You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 304th 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).

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Athlete A strongly hinted that Maggie Nichols didn’t make the Rio team even as an alternate because she spoke out about Larry Nassar’s abuse. Do you think this was the reason?

So…in my viewing of gymnastics that summer, I never thought that Maggie was in a position to get one of the five spots on the Olympic team, based only on what I saw from her compared to what I saw from the five who made it. I thought her turnaround between nationals and trials was incredible, and that her fight back from injury with everything else that was going on was just beyond what I could have imagined, and I do think she should have gotten the alternate spot over Ragan Smith, but I would not have replaced anyone on the team with Maggie.

Gabby Douglas was always going to make that team no matter how she did at classics. She was the reigning Olympic champion, proved herself at worlds the previous year and at several competitions in 2016, had a medal-worthy bars set, fit into the highest-scoring potential lineup, and showed at the Olympic Games that she was one of the top three all-arounders in the world even if she didn’t make the final due to the two-per-country rule. Frankly, Gabby could have fallen on every event and placed dead last in the all-around at trials and she still would have made that team because Steve Penny was never going to leave the reigning Olympic champion at home when he stood to profit and line his own pockets from having her there. It’s different from Nastia Liukin’s situation in 2012, because Nastia was clearly not competition-ready, and you could in no way justify Nastia for the team. But Gabby was ready, and had been for a year. Mistakes were made, but Maggie also had a fall at trials, and I don’t think a fall or a couple of falls should be enough to take you out of team contention when your potential is greater than others who hit, and when your competitive history speaks for itself. Despite Gabby’s mistakes, when she hit she was one of the best in the world, and you could absolutely justify her being on that team. Before getting into anything else, I just wanted to clear this up, because for some reason, people are taking the wrong message from Athlete A, which is “Maggie deserved it, Gabby didn’t” and that’s truly a garbage take for so many reasons.

But the alternate situation, however, is the one spot where I find the decision truly controversial. It was clear that for the alternate roles, they took the two next-best all-arounders who didn’t make the team, with MyKayla Skinner and Ragan Smith getting those spots, plus Ashton Locklear as a bars specialist. It makes sense based on the scoring from that one particular meet, because Maggie wasn’t a top-three competitor on any event, and she finished sixth all-around behind all of those who ended up making it over her either for the team or as alternates. THAT SAID…Ragan outscored Maggie by a tenth and a half with a two-day combined all-around score, which is negligible at best, especially since Maggie had the higher single-day score when comparing on that end, and the only reason her two-day score was lower was because of a fall on beam. Without that fall, she would have outscored Ragan by a considerable amount, and possibly would have also outscored MyKayla, both of whom had fully hit performances. I think she was objectively the top all-arounder in the field of gymnasts who didn’t make the Olympic team, and leaving her out of an alternate role was egregious.

On top of that, I also don’t trust that the scoring at U.S. national-level meets is accurate, which is why Martha Karolyi had her own personal judge doing separate calculations on the side. There were the public-facing scores, and there were Martha’s realistic scores, and I’m absolutely certain Martha’s rankings were different. And to get even more conspiracy about it, though I can’t prove it, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the public-facing judges were purposely told to low-ball Maggie so that she couldn’t rank in a position that would get her an alternate spot. 

I think Maggie made more sense as a more complete all-around alternate than Ragan did. She was stronger on three events, was more consistent in her overall competitive history, and could have filled in for basically any spot on that Olympic team if needed, whereas Ragan would really only make sense to bring in on beam…and even that was hit-or-miss. MyKayla made sense to bring as an all-arounder because she also had vault and floor where she could step in at a super high level (and even be in a position to medal on vault), Ashton made sense for bars, but Maggie made the most sense as the “complete package” all-arounder who could step in anywhere needed, and I think there definitely could have been some bitterness on Steve’s part in terms of leaving her out of the picture.

You could argue that Maggie made it onto the 2015 worlds team and so why would they reward her with that, but then get revenge on her a year later? Why not just blackball her immediately after she spoke up? And also, both Aly Raisman and Simone Biles were part of that initial group that spoke up, and they both made the teams in 2015 and 2016, so clearly there was no ill will or revenge plot against them, right?

But I think Aly and Simone were in a different kind of situation like Gabby’s where they absolutely would not have been left at home no matter what went down at trials. And in 2015, Maggie was also kind of in this position because she was second all-around at nationals, and it would have been incredibly, noticeably shady if she was left behind. They would not have been able to justify leaving her at home in 2015, but with her ranking at trials the following year, that was basically their way of being like “aww, that’s too bad” and justifying not taking her…even though if you looked at the total picture and not just the high-key ridiculous trials scores, she should have been an alternate at the very least. 

