You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 294th 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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Do you know who the first African American male was to win an individual Olympic medal, and the first black MAG gymnast to win Olympic gold?

Jair Lynch was the first African American man to win an Olympic medal when he won the silver on parallel bars. I don’t believe there have been any black MAG gold medalists at the Olympic Games, however…not yet, anyway! In the past with the sport so dominated by the Soviets, and then after as it transitioned to the Chinese and now the Japanese, it’s rare to see anyone not of European or Asian descent on top of the podiums. Though in recent years, we’ve started to see more diversity in the sport, especially among competitors from smaller programs who compete as individuals, and with non-white gymnasts becoming more common on teams from Europe and North America especially. I think the day that we’ll see a black man win an Olympic title is coming soon.

Given how close she came as is, do you think Oksana Chusovitina could have hit the Produnova vault in Rio if she didn’t have that weird low block?

By “hit” maybe like…super low and buckled, yeah. She’d “hit” that vault previously and had the potential to hit it in Rio, but it still wasn’t going to be a truly fabulous upright position even if she did stand it up. I wish she had at least squat-landed it in the final, but I’m also glad she didn’t completely die on it, so I guess I’d consider her run a success.

I’m surprised more elites didn’t make a move to travel to gyms that were open during COVID-19 to continue their training, even temporarily. It seems like an unfair advantage that some could keep up their skills and routines, while others have no options. If many gyms remain closed, do you foresee this happening?

Given the travel restrictions in the U.S., the uncertainty of the near future in terms of the public health crisis, and the lack of any competitions for U.S. gymnasts in the next year or so, it wouldn’t really be a great idea to move gymnasts across the country to gyms that are open. The logistics of this would also be difficult to figure out, in terms of who goes where, who stays with whom, how tuition is handled…I think if one or two gymnasts really felt the need to get into one of the open gyms, they’d probably work something out, but as a system-wide decision, it’s not the greatest idea.

It’s unfortunate that some gymnasts won’t be able to get back into their gyms until much later than others, but the at-home training to stay conditioned and in shape is fine for now with no competitions on the horizon. It would be one thing if the Olympics were still happening this summer, but as it stands, we won’t see gymnastics back until next February, so no one needs to be training skills or routines right now. In fact, it’s almost nice that gymnasts will have a few months of more low-key training with a focus on strength and conditioning instead of hard landings and high difficulty. It’s a good physical and mental break that is so rare for this sport, and I’m sure the national team staff is monitoring everyone’s home gym situations so that no one falls too far behind. As long as they stay strong and healthy, the skills will still be there when they get back.

Would the skill Olivia Dunne planned on debuting this year be considered a new skill in elite, or would it be considered a switch half to scale?

I believe it would be considered a switch half to scale. Scales added onto acro elements are considered two separate skills now, and while the code doesn’t say anything about a dance element to scale (unless I’m missing it!), then I’d imagine this would follow the same pattern in that it’s two separate skills done in connection rather than one unified skill.

Why do you think Jade Carey changed her full-twisting double layout to a full-out instead of a full-in? Her full-in was more aesthetically pleasing because of the flare-out, and it gave her more time to prep the landing.

I’m not sure what the benefit would be for her. I feel like full-outs are generally much harder, especially on floor, even though they’re worth the same, which is why you pretty much never see them on floor, though the Russians love a good full-out on bars.

I actually just went back to watch and see if there was any clear difference between the two, but she’s actually currently doing the skill as more of a half-in half-out rather than a true full-in or full-out. Most double saltos with full twists on floor tend to be more half-in half-out, especially on layouts…on tucks the majority of the twist is typically happening in the first flip, but on layouts, you often see that the gymnast waits until she’s upside down in the first layout before she starts twisting.

Jade used to do the skill as a full-in, so she’s definitely changed how she approaches twisting in this pass, but I think generally the half-in half-out approach is a bit more manageable, and I think Jade’s double layouts look better as the half-in half-out than they did as a full-in, so it seems like it’s a better option for her just in how she looks technically throughout the skill (though the flare-out in the full-in was great). Anyway, this would be a great question to ask Jade directly just to get her personal thoughts on it, so if we ever get back to competitions, I’ll have to add this to my list!

Do you know why Nika Takagi never competed while at Bridgeport? She seemed like a big recruit for them. Do you think she will compete now that she has transferred to LIU?

Bridgeport has a huge team and it’s often difficult for freshmen to break into the lineups, so that’s honestly probably what it was with her this year. She was a decent level 10 in Canada, but her scores were quite low compared to what most of the Bridgeport girls were getting in level 10, so not being one of the absolute strongest gymnasts on a team with a couple dozen girls would’ve made it really hard for her to get lineup spots in her first season, and hopefully LIU will be a better fit for her in that sense.

