You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 296th 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 does Giorgia Villa continue using the front full pirouette on bars? She probably loses multiple tenths on that element alone and she seems capable of doing something simpler and cleaner that she could actually connect to her dismount.

This is one of the biggest changes I want to see happen for the Italian team in the coming year. It was cool at first to see all of the wee Italians doing pretty great front giant difficulty a couple of years ago, but now that they’re competing at the highest level, it’s separating them from the other top competitors because there are just so many unnecessary deductions, and it’s not even just Villa or the front full! Though that’s definitely the most glaring and most in need of a revamp. She, Elisa Iorio, and Alice D’Amato are all so great on bars, but I feel like their front work is keeping them from consistently being in the mid-to-high-14s on this event internationally, which is where they should be with 6+ start values.

What on earth is the logic behind throwing athletes out of practice when they’re making mistakes? How can coaches stand to lose the training time? And how can they see it as a way to fix repeated mistakes? Wouldn’t continuing to practice be more beneficial?

In general, throwing a kid out of the gym is supposed to be a way to teach discipline, because when you’re kicked out of the gym for acting up and your teammates are still training, your teammates are getting ahead of you, so the thought is that you’ll eventually start to realize that getting kicked out means getting behind, and you’ll try harder to behave in the gym to keep from getting kicked out. It’s a psychological conditioning tactic called negative punishment to decrease the behavior from happening, and it’s probably something you’ve experienced regularly as a kid and adult when you’ve done something wrong, like having a toy taken away if you fight with your sibling, or having to sit in the principal’s office at school for 10 minutes if you’re loud in class. 

Coaches do need a way to discipline kids who act up and create disturbances in the gym, because their behavior affects the other kids around them, so kids do need to learn discipline in the sport and making kids sit in the lobby or do rope climbs isn’t inherently a bad discipline tactic when you have a child who is misbehaving to the point where it’s disruptive. But the problem with throwing a kid out of gymnastics in many instances is that it’s not used to discipline a child for being rowdy or behaving unsafely on the floor. It’s reached the point where kids will get thrown out of the gym simply because the coach gets frustrated, and that’s where it’s crazy to me, because the child isn’t “acting up” or behaving in an undisciplined manner if they miss a release or take too long putting on their grips or something. 

Coaches who discipline children for mistakes are acting out of their own anger, and nothing else, which ends up creating a super problematic relationship between them and the kids they coach, because when kids are punished for essentially nothing, they’re just going to learn to fear and mistrust their coaches, which obviously is not healthy both within the context of the sport and in general. “Punishments” for repeatedly missing skills should be something like drills to make these skills more successful, or other relevant learning experiences that make kids better. Taking away valuable training time in these instances makes absolutely no sense! They miss their flight series on beam? Go to the low beam and see if you can hit ten in a row. They’re taking forever to put on their grips? Set a timer and see if the kids can beat it. This addresses the problem but in a way that can actually solve it, whereas kicking kids out just creates more and more problems.

I was watching Christa Tanella on floor at the 2006 U.S. championships and I remembered that music that she did her floor routine to. Who else has used this music?

A LOT of people use this music! It’s called “Nah Neh Nah” by Vaya Con Dios and it’s been pretty popular over the past 10 years. Last year, Polina Borzykh of Georgia and Claudia Villalba of Spain both had it, and every time I heard it, I was like “WHO used this music?!” It drives me crazy every time, and I knew it was someone in the 2012 quad, but thanks to Twitter, I was finally able to learn that it was Lizzy Leduc in 2010! Another WOGA gymnast, so they seemed fond of this particular jam.

Why did Oklahoma only sign two level 10 athletes when they just lost Maggie Nichols? I think one of their commits is only a level 9!

They didn’t only sign two…they initially announced the first batch of athletes who signed last November, which includes six gymnasts, including Audrey Davis, a former junior national team member who will add a lot to the program, as will the number of strong level 10 kids they’re bringing in. The two they just recently signed are both walk-ons, which is awesome, because OU isn’t known for having a lot of walk-ons. They have a total of eight incoming freshmen, which is their biggest signing class under KJ Kindler, and while some of the walk-ons might be weaker level 10s, it’s still great to have a number of athletes on the bench who might not be stars for the program but who can work to get really strong at one or two events so that the team has more back-ups in case of injuries.