Additionally, even though Maggie made the team in 2015, she was still screwed over by Steve with the decision to not let her do the all-around in qualifications, even though she had the second-best bars routine on the team and outscored both Aly and Gabby at nationals. We often got the whole “you don’t know what goes on at camp or in training!” line, but that’s such a BS way to justify things because they could literally just make up whatever they wanted about “how things went” at camp or in training and we wouldn’t know the difference. As much as I don’t love the current system of only naming the top-ranked all-arounders from a single competition to international teams, and think that there needs to be more strategy involved, it at least clears up the transparency issue that allowed Steve to get away with so many decisions in previous years that served only to benefit him.

And that’s another piece of the “conspiracy” here, and it might actually not even be JUST backlash for speaking up. The truth is that Steve hated the girls who didn’t go pro because he couldn’t make money off of them, and so he made decisions based on who he could get money from instead of who was actually “best” for the team. Martha took a lot of the blame for “stupid” team decisions in the 2016 quad, but Steve was the one making decisions behind the curtain, because he stood to profit from it. It’s why he wanted McKayla Maroney competing all-around in 2013 instead of Kyla Ross, and he actually originally moved to keep Kyla from competing in the all-around at qualifications at worlds, so that McKayla would be guaranteed an all-around finals spot and likely even a medal if she hit all four events. I believe the story goes that Kyla’s coaches fought this so hard, which is amazing, so she still got to compete all-around, but then Brenna Dowell was sacrificed so McKayla could do all four events, so it still ended up a bummer of a situation. But Steve HATED that Kyla was the one hold-out on the 2012 team in terms of going pro, because it limited the amount of money he could make off of marketing the Fierce Five as a team, and I’m sure he also would have had these feelings about Maggie, about Madison Kocian, about anyone who took away from his opportunity to make money. I call his money-making schemes a “conspiracy theory” right now because it there’s no definitive proof, but his money-based team decisions are pretty much openly talked about, and I think we’re gonna get the receipts (literally, his bank receipts) for this eventually. I know that at least one investigative journalist is working on the Steve Penny paper trail, and I’m waiting over here with popcorn for it to all come out. 

Long story short, I personally would not have included Maggie on the Olympic team over anyone who ended up making it based on what I saw from her with my eyes, but I absolutely would have had her in the key all-around alternate role, and I absolutely would have had her competing all-around at worlds in 2015 over Aly. I think that her being left out of both situations is a result of Steve punishing her partly for speaking up about Larry Nassar, and also partly for not going pro and being a gymnast he could take advantage of for his own financial gain.

I was watching the 2016 Olympic Trials and noticed one of the commentators say something about how no one on the selection committee was watching Maggie Nichols’ performances? Do you think this was intentional now knowing that she was Athlete A?

Ooh, I’ve never watched the video of trials because I was there live, so I missed out on all of the commentary…but that’s interesting. Knowing this and the fact that they didn’t have cameras there getting her family’s reactions in the crowd, it was clear that they had absolutely no intention to include her on the team, and I don’t think anything she did at trials would have mattered – they had made up their mind about the entire team probably weeks before trials, and Maggie was never going to be on it.

Larisa Iordache’s comeback is looking very real now. She’s back in the gym and already training her old elements. Which place must she take at Euros in order to qualify to the Olympic Games?

She would have to finish in the top two among all-arounders who haven’t previously qualified to the Olympics either as part of a team or individually. She could finish third all-around at Euros and not qualify if the two who finish before her were eligible to qualify, or she could finish 20th all-around and qualify to the Olympics if everyone ahead of her wasn’t eligible. It really just depends on who competes at Euros and where everyone stands in that specific competition. I’d say top five is a safe bet.

Do you think Larisa Iordache will have a successful comeback? And will she have a good chance to be in the top three in the all-around at Tokyo after missing three years of competition?

I hope she has a successful comeback! She’s one of the gymnasts I was most excited about in terms of the Olympics getting pushed back a year, because while I hate that this had to happen, it’s bittersweet that it could lead to another chance for gymnasts who looked like it wasn’t going to work out for them. That said, Larisa still doesn’t have a ton of time, because this year’s European Championships – to be held in mid December for the women – will act as the Olympic qualifier, so she really only has six months to prepare, which is really going to be really hard when her last competition was in 2017 and when she hasn’t been training at more than about half-strength since her injury. It’s not impossible…she’s a talented gymnast and I’m sure can get back to a really good place, especially on events like bars and beam, but six months is a rush given her circumstances, and she might cut it close.

