where Andrea Raducan was visiting different gyms in Romania to try and create more focus on gymnastics. Each program would feature a short interview with some polite, dedicated, hard working gymnasts, and then Raducan and the coaches would bitch about how today’s gymnasts aren’t passionate enough, don’t want to sacrifice their whole lives for gymnastics, and how the parents “interferes” with practice because they have the audacity to think that education and future health is more important than the slim chance of making it as a gymnast in a failing program …

    I know that changing an established thought pattern is one of the most difficult things to do, whether as a single person or an organization, but honestly, how little self awareness can you have? I’m seriously baffled that anyone wouldn’t realize that this kind of rhetoric is part of the problem, not the solution. I feel bad for the gymnasts but at this point I pretty much want to watch the program burn just because of the sheer incompetence …

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    • Yeah, it was floundering already, but Raducan def. ran the program into the ditch. She was clueless about how to run a gymnastics federation and it showed. She was given the position due to her name.

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  2. Alicia Sacramone not getting the vault bronze in Beijing us something I strongly disagree with. Also Fan Yilin not even making the bars final in 2016. And of course quite a bit of the gymternet (VERY) strongly believes Shang Chunsong should have gotten the 2016 AA over Aliya Mustafina.

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  3. On the NCAA and money topic, schools get money from the bigger money making programs(aka football). It’s why people are worried about the NCAA Football season this year. Because it means that if they don’t make money, programs like gymnastics don’t get money. Also when you see things like a school with an amazing gym it’s almost 100% coming from donors and not the school.

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  4. should also be mentioned that in 2015, there was real concern that Fan’s attempted Arai dismount would have been downgraded to a C under the code since there was no distinction between an L grip and regular grip half twist to a double back. This is why her dismount changed from nationals to worlds that year and why China ended up submitting the L grip version of the skill in 2017

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  5. I think the biggest robberies are the gymnasts impacted by the 80/84 boycotts. The 1980 US team looked absolutely incredible with McNamara, Frederick and Johnson all so capable of individually medalling for the women and Thomas and Conner for the men. For Frederick and Thomas that ended up being their only chance for medals and both were legitimate contenders for gold. Frederick was also going to submit what is now known as the “Ray” release on bars at these games, consistently nailing it that entire year but didn’t get to go. Thomas was also a ‘76 Olympian but his peak lied in the Moscow Olympic cycle and it sucks that didn’t happen for him. Then in ‘84 you have the likes of Mostepanova, Ilienko and Yurchenko all missing out, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Ricna never made it to the Olympics. I’m not well versed in MAG athletes from the 80s, but I’m sure plenty of other athletes got screwed out of a shot at the Olympics due to the boycotts.

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    • 100% agreed on the athletes from the boycotting nations. That could have been a huge breakthrough Olympics for the US team, and of course 1984 just breaks my heart all the insane talent peaking at that time we didn’t get to see. Mostepanova and Yurchenko of course, but also Boriana Stoyanova and Hana Ricna as you mentioned. Ricna did, in fact, make it Seoul but was a shadow of her former self by then – although still with that same old floor routine from 1982: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lKqryHHs0u8

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

  7. I have always found the easiest way to tell the difference between a split jump and a sissonne as being in the split jump gymnasts land on both feet at the time time, but in a sissonne they land the front foot first. Is this actually just a coincidence that gymnasts always seem to land these skills in this different way, rather than an actual ‘necessary’ distinguishing feature between the two skills? (I.e if a gymnast landed a sissonne on 2 feet would it still be a sissonne and vice versa with the split jump if landed on 1 foot.)

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  8. Dominique Dawes and Doni Thompson and Kerri Strug would have something to say about Kelli Hill and Tom Forster.
    Dawes: https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/sports/article/21113051/past-pain-inspires-olympic-champion-dominique-dawes-to-open-new-gymnastics-academy

    Thompson left elite gymnastics because of the Forsters.

    Strug wrote about Forster way back in 1997 describing how hurt she was the Forster publicly criticized her for leaving his gym every chance that he got and then did the interview with NBC and was negative saying Kerri “had the opportunity to leave” (instead of lead). She described how Forster often looked to her for guidance with her Aerials teammates because he was inexperienced as an elite coach and didn’t have any idea about what Worlds was like. She stated that he pushed her to compete a new vault at Sabae Worlds even though she told her him she was reluctant to compete a vault she hadn’t perfected yet and hadn’t trained or competed it on a hard surface and just trained it in the pit.

    How Forster even got his job to begin with I will never know, as it is clear that he emotionally and likely verbally abused his athletes.

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    • I know, I talked about Dominique Dawes’ recent comments in my response. But like the rest of my response says, despite a few people looking back and saying that things were tough with her, compared to every other long-standing elite-level coach in the 90s, Kelli Hill is still highly respected within the community even if the fans have a different perspective based on her recent behavior and reflections from gymnasts like Dawees (again, as I mentioned in my response). Same with Forster…there are coaches who have problematic pasts but who either (a) changed, or (b) weren’t seen as QUITE so problematic compared to everyone else, and so they remain respected to this day. Tom is absolutely loved by pretty much all current gymnasts and coaches according to a lot of people, and he got the job BECAUSE of this reputation, which he built at the national level when he was on the staff and working with the developmental levels. Again, we tend to know a bit more about past problematic behavior as fans and as people not directly connected to the sport, but what the fans think is WILDLY different from what people in the sport think, and that goes for soooooooo many people. The question didn’t ask me “who do you like as a coach from the 90s” but rather who is still respected from that era, and I answered knowing what I know from what current and recent national team-level coaches and athletes have said. That doesn’t mean they haven’t done problematic things in the past and that they’re still not problematic now, but I’m answering literally just based on who held on for this length of time without their reputations being totally ruined (like almost every other coach from the 90s). Whether we like it or not, Hill and Forster fit the response here, and Mary Lee Tracy kind of also does too, because she’s another one who’s pretty much respected at the national level, though she’s a bit more polarizing than the other two based on the opinions of current/recent athletes and coaches, so I didn’t include her.

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  9. As far as gymnasts being cheated, I feel like the Olympic tiebreak losers probably have some of the strongest cases for being “robbed”, but they’re being robbed by procedure rather than it being the fault of other gymnasts. London was particularly nasty for that, there were THREE ties and all of them were bronze-medal ties so the gymnasts who lost the tiebreaks didn’t get anything (as opposed to something like Nastia on bars in 2008, where she didn’t get the medal she probably deserved but still got A medal at least).

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