You Asked, The Gymternet Answered


Maria Holbura

It’s time for the 300th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!

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What happens if Maria Holbura gets injured and can’t compete at the Olympic Games, knowing that Ioana Crisan, Denisa Golgota, and Carmen Ghiciuc all retired and can’t take her place?

In this case, Romania would have to forfeit its individual spot and it would go to the first-in-line reserve from the 2019 world championships all-around competition, which right now is Megan Ryan from Ireland. My guess is that Romania would not want to give that spot up, however, so they’d most likely beg one of their eligible replacements to come back. If Maria got injured a month before Tokyo or something it’d obviously be hard to get someone back after a year away, but I’m guessing a second shot at the Olympics, no matter how last-minute, would be incredibly tempting and they’d probably do whatever they could to go to Tokyo, even if they just showed up with like, a level 6 beam routine and nothing else, haha. In this case, if Maria also isn’t too injured, she could definitely just go and do what SHE could. Not ideal, but then she could still be an Olympian.

After individuals qualify to the Olympics, it’s not like the FIG requires those who qualified to be at a certain level in order to compete. An individual who qualifies by name can then literally take the next year off and basically show up at the Games and like, twerk for 90 seconds on floor or something if that’s what she felt like doing. Obviously most want to represent their country (and themselves) well and have too much pride to just blow it on purpose, so this never happens hahaha, but we do often see that qualified individuals who get injured will go to the Games anyway and just do what they can if they’re not at a hundred percent, like Elsa Garcia only competing a couple of events when she injured her hand in 2012, and Kylie Dickson doing super downgraded routines after getting injured shortly before Rio 2016. I guess if you broke both of your legs and literally couldn’t walk, it’s probably time to throw in the towel, but even then as a gymnast with the Olympics on the line I’d literally be like “uh, hello, I can just do bars and purposely sit my dismount!!!”

Do you think that Nastia Liukin would’ve had a more realistic shot at making the Olympic team in 2012 if she started training for her comeback earlier? Endurance was her only real issue with getting through an entire routine. I don’t think she announced her comeback until October 2011. Would an extra three months have made a difference in getting her competition ready?

Yeah, absolutely. Honestly, I believe she was back in the gym by about November or December 2011, and since she was only training two events, I think she would have been fine with when she actually got started, because she got her beam back super quickly (and her beam was pretty good!) but it seemed like she didn’t end up being able to start training bars until the spring of 2012 for some reason, and that’s really what I think hurt her. 

If I remember correctly, she said something at nationals about only trying to get back on bars “a few weeks before classics.” I was at podium training for classics that year, and she was doing her front giant work already, so I was like yaaaas, by nationals this routine is gonna be great! And it WAS great…but with only a few weeks of bars training, and with the difficulty in her routine, it was clear she needed more time to work on the endurance of getting through that routine, because her skills were great. She could do the first half of her routine really well, and the second half into the dismount really well, but her problem was putting the two halves together, and that’s totally due to the lack of endurance. 

Considering that she looked so good with only a few weeks of training on that event, I think another month or two could have been more than sufficient to secure a spot on the team. I mean, of course, the more time you have with training, the more opportunities you have with being able to go to camps, get tested at smaller international competitions, and so on, so had she started training with the goal of competing a few routines in the summer of 2011, she could’ve gone to meets like Pan Ams that fall, or Jesolo the following spring…that’s definitely ideal in this kid of situation. But with the timing she did have, I think if she started training bars really seriously in December 2011 or early 2012, she really could’ve been in a great place to be ready to go by that summer.

I’m not sure why she waited so long to start working on bars. I talked to her at American Cup that year and she said she had already gone to camp at that stage, so she was definitely doing something in the gym, but maybe she had shoulder issues or something that kept her from doing bars sooner? I don’t recall her saying anything about an injury, but anyway, I think with her talent and ability, a solid six months of training leading up to the domestic competition season in 2012 could have been enough for her to make the team for bars and beam, though obviously a full year would have been ideal.

I recently watched the 1996 team final and was surprised to see that many Americans did an empty swing on bars after jumping from low to high, by swinging forward and then back up to handstand before doing another skill. Why not just do a kip cast?