Do you think more countries will be sending their B teams to 2021 worlds if both Tokyo and worlds happen next year? Or will they try to send out an A team to both? What if the U.S. sends a B team while others send A teams? Is the U.S. B team still stronger than the A teams of other countries?

I think many gymnasts who go to the Olympics will end up retiring or going on hiatus directly following Tokyo, especially in terms of the veterans who want to make Tokyo their last big outing. I can see some of the younger ones – like Viktoria Listunova and Vladislava Urazova – sticking around, and I can see gymnasts from smaller programs who are considering retiring perhaps thinking about continuing to train following the Olympics, especially if they’re usually on the bubble for making finals. A weaker overall field at worlds could mean that someone who ends up 15th or something in bars qualifications could maybe actually now get into the final or even reach the podium, which would be really cool. I’m actually excited for potentially seeing a lot of gymnasts from smaller programs getting some attention if most of the top gymnasts in the world don’t continue on.

I think the U.S. will likely have a team that goes to the Olympics, and then an entirely separate group that will go to worlds. I can see a lot of the younger seniors who might not be huge Olympic threats end up doing really well at worlds, like someone in Konnor McClain’s position where the Olympics just came up too quickly for her, but she’d still have potential for multiple individual medals at worlds. I think some of the U.S. girls who don’t make it to the Olympics could still do very well in a weaker-than-usual world championships field, but a weaker U.S. group of gymnasts would definitely be vulnerable and wouldn’t be winning multiple medals on every event the way they normally could, especially if countries like Russia are able to send top girls. Some of the U.S. B-team gymnasts who don’t seem super likely to go to Tokyo are still at roughly the same level as top gymnasts from other countries, so there is a great opportunity for these U.S. gymnasts to shine, but it’s still going to be a challenge, and the rankings could end up being super close. I could see the U.S. position at 2021 worlds kind of like how their position was at 2019 junior worlds, where they were a great group of gymnasts, but so were the teams from Russia, China, and Romania. And I’m really excited to see that potentially unfold at the senior level once again.

What is happening with Australia and the head coach position?

They should be in the final interview stages right now, slash may have even offered the job to someone already, so hopefully we’ll hear something soon, though I’m sure COVID-19 has slowed things down a bit. Basically Mihai Brestyan was only contracted to coach until 2020, and it was decided that he wouldn’t be coming back beyond that, though I’m not sure if that was his decision or Gymnastics Australia’s. I can see commuting to Australia on a monthly basis being THE WORST for everyone involved, so it might be that they want someone who can be in the country more consistently, or maybe he decided that it was just too much for him. I’ve also heard Romania is trying to poach Mihai, so that could play into it…the actual reasoning is all speculation, but anyway, the basic response is that he’s leaving, and someone new will be coming in.

Why is the Rulfova on beam no longer done by many gymnasts?

I think because it’s just hard to do it accurately on a consistent basis, and that the reward – it’s only worth a D – isn’t super worth the effort. It’s the kind of skill where if you can do it well, it’s worth it and makes you stand out, but if you don’t do it well on a regular basis, you’re going to get deducted more than it’s worth. It’s one of my favorite skills when done correctly and precisely, but is also quickly becomes a least favorite skill when it’s done wrong, and I’m sure the judges feel the same way, and that it would definitely show in their scores.

How does the university gymnastics system work in the UK? Are gymnasts able to compete for their university?

They have some lower-level competition in the UK, but it’s not like the U.S. where it’s a big goal for top-level gymnasts. I would say it’s similar to NAIGC in the U.S., where it’s like a non-varsity club sport and you’ll get some gymnasts who were at a higher level, and others who just do more basic skills and routines. A gymnast who wants to compete at university in the UK will likely choose to attend a university that has a club team for gymnastics, but top gymnasts in Great Britain generally don’t do university gymnastics in the UK.

You’re also not recruited for university gymnastics, and there are no athletic scholarships, similar to NAIGC (though in the UK, this isn’t really a thing, because tuition isn’t ridiculous as it is in the United States). For most clubs, if you’re going to that university, you can literally just be like “I want to compete for you!” and they’re like cool, welcome. Loughborough University, considered the strongest among the UK university programs, takes former elite-level competitors to compete at their top level, more basic-level competitive gymnasts, and absolute beginners who have never stepped foot in a gym before and don’t want to compete, but just want to train in the sport. The competitive gymnasts are evaluated and placed on whichever training squad best fits their level, but the beginners can just sign up.

