It’s time for the 305th 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).
Something you want to know? Ask us anonymously by going through the contact form at the bottom of the page.
What is the timeline of Natalia Yurchenko debuting the new vault that led us to calling all roundoff back handspring vaults Yurchenkos? What was the Yurchenko vault that she first competed?
The first person to compete the roundoff back handspring entry vault was actually a man named Viktor Levinkov during a small Soviet competition, but the Soviet men’s program absolutely hated it and they were like “never do it again.”
Natalia’s coach was like “why don’t YOU do it?” So Natalia began training it, and although she was terrified at first, she said after doing it over and over and over again, she finally got used to it and began to perfect it, and then she competed it for the first time at the “Moscow News” competition in 1982. She then went on to compete it at a world cup in Croatia later that year, the Soviet federation submitted it as a new element, and the FIG accepted it for inclusion in the code of points. Many people said the FIG would never allow this new style of entry for vault, so she and her coach were happily surprised to see it get in.
Natalia was originally credited just for the entry itself, but not for any specific vault, though eventually, several variations of the vault were also named for her, including the tuck (which Natalia never actually competed internationally), the tuck full, the layout, and the layout full. The tuck was the first version she competed, at a national competition, and the layout was the first she competed internationally.
After Natalia debuted the Yurchenko, many female gymnasts began training and competing it pretty quickly, though it took a while for it to be considered acceptable for the men. Natalia’s teammate Albina Shishova actually trained and competed the tucked Yurchenko at the same time as Natalia, though Natalia beat her to it internationally, so Shishova is kind of forgotten in this whole story.
Just a couple of years after the debut of the Yurchenko, the Soviets already had a handful of gymnasts trying to upgrade it. Elena Shushunova first competed the Yurchenko 1½ in 1984, and several gymnasts – including Elena Shevchenko, Elena Gurova, and Aleftina Prahkina – were competing the double by 1986. The double was first named for Svetlana Baitova after she competed it at worlds in 1987, but this is kind of by default, because two of her competitors – Shushunova and Eugenia Golea – competed it minutes later.
Which European Championships is the qualification meet for the Olympics? The one taking place in December 2020, or the one in April 2021?
The European Championships taking place in December 2020 is currently the qualification meet for the Olympic Games, though with the coronavirus not yet under control and currently on the rise in Azerbaijan, I’m not super optimistic about it happening. But I’m sure we’ll find out as it gets closer. If Azerbaijan ends up being unable to manage it by then, I’m sure it’ll get pushed back to the Euros set to be held in April 2021. Just take everything with a grain of salt right now, because something that looks promising right now could end up being completely different in just a month or two!
I just saw the question about Maisie Methuen and am wondering the same thing about Latalia Bevan. Is she still training? I really thought she was going to be huge for Great Britain after the Commonwealth Games in 2018, particularly because she had that amazing artistry aspect that most of the current girls lack.
I believe she’s still training, though she hasn’t done anything competition-wise in over two years at this point. She was fabulous at the Commonwealth Games, but I believe she was dealing with some injuries after, which took her out of contention for the British world championships team later that year, and she hasn’t competed since, though I think that’s partly because of everything that’s happened with COVID-19. She’s continued with her home training during quarantine, so hopefully we do see her come back to competition in the future.
Do you have any insight into how things are working out with Riley McCusker now training under Brian Carey? Do you think he’s a good fit for her? Do you think her DTY could become less terrifying with his help?
I’ve heard she’s really excelling in her new coaching situation, and think it’s an incredible fit for her! Given that he’s such a strong vault coach, and that Jade has such strong technique on that event, I’m really hopeful that her DTY will get stronger with his help. Considering he’s already changed a lot of her tumbling technique on floor, which has vastly improved her tumbling ability, I think we’ll definitely see the same thing happen on vault, and while she probably won’t start throwing Amanars anytime soon, those technical differences should be noticeable, especially to the judges evaluating her routines, and the technical changes will also make this a much safer vault for her to be competing regularly.
As a non-American, I don’t understand how someone becomes an All-American. Is it based on where you finish at a certain competition, or is it based on rankings? Is it for each apparatus, or just the all-around? Is the maximum amount of All-American honors a gymnast could earn 25? Or potentially more if they’re able to redshirt?