I’ve never noticed this before, but yeah, the uprise is definitely is an “odd” way to go about getting to handstand when a kip exists. That said, an uprise is a skill, not an “empty swing”…and they’d still need to do that swing out of the catch in order to kip cast to handstand, so it’s basically the same thing as a kip cast handstand but just without the kip. It’s actually HARDER to do what they’re doing compared to doing a kip cast. I don’t have any code information related to this in 1996, but it could’ve been that they were trying to eliminate an additional kip by just casting straight to handstand? It was definitely allowed and in the code as a skill, but I don’t know if it was just a random preference for the U.S. team, or if there was some sort of weird rule that only allowed a certain number of kips, or the uprise had some difficulty value or something. I really need the FIG to send every single code to me.

Why didn’t Jana Bieger ever get her beam skills named after her?

Most of her unique skills were considered combinations of elements, and not individual skills that were capable of being named. I’m surprised that landing an acro element to one knee instead of to your feet wouldn’t be considered a new element, especially since it’s harder to have that kind of air awareness and control to hold it, just like it’s also harder to do a front flip FROM your knee…but instead of being considered something brand-new, the landing is considered basically like a “connection” to the skill. The acro skills in the code don’t specify the takeoff or landing, so I guess that means whether you start or end the skill on your feet or your knee, it’s still the same thing according to the FIG. I still think there’s a way they could have differentiated in the code even if they think it should be worth the same, or at least acknowledge that Jana was the first to compete these skills in this way at a major international competition like worlds?

Why did Zhang Nan score so absurdly high on floor in 2003 and 2004, namely compared to Oana Ban in 2003 and Anna Pavlova in 2004?

I can’t really tell you, I guess? I’m not the judges who gave the scores, and I don’t personally see any reason that this routine would’ve been higher than the routines from Oana and Anna…sometimes the judges just have their preferences, and Nan seemed to be in their favor in both years.

I’m rewatching the all-around final floor routines both years. In 2003, I’m finding Nan absolutely fine, but not really at all controlled in her landings, whereas Oana is much better overall in that sense, though I can see why Nan may have gotten some love for most of her jumps and turns, and maybe that’s what it came down to for the judges? In 2004, Nan once again isn’t super secure in most of her landings, whether taking steps or just coming up short, and that coming up short aspect is the biggest area where she falters on literally every pass, while Anna is maybe a little tighter, though not SO much better in her tumbling that it would make a huge difference in the scores…the routines aren’t THAT different to me in terms of their overall effect on me watching them, but I’d definitely give Nan the leg-up on some of the dance elements, so if I had to guess for the judges, they probably weren’t taking off as much for her there as they were for others.

Why do Yurchenkos seem to receive fewer deductions than Tsuks and front handspring vaults in WAG?

I think it’s not because judges prefer Yurchenkos or that the judges give Yurchenkos higher execution scores because the vaults are generally more difficult or whatever, but I think part of it is that most of the Yurchenko vaulters have better technique than most tsuk vaulters, on average.

Yurchenkos require a higher level of technical skill than tsuks do, and so when you compare a gymnast performing a Yurchenko full compared to one doing a tsuk full, they may both have solid landings and look good in the most basic sense, but it’s likely that the Yurchenko vaulter is inherently going to be the better vaulter and so a lot of the little things the judges are looking for are going to be present in the Yurchenko vaulter’s set, but missing from the tsuk vaulter’s set. That obviously is a generalization based on what I’ve seen from comparing the two in a decade of watching vault, but when the more talented gymnasts and better vaulters are doing Yurchenkos, then on average, the E scores for Yurchenkos are going to be higher.

That said, there are some incredible vaulters who do tsuks. What if you compare the same vaulter’s Yurchenkos to her tsuks? Most will score better on their Yurchenkos because it’s easier to build power from a Yurchenko vault with the whole roundoff back handspring aspect than it is to build power with a tsuk, and so you can have an incredibly skilled vaulter performing a tsuk but still score quite a bit lower than she does with her Yurchenko because she’s just simply not generating as much power as she would on a Yurchenko, resulting in a weaker block, not as much height/distance, and perhaps even coming up short on the landing or losing form in the air as she tries to compensate for the lack of height.