The big event for UK university gymnastics is BUCS Championships (BUCS is the governing body for university sports in the UK, aka British Universities & College Sports). Gymnasts are separated into different levels for the purpose of BUCS competition (and all related university competition), with Grade 1 being the highest. Grade 1 uses the FIG code of points, and you may see some low-key recognizable names here, but even at this level, only a few have former elite experience, and usually only at the national level (meaning English or Welsh national squad at the highest, not the British squad…if you were a British squad gymnast and want to compete at the university level, you can usually get an NCAA scholarship and wouldn’t consider UK university gymnastics, like how U.S. level 10s and elites would get NCAA scholarships and wouldn’t think about doing NAIGC). Grade 2 and below are all lower-level competitors. They use a specific BUCS code of points which is like a modified FIG code, and they don’t compete all four events. Grade 2 gymnasts choose three of the four events to compete, while Grade 3 and Grade 4 only compete vault and floor.

Just to give you a glimpse into who competes at this level, at BUCS Championships this year, Yoana Yankova (who trained in the UK but competed for Bulgaria internationally, including at worlds in 2017) won the Grade 1 all-around competition, Holly Curran (who competed at English Championships a few times) was second, and Tara Donnelly (an elite-level gymnast from the Isle of Man who went on to represent Ireland at world championships) was third. I recognize a few more names at this level, but not all competed at the highest elite levels in the British system. In Grade 2, I only recognize a couple of names, a handful who competed at English and Scottish Championships, and then Chloe Donnelly, Tara’s sister who also competed both for Isle of Man and for Ireland at various moments in time.

Do we know what the status of Sunisa Lee’s dad is?

He seems to be moving along in his recovery. He was paralyzed, so obviously he’s in a wheelchair and the situation isn’t great, but she has said that he’s getting a lot stronger. He really wants to be able to travel to Tokyo and see her compete at the Olympics, and is apparently working hard in his recovery so he can make this happen, so Sunisa said this dream of her dad’s just makes her want to work even harder and get to Tokyo so they can both make their dreams come true.

What do you think a double layout beam dismount would be worth in the code of points?

I don’t think you can seriously give it anything lower than an H, but could see the FIG being stingy and giving it a G. 

Is Simone Biles eligible for NCAA?

No, Simone isn’t eligible. She initially considered doing NCAA gymnastics, and signed her letter of intent to compete for UCLA, but in the summer of 2015 she announced that she was instead going to turn professional so she could make money in the year leading up to the Olympic Games.

Why did Cheng Fei never compete on bars? Wouldn’t she have been a pretty stable all-arounder had she done bars?

Fei competed on uneven bars for the early part of her career, but she wasn’t very strong at the uneven bars, and was never really given the chance to do bars in qualifications at international events, so even though she probably could’ve gotten a decent all-around score with big scores on the other three events, the Chinese program always chose to use stronger bar workers for qualifications over wanting to give Fei an all-around spot.

Though Fei had wanted to compete in the all-around at the Olympic Games in 2008, after consistently being shot down and realizing she was never going to get that chance, in 2007 she decided to announce that she was giving up her bars training so she could focus on the other three events. I’m pretty sure she was basically told “you’re not going to be an all-arounder, stop trying to make bars happen, they’re never going to happen, focus on getting medals on events you can win” which is probably what led to “her” decision to stop training them. The Chinese women’s program had basically pegged her as team leader for Beijing in 2007, so there wasn’t ever any risk of her being off the team, but I think they had a very clear picture of what they wanted that team to look like, and Fei doing bars even in qualifications wasn’t part of that picture.

I know coaches and athletes can file an inquiry on a D score but not an E score, but what about neutral deductions? If a judge ruled that a gymnast was out-of-bounds but she actually stayed in, does she have any recourse?

According to the FIG’s technical regulations, you can only file an inquiry for difficulty scores in elite gymnastics, so unless there’s some unwritten rule or there are exceptions for something truly egregious, there’s no process for appealing penalties. I don’t see too many issues where a red flag goes up and a gymnast wasn’t actually out-of-bounds…actually, I don’t think I’ve EVER seen this personally, though I’m sure it’s happened at some time or another. I have seen numerous moments where a gymnast has gone out-of-bounds and the gymnast wasn’t penalized for it, which is like, yay, but I feel like the other way around is super rare, though there are definitely times where it’s questionable when just the heel is on the line or something, and I feel like that’s something that could/should be cleared up by video review. There IS a provision in the NCAA code of points for an inquiry with going out-of-bounds, and it’s not used super often, but it does come in handy for the more ambiguous out-of-bounds.