Do you know what the eighth leo for the U.S. team in London looks like? I rewatched the Games and it’s driving me crazy that they had another leo we never got to see. I saw Sarah Finnegan sold her leos, but I didn’t get a peek.

No, and I even looked at Sarah’s fundraiser thing, but mostly to see how many people were actually bidding and giving money to a fake organization (the website for her “charity” doesn’t exist anymore, she literally just had the link up so she could get money, which is actually illegal lol). I think it was just a different color option of one of the ones we saw, though…like when I was on Sarah’s fundraiser thing, nothing jumped out at me as being something I’d never seen before.

How did Sui Lu only get a 5.7 D score in the 2010 floor event final? I figured her double L turn may have been downgraded, but she seems to have spare C elements that could make her 5.9 go down to just a 5.8, which would’ve given her the silver.

I don’t have a copy of the code of points from that quad handy, but she did a 2½ to front layout in qualifications and a 2½ to just a front pike in finals, which would cause her to lose a tenth in CV, if I remember correctly. She should have been counting all C+ skills regardless of that change or not, so she was never counting the front layout in her routine, but missing the CV would take it down a tenth, and then if she was also downgraded on the double L turn, there’s another tenth.

Why were Kyla Ross’ bars scores in London so much lower than the ones she received at nationals and trials?

Many gymnasts are scored higher at home than they would be internationally, and Kyla was one of those gymnasts, it’s really that simple. With some gymnasts, they try to boost confidence by giving them higher scores at home than they might receive elsewhere, and I feel like that was the case with Kyla a few times…she was a great gymnast, but also very young, and I think needed a little push, especially since the bars field was so competitive that year and the question was like “do we take a good bars worker like Kyla, who can do other events, or do we take a GREAT bars gymnast who can’t compete anything else?” 

Kyla ultimately ended up proving that she was solid and reliable, and maybe getting those crazy high scores at home helped her believe in herself more on that event, but it was always pretty clear to me that while she had a really good bars set, she was never going to be getting 9+ E scores at the Olympics. The mid-8s were still great E scores, though, and she had fantastic routines to become a reserve for the final with the second-best U.S. routine…she just wasn’t at the same level as gymnasts like Beth Tweddle, Aliya Mustafina, Viktoria Komova, Yao Jinnan, or He Kexin, who are basically the only gymnasts who should’ve been getting 9+ E scores on that event.

What in your opinion was the most innovative period or quad in women’s gymnastics, and what changes to the code do you think led to the greatest artistic innovation or opened up difficulty increases? 

I’ve been watching a lot of 80s and 90s meets recently, and I really feel like the mid-80s to early 90s was just like, THE best time to be watching gymnastics. You can really see the sport begin to shift at that point once they started spreading the bars and putting springs in the floor, but at the same time, gymnasts were still taking ballet and had insane artistry and expression, so it was kind of like the best of both worlds, where you had gymnasts starting to do big tricks but not sacrificing the art of the sport. I think the mid-90s showed some of that art starting to drift away as the code opened up to require greater levels of difficulty (instead of gymnasts just doing difficult skills because they were badasses and felt like it), but yeah, 1980-1996 is basically the perfect gymnastics period in my opinion, with the middle years – maybe 1983-1992 – the absolute tops for me. 

We’ve had innovation since then, of course, and the change to the fully open-ended code is probably what most would pick here because it completely changed how the sport is judged and who can get on podiums, but I think if you were to take a deep dive and see when every new skill was debuted, it’s that 80s-90s period where it was nonstop with daring new skills that wouldn’t have been imaginable only a few years earlier. I think it’s absolutely nuts that the time difference between first seeing the Yurchenko as a vaulting family and then seeing a Yurchenko double in competition on that rickety old horse is only a few years, but then it took another decade to get the 2½, and it’s now been 20 years since that upgrade, and we’ve still only had unsuccessful attempts at the triple in WAG. Things definitely moved so quickly in the 80s, with everyone rushing to be the first at trying something new, and now that we’re maxing out on what the human body can physically do on the existing equipment, we have much longer waits between one variation of a skill and the next one to follow.