If you do the same skill multiple times in a routine does it count towards your D score multiple times or just that once?

It only counts once in terms of it counting toward the value of the skill itself, but it can count towards connection value, a series bonus, or a composition requirement. For example, if you have a front aerial to front aerial as part of your acro series, you can only count the first front aerial in your group of eight skills included in your routine…however, connecting the two would result in getting CV for your routine, and the two aerials together would get you credit for your acro series.

Why do the British commentators call inbars “stoops”?

I haven’t heard this from the Brits but would guess they’re just using a descriptive name like how we also refer to the stoop skills the men do on high bar, which aren’t the same as inbars, but have the same “stoop through” motion that an inbar has. Usually in MAG you hear “stoop through to handstand” and so I’m guessing the British also refer to inbars in this way because technically it IS a stoop through to handstand, but just not the same as what the men are doing. I’ve also seen simpler WAG uneven bars skills at the lower levels referred to as “stoops” but I think it’s just one of those things where it’s like, not the actual name for the skill or what the skill is commonly known as, but just another acceptable descriptive name for the skill. Technically “inbar” isn’t the actual name for the skill either, and is more of a descriptive name…in the code, an inbar is referred to as a piked stalder, and I don’t know where the name “inbar” came from, but it definitely is a more descriptive version of what a piked stalder is (kind of like how we casually say “toe-on” for what is actually called a pike sole circle).

Why did the FIG switch to the open-ended code in 2006 rather than at the beginning of the quad?

The process for putting an open-ended code into place had been in the works for years, I believe since the mid-90s, but the FIG hadn’t really been taking it super seriously and didn’t have plans to introduce it in the 2008 quad, from what I’ve read (I last read about this like five years ago, so I’m definitely paraphrasing, but I seem to recall that the FIG and many others in gymnastics hated the idea of an open-ended code and were really pushing against it happening). 

However, at the 2004 Olympics, there was a lot of drama with scoring because the judges were ignoring a lot of form issues for gymnasts who had super difficult skills (which I guess kind of relates to the Zhang Nan question above!) and this ended up pissing a lot of people off, especially when Paul Hamm ended up winning the men’s all-around title. The FIG was like, okay, okay, we’ll bring in the open-ended code, but since it was already so close to 2005, they didn’t have time to release the new code prior to the new quad, and decided that they’d continue using the “perfect 10” code for the next year, take that time to finish all necessary changes in the open-ended code, and then unveil the new code in 2006 so they’d have a solid two years to work with it going into Beijing.

How is Mercedez Sanchez allowed to be a grad transfer to San Jose State from UCLA and compete since she was on the UCLA team for four years? Does she get more years of eligibility since she was a walk-on at UCLA and never actually competed and now will be on a scholarship?

I can’t find almost any official rules regarding walk-ons gaining additional years of eligibility. I believe if you compete or exhibition in NCAA as a walk-on, that year counts toward your eligibility, so if you compete all four years of undergrad as a walk-on, then you wouldn’t then be able to compete a fifth year in grad school, either with or without a scholarship. However, it looks like Merdedez only competed exhibitions in three of her four years at UCLA, with no exhibition routines in 2019, so it’s possible that she opted to take that year off for a medical reason, which would leave her eligible for a fifth year of competition.

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

26 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Do exhibition routines count as “competing” as far as eligibility is concerned? Mercedez Sanchez didn’t actually compete for all four years, but can she just retroactively declare a redshirt year, or four, even a year or more later? So for how many years is she eligible at SJSU?


    • I believe the exhibition routines count as “competing.” She should have one year of eligibility at SJSU, but if she retroactively redshirts 2019, she would have two, I believe.


  2. If I remember correctly, Jana never competed her saltos at Worlds. She only did bars in 2005 and they weren’t in her 2006 routines.


