It’s time for the 302nd edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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What happened to Maisie Methuen? She seemed like a really promising new senior in 2017, but was never selected for any major international assignments, apart from the Commonwealth Games. Was she injured?
Maisie retired in 2019 which was such a major bummer to me because I love seeing the Welsh gymnasts make it onto the British teams that are nearly always all-English, and I thought Maisie was going to make it onto a worlds team for sure. She did get some world cup assignments representing Great Britain, but I think she was injured at times and wasn’t quite at the level she needed to reach in order to make a major worlds or Euros team. Doha 2018 would’ve been the perfect meet for her to aim for, but it just didn’t work out…though I was happy to see another Welsh gymnast, Emily Thomas, at least serve as the alternate for that meet. After two years competing at the senior level, including going to Commonwealth Games for Wales, she returned at Welsh Championships in 2019 but then retired shortly after.
When qualifying for elite, do you pass the compulsory and the optional at the same competition? Or are there separate competitions for compulsory and optionals?
Compulsories and optionals happen at separate times, but usually, qualifying meets will include sessions for both (with compulsories usually held first, on a Thursday or Friday, and then optionals held later, like Friday, Saturday, or Sunday), so a gymnast can knock both out in the same competition, or they can do compulsories at one meet and optionals at another. Most will try to qualify both at the same meet, so if they get through compulsories, they’ll also try to do optionals the next day, or a couple of days later, but they can wait if they want to, and if they pass compulsories but don’t get the optionals score, they can go to a later qualifier and would only have to do optionals there, since they already passed compulsories.
Can you build CV with elements that don’t count towards your D score? So if you’re doing more than eight skills, will a skill that’s not one of the highest values count towards your D score and still count towards connection bonuses?
Yes you can! On beam this is especially common, because you have so much room to add connection bonus and series bonuses. I remember counting Liu Tingting’s skills back in 2017 and she had a total of 17 elements in her routine, mostly skills rated a C or below, because all of these simpler skills added together created more difficulty value than most difficult elements on their own.
You also don’t have to count a skill into your eight counting elements just because you count it in a connection, so you can have eight D+ skills in your routine, not use any of them in a single connection, and count all of those, and then ALSO have another 10 or so skills at a C or under that you literally ONLY use for getting connection and series bonuses. Most obviously will try to connect more difficult elements so those elements will count both toward their eight counted elements as well as toward any bonus, but you can absolutely have a bunch of random lower-level skills that you use just to build CV, and that’s totally fine.
Most gymnasts try to stick to just the eight or so skills on bars and floor, because these events are more a test of endurance, whereas beam is not, and often going above eight elements on these events is really difficult and kind of pointless when you can build higher difficulty scores through the element values on their own. On bars, you can really only get bonus for connecting the more difficult elements anyway, so you’d never see a C + A + A series bonus or anything on bars like you could see on beam, and on floor you can connect simpler skills, but they usually have to be connected out of a more difficult skill, so you can’t just do a bunch of back tuck fulls across the floor or something, it has to be like, an arabian double front into a punch front, or a front full through to a double tuck.
So the bulk of your difficulty on bars and floor will be from the more highly-valued skills in combination with other skills, whereas you could fully build a super difficult beam set just connecting a bunch of random lower-level elements that all add up through various bonuses. The one issue with that, however, is that if you miss a connection, you’re basically screwed, and the 6.5 you expect to see flash on the scoreboard could end up a 5.0 if you have a lot of pauses or wobbles.
If Zoe Allaire-Bourgie gets back to her pre-injury form (or better), which of the Canadian four is most likely to get displaced?
This is a hard question for me because I’m so attached to those four gymnasts and can’t let any of them go…but based on what we’ve seen over the last year, I’d have to say Ana Padurariu. If she can’t get her bars back to where they were when she was a junior, then I don’t think Zoe would replace anyone, because the four are all stronger and have more to offer to the team than Zoe did at her strongest as a junior, but if Ana is still struggling getting back to her full difficulty or isn’t able to get her consistency back there or on beam, then I think Zoe’s strongest point for inclusion over Ana is her consistency, plus her ability to also contribute on vault and floor if needed in a pinch whereas Ana never seems healthy enough to pull this off. Again, if Ana is at full health, and is hitting bars and beam the way she’s capable of, she’s on that team 100% and I think Zoe would then make sense as the alternate, or going in the individual spot assuming Canada qualifies one of the non-nominative spots through Pan Ams or the all-around world cups.
If you start gymnastics at 11 would you be able to try and qualify as a British elite gymnast? What is the maximum age to become an elite gymnast?
Most gymnasts who compete at the elite level in Britain have been training since they were under five years old, and most coaches recommend eight as the absolute oldest, though there are always exceptions to that based on the individual gymnast. Starting at 11, I’m not sure if you’d make it that far, but it also couldn’t hurt to try, especially if you’ve done other sports and know you’re athletic and would be able to start out at a high level in terms of your conditioning, then you’d definitely have a better chance than if you were starting from scratch.
Keep in mind that it takes a couple of years for most gymnasts to reach even the lowest competitive levels, and then another handful of years to get to higher competitive levels, so it’s going to be at least five years before you start getting close to the elite level, and that’s if you are practicing at least 20 hours a week. I won’t say it’s impossible, especially if you have a natural ability for gymnastics or for sports in general…but it’s definitely going to be hard and won’t happen overnight. There is no maximum age to be an elite gymnast…in Britain, Lisa Mason was competing in her 30s, and internationally, Oksana Chusovitina is competing at 44, so you’re in no rush! Whether you qualify elite someday or not, gymnastics is an incredible sport and hopefully you’ll enjoy the process.