How do coaches know how to teach new skills that they personally have not done before?

It’s not all that difficult. At this point, gymnastics is so formulaic, they’re basically just able to watch videos on YouTube to see drills for the skills they want to teach. Even if you haven’t done it, if you’re a good enough coach to have gymnasts at a high enough level where they’re learning big releases or tumbling passes, both you as the coach and the gymnast have the building blocks already in place to get there by basically training foundational skills along the way, so it’s really just about adding all of these foundational elements together through drills and then from there you can work your way up to coaching that skill. 

If you’re at the developmental level in the U.S., you also have the added bonus of learning from all of the experienced coaches at the camps, which to me is the biggest benefit of having these camps in the first place. If you have an eight-year-old who is scoring through the roof in tops but you’ve never coached more than the lowest-level optionals, you suddenly have access to some of the best coaches in the world who will show you exactly how to take your gymnast to the next level, which is why the U.S. has so many young elites and pre-elites coming up through the system with young coaches at never-before-heard-of gyms. It’s a brilliant system, and though USAG hasn’t gotten a lot right in its women’s program, this is something they can actually be proud of.

Does anyone have any idea where Marta and Bela Karolyi are and what they’re doing? Obviously they’ve been laying low, or as some people have said, they’re “in hiding.” But it’s my understanding that they have been specifically named in one or more lawsuits. Do you think they will end up just not being talked about at all when it comes to gymnastics in the United States, since no broadcasts mention them any longer when discussing the U.S. success?

I’ve heard a lot of rumors…that Bela is very sick, that they moved back to Romania, lots of things that don’t really have much behind them. They do have a daughter who lives in the Houston area with her daughters (who look almost creepily like young Martas) so my best guess is that they’re still in that area, especially because I don’t think they can just up and leave the country given their current legal situation. They’re definitely laying low, and it’s not like USAG or NBC or anyone is going to be like “wow, the Olympics are coming up, let’s hear from Marta and Bela to see what they think!” after everything that’s happened. But I don’t know for certain where they are or what they’re doing, and just assume that they’re living their lives as retired people with grandkids, since being part of a lawsuit isn’t something that would require anything from them on a daily basis.

I feel like in the future, broadcasts – at least at the Olympics – will HAVE to talk about them, because they were such a big part of the sport’s history first with Nadia Comaneci and then running the U.S. program for 30 years, you can’t just ignore that. It would also be terrible and insulting to the survivors of their abusive culture to just erase them from the sport’s memory. I get that NBC will want to keep it light and focus on the current athletes when they next cover an Olympic Games, but after spending decades talking about how amazing the Karolyis are and making an entire documentary about how perfect the ranch system was under USAG’s guidance even though USAG knew full well what was happening with Larry Nassar at that point (GOD THE ABSOLUTE BALLS AND LACK OF CONSCIENCE, I WANT TO SCREAM), they seriously cannot just pretend they don’t exist, and I hope they do use future broadcasts to continue this discussion that exists about changing the culture and why it needs to keep moving forward away from the ranch and what Bela and Marta created.

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

24 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Pingback: You Asked, The Gymternet Answered — The Gymternet – Experimental Film & Music Video Festival

  2. Regarding Sui Lu’s D score, changing the layout out of the 2.5 to a pike doesn’t changing anything if you are not counting that skill, the CV is still ,1. Like at one point Aly’s first pass had a punch front tuck out of her double arabian, and when she changed it to a layout it didn’t change her D score, she just thought it looked better.

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    • Yeah, that’s what I thought, but couldn’t remember if this was the case in 2012…and for some reason thought that in the 2012 code, a tuck and pike were one thing, but a layout was another and did up the value. But I guess I was thinking more about the skill value, not about the connection, and if she’s already counting a number of other C+ skills, then the difference between an A and B skill wouldn’t matter in that sense.

