You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 293rd 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.

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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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Why are the Biles and the Dos Santos II considered two different skills but the double layout full-in and full-out are the same?

The double layout full-in and full-out are basically the same skill, and where the twist comes into the skill doesn’t really matter whether it’s a full-in, a full-out, or a half-in half-out – you’re still doing a backwards double layout with one twist. 

A Biles and Dos Santos II are two different skills because where the twist comes in actually changes what the skill is. In the Biles, the skill is a back layout in the first flip and a back layout with a half twist that turns it into a front layout. In the Dos Santos II, the gymnast does a half twist first, and then two front layouts, making it WILDLY different, and much harder (honestly the Dos Santos II being an H is nuts to me). Even at the most basic level, a Biles is a back tumbling element and a Dos Santos II is a front element, because even though they both start out backwards, that half-twist coming before the flips in the Dos Santos makes it a front element in the WAG code.

Why would the U.S. be likely to bring another all-arounder for one of the non-nominative spots as a backup? The team itself will have alternates, and the U.S. probably wouldn’t be able to move gymnasts between team and non-team spots. Why wouldn’t the U.S. bring its strongest specialists for the non-team spots?

Yes, they can swap an individual gymnast onto the team if needed and if it happens prior to the deadline happens for bringing in an alternate, so that aspect of this question isn’t an issue. If they decide to use the individual gymnast as the alternate for the team, it’ll be easier for them if they end up needing to swap someone in, because that individual all-arounder will be already credentialed and training all four events in the same Olympic gym as the team. 

If they were to bring in an actual reserve athlete, they’d have to credential an alternate training elsewhere (possibly not even within Tokyo), and then get her up-to-speed on the same equipment the credentialed gymnasts have been using consistently already. Logistically, it’ll just make more sense to bring in the individual gymnast to help out in the team scenario, and then they can bring in one of the reserve athletes to compete in the individual all-around spot, that way they don’t let that spot go to waste.

For the individual all-around spot, I personally think if they’re going to take the top four all-arounders for the team, they should take another highly-ranked all-arounder who also has one or two standout events, so that she can fulfill multiple roles – competing all-around in qualifications, potentially qualifying to an apparatus final or even winning a medal, and acting as backup for the team. I’m thinking of someone like MyKayla Skinner in 2016, who was the fourth-best all-arounder at trials but also probably would’ve easily won a vault medal in Rio, or someone like Kara Eaker now, who is consistently a strong all-arounder who would also be likely to make the beam final. I think they’ll just get the best use out of someone who is a little bit of both in terms of being a solid all-arounder who can potentially help the team anywhere while also potentially being in the mix for an apparatus medal, so not a straight all-arounder, but also not a straight specialist either. 

What new elements do you think Giorgia Villa, Asia D’Amato, Alice D’Amato, and Elisa Iorio can do in the next year?

My biggest hope is for Asia D’Amato to get the Amanar. I’d also like to see Elisa and Giorgia change up their bars composition a bit, and I want Giorgia to add bigger skills on floor but at the same time I’m worried about her ankles and knees…I don’t really have specific skills for most of them, but I basically want all of them to upgrade at least one pass each on floor, so that they can all consistently be in the 13-range (assuming they’re hitting well, otherwise keep what they have). Asia aside, they basically all have routines that juniors in the top countries are doing, so I’d like to see a few more F passes from Italy. But my biggest hope of all is BEAM CONSISTENCY. I don’t care half as much about upgrades as I do about getting clean, solid, consistent beam routines. PLEASE!

How much does a floor choreographer cost?

It depends on the choreographer and whether there’s a deal worked out with the gym. The best will be hundreds of dollars, usually $500+ just for floor, but I’ve also known several young choreographers just starting out who will do a beam and floor package for under $100 as they start to build their careers. I would say $300 is around average, and then there are also sometimes music costs, costs for touch-ups…that’s why a lot of gymnasts keep their routines for multiple years even after they graduate from one level to the next…they just update their choreo to work in any optional requirements new to them at the higher level.