If you do a skill that’s new on beam but already exists on floor do you still get it named after yourself? Like if someone managed to do a triple Y turn on beam would they get that skill named or would it be called a Mustafina?
Yes, a new skill on beam is still considered “new” and eligible for naming even if it’s already been done on floor. The double Y turn on floor is the Memmel, named after Chellsie Memmel, for example, and it’s been around now for almost two decades, but the double Y turn on beam is a relatively new addition to the code, first performed successfully at worlds by Aiko Sugihara, and now known on beam as the Sugihara even though they’re both double Y turns. The same would happen with the Mustafina turn, should a gymnast ever manage to get a triple Y turn around on beam.
Is Valeri Liukin still training the Brazilian WAG team?
Yes, he is, and although he was initially playing things by ear and not contracted out for very long, I think he plans on continuing into the new quad…though I haven’t seen anything related to this in a while and am not sure if that’s still the plan or if that was just the plan last time I heard something. Initially he was just there to work with the current team of elites so they could get immediate results, and wasn’t doing any developmental level stuff beyond the juniors, so I hope if he does end up staying, he makes a developmental program a priority, or at least puts local coaches in charge of developmental-level gymnastics.
Who can possibly beat Simone Biles come 2021? All-around, or any other apparatus?
Simone is still in a position where she could fall a couple of times and win the all-around, and I don’t see anyone really challenging that. I also think she is almost certainly unchallenged on vault and floor at this point, unless something goes drastically wrong, or unless Jade Carey continues stepping it up on vault, considering Jade gave her some real competition at worlds last year and even outscored her in prelims.
Beam is typically where the biggest upsets happen, and although Simone proved at worlds last year that she is capable of scores that make her unbeatable on this apparatus, she’d have to hit it out of the park at that level again next year, which is going to be a challenge when beam is where she usually makes the largest mistakes. The Chinese team has a few gymnasts who could challenge her for gold on beam, and I think they’d be most likely to be the ones to make it happen in terms of having the highest difficulty outside of Simone, as well as the phenomenal execution to back it up, but this is also beam and there are going to be falls so it’s honestly always anyone’s game in terms of those who make the final.
Thoughts on Maria Fumea, the new president of the Romanian federation?
I don’t know much about her, and this whole Romanian federation mess has been so convoluted and confusing, I’m like, what does the president of the Romanian federation even do aside from fight with people on Facebook, because that’s the only thing I’ve seen from any Romanian federation president in the past five years. I haven’t personally seen Maria fight anyone yet, so my hopes are very high for her.
In all seriousness, she seems like a mature, functioning adult who has tried to take her job as vice president seriously in the past, but she’s essentially Leslie Knope in a sea of Councilman Jamms, so there’s only so much she could do in that position and hopefully now that she’s in charge, real change can come. It seems her number one priority is bringing in a national team coach who can work on building a developmental program as well as restructuring the elite program. She’s talked about putting Mihai Brestyan in charge before, so now that he’s officially out of Australia, I’m wondering if that’s actually going to happen, and I hope it does, because he’s a good guy, but he’s also a no-nonsense coach who can hopefully get this country in shape. If Maria Fumea prayer candles existed, I’d have hundreds of them lining the baseboards of my apartment because she needs prayers more than anyone right now.
Watching Kelli Hill console Dominique Dawes after her fall on vault at 1995 worlds, it’s hard to imagine they’re estranged now. Any insight into the breakdown of their relationship?
Yeah, I’ve watched a few 90s competitions over the past month or so, and given how downright crazy so many of the other coaches were, Kelli seems like a nurturing angel in comparison, and seemed especially kind and generous with Dominique, so I’m sad that they ended up having a falling out and no longer speak. I don’t know what happened to cause them to become estranged, because as far as I knew, they were still on good terms in 2016 based on something that came up when I was working on an Olympics-related project and had a personal glimpse into their relationship at the time.
But since 2016, there has been so much that’s happened with exposing the culture in USA Gymnastics, it’s led to a great deal of reflection on part of so many former athletes who once held their experiences and coaches at such a high regard, but who then started realizing that what they went through should not have been considered “normal” and so they begin to see that what they once saw as a great experience was actually really screwed up. When I was involved in theater, at 15 years old I complained about the director’s attitude and how he was always being inappropriate or terrible to myself and the other kids, and the adult I brought that up with told the director everything I said, causing him to single me out in front of a group of professional adult actors, where he screamed at me and threatened me endlessly. This was normal to me, though, and so while I felt upset about it, I still maintained a working relationship with him until I was done with that job, and I never thought “adult men should not treat teenage girls this way” until I became an adult and started working in the “real world” outside of theater, and was like yeah, hey, that was heinously effed up and that man never should have been allowed to be around kids.
My guess is that maybe Dominique had a similar sort of revelation about something that seemed “normal” to her back then, especially now that she has children who are at an age where they’re doing gymnastics and other sports. I know she said that she wants her kids’ experiences to be different than what her experience was, so clearly she had something come up that made her realize her experience was likely problematic in some ways, and I hope that what she sets out to do with her new gymnastics academy is exactly what she wants to change in the sport.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins