You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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KJ Kindler

It’s time for the 299th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!

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I’ve started watching old NCAA competitions and have a few questions. In 2005, the commentators mentioned that Ashley Priess was offered an Olympic spot at the last minute, but declined. What happened there? Secondly, why did KJ Kindler move from Iowa State to Oklahoma?

I don’t think I’ve ever heard this? Ashley wasn’t old enough to go to the Olympic Games in 2004, as she was only 14 that year, so there’s no way she could have “turned down” an Olympic spot…do you mean Ashley Postell, I’d imagine? That would make sense, because she turned down going to trials that year. 

The commentators must have misinterpreted that information, however…Ashley was 13th at nationals and didn’t qualify to trials, but then a spot at trials opened up, but Ashley basically reasoned that she had already gotten over the disappointment of not making it to trials, and had stopped training after not qualifying, so she felt there was no point in going back to full beast mode, especially since she wasn’t going to finish well enough in the standings to be legitimately considered for the team. She had also been injured for most of that year, and I think was looking at that additional time off as being beneficial to her recovery as she got ready to compete for Utah that fall.

As for KJ, going to Oklahoma must have just been a really good opportunity that she wanted to take advantage of? I haven’t heard any of her reasoning there directly, but Oklahoma recruited her and specifically wanted her for that job, so they probably offered her a great package to get her to move. Obviously she had a long history at Iowa State, having attended the program and then assistant coached and then head coached for over a decade, but it seemed like she was just ready for a change and wanted to take advantage of a new opportunity.

That happens all the time in many careers across all industries…I get recruiters offering me salary increases and bonuses and perks all the time when companies want to poach me from my current job, and sometimes I’m like, nah, I’m happy where I am, and this isn’t worth looking into, but other times I talk to recruiters because while I love my job, I also want to put myself in a situation that’s ultimately going to be best for me, and I would be silly to pass up a potentially incredible opportunity that could be a game-changer for my career. I definitely see KJ being offered a super enticing package at an up-and-coming program, and being torn between wanting to stay with her team, but also wanting to not throw away the chance to do something huge. I’d say it was a good decision!

How are university fees managed when foreign girls get accepted to NCAA programs? As a Brit I know that most people here don’t have savings for university because they aren’t needed here. I know some get scholarships for the U.S. but for those that don’t, how on earth do they manage the fees? Do they get a discount or other allowances?

It depends on the athlete and her situation, really. Most gymnasts who have come into U.S. university systems tend to only do it because they’re able to get scholarships, and otherwise wouldn’t have opted to do that if they had to pay…though there are a few I can think of who have wealthy families and who walk-on at top university programs because their parents are able to pay for it. 

If a gymnast can’t get an NCAA scholarship for whatever reason – usually if she comes into a team late and there aren’t any scholarships left for the year she wants to enter – then she can look into grants that might cover her for part or all of her collegiate career. I think Jennifer Pinches had some sort of grant that gave her the opportunity to compete for UCLA…sometimes countries will have grant programs for athletes who want to travel to the U.S. and compete at the university level, and I think Jennifer’s grant was through Great Britain, if I remember correctly, but I also saw that the Czech Republic had an informational meeting for potential collegiate hopefuls, and they helped athletes from all sports apply for grants so that they could compete as walk-ons but still get money to cover their tuition. Sometimes this only gives athletes the ability to compete for one or two years as transfers, but it’s still a really good experience for them, and they can usually keep up competing at the elite level at the same time if they want to.

Do you think there is a possibility that either Liang Chow or Mihai Brestyan could be chosen to be the next head coach of the U.S. team after next year, and if they’d accept? Or do you think Tom Forster will stay?

I haven’t heard anything about Tom leaving his role, so I assume he’s going to stay. I think Liang is planning on staying with the Chinese team? Or I guess I haven’t heard anything about him wanting to leave, and I hope he doesn’t leave, because he’s done some great work with that team so far and I want to see him keep it up! I feel like Mihai definitely wants the U.S. national team job, but I also know he was passed up last time, and there were rumors that that caused some negative feelings when he didn’t get it, so I don’t know how accurate that is, but I don’t know if he’d give the whole interview process a second chance if he had those feelings? He’s obviously one of the most qualified who would be in the mix, so I’d hope he would try for it a second time!