There are a few different categories of All-American. The first is regular season All-American. This is determined once the regular season RQS rankings are in, with the top eight in each individual category (all-around, vault, bars, beam, and floor) making first team All-American and those ranked 9th through 16th making second-team All-American. If you make All-American all four years in all five categories, then the maximum for regular season All-American honors is 20. If you redshirt a season, you wouldn’t be eligible to earn any All-American honors for the season you missed, so you’d still get a max of 20 because even with five years at the program, you only compete for four of those years.
Then you have postseason All-American. Here, the top four in each individual category from both preliminary sessions get first team honors, while those who place fifth through eighth in each of the two sessions get second team (so again, you have a total of eight first team and eight second team, but this is a one-shot deal kinda thing where the only performance that matters is that one prelims performance). Again, like regular season, the maximum you can earn for postseason is 20.
Finally, there’s Academic All-American, which is based purely on academic performance. Schools nominate their best candidates, which is partly based on a minimum GPA, but at the same time you also want high levels of athletic achievement. Then SIDs vote on the candidates, first regionally (these are the Academic All-District teams) and then the first team Academic All-District picks those who advance to the national ballot. A student-athlete can be first, second, or third team Academic All-American.
There’s also the Scholastic All-American team, which is awarded by the collegiate coaches association, based purely on a minimum GPA. At the Division III level, only seniors are named Academic All-Americans, and it’s based on GPA.
What is your favorite routine on each apparatus for the 2012 and 2016 quads?
Vault: I’m actually gonna go with McKayla Maroney’s ‘Mustafina’ vault in qualifications at the Olympic Games for my 2012 favorite vault, and for 2016, even though it didn’t work out, I have to go with Hong Un Jong trying the Yurchenko triple in Rio because after years and years of seeing this vault submitted, we FINALLY got to see an attempt, and that was what I was most looking forward to.
Bars: I’m going to go with Huang Qiushuang and Ana Porgras for the 2012 quad…I loved Qiushuang and her routine and everything about her, and then with Ana, I was just so excited to see gorgeous bars from Romania, even though it wasn’t the MOST difficult routine, it was still super impressive and I was devastated when she retired. I also have to give Gabby Douglas a shoutout here because while she wasn’t my favorite bar worker, her Tkachevs were killer, and I never got tired of seeing her fly through the air. In the 2016 quad, I was all about Fan Yilin, but I also loved Jessica Lopez’s routine…so badass, and loved that she was able to get into the Olympic final.
Beam: Sui Lu was my everything for beam in the 2012 quad, but I also loved Aly Raisman’s powerful and typically confident set…even if it wasn’t the prettiest and wasn’t stylistically my aesthetic, I appreciated how solid she generally was, and while she was known more for her floor, I love that she somehow became the top beam worker for the U.S. In the 2016 quad, I was of course obsessed with Sanne Wevers for doing something so different from everyone else, and aesthetically, hers was my favorite, but I also really rooted for Flavia Saraiva, Larisa Iordache, Tutya Yilmaz (STILL think she should’ve been in the final in Rio)…
Floor: Aly Raisman both quads. Again, it’s not an aesthetic choice for me at all, but more just that she was such a freaking BAMF…that opening pass, the passion she put into everything she did, how solid and consistent she was, the fact that she was somehow always at her very peak exactly when she needed it at the Olympic Games…and on top of that, her journey to becoming this fierce floor gymnast was just incredible. I still remember the shock from the U.S. program when Aly made the final in 2010. It’s such a fabulous story, and watching her grow from the kid who caught everyone’s attention that year to being the best floor worker in the world? Phenomenal. Stylistically, I preferred Ksenia Afanasyeva in the 2012 quad, and in 2016, I’m gonna go with Axelle Klinckaert’s frog routine. Iconic. I also really loved Flavia Saraiva’s floor routine in 2016…seeing her do it live in Rio at the test event, it was just so magical. Not the biggest or best, but just performed so brilliantly. I also loved a lot of random French floor routines in the 2016 quad.
Do you know what is happening to Olivia Greaves after all of the drama at MG Elite? Is she still training there or has she found a new gym?
I just assumed she has been training at her mom’s gym in Staten Island…I was wondering if she would end up at another big elite gym, but think COVID probably complicated the process, especially since she’s based in New York and until mid-June, you couldn’t really leave the area. I assume she’ll eventually end up at a new gym given that there isn’t anyone who can coach her at MG Elite, but she’s also lucky that she has her mom’s gym in the meantime during the pandemic.
Could you give a brief recent history of the J.O. program? I have met gymnasts a few years younger than me who have a vastly different memory of how it worked. When did the USGF become USAG? When did we change from the Class system to the Level system? What drove that change? When did Level 10 compulsories get eliminated, and why? Do men still have Level 7 compulsories?
