You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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Chellsie Memmel

It’s time for the 297th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!

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How much of a chance does Chellsie Memmel have at the Olympics? Do you think her comeback will be successful and what do you think her goal actually is? Competing internationally, nationally, Tokyo?

I don’t think Chellsie initially had any big plans for her “comeback” because she was just kind of doing gymnastics to have fun with it, and she wasn’t actually training for anything…but I think when she realized how easily her skills were coming back, she started to maybe take it more seriously, especially when we found out the Olympic Games were being pushed back to 2021. I think she probably has the goal of maybe going through the Olympic process, so the end goal there would definitely be Tokyo, but obviously it’s going to be difficult and she knows that, so if I had to guess, I’d say her goal is to get herself competitive enough to compete at the national level, and then if that works out, she can reevaluate and make international competition a goal, with Tokyo the obvious objective, but I could also see her thinking about worlds in Copenhagen if the Olympics don’t work out. That would be so cool, since it’s an individual year and since most, if not all, of the top U.S. gymnasts will retire or go on hiatus following Tokyo.

Do you think the double turn that Henrietta Onodi did on floor in 1992 can be considered a D element (2.402) under the current code? Are there any specific requirements for the bent angle and position of the free leg when 2.402 is done with the free leg bent and held? What are textbook examples of this kind of turn?

Yes, her turn would definitely be considered a D element under 2.402. That element group includes double turns with the heel at horizontal (or higher) with the leg either held or not held, so it could be a double L turn, a double turn in front attitude, and so on. Her turn is similar to a front attitude turn, just with her leg held, and aside from that, there aren’t really any specific requirements…it’s basically just what the code says. Tisha Volleman has a sort of front attitude turn where she holds her leg, so that’s probably the best illustration I can give you, and I think Henrietta’s turn would be considered basically the same.

If Rebeca Andrade qualifies for Tokyo, how realistic are her chances for a medal in the all-around?

I mean, it’s kind of impossible to say, considering she’s only competed in the all-around at two competitions this entire quad, it’s been over a year since she last had an all-around competition, and there’s another year to go until the Olympics. She’s generally a really strong all-arounder, and I think if she’s at her best, she would be more or less on par with anyone who has earned a worlds all-around medal this quad, so I’d say she should be in the mix, at the very least. But that depends on so much, since she’s literally always injured and never able to actually do all four events.

Do you know about the current status of Valeriia Iarmolenko (Ukraine), Elisa Meneghini (Italy), Laura Rocha (Brazil), Nadine Joy Nathan (Singapore), Yesenia Ferrera (Cuba), Li Qi (China), Mana Oguchi (Japan), Zhanerke Duisek (Kazakhstan), and Sherine El Zeiny (Egypt)?

Valeriia is definitely retired, and I’ve heard Laura has retired as well. Elisa is still competing, and did the Serie A meets earlier this year before everything got shut down by the coronavirus, Qi is also still training and competing, and went to the Cottbus World Cup late last year, though she’s often been injured in her senior career, Mana is still training but was injured for part of last year, and I believe Sherine is still training as well (or, again, was training prior to COVID, and I haven’t seen any retirement announcements). I don’t know anything definitive about Nadine, Yesenia, or Zhanerke, though I’m pretty sure Yesenia is still training…but Zhanerke hasn’t done anything since 2018 so she’s either injured or done, I assume.

USA Gymnastics has repeatedly said that they won’t speak with Aly Raisman because of her pending lawsuit. So what happens now that Simone Biles is a plaintiff? They kind of have to communicate with her.

So it definitely creates a challenge now that Simone has joined the suit against USAG. I would guess certain people within USAG – like Tom Forster and others directly related to the women’s national team program – will be able to communicate with her, and I’m sure any other necessary communication can be done through lawyers if needed. I worked with someone who was involved in a huge discrimination lawsuit against our company while she was still employed, and there was a lot of tip-toeing around her from almost everyone, but she was still able to work with her team, supervisors, and support staff without any problems. She was also suing the organization, and none of her direct team members had anything to do with the suit, so I’d think it’d be a similar situation for Simone.

Other than Simone Biles, has any WAG athlete finished a floor routine with an acro skill more difficult than an E?

I hate these “has anyone done this skill/combo/etc” questions because I can never remember these things off the top of my head, haha. Not your fault, just me being like “I have literally no memory of this” and it makes it so hard for me to answer correctly. So, there’s no one I can recall off the top of my head as doing a closing pass worth an F or higher, but my guess is that if it has happened, it was someone finishing with a double layout? Actually, now that I think about that skill specifically, Sae Miyakawa of Japan finished her routine with a double layout in 2016! And someone just reminded me that Claudia Fragapane also ended her routine with one. Those are the only two I can think of, so perhaps there were others, but it’s definitely SUPER rare…and if any of you have better memories than I do, please feel free to drop another example in the comments.

Does the direction of a turn determine if it’s considered a different skill in gymnastics? Catherine Lyons used to do Y turns in reverse and they looked more difficult than standard Y turns.

No, whether a turn is en dehors (turns to the outside, the most common way to pirouette in ballet) or en dedans (turns to the inside, way more common for gymnastics), it’s still worth the same. You’re right in that en dehors turns are a LOT harder for most people, especially when you’re doing turns with 90- or 180-degree legs, so they SHOULD be worth more, honestly…as someone who does ballet, turning en dedans is about one billion percent easier for me than en dehors, and I would rather do 100 en dedans turns in a row than even one en dehors turn, hahaha. Because they are valued the same regardless in gymnastics, everyone just does en dedans because they really are that much easier, but every once in a while you get a gymnast like Catherine who does them en dehors and it’s perfect. 

I assume Catherine has ballet training given her turn style and the fact that she was a gorgeous performer. While we’re at it, I’m also just gonna drop Catherine’s 2015 routine here because it’s a freaking masterpiece.

How does NCAA eligibility work if someone competed four years in one sport and then chose to go to graduate school and compete in another sport? Would it be possible, or would they have used all of their eligibility the first time around? I know you can compete multiple sports concurrently as an undergrad.

If they used all of their eligibility in their first four years, then technically they wouldn’t be able to then get additional eligibility for grad school, even if they are doing a different sport. Multi-sport athletes undergrad are rare, but the scholarship is the same for both, and you don’t get any additional funding or time if you do choose to do more than one sport in D1 athletics. There possibly are some exceptions for those who enter grad school and are recruited for another sport, maybe depending on how much you actually competed during your four-year eligibility or something (like if you were benched for your entire career, for example, though you were still getting a scholarship those years so even that’s probably gonna get a big NO), and of course, if you were injured and able to get a fifth year of eligibility, you can use that fifth year for a different sport in a grad program. But in most cases, your four years are all you get.

Ellie Black competed at every worlds and Olympics since 2012 and made at least one individual final every year (and two or more at each worlds). Is this some kind of record? Who else has competed at 8+ straight worlds/Olympics? Did they also qualify for individual finals every year?

The only other one I can think of who somewhat recently both had insane longevity AND made finals every time is Svetlana Khorkina, who went to every worlds and Olympics from 1994 to 2004…and not only did she make finals at all of these, but she also medaled at all of them except 2002 world championships, which is kind of amazing. Aliya Mustafina comes close, though she missed 2011 worlds due to injury and 2017 because she had a baby, though she medaled every other year in that nine-year period from 2010 to 2018, which is pretty badass.

Lots of old-school gymnasts were also known for consistently topping podiums at back-to-back events, with Larisa Latynina winning golds at every worlds or Olympics from 1954 to 1964, and Vera Caslavska medaling at every worlds or Olympics from 1958 to 1968, and there were a few others who competed at this time who had similarly impressive high-level longevity, but these were the queens.

For the men, the best example is obviously Kohei Uchimura, who won the all-around gold eight years in a row from 2009 to 2016, and a few Soviet or former Soviet guys in the 90s were up there as well with multiple back-to-back medal wins. 

You’ve talked about vault scoring as it relates to the shorter duration/single element aspect before, but doesn’t the two-vault final also do weird things with scoring as far as major deductions are concerned, because it’s an average as opposed to a single number? If you’re averaging two scores, a one-point fall deduction effectively becomes a half point deduction, a 0.3 step becomes a 0.15 step, and so on. That seems kind of unfair, when someone who falls in a beam final has to take the full point deduction.

So, because EVERYONE is having their vaults averaged in an event final, for that specific final, a full point deduction for a fall becoming a half point deduction when averaged doesn’t really matter because everyone else is dealing with the same scoring. If you compare it to other events, then yeah, it’s unfair to top bars/beam/floor gymnasts that they can’t really medal with falls while top vault gymnasts can, but comparing to other events is honestly the least of my concerns with vault scoring.

Whether you add the two vault scores together or average, the results are still going to be the same, and a gymnast who falls on one but hits the other and still has a high enough level of difficulty can easily still end up on podiums and defeat gymnasts who had two easier hit vaults. If vault finals were single vaults only, then obviously a point would be a big deal, and someone who hits a DTY with a 14 could beat someone who falls on an Amanar and gets a 13.8. But if these same two vaults happen as the first round, and then then both gymnasts hit their second events, the Amanar vaulter who fell has an opportunity to up that score and get the win, especially if she’s doing something like a Rudi or Cheng for her second vault, while the weaker vaulter has a lower-level second vault.

It’s having that second vault in the mix that will make a fall on one vault not count as much, and so in that case, in order for a fall or other large mistakes to actually mean something, they really need to just double deductions. Even if they only double the deductions for apparatus qualifications and finals only, and not for all-around/team competitions, it would be a huge improvement over the current situation.

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. That routine from Catherine Lyons was gorgeous! She HAD to have had ballet training–such beautiful arms and overall dance! Thanks for posting–hadn’t see it

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  2. Tatiana Gutsu ended her team optional routine with a double layout in 1991

    I’m pretty sure Cristina Bontas did it as well around that time. But I can’t find a video to verify it.

    Daiane Dos Santos did it at 2011 worlds

    These are the once on the top of my mind but bet there are others.