How did Italy go from winning 2006 Euros to basically becoming irrelevant as a team until 2014? How did they win  Euros in 2006 but then not even make the team final at worlds that year?

Shifts in depth, due to injuries and retirements in the weak years, and then a dearth of fresh new seniors in the good years. It’s the same reason why Italy was 12th at worlds in 2018 and then won the bronze in 2019. Most smaller programs don’t have steady streams of depth like the U.S. does, where they can sub out injured top gymnasts with newcomers who will do just as well literally every single year. Italy has some really good years in terms of new seniors coming in, and then really weak years, so when they have the perfect storm of lots of seniors with injuries on top of no real first-year depth, they look like a really weak program…but just wait a year or two and suddenly they’re a top team again. I’d say this is the theme for most programs until they build up a really strong developmental system that can promise strong new talent each and every year so that a couple of injured gymnasts doesn’t mean the entire team has to take a hit.

Why did Shawn Johnston take out her front 1½ in Beijing and replace it with just the half? Was she injured?

If I remember correctly, Martha Karolyi asked her to take out the Rudi in team finals, and to just do the front full to barani instead, because she wanted to make sure Shawn would have a clean routine without any landing issues. She brought the front full to Rudi back for the all-around final, though.

The reason the Big 12 is able to have a championships is because Denver joined with the actual Big 12 schools as an “affiliate member” to bring the conference to the requisite four teams. Why doesn’t the ACC find a team and do this instead of being part of the EAGL? Actually competing as the ACC (a big name athletic conference) would certainly be better for marketing purposes.

Big 12 Championships existed before Denver joined the conference for gymnastics! At one point, I remember Nebraska and Missouri were both competing, so it was Denver, Iowa State, and those two for a little while, but then Nebraska moved to the Big Ten for the 2012 season, and in 2013, Missouri moved to the SEC while West Virginia joined the Big 12. For a few years, it was just Oklahoma, Iowa State, and West Virginia at Big 12 Championships, but then Denver joined in 2016 and it’s been those four teams ever since.

I’m actually surprised the ACC doesn’t just invite the non-ACC teams into the mix, also now including Long Island University, since they’ll be joining EAGL when they begin their season. But I can see there being red tape around adding affiliate programs to a big existing conference, especially with so many teams asking to join from multiple other conferences, so it was probably actually easier to just create EAGL for gymnastics only and not have to deal with any of the ACC rules. I’m not sure how that works behind the scenes, and I won’t try to guess lol, but starting a gymnastics-only conference like EAGL definitely gives them a bit more freedom to do what they want.

Since Miss Val never did gymnastics herself, what do you think her coaching approach is? Did she learn to teach/work on skills from other coaches? Does she focus more on choreography and motivational aspects? Does she have assistants for technical issues?

The thing about being a collegiate coach is that you don’t really need to have a gymnastics background at this point, especially if you have a talented support staff. Your job as head coach is more about building the team, creating the strategy, and being a motivator, and less about coaching actual skills or technique. You obviously can’t walk in like “what’s gymnastics” and not know what’s happening around you, but the gymnasts are coming to you with all of their skills already, so it’s not like you need to bring up a gymnast from scratch the way club coaches do. It’s all just about fine-tuning and motivating at the collegiate level. 

If the head coach doesn’t have a gym background, the support staff can absolutely help gymnasts work on new skills, get the routine construction down, and do all of the more technically-oriented aspects of the job, and in Miss Val’s case, she could choreograph on top of running the program. With Miss Val running the show for UCLA, she also had an incredibly talented former gymnast and long-time coach in Chris Waller working on the more technical aspects, as well as other members of her team who were helping out on various events or more generally, whether they were in paid roles or there as volunteers. I also think that at this level, teammates help each other quite a bit, so that always helps.