So, unfortunately there isn’t a ton of documented information on part of USA Gymnastics, and I didn’t start in gymnastics until 1996 after all of the changes had taken place. In recent deep dives into the class system, all information I could find was on various forums and based on memories of people who competed within it, so there’s nothing official that talks about how that system worked or when it ended.
I believe they switched over to the levels system somewhere after 1988, and can’t find anything about it still being in use in the early 90s, but again, since there’s nothing really out there about that, and since I personally wasn’t around to see the change, I have no way of confirming this unless someone who personally remembers can say for sure. But even with that, memory seems to be shady here, because some people say it was in the late 80s and others say it was the early 90s. But there are videos of the 1989 compulsory levels available on YouTube, and at that stage, they were referred to as “levels 5-7” instead of as classes, so they had to have switched prior to the 90s.
I don’t know what drove that change, but I think the levels system was better in terms of advancing from one stage to the next within the sport? The class system had more variety in terms of the skill level of the individuals who competed in each of the classes, whereas the levels system is a bit more narrowed down in terms of the skills you have to be able to compete to advance. An intermediate-level class could have a huge variety of skill levels, for example, whereas in the levels system, there are several levels that are considered ‘intermediate’ and a gymnast who is level 7 is just slightly more advanced than a gymnast who is a level 6, if that makes sense. I think the levels system was better for evaluating gymnasts and I think the breakdown of skills that are required to move up made more sense because you didn’t have to learn a million skills to advance, and you really had a focus on building on the skills that you learned at the previous level. It was a huge improvement in the developmental stages of the sport, so I would guess that was the reasoning behind the change, to kind of fine-tune how gymnasts advance from one level to the next in a way that made sense to prepare them for high-level gymnastics.
I don’t know when level 10 compulsories disappeared, though. I believe they still had level 10 compulsories under the USGF, so maybe the early 90s? I guess it would’ve made sense to get rid of level 10 compulsories after 1996 when compulsories at the elite level disappeared. Now, compulsories are only up to level 5, and then level 6 is the first optionals-only level, but there are still skill restrictions at levels 6-9 so there is a compulsory feel to the requirements even if the routines are technically optional.
As for your MAG level 7 question, yes, the men still compete level 7 compulsories. This level is kind of the transitional level between the basic levels (which go up to level 6) and the optional levels (levels 8 and above). In WAG, a few who move on to compete level 8 and beyond have elite dreams, but most just want to stay at the J.O. level with NCAA gymnastics as the goal. In MAG, pretty much everyone who advances to level 8 is on an elite track, and levels 8 and above are essentially the developmental levels for the elite program, which is why scoring switches to FIG scoring, and why you see the top level 8-10 boys as part of the national program. Level 7 is the stage where gymnasts are able to determine if they have what it takes to move into the elite track, so they get compulsory routines that are essentially “entry-level optional routines.” If they do well in level 7, this is basically where they make the decision to go on and compete at the elite level.
As for the USGF to USA Gymnastics shift, I think that happened between 1992 and 1993, based on what I’ve been able to find in old issues of their magazine. You’d THINK someone in the organization would have written a history of the org to include on their website or something, haha. BUT NO. It’s funny because the federation’s magazine was called USA Gymnastics when the federation was still called USGF, so in 1992 issues of USA Gymnastics magazine, the federation is still referred to as USGF, but in 1993 issues both the federation and the magazine have the same name.
Do you think gymnasts who rely on inbars for difficulty will have issues going into Tokyo? I’m thinking about how a lot of gymnasts who have done inbars but then stopped doing them have had issues with regaining them and am wondering if quarantine will have an impact?
It depends on the person and her body. Gymnasts who have really flexible backs and don’t experience back pain from doing inbars normally probably won’t have an issue, especially if they’re continuing to stretch and train during quarantine in a way that won’t affect their inbars at all. But gymnasts who aren’t flexible and who struggle with getting their stalders piked down well enough in general might not have the easiest time getting them back on bars, even if they are stretching their backs out. The only times we’ve seen gymnasts be unable to get their inbars back are when they were gymnasts who weren’t naturally flexible in that way, and who had back injuries that limited them even further (like Kyla Ross and Ashton Locklear). Like any skill, inbars are easy for some people and difficult for others, so those who find them easy won’t have an issue, and those who find them difficult but compete them anyway to have the added difficulty in their routines will continue to find them difficult and might have a hard time getting that shape back.