What’s the latest age you’ve heard an elite gymnast take up the sport? Are there any “late bloomers” who have succeeded at the international level?

The latest age I’ve heard of is 11…Daiane Dos Santos of Brazil and Ludivine Furnon of France both started at that age and obviously went on to be super successful, but I feel like that’s incredibly rare. I think eight is a typical cut-off for when coaches will usually be like “it’s not gonna happen” and honestly, even eight is a bit old for many coaches who still hold onto the idea that you have to start out basically as a toddler, but there are obviously going to be rare talents that come along and move super quickly through the sport, and if these kids can find coaches willing to take them seriously, then it’s totally worth giving it a shot.

Why do arabian skills have this name?

Arabians come from the circus and acrobatics world, have existed since the 1800s, and exist in many sports outside of artistic gymnastics, like cheer and parkour. It’s definitely not an artistic gymnastics-specific term, and it’s one of several acrobatic elements that kept its name as it was brought over from circus arts to gymnastics. It’s been called a variety of different names around the world, and wasn’t named for any specific person, though I’ve heard that the common usage of the term for this specific skill came from an acrobat of Arab origins in the 1800s being internationally known for doing this skill, so thus the name arabian was born.

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

37 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. The thing to me that makes Ragan make more sense than Maggie is Gabby already being on the team.

    If Laurie were injured, Ragan could come in on beam and Gabby could do VT & FX in TF. Ragan was top 3 on beam and Maggie wasn’t top 3 on any event. I don’t see which gymnast from the Final Five would have needed to be injured for them to need Maggie.

    If Simone or Aly were injured, Skinner could come in with Gabby on beam. If Madison or Gabby were injured, Ashton could replace the high scoring bar routine and EF spot.

    I do think Maggie got fucked over in 2015 although I think we might feel differently if Brenna hadn’t been cruelly kicked off the team and benched, leading to Maggie doing AA in TF but not QF. I think it’s interesting so much animosity is targeted at Gabby who was clearly going on bars in QF and not Aly. That seems like a classic Penny marketing decision.

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    • It was clear based on podium training line ups that they had not selected who was going to be dropped from UB. Raisman was first and then Nichols second. Typically the dropped athlete on that event went last. Raisman hit both PT UB routines. Nichols’ first set had a missed handstand and a wonky 1/1layout dismount. Nichols then stalled on her second routine and dropped off the bars.
      Nichols wouldn’t have done UB in TF if Dowell didn’t completely bomb UB in TQ because the intention was Douglas, Kocian, Dowell for TF UB.

      After Dowell’s TQ performance, in hindsight it should have been Skinner on VT/FX, Kocian on UB/BB with the other four doing AA. However, Skinner didn’t make sense to the team because she wouldn’t add anything to TF because there were already three Amanars (Raisman, Nichols, Biles) plus the exceptional DTY from Douglas as back up. Whereas a hit routine from Dowell on UB would have brought the team .6-.8 more than either Biles or Nichols on UB.

      It really didn’t matter who the AAers were going to be in TQ because Biles was going to win the aa and whichever American finished second was likely to win silver. Whether that be Nichols, Douglas, or Raisman.

      Nichols probably deserved to do AA in TQ based on finishing 2nd AA at Nationals.

      As far as Nichols not getting the AA slot due to being athlete A, that conspiracy is completely and utterly bogus.
      Hernandez was the 2nd best ranked AA athlete in 2016 and was dropped from UB as well in order for Raisman to compete AA in TQ. Both Nichols and Hernandez were at a disadvantage on a team that had both Kocian and Douglas, both of who would have to compete in TQ as well as Biles.
      Same exact scenario, different athlete.

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    • Came here to say the same thing. Completely agree with you. Marta selects her team off of spreadsheets of the highest scoring team and I’m sure that includes the alternates. I’m sure Ragan makes that team for beam and Maggie doesn’t make that team regardless because she’s simply not high enough scoring on any event. Marta’s smart not to simply choose an backup by AA score, especially seeing as so many have such strong AA scores already. It was unlikely for the US not to get two AA medals amongst Simone, Aly, Gabby, Laurie, Ragan, Mykayla…. so Maggie being strong on AA doesn’t really factor in at all. Also Aly was outspoken and made the team. 2015 could have been a different story, but there are other reasons at play. Gabby and Aly are much bigger stars, they’re pro ($$$) all else being equal. That was unfair, but not necessarily about her speaking out. Once again, Aly was also selected.