    There is also a crazy training video of Kotchetkova in like 1995 doing a full routine with all her acro lines as a double lay

    Sabina Cojocar finished her 2001 routine with a whip-3/1 combination. (Which I always felt was so weird cause her third pass was double pike.) and Tweddle, Bross and Izbasa finishing their rotutines with 5/2 twists – front1/1. Not higher than an E skill but D-skill+0.2 CV

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  3. Here are some gymnasts I can remember ending their floor routines with an E level skill: Shannon Miller, Lilia Podkopayeva, Dominique Dawes, Gina Gogean, Simona Amanar, Lavinia Milosovici, Kerri Strug, Mo Huilan, Ji Liya, and Dina Kochetkova at the 96 Olympics (all full-in doubles, but Kotchetkova did a double tuck in the AA) and I also think Svetlana Khorkina ended some floor routines with a triple twist at some point in her career? I’m not sure about her. Seems like it was fairly common to end a routine with an E skill back in the 90s; there were probably more gymnasts who did that in Atlanta too. I can’t think of any more gymnasts eeeek!!

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    • Yeah, there are a lot of E-level skills I could think of, but the question asked for endings HIGHER than E-level! That was harder to come up with for me because it’s so rare to see someone end a routine with a double layout or a Dos Santos or something. Several gymnasts recently have competed full-ins and other E-level skills as dismounts, but the F+ skills are so difficult, you have to be a real beast to end on one of those.

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  4. Not only has Ellie Black consistently qualified to multiple event finals at the Olympics/World Championships level but she’s also qualified to 5 straight World Championships balance beam finals (2014-2015, 2017-2019) which is crazy given how unpredictable beam can be

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  5. I think it would be so cool to have Chelsie back as the team captain esp for 2021 worlds considering that simone and bunch of the other sr will retire after tokyo! Getting a competitive balance beam routine by itself might not be real tough, but the problem is also getting all 3 other events back. That is definitely very hard when you have not been training competitively for a while.

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    • Agreed…I don’t really see her getting an all-around program back at all, so I do see her chances at Tokyo as very slim, unless her beam is truly brilliant and Tom is like “SHE’S GONNA WIN GOLD!!!” or something, lol. But I really do see Copenhagen as a realistic option for her, and she would be so awesome to have as a captain. I hope she considers this in her plans!

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    • I love Chellsie as well! I have been watching her videos on YouTube. I am not sure what the odds of her getting the non-nominative spot for the 2020(1) Olympics because the team is likely out of the question since you definitely need to be a good all arounder to make the team. But assuming her training leads to a serious and committed comeback, I surely hope she considers trying to get to 2021 Worlds if the Olympics don’t end up happening for her.

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  6. I’m the one who asked about the vaults — “fair” was maybe a bad way to phrase it, but I was just thinking that on bars or beam or floor, if a gymnast falls, that’s probably the end of her medal hopes (unless the field is super weak), but on vault, a vault won’t hurt them as much and they can still medal (which would explain why there have been two Olympic medals with falls on vault in the past three Olympics, and none on any other event that I can think of in the same window).

    Separately, regarding dismount passes, I don’t know how many there have been that are straight F or higher, but there have been some doing C+D combos (Izbasa is the one that immediately comes to mind) which is worth more than a single F skill.

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  7. (I hope this isn’t a double post cause I tried to sent it before but apparently didn’t work xD)

    Regarding vaulting scores, this statement “Whether you add the two vault scores together or average, the results are still going to be the same” is not true at all! In fact it’s interesting to see how the results would have changed if instead of averaging the scores the deductions had been added.

    Let’s take the 2012 London vault final as an exampe. For the “alternative results” I will consider as the D score the average of the D scores of the two vaults.

    Results:
    Izbasa 15,191 (15,383 15,000)
    Maroney 15,083 (15,866 14,300)
    Paseka 15,050 (15,400 14,700)
    Berger 15,016 (15,133 14,900)

    Results with adding deductions instead of averaging.
    Izbasa D 5,95 E 8,483 SCORE 14,433
    Paseka D 6,05 E 8,000 SCORE 14,050
    Berger D 6,15 E 7,733 SCORE 13,883
    Maroney D 6,30 E 7,866 ND -0,3 SCORE 13,866

    As you can see with the fall Maroney would have missed the podium.

    Another example, Beijing 2008.

    Results:
    Hong Un Jong 15,650
    Chusovitina 15,575
    Cheng Fei 15,562
    Sacramone 15,537

    Results with adding deductions instead of averaging.
    Sacramone D 6,05 E 8,975 SCORE 15,025
    Chusovitina D 6,15 E 8,850 SCORE 15,000
    Hong Un Jong D 6,50 E 8,600 ND -0,3 SCORE 14,800
    Cheng Fei D 6,50 E 8,125 SCORE 14,650

    Cheng Fei would have been off the podium and Sacramone would have won!!! WTF, Hong down in third… madness! D:

    So yeah, averaging scores does mean that cleaner gymnast are much more in disadvantage compared with those with higher difficulty. I’d love for gymnasts to return to do two vaults, even the same one, during all competitions (AA, TF…) and for the E score to be the sum of the deductions of both vaults.

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