What do you think of Tom Forster as a head coach? I heard that for MyKayla Skinner, he needs to learn to push the athletes a bit more. 

I think he does a good job being diplomatic in the sense that he gets good work out of most of his athletes, but doesn’t act in an abusive way to do it. I think MyKayla has a point, because some gymnasts do need to be pushed, and there is absolutely a way to push athletes without being abusive, but the line can be a thin one at times, and I think most adults in gymnastics are afraid to act in any way that can be seen as even remotely harsh because it could result in them being investigated. There have definitely been some instances where coaches being a bit strict have been turned into SafeSport, and of course, once that happens, people turn on them and demand that they are forced out of the sport, so their reputation takes a huge hit and it’s hard for them to continue at the national level. So people are definitely being cautious, which is obviously great, but then in cases like Tom holding back on being a bit more tough when he needs to, it’s like, we need a better balance really. 

I’m sure that will happen over time…it’s just really tough at the moment, and the women’s program wants people to know that they’re working hard to create a more positive culture, but yeah, I definitely agree that coaches need to be strict sometimes, and parents and fans need to recognize that a tougher environment isn’t inherently an abusive one. Like, these are some of the best athletes in the world, and while it’s great that things are more fun and relaxed than they used to be, these world-class athletes don’t need to be treated like five-year-olds at a birthday party. I think if Tom can fine-tune this, and create maybe a more disciplined program while treating the athletes like human beings and keeping his and other coaches’ attitudes in check, that’s probably what most of the gymnasts on the team need to simultaneously have a good environment and culture but also treating this like the business that it is.

Hang on, what did Jamie Dantzscher say about the Rybackis?

I believe when she was interviewed on Gymcastic a couple of months ago, she talked about how crazy and mean they were, and that she had an awful experience training with them. I think she said when she was going through it, she just saw it as fine, but looking back at her experience, she recognizes how awful they were to her and in hindsight sees her entire time in training as just being terrible.

In elite competition, is there a deduction for having a spotter or coach on the side on bars?

On bars, coaches are allowed to spot gymnasts on releases, so they often stand to the side of the bars in order to be ready to spot for the release, but some jump off once the releases that need to be spotted are complete, while others hang out on the podium until the full routine is over because they may have little things to spot as the routine goes on. 

Most, if not all, gymnasts will have a spotter on bars, but if it’s the kind of spotting that interferes with the routine, the gymnast gets a one-point penalty. By spotting in a way that interferes with the routine, I mean the coach grabbing the gymnast in any way that kind of assists the gymnast with the skills she’s doing. I was sitting next to bars during Gymnix one year, and the French coach was straight up holding the gymnasts up on half of their skills, and I was just like, BACK OFF PLEASE?! You see it sometimes when a gymnast catches a release and the coach is there with their hands positioned to spot, but they end up a little too close and literally have their hands on the gymnast’s back or hips or ribs as they’re catching. I’ve also seen a lot of “help” with spotting gymnasts on bails and handstands where they’re, like, balancing them pretty much. I feel like this is SO distracting to the gymnast, and it’s usually on skills that do not even need spotting, haha. 

There’s another penalty for a “non-permitted presence of spotter” on all events that’s worth a 0.5 neutral deduction, but since spotters on bars are approved, this wouldn’t apply to that situation.

I know that gymnasts are supposed to stick the landings, but sometimes it appears that the efforts to which they go to stick landings should incur more deductions than taking a small hop or step. Yet everyone seems happy that they stuck. Why is that?

Yeah, I feel like a lot of people only really watch the feet on the landing, but you’re right that there are other issues that do result in deductions even though the landing looks “perfect.” I think even judges sometimes subconsciously don’t deduct for landings that look stuck in terms of the feet, even if they have arm waves or whatever show that the landings weren’t exactly secure. Sometimes I’d rather see a gymnast take a hop or a step if they need to, but in terms of the deductions, whether they get the 0.1 or 0.3 off for moving their feet or for other motions in the attempt to stick, the deductions are more or less going to be the same…and if they do stick with their feet, it’s just the other movement deductions that come in, but if they hop AND have other issues, then they’re looking at potentially double the deductions, so it’s kinda like, you do whatever you can to minimize the deductions and they’re not going to usually purposely take a hop if their feet are already stuck, even if it means an arm wave or something.

