It’s time for the 306th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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Can we please get to what truly matters – who was the first gymnast to put glitter in her hair before major competitions?
Hair glitter seems to stem from the 2004 quad, but I don’t know who we should blame or honor. The Americans and the Russians both LOVED their hair glitter during this era, and then China caught on and was like YES WE STAN and continued the trend until around 2008 even though it was SO YESTERDAY. But they get bonus points for taking this even further by adding the star clips. Just iconic.
I feel like gymnastics hair trends usually follow actual hair trends, like yarn ribbons in the 70s, perms in the 80s, scrunchies in the 90s, and too-straight hair in the 2000s. But hair glitter? Definitely not a thing IRL at this time unless you were going to raves, so I have no idea why gymnasts were like “this is very cool.”
This was, however, when the new Mystique fabric became a thing for leotards, which started progressively getting shinier in this era, so I feel like gymnastics fashionistas were like, our bodies are shiny now, our hair should totally match! Chellsie Memmel did it perfectly.
Iordache is coming back!!!! However, the chance of her making the Olympics still seems pretty slim (no matter how much we wish it into existence). At the moment, the 2021 worlds would seem a more realistic goal, as with many post-olympic retirements she could have a good shot in multiple finals. What will qualifications for 2021 worlds be like for gymnasts from Romania? How many spaces are available for individuals, and will Iordache have to qualify at an event earlier in the year to have a spot?
So, I’ve said this before, but Larisa’s only shot to qualify to the Olympics right now is if she earns one of the two all-around spots at European Championships. That’s going to be a challenge given that she hasn’t competed in three years, but it’s not impossible if she can get most of her top skills back on each event.
For worlds in the same year, countries that qualify can send whoever they want because once they qualify the spots are non-nominative, so as long as Larisa is one of the strongest in Romania, they’ll likely select her to compete at worlds. It’s hard to say right now how she’ll do at worlds, or if worlds even ends up happening now that Copenhagen has backed out of hosting, but if both the Olympics and worlds do happen, and if Larisa doesn’t make it to Tokyo, then I can see her being one of the stronger athletes at worlds considering many of the top athletes who compete in Tokyo probably won’t also go on to compete at worlds a month or so later.
Do you know of any way to watch the “ Athlete A” documentary if one doesn’t have Netflix? (YouTube is always my go to but I don’t see it there) I don’t have cable or internet so YouTube on my phone is the only option. Thank you for the help!
I don’t, I’m sorry! I only know that it’s available on Netflix, and I generally don’t tend to see things from Netflix end up on YouTube in my experience…I’m sure there are copyright issues and that things get taken down a lot. I did find it here, but be warned that sites like these have a lot of ads, so if you can make it through the ads, you should be able to watch.
Do you know what happened to Sunisa Lee’s foot as she is in a boot?
When she got back to her gym after it opened up in June, she was training on bars and twisted her left ankle while dismounting. She’s in a boot right now but it doesn’t seem super serious and will hopefully be back to full strength in the next couple of months. It’s kind of good timing because if the Olympics WERE happening, she would’ve gotten injured right before trials, but thankfully she has time to recover from it with more than enough time to get back to full strength before serious competition (hopefully) starts up again next year.
Do you know why Shallon Olsen moved gyms?
Her old gym, Omega, closed down a couple of months ago. I know she was very sad to leave Omega, but she found a good home at Flicka and I hope the transition goes well for her! Most of her year is spent at Alabama anyway, so she seems to deal pretty well with changes in coaching situations!
If NCAA does continue next year, how do you think the NCAA should or will adjust? I’m thinking lowering the requirements for a 10.0 start value to prevent athletes from chucking skills they may not have had sufficient training time for.
I’m not confident that it will happen, honestly…I started out super optimistic about everything but now I’m just like “plan for everything but expect nothing.” I don’t think they would go as far as making code changes to allow for simpler skills or routines, and don’t think that coming back in 2021 would really be unsafe for anyone…most gymnasts in NCAA don’t train at full strength in the summers anyway, and kind of go into maintenance mode, so they’re more or less able to keep up with that with home training, while most are back in some sort of gymnastics training environment already. If fall semesters are fully done at home and gymnasts have to train at home and don’t return to their campus gyms until January, then I can see them maybe pushing the season back so that it’s more of a spring season instead of winter so that they can spend January and February training…but a lot of schools already have athletes in their gyms right now, so maybe it’ll all be fine and it’ll go on as normal?