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

  4. Martha would probably not taken Nastia even if she didn’t fall on bars…lol… she wanted AA, not someone who only trained two events. i guess if Nastia came back a lot earlier to get back all 4 events, that might have worked. But i don’t think she would’ve just taken nastia for 2 events or another specialist and not AA when you already have another specialist like maroney. She wants to have backup options.


    • No, Martha originally wanted a bars specialist, preferably one who could medal, and she basically begged Nastia to do her comeback in the first place! She told me in an interview at nationals (before the competition) that she really wanted Nastia to do well, and the hope was for Nastia to be 80% at nationals and then 95% for trials so she could make the team, and then make her final preparations at the training camp prior to London. Even after nationals, Martha apparently had a meeting with Nastia telling her exactly what she needed from her if she wanted to be on the team. She was pretty much ride-or-die for Nastia, but obviously it was clear at nationals that it likely wasn’t going to work out unless she somehow turned things completely around before trials.

      They weren’t worried about having a built-in all-arounder in the bars role at the time, and she specifically had McKayla continue to do all four events for the reasoning of having Nastia as the “specialist” of the team. In fact, going into nationals, Martha had said she wasn’t even sold on McKayla because she wasn’t a strong enough all-arounder and she “wasn’t going to take a gymnast just for vault,” but she said that someone (Steve Penny ahem) was really pushing for McKayla and that McKayla would likely be on the team if she hit at nationals and trials. There was a whole conversation about McKayla not making the team, which sounds crazy in hindsight knowing the kind of vault she produced in the team final, but I don’t think they were super confident in her floor, and if they were bringing Nastia as a specialist, they needed a floor worker.

      Obviously with Nastia not working out, Kyla was a more than sufficient “replacement” for Martha’s fave, and she truly earned that spot. She wasn’t going to win a bars medal, but she was definitely going to be an excellent contributor to the team, and since she was so consistent and solid, she ended up being the best choice…but Martha wanted that bars medal more than anything and was so Team Nastia right up until the bitter end. I saw with my own eyes Martha and Nastia crying together backstage at trials after the media interviews following the team announcement, hahahahaha.


  5. Ioana Crisan retired???, I thought she was just injured and was planning on training again. I hadn’t heard that she retired announced anywhere. But there has been such a massive amount of retirements out of Romania that it is hard to keep track. All these 16 and 17 year olds retiring so something horrible must be going on as they pretty much immediately retire after becoming seniors.


    • Yeah, I heard she retired…most are shooting for the Olympics and once they realize they’re out of the mix, they’re done, unfortunately. Back when they still had full teams going to the Olympics, more would hang around for a longer period of time, but now that it’s just individuals, once an individual qualifies, the rest are like “bye” basically. It’s so sad.


  6. “and like, twerk for 90 seconds on floor or something if that’s what she felt like doing.” Literally lol thanks for the laugh Lauren…oh yeah and all the work you do on this wonderful site! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for all you do on this website ! I would like to ask you a question regarding Maria Holbura and Romania at the 2020 Olympics : I thought that Maria’s olympic spot was nominative. So I thought that she coud not be replaced by another romanian gymnast, even if she gets injured. I thought that if Maria can not go, then her spot would automatically go to Emma Ryan. But if I understood your article correctly, Romania could bring another gymnast ?


    • Maria’s spot is nominative, but since Romania had other gymnasts in the all-around qualifications who got one-per-country’ed out of earning additional Olympic spots, if Maria gave up her nominative spot for whatever reason, instead of her spot going to the first official reserve, the Romanian who is next-in-line who would have qualified had Maria not gets to take it.

      So Maria finished 54th with a 50.632, but Ioana Crisan finished almost directly behind her in 56th with a 50.298. If there was no one-per-country rule for all-arounders qualifying to the Olympics, Ioana would have qualified based on her finish here. The only reason she didn’t qualify is because of one-per-country. It’s kind of like how countries can have gymnasts finish 1st, 5th, and 7th in an apparatus final…since the 7th-place gymnast got two-per-country’ed out of the final, if either the 1st or 5th place gymnast withdrew, their spot would go to the 7th place qualifier from their own country, instead of to the first official reserve.


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