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    • I agree with you re: the Brenna situation. I think some people would have still said Maggie should’ve gotten AA regardless, but I think her doing bars in the TF created this sense of “OH SO SHE’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE TEAM FINAL BUT NOT QUALIFICATION?”, completely ignoring that that was almost certainly not the plan going in.

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    • IIRC, Simone was older too… not as old as Diane but I think she was 7 or 8 at least (which would make sense because I also seem to recall she was 5 or 6 before she started living with her adoptive parents, and she didn’t have the support system in place to do gymnastics before that). Obviously it’s going to depend on the individual to some degree, but it shows there’s nothing inherently wrong with starting late.

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  3. Hey Laura, FIG allow you to protest a neutral deduction. From memory in Aarhus 2006 a MAG athlete – Canada I think, get penalised and he wasn’t out.

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  4. The other obvious late-starting elite would be Laney Madsen – I think she was also 11 when she started gymnastics, and she has qualified elite.

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    • Yeah, she I feel like is a different case because she started in cheer and had the ability to do all of the skills necessary for gymnastics already, so she really only had to learn how to do bars…but the conditioning was there, she could tumble, she basically came into gymnastics at a level 8 or 9 on most of her events and just started from scratch on bars, which is definitely different from starting completely from scratch at 11 with no similar training. The same goes for the rhythmic gymnast Elizabet Vasileva…she started artistic when she was 13, and was at European Championships a year later, but coming up in rhythmic she already had elite-level conditioning, the dance elements, the flexibility, and basic tumbling. It’s still AWESOME, don’t get me wrong, to do what Laney or Elizabet or any other athlete does to transfer from one sport into artistic at a late age and have some success with it, but if you’ve never tumbled or done a split before and start training in gymnastics at 11, it’s going to be much harder.

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  5. Why are you calling Cheng Fei by her first name (Fei)? Only her parents and maybe her closest friends would do that in China.

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    • In You Asked posts, I was originally going back and forth between using first names and last names, but then decided to only use first names to keep everything consistent, and I thought first names worked better here because this is more informal than if I were writing a competition report or something, in which case I would use last names. For China, I initially kept using their last names, but people were confused and asked me “why are you using first names for everyone else, and last names for China?” so I asked my friend from China if she thought I should switch over to first names, and she said if I’m referring to everyone else by first names, then she thought it was fine, and said on Chinese forums and stuff when talking about well-known Chinese people, everyone uses first names and nicknames when discussing them informally, so I started also referring to the Chinese gymnasts by their first names to keep things at the same standard so I’m not saying “Simone, Oksana, and Cheng are all great vaulters” or whatever. In a competition report, I’d absolutely say something like “Cheng vaulted an Amanar and got a 16, but Biles got a 16.1,” but since this is like, more of a fan blog type of post, I like to stick with how fans would talk about gymnasts informally. I would never run up to Cheng Fei IRL and be like “omg Fei Fei what’s up girl?!” or call her Fei or Fei Fei or something in an official capacity when writing about her, but these “You Asked” posts are meant to be super informal discussions and so I talk about everyone more informally.

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    • Not actually. It’s uncommon for Chinese to call her Fei only because it’s a single-syllable word, so people usually go with Fei-fei or nicknames. For other gymnasts like Tingting or Xijing or Chunsong it’s totally common to use first names or full names in forums or fan discussions. I think Lauren explains quite well.

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      • Thank you! I’ve spent literally years thinking about how to address this not wanting to be disrespectful but also wanting to talk about them in a more informal way like I do with other gymnasts and I’m glad this makes sense in this case!

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  6. Haha when reading the question about college gymnastics and the UK i immediately translated UK to University of Kentucky in my mind and got so confused.

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    • When I first googled UK college gymnastics while looking for the BUCS levels, everything that came up was Kentucky and I was like UGH I GUESS I’M GONNA HAVE TO SPELL OUT UNITED KINGDOM???

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      • United Kingdom tuition fees are rapidly catching up with US fees. Not quite there yet, but much higher than the rest of Europe (c. $13,000 a year for many courses now, vs a few hundred in mainland Europe). I am not at all surprised that the UK gymnasts want to do NCAA instead, we just don’t have that culture of university sports in the same way.