How do new NCAA gymnastics teams build their team? How do they have enough people to compete? Is the team just a large number of freshmen, and if so, wouldn’t that result in a huge team in later years?

They start with mostly freshmen but then also recruit gymnasts looking to transfer, so the bulk of their team will be underclassmen, but they still have SOME balance with a couple juniors and seniors as well. Eventually, after a few years of steady recruiting, things tend to balance themselves out. That first core freshman class will always be a relatively huge class, but as the years go by, some will eventually drop, others will come into other classes…again, it takes a few years, but by the fifth year of a program, it always works out that there’s more of a balance.

Any idea where Beth and Steve Rybacki are now? The way Jamie Dantzscher talks about them, they shouldn’t really be in charge of kids.

They both still run the Charter Oak gym, and actually recently had an elite-level gymnast when Lauren Navarro was competing a few years ago (she’s now at Stanford). Steve was around as part of the U.S. national team staff at LEAST until 2012, maybe longer…I remember him screaming at a journalist on the floor at U.S. nationals that year because they published something that said Katelyn Ohashi had to work on her turns. He was like “you get access to these gymnasts here and THAT’S how you treat us?!?!” and I just yeeted myself out of there because it was terrifying. I’m not sure how much longer he was on the staff after that, maybe until Rhonda Faehn got there? He did a lot of the more administrative work that Rhonda took over, so like, the business side of the program more so than the coaching side…but yeah, he’s still got his gym, and I assume is still coaching or low-key coaching while managing the business of his gym, so he’s almost assuredly still around kids regularly to this day.

Do NCAA endorsement rules apply to coaches? For example, can Jordyn Wieber still get endorsements and post them on social media despite being the head coach at Arkansas?

No, they’re scholarship-related, so Jordyn can do whatever she wants with endorsements, though probably within reason, because most employers have restrictions about what you can and can’t do on social media. If she gets an endorsement that’s in any way questionable, she’ll probably need to clear it first, mostly because the university has its own sponsors and connections, so if they have a head coach promoting a competing company, it could lead to trouble.

If a piked Markelov was in the code of points, do you think it would be given an E given that the Markelov is a D? I noticed that the piked Shushunova on bars (the Monckton) is a tenth less than the typical straddle variety, which seems to deviate from the general rule of piked skills being valued more highly than straddled releases.

Brooklyn Moors is doing the piked Markelov/Khorkina now, but I haven’t gone through and looked at the fine print in terms of what she was rewarded for her D score…but I’d imagine they would’ve upgraded it from the straddle because it was worth more? I’m pretty sure that if she pikes it correctly throughout and doesn’t open up too soon into a straddle, it should be worth an E.

As for the Monckton vs the Shushunova, the Monckton isn’t rated lower because it’s piked compared to the Shushunova being straddled. The Monckton is considered to be a turn into a pike vault over the high bar, but the Shushunovahas the turn into a counter straddle over the bar, and it’s that counter motion that makes it worth more. I remember there being controversy when she debuted the skill and it was rated way lower than the Shushunova (which was a G at the time lol), and I’m pretty sure the justification for rating the Monckton so much lower was the lack of counter movement…though honestly, most I’ve seen who have attempted the Shushunova also haven’t had that counter movement.

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. I think Jade Carey just posted a full-in on instagram with the caption “Bring it back?’ (It looks like a full-in to me, but I’m horrible at spotting twists).

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

  3. Would you ever like to see a change in uneven bars with more emphasis on swing elements than the constant start stop of nearly every move coming to a handstand? Maybe a requirement that a gymnast come to a handstand twice, and the rest of the routine show a continuous movement of swings, connections, transitions and release moves like routines in the seventies when bars seemed so much more original. By the way, totally appreciate your opinion about Ecaterina Zsabo being robbed of the Olympic gold. At the time, I was totally caught up in cheering for USA. Having watched this competition many times since, I now realize who the true winner should have been. Thank you for keeping us going during this time!

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    • Was that meant as a question for ‘You asked’? Because then you need to write it in the box above the comments:-)
      I prefer pirouettes and casts going to a handstand, but it might be fun to ease the deductions on one and a half and double pirouettes. Because, yeah, they definitely need to rethink bars composition. Ease up on the empty swings, bring back the back uprise (limit of 1 per routine?) and maybe do a series bonus like on beam, but only for easier elements (as you already get bonus for connecting d + d)? Something like three c elements with at least one flight element. What if you could do a hecht to the high bar + straddle back + pirouette (minimum half turn) and get 1 tenth bonus? This way weaker bars workers will have an incentive to connect elements instead of kipping out of every single element, and the c elements are actually worth something, so you might get somehing else than the endless shap + pak/bail variations. As it is now, even fairly good bars workers often do 4 or even 5 kips which is way too much in a routine of 8 counting elements. (Personally I also think the 90’s straddle jams are much more fun than a zero amplitude toe shoot but I might be in the minority there.)

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