For Miss Val specifically, I always saw her as a motivator first and foremost, and then a choreographer, and then a badass business woman running the program like a CEO. Other NCAA coaches without the gymnastics background may fulfill other roles depending on their particular situations, though it’s definitely rare that someone would make it all the way to the top of a collegiate coaching hierarchy without that experience.

Why are gymnasts given a full ride scholarship? Why don’t they split scholarships to have bigger teams?

Offering a full ride scholarship to an athlete – whether in gymnastics or in any other sport – is a huuuuuge incentive to keep kids in sports and to get them to the collegiate level, and chances are, most athletes who are putting in all of this work to get a full scholarship are people who wouldn’t be able to cover half the cost of tuition, so it becomes an all-or-nothing situation. 

You have to really think about NCAA as being not only about gymnastics, which is a bit misleading because the majority of the people who do the sport do come from more well-off families and so maybe it’s not a big deal for their parents to pay for half of their tuition, but for most college athletes and most people in the United States, college is absolutely not affordable, and these full rides are what keep them working toward college when without sports, they might not have made it that far. For six of the more popular DI sports across the NCAA, all scholarships are full rides or nothing at all, and these sports fight hard to keep this in place, because sports outside of these six can have their scholarships basically cut in half if that’s what the NCAA decides to do that particular year, which means even fewer spots available, which means less of an incentive for an athlete to continue if no scholarship money is available for them.

It’s basically a big deal for gymnastics to be one of the sports getting full rides for 12 gymnasts on each DI team, and splitting those scholarships in half would absolutely lead to gymnasts who can’t afford tuition having to turn down college spots. With how much money the NCAA brings in BECAUSE of the athletes, the real question here should be more like “why can’t the NCAA just open up more spots per team?”

Is there a certain limit to the number of roster slots an NCAA team has?

Yes, NCAA teams have 12 available scholarship spots at any given time for their rosters, but they can also bring in as many walk-ons as they want, which some teams take advantage of (like UCLA) but others don’t.

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

7 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Why did Shawn Johnston take out her front 1½ in Beijing and replace it with just the half? Was she injured? From what I recall, she kept having issues with it, falling in podium training before qualifications, team final… I think the video is available online of their podium training and Shawn was having problems with it.

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

  3. I’m SHOCKED at how cheap a beam or floor choreographer are. Dominic Zito? Flying out to Costa Mesa to choreograph Kyla’s beam? Or to Houston to choreograph THE SIMONE BILES’ floor routine? $500? $500? FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS?! Someone pinch me.

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    • I think the $500 answer was more like an average for a JO competitive gymnast, not necessarily what the best of the best would pay ….

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      • Yeah, the national team is way different because the national program often has a say in what kind of routine the gymnast has. They basically all HAVE to use a specific choreographer, and I believe the cost of these routines are covered by the national program. A friend’s gym used Dominic Zito a few years ago and the cost was between $600-800 depending on whether they wanted just the one session for teaching the routine, or if they wanted a touch-up session, beam choreo, etc, but that was for a club deal. I’d imagine he also gives the national program some sort of package for doing multiple routines, but again, I also think this is covered as a national team expense and wouldn’t come down to the individual gymnast, at least that’s how I think it was for the Olympic hopefuls under Martha, because she required gymnasts to use Zito, and required specific music/styles for each gymnast. I don’t know what the situation is like now with Tom, but Martha was very involved in the music/choreography in the past, and I think part of that involved hiring the choreographer herself for the top-level girls.

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  4. “Logistically, it’ll just make more sense to bring in the individual gymnast to help out in the team scenario, and then they can bring in one of the reserve athletes to compete in the individual all-around spot, that way they don’t let that spot go to waste.”
    According to part H, additional notes, of the Olympic Qualification rules, when you integrate your individual gymnast in your team, the individual spot will be definitely lost and the quota place will be reallocated. Meaning, it will go to a gymnast from another country. You can replace your AA World Cup spot gymnast to another one, provided you can handle the hassle with returning the accreditation and moving out of the village and obtaining a new accreditation, but not if you integrate your gymnast in team.

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