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  7. Do you think that Maggie’s knee would have survived the rigorous Olympic training? At the time, I assumed that’s why she wasn’t selected

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    • That’s literally why I assumed she wasn’t selected at the time as well. My entire thought process with Maggie in 2016 was like, that’s great that she’s back in really good form so quickly but she’s never gonna be on this team having been so recently injured. That’s what I thought it was the whole time, and it wasn’t until people started throwing out conspiracy theories in hindsight that I realized anyone thought she had a shot. I still think alternate made sense, but didn’t question her not getting an alternate spot at the time, and assumed that if she had beaten Ragan, she wouldn’t gotten it over her. I had Maggie getting an alternate spot over Ragan, but I just read my trials recap, and apparently when I talked to Martha Karolyi after the competition, she said Maggie was “never really part of the conversation” due to her injury, so I guess they never wanted her as alternate with that risk. OR…that was their excuse and they were blacklisting her, lol. But whether they legitimately blacklisted her or not, it was still justifiable based on just how freaking close everyone was. My call was that Maggie should’ve gone as an alternate because she was the best general all-arounder who could have subbed in for literally anyone if needed, but justifying MyKayla for VT/FX, Ashton for UB, and Ragan for BB also makes sense. And about 50 other scenarios made sense too, and even though I assumed Maggie would get an alternate spot, I never thought it was controversial when she didn’t get one, especially when you think about whether her knee could’ve held up.

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      • I guess it’s just the competitiveness and cutthroat nature of elite sports.. no matter the scenarios someone will always have their hearts broken. just sux that there was all this other ugliness going on in the backgrounds too. My heart breaks for Maggie but I am so glad she became the Queen that she is in NCAA

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Just to get some numbers and scores up. Cause I love numbers and scores! (Don’t we all)

    Nichols could score a freaking 13.000 on bars in QF to get the AA spot over Douglas. In TF she scored a 14.800.
    There was NO reason for Raisman swinging bars in QF.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whether she could’ve gotten in over Douglas really has no bearing on whether she or Raisman should have been “swinging bars”, though, since Raisman could ALSO have gotten in over Douglas if she’d hit. In hindsight, knowing what a train wreck Raisman’s qualification was, it’s easy to say Nichols should have gone up over her, but they couldn’t know in advance that Raisman would have so much trouble, and as someone mentioned earlier in this thread, Raisman was looking better than Nichols on bars in podium training. I think either choice could have been justified, and I also think that no matter which choice they made, there would have been people saying they should have chosen the opposite.

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  9. It’s really hard going into no OIympic year with lower difficulty routines than the one prior. A healthy Maggie Nichols probably still needed an Amanar to be in consideration for the team.

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    • Yep. In pretty much any other country, Maggie would have made the team in 2016 shape. It’s too bad that the USA is so deep- genuine medal contenders/Top AA gymnasts are always going to be left behind.
      I don’t think it’s LN related; it’s just that the USA had SO many great athletes that they could have taken two teams.

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      • The Rio team was the deepest it ever was and all 4 could win the AA silver behind Biles.
        Douglas won in 2015, Raisman won in 2016, Hernandez beat both of these two at Trials. Even Kocian could have won all around silver in Rio if she upgraded to a DTY.
        Nichols could have win silver in 2015 or 2016…but that is just how deep the team was.

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  10. At European championships Patras 2002 Verona van der Leur ‘lost’ the gold because of and out of bounce. While she and her coach are sure she did not go out of bounce.

    https://m.youtube.com/signin?next=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DM937fycKp_4&disable_polymer=true Here is the video and I think she got the red flag at the start of her last line.

    And here and article about it in Dutch
    https://www.trouw.nl/nieuws/wrange-nasmaak-ondanks-vier-zilveren-en-twee-bronzen-plakken~b2e9712a/

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  11. At 2002 Europeans FX finals Verona van de Leur lost the gold because the judge claimed she stepped OOB before her last tumbling pass. Though the Dutch broadcasting network proved she did not, the judge did not want to relent so the score was not changed and she won Silver instead of gold.

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  12. They gave Mattie Larson an out of bounds deduction at 2008 trials and then replayed it on the big screen live and showed she didn’t step out and still din’t change the score lol. Not that it really mattered.