Are suspended gymnastics coaches allowed to own gyms without interacting with athletes?

They can still own gyms, and can actually even coach adult gymnasts in many instances, but just aren’t able to interact with athletes under the age of 18, so if they have one or two adult athletes and then like, 200 minors working out in the gym, it poses a problem for them coaching their adult gymnasts. If a coach is completely suspended or banned from the sport, however, they can’t be involved with the sport in any way.

Can U.S. Olympians that make the team as part of the four still compete in individual finals? If Simone Biles makes the team, can she still do the all-around and event finals, or can you only compete in event finals if you have qualified to the Olympics on that event, like Jade Carey?

Only four gymnasts will be qualifying to the Olympics based on a single event, and it’s one per event, which would mean that if these were the only people eligible to compete in the Olympic finals, each final would only have one person, hahaha. So no, Jade Carey qualifying to the Olympics on vault doesn’t mean that she will be the only person in the vault final getting a guaranteed gold medal. Anyone who competes in qualifications at the Olympic Games, regardless of how they qualified to the Olympic Games, is eligible to compete in an individual Olympic final.

Do you think that Sydney Morris could get on the senior national team next year, or even the year after? I know Lilly Lippeatt made the team this year, and she is not that much better than Sydney?

I mean, maybe? Lilly made the team because she had a really good camp and earned a spot on the team going to Gymnix, so clearly she did something right to make that team. If Sydney goes to one of the camps and earns a spot on a team, then she’ll also be added to the national team, or if she places in one of the top all-around spots at nationals.

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

9 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Why are spotters allowed on bars and not on beam or another event? I’m assuming this is a danger issue? Cracking your head on the beam sounds bad to me but maybe that just doesn’t happen? Thank you! Am loving all the YATGAs!!

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    • I feel like on floor, there’s really no way to “catch” them from falling without getting super in their way…the only spotting you usually see on floor is when a coach helps the gymnast through a pass by giving them a push on their back in training, but you never see coaches attempt to catch gymnasts training floor passes. That’s what the pit is for! And on beam, I think most falls aren’t considered really “dangerous” enough to need a spotter. The whole purpose for having one on bars is because the releases are coming down from like 10 feet at times, and if a gymnast isn’t positioned correctly, she can get very badly injured…but on beam, you never really see serious enough injuries because they’re only falling from about four feet. The most serious beam injuries I’ve seen have been when gymnasts back handspring to their heads onto the beam, but that’s not something a coach can really stop in time.

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      • In team gymnastics you get a full point deduction if the coach did not catch or help the gymnast when the situation is considered dangerous! So if a gymnast has a short landing on tumbling the coach should give that extra push to protect the ankles, otherwise -1 or maybe 2 if there is a fall as well. I really like this rule and I also like that the coaches get a medal when the team wins.

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

  3. Re: Jamie Dantzscher – from what I remember about the interview on GynCastic (which I highly recommend, it was a great interview and very enlightening about that time period in USAG), she talked about how the Rybackis, especially Beth, were so focused on how everything made THEM look, and how it was THEIR dream to go to the Olympics. How they were making money because Vanessa went pro and Jamie wanted to keep her NCAA eligibility. Their push was all about their making money and getting attention and Beth was/is a major drama queen.

    The craziest story was how at the Olympics, I forget whether it was during quals or team finals, but Jamie had some kind of foot/leg injury and they wanted her to limp off the floor all dramatic to create a “Kerri Strug” moment.

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    • Thank you! I have that interview on my list of podcasts to listen to but didn’t get around to it prior to answering this question so this is very helpful. I had just heard that she talked about how terrible they were, and how much she hated it in hindsight, but it’s helpful to have more details like these. Beth sounds truly nuts.

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