What happens with scholarships and eligibility for gymnasts in NCAA if competition doesn’t go ahead this year? Thinking it would be fair to offer a fifth year but surely logistically this would be too complicated.
I think if the season doesn’t happen at all in 2021, any athlete in any sport would have to be eligible for a fifth year, like what NCAA did for the spring sports in the 2020 season. Some athletes might take it and stay in school programs longer, but I can also see a number of athletes, especially those more advanced in their NCAA careers, just taking the season as a loss. I do think that if they offer fifth years to athletes affected by COVID, they should also then have a rule so that incoming classes aren’t affected, meaning they’d have to open up scholarships to 15 per team for gymnastics instead of the usual 12, just for that one additional year. I feel like that would be the only fair way to go about it, so that those who are already on the team aren’t penalized by COVID, and those who are in incoming classes aren’t penalized by a rule that had nothing to do with them.
How does the position of international NCAA gymnasts look if they can’t travel to the U.S. and their visas are questioned with class online?
I’m wondering if some sort of exception will be made for NCAA athletes, or if they’ll just have to take the year off from their athletic programs and then get the option to return for a fifth year? I haven’t heard anything specifically about this but have seen a few international gymnasts sharing the petitions to allow international students (in general, not just athletes) keep their visas, so I’m sure it must affect them in some way. I think there’s just a lot of decisions that have to be made about NCAA in general, and I don’t think we’ll see most of these made until we know more about the pandemic and how it will play out.
Has there been any word on which Olympic hopefuls plan on doing NCAA for the 2021 season? I’ve heard Ana Padurariu will do both, but no one else.
I’ve only heard about Ana, and I think since most NCAA hopefuls are from the U.S. which low-key frowns upon doing NCAA and elite at the same time – especially going into the Olympic season – I feel like we’re going to see most gymnasts end up pushing back on their NCAA careers. Maybe we’ll see some of the more low-key U.S. elites who aren’t really on the Olympic track going as scheduled – like Shania Adams – and then also try to at least make it to trials in the summer, but I can’t think of any major contenders who are likely to go to school while also training for Tokyo. For Canada, maybe Isabela Onyshko? She’ll also be going into Stanford with Sze En Tan, who qualified individually to the Olympics for Singapore, so she’d have some elite teammate support, which is cool, plus Tabitha Yim could be awesome for Isabela as she makes a final push for a spot.
Who was the first gymnast to perform a Pak to Shaposh combo?
Nicole Harris did a Pak to Maloney in 2004, and then I think Chellsie Memmel did a Pak to Chow a year later, though it didn’t become a popular combination until early in the 2012 quad. In my recollection, the Russians perfected and popularized the back-and-forth Pak and Shaposh transitions and I always think of Aliya Mustafina as the queen of this trend.
If a college gymnast gets injured, does the university pay for the medical care or is it the gymnast?
The university is responsible for providing care. I believe they have insurance through their school, so if it’s an injury that requires care beyond just seeing the trainer or an on-site doctor, they should be covered for things like hospital visits and surgery through their university-provided healthcare plan.
Something I’ve never seen done – and I’ve always wondered about – is a gymnast repeating a skill that they’ve fallen on in order to make it count. I know this wouldn’t work so well on floor because music, but say a gymnast is on beam and falls on an unconnected double wolf turn. Would she be able to get back up straight into that and do it again? What if someone were to fall on an aerial-loso-loso? Could she do it all again and get the connection (and/or the skill)? What about on bars? If this is allowed, why don’t people do it?