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    • Not true. In the 2009-2012 COP you could only get a D+A 0.1 connection if the D element was a double salto. D+B was still 0.1 though which is why everybody and their mother’s mother were doing front layouts or barani’s out of 2.5’s. E+A was still 0.2 which is why people still did whip+triples, and Aly’s front tuck would still fulfill that. Since Sui only did a pike, under that code she’d lose a tenth.

      Liked by 1 person

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

  4. The way a lot of business peoppe run things in the US is horrendous. The first thing they teach tou in business school is that pleasing your stakeholders is more important than anything- even if it means decreasing your budget for safety and ignoring any issue that could lead to “bad” publicity. The funny thing is, in the cyber era, that philosophy is starting to lose out. It was already the case that when you go skimpy on HR, you lose more than if you had just addressed the complaint. Nowadays with cybetsafety being an issue, companies that get stingy on cybersafety usually end up getting hacked until they close

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  5. Your comment on constructive corrections for missing skills reminds me of my own gymnastics days. I had a bad habit of twisting to the right when doing back handsprings, so every time I did, my coach had me go and do 50 (or 10 or whatever) back handsprings over a barrel to correct my twist. And guess what? It worked! I stopped twisting on my bhs. *That’s* how you deal with consistent mistakes in the gym. She didn’t get angry, she didn’t throw me out – and while doing that many back handsprings over the barrel certainly felt like a punishment sometimes to 8-year-old me, it did what it was supposed to do, and not only corrected my twist through the drill but through the fact that I actively thought about correcting the problem because I didn’t want to have to do that drill any more!

    (And you know what? 20 years later, when I went to a trampoline park and tried some back handsprings for old time’s sake, I *still* didn’t twist to the right! I did throw my back out for a month, but that’s another story….)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Love this. YES! There’s absolutely ZERO benefit to throwing a kid out of the gym for missing skills or having incorrect form. It hurts more than helps because it doesn’t teach anything in terms of gymnastics, and it creates a terrible relationship between the athlete and coach.

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  6. As far as throwing a gymnast out of a gym for having a frustrating time correctly doing a skill, arent parents paying for that time? Are they recompensated for the time they payed for coaching and use of the gym?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, that’s another part of that…parents are paying for their kids to be coached, and to be like “go sit in the corner for a half hour,” it’s like…okay, so you’re being paid to just ignore my kid? Sometimes kids do need time to cool down and get over nerves and just take a breath when they’re frustrated, so telling a kid to go sit on a mat and chill for a bit isn’t a bad thing inherently…sometimes they NEED that. But getting MAD at a kid for making mistakes and then being like “GET OUT OF HERE” is a really screwed up way to coach.

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  7. The best ever Nah Neh Neh floor routine was from Viktoria Karpenko in 1997 (European master’s EF). No other routines even come close.

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    • Just looked this routine up out of curiosity and OMG I so wish she had been able to go to worlds in 1997! That was fantastic and she didn’t even look winded. Awesome routine.

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  8. I am not advocating the abusive setup that the karolyi created but at the same time they did created a system of training that did significantly enhance the US program such as emphasis toward conditioning, development, semi centralized system, etc… There are a lot of bad things they did but i would think that there are at least one or two things that were good… I think part of any unbiased history should be able to discuss the good as well as the bad so that you can prevent the bad from ever happening again while at the same time being able to continue to improve on the goods

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    • I completely agree. Plus only seeing the bad of that system will cause it to overcompensate in the other direction which is usually also not a good strategy. One really bad thing the KArolyi system lacked was balance, and saying everything from it was bad is also unbalanced. They have to find the middle ground to many things. Sure the gymnasts should not gain a ton of weight by eating candy, but most top athletes will naturally want to do the best they can so they will follow a sensible eating plan without their luggage being searched. There are many more examples for areas where USAG just has to balance out and not think of only winning , but still strive for it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. The abusive aspect is clearly problematic, but the system itself DID work, and continues to work to this day. It’s great that they were able to put those building blocks in place, because now that all of the abusive coaches are being kicked out at the national level, it’s like, the best of both worlds with the structural program created by Marta Karolyi but run by people who have the gymnasts’ best interests in mind.

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