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  13. I’m horrified to read that Lauren and others think that Maggie “needed” an Amanar to make the team. This is pushing Marta’s narrative but has no basis in reality. Gabby didn’t have an Amanar and was fully inconsistent in the lead up to the Olympics. Claiming that Maggie “needed” an Amanar and that her prior injury was relevant is exactly what USA Gymnastics wanted people to think to suppress her potential for making the team. This is truly disappointing and scary. A prior injury has no relevance for whether one should be a team member or alternate, as Lauren claims. Having an Amanar has no relevance for making the team when those that made the team in place of her did not have the skill.

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    • To me, the real controversy was Skinner vs Gabby. Otherwise, I do think that Marta would take injuries into consideration just because whenever she didn’t in the past, it had devastating results (2003 Worlds, 2008 Olympics, etc.). I agree with Lauren that Nichols was probably snubbed out of the alternate position but I really don’t think she would have made the full team considering Skinner was still an awesome choice who could get an event medal. Not only did Nichols only have a DTY, her floor scores weren’t in range to make an event final anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is zero controversy in regards to Skinner vs Douglas. None.

        Anyone who thinks there is controversy is making the controversy up in their heads.

        The final spot on the team was never going to be Skinner. The only way she made it on that team was beating Biles to win Trials, which was never going to happen. Skinner vs Douglas is not a real thing as the reasons for their inclusion on the team are completely opposite. Skinner was only going to be used on VT and Douglas on UB. Skinner’s Cheng would have brought in .2-.3 more than Hernandez/Douglas on VT.
        Douglas over Hernandez or Locklear over Hernandez (at the time of trials) would have brought in .5 more with Douglas and .8 more with Locklear. So even at the time of trials it was a no brainer that UB was the event that had the most discrepancy between the 3rd person on the event and the alternate for the event.

        Skinner was never an option for the team. It was between Douglas and Locklear and Douglas got the nod because she could do 4 events and Locklear could only do 2. With Kocian on the team, Douglas made more sense than Locklear. It all worked out because Douglas ended up scoring right around what Locklear would have gotten for a hit set.

        Skinner not making the team had nothing to do with Douglas but everything to do with that fact that Raisman made Skinner irrelevant once she had mastered her Amanar.

        So in conclusion, Skinner vs Douglas has zero dispute.

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    • Um GABBY had EF worthy BARS. Was 2nd in AA at Worlds, Winner of the AA in 2012. Maggie would have needed SOMETHING to show she could contribute to the team. An injury MOST CERTAINLY that is holding back your potential of what you can do, is 100% relevant. Horrified? Scary? Ramona voice ” TAKE A XANAXXXXX”.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I never once said Maggie needed an Amanar, lol. But I do know that Martha said Maggie wouldn’t make the team without one, so technically, yeah, she needed one based on what Martha said.

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  14. I felt like the “Athlete A” documentary was let down by the retaliation conspiracy theory theme throughout it. It was a great, very informative documentary, but I rolled my eyes and sighed in those first 5 minutes, the moment they first mentioned the conspiracy, the moment Maggie’s mom and dad basically said USAG stole her chance to be in the Olympics.

    Do I think there could’ve been some retaliation involved in the decision? Maybe. No one except those involved will ever know for sure. Do I think that’s firmly what she and her family believe? Yeah, and that’s totally their right to believe whatever they want to and to feel the way they do.

    However, looking at where she fit in on the potential team, (keeping in mind that Gabby was a lock no matter what cause of *reasons* ) Maggie didn’t make the team. Simone was a lock. And no way Maggie was going over Laurie or Aly. That leaves the 5th position open… Now, if they really (supposedly) took Gabby for bars, I guess they didn’t necessarily need Madison, (and I would like to point out that I feel having 2 specialists for the same apparatus on 1 team is ridiculous) but in that case, IF they took Gabby but not Madison, they could’ve chosen from Maggie or Ragan or MyKayla to fill that 5th spot and Maggie would’ve had a really decent argument to be on the team.
    (Likewise, if they took Madison but not Gabby, Maggie could’ve fit into the 5th spot. But like I said, there was no way they weren’t taking Gabby. So that’s a moot point. And besides, Maggie only scored 0.025 above Gabby in AA from both days, so either one had a good argument as that 5th person, and Gabby’s argument was stronger with top 3 bars score and Maggie not top 3 in anything)

    So yeah, I’m not a follower of the “Maggie was robbed of her rightful Olympic spot” narrative, and it irks me that that’s the way the film makers decided to lean even though there’s no evidence of it.
    (BTW: They totally should’ve gone with the “Maggie was robbed of her AA spot in the 2015 Worlds” narrative, cause that’s a much more compelling and believable argument!)

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