Why do you think Mattie Larson was…Mattie Larson’ed in 2010, while gymnasts like Alicia Sacramone were forgiven for team final mistakes and not given the same cold shoulder treatment as Mattie?
I’ve always wondered this. I know Martha Karolyi had her ‘favorites’ and tended to be more forgiving with some and not others, so I’d guess it had something to do with that. Mattie was never a favorite of Martha’s, and they never seemed to have a great relationship, so I can’t see Martha letting her get away with things. Like, Mattie was literally trying to injure herself so she wouldn’t have to go to camp, but between 2010 and 2011, Alicia was allowed to skip basically every camp that whole spring season. Alicia was basically like, I know my body and it’s best for me if I stop doing gymnastics for a number of months and then come back when I’m ready, and Martha was like cool, I trust you, but Chellsie Memmel said the same thing in 2012, and chose not to attend camps between 2011 and 2012, and Martha was pissed about that and I heard that was part of the reason she didn’t allow Chellsie to compete at nationals that summer, and that if Chellsie had gone to camps, she would’ve given her the benefit of the doubt after she fell at classics. I guarantee Martha’s favorites got vastly better treatment than those she didn’t have a personal relationship with, and since she didn’t seem personally invested in Mattie, it showed in how she treated her after Mattie made mistakes. It’s incredibly unfair, but you see that all over the place in life (in work, in school, in sports, in basically every activity that exists), so it’s not that surprising, honestly, even though it sucks for those who aren’t the favorites.
I’m very confused about the 10.0 system in NCAA. Most routines under the 10.0 system in the old Olympics were given a 9.6 to a 9.8, but in NCAA 9.8+ is pretty much a guaranteed deal by half of the routines on top five teams? I’ve read the J.O. code and it’s supposed to be followed in NCAA, but it isn’t at all. What gives? How can this be considered a competitive sport when the scores are so incomprehensible?
The NCAA code is a modified J.O. code, and most judges in NCAA only take the “obvious” deductions instead of every technical deduction that exists. I personally hate it, because you can see a “hit” routine with a dozen technical problems getting a 9.9, and then you can see a technically brilliant routine with a step on the dismount also get a 9.9. It makes zero sense, and I honestly don’t take NCAA scores seriously at all because of it. I see it as more of a performance art than a sport, which is a shame because the athletes are working so hard, but the judging is such a mess, I can’t even force myself to get invested anymore. It’s the same fights and nonsense every single season, and if I have to see one more Twitter debate about whether a routine is really deserving of a 10, I’m going to tear my eyeballs out. I’m personally over here like, absolutely zero routines we see are literally perfect, and yet we’re going to see a million 10s every season, so get over it and understand that NCAA 10s are based on feelings and not a code and just enjoy the athletes and their routines for what they are regardless of what they score.
To enjoy NCAA, you really just have to accept this fact, that the judging is fully nonsense and that the scores don’t mean anything. If you can’t accept this, you’re probably going to be pissed about every single score that exists, unless the score was handed to one of your faves, in which case you’ll probably defend it to the death, because of course YOUR FAVES are deserving of whatever the judges do, even though the judges are “on crack” for everyone else. Also, can we stop saying judges are on crack? Because that’s actually pretty racist. I clearly have a lot of problems with NCAA judging, and the fan community in general, because everyone is SO AWFUL in how they talk about so many of the athletes despite the judging having literally nothing to do with them. And the judging usually isn’t even the fault of the actual judges! Coaches have a lot of influence over how judges evaluate routines, especially among top programs, and I feel like so much of NCAA gymnastics is “rigged” for those who are in top programs.
I think the only way to fix it would be to revamp the entire code, actually enforce it so that ALL technical deductions are taken at EVERY program, and limit coach influence over judges so they can do their jobs. It’s fun to see 10s, and I do think that truly exceptional routines should be able to receive 10s, but there’s no way in hell we see “truly exceptional routines” five times in a single meet. These are adult women who trained their whole lives to compete at a high level in one of the most difficult sport that exists. They don’t need pity 10s for doing the bare minimum. Separate the meh from the good from the great from the brilliant, please.
How is Nora Feher doing? What is she doing now? Is she training in gymnastics, or did she retire?
I think Nora is done with gymnastics, sadly. I know she was going to try to continue training despite her issues within the national program, but I believe this was further complicated by the pandemic. I don’t know if she plans to try to train again in the future, and will try to reach out to her family for a follow-up.
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