So, on beam it would be really risky because MOST skills get credited even if they fall. I feel like it’s pretty rare that we see a fall on an element that is considered so incomplete it’s not credited, meaning that if she got back up and did it again, it wouldn’t count toward her start value. However, if she fell after the first aerial in the aerial-loso-loso series, she could get back up and do it again to get the full connection value and series bonus the second time. She already would have counted the side aerial and layout stepout, but a second attempt could give her the full difficulty she was going after aside from the skills themselves. Still, there’s a risk in that because you’re timed on beam, and a fall usually makes gymnasts come in pretty close to that time limit, so a fall PLUS repeating a series would most likely put you over time…and of course, after a fall, you’re usually a bit shaken up and frustrated, so trying the series again could result in another fall and make things even worse.
I don’t think most coaches would recommend repeating beam elements, and then yeah, floor is basically impossible because you’re performing to music, but it’s pretty common on bars. If you don’t grasp the bar when catching an element, you don’t get credit, so many gymnasts will repeat the skill, especially if it’s early in their routine and they still have the endurance to get through it, because if you miss a release that’s worth an E or something, if you don’t grasp, that means your start value gets cut down by half a point, so there’s a lot of value in repeating it. You also see gymnasts sometimes repeat the beginning of a lengthy connection series on bars if they fall early on so that they can get credit for everything, and they also will generally repeat something if they need the momentum from a certain skill into another (like a gymnast who has a Tweddle + Ezhova kind of series but falls on the first skill…they’ll often just do the Tweddle again so they can connect to the Ezhova so they don’t miss CV plus the Ezhova’s value). But if they fall near the end of a series, or after they’ve already gotten the CV and skill credit, they can usually just pick up where they left off and won’t need to repeat anything.
Can you explain the “back gym” at competitions? Where is this set up, what does it look like, etc?
It’s basically just a second arena set-up with all of the apparatuses set up in the same way so that gymnasts can do their pre-competition warm-up without having people watching from the stands. The pre-competition warm-up mirrors the competition exactly, with the gymnasts going from event to event in competition order, and many do full routines on each event, though some just do basic run-throughs. At U.S. and most national-level or smaller-scale meets, you can come to the meet early and watch the practice runs, but at bigger competitions like worlds and the Olympics, they typically use the “back gym” instead.
Some arenas are so big, when they sell tickets, they only sell tickets for half of the arena, and then put up a big partition in the middle of the arena. On the other side of the partition is usually where they do the mixed zone, the “back gym” or practice gym, and so on. I remember at American Cup in 2015, which was held at the stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play, they only used about a quarter of the arena for the competition, and behind the partition was this MASSIVE space, and then they also had so much space off the field behind the scenes, they probably could’ve had a different practice gym for every competitor, hahaha. And at worlds in 2017, the partition didn’t close all the way so some people in the stands had a slight view of the back gym, and I literally found out about Ragan Smith getting injured prior to the all-around final because a fan saw it happen while peeking behind the partition from her seat.
I noticed that on bars, some gymnasts put their toes on the bar one after the other. Is this a deduction? Why do they do this?
No, it’s not a deduction to do a toe-on element one foot at a time. Most will do this because a toe-on element takes a lot of back flexibility, and for gymnasts with back problems or who don’t have flexible backs, it’s easier and hurts less to go one toe at a time. Kyla Ross used to do inbars, which take even more back flexibility than a toe-on, but when she started having back pain, she couldn’t even pike down enough for a regular toe-on without it hurting, so she switched to the one-at-a-time method.
Has any Chinese female ever done a Shaposh half in a major competition?
I’m sure someone has at some point but from the most recent competitions I can recall, I only remember straight Shaposh variations with no twist. I feel like they mostly prefer to connect out of their low-to-high bars transitions (like the Maloney to Gienger, which is pretty common in China) and since there’s not much of anything of value that you can connect out of a Shaposh half, they tend not to do them and instead try to maximize the connection out of the transition.
I feel like in general, China spends as little time as possible on the low bar, so unlike most of the Russian routines with a lot of back-and-forth, or other routines where gymnasts mount on the low bar or perform easier circle elements there and then transition a couple of times throughout their routines, the Chinese construction seems to favor starting on the high bar and performing most of the elements there, only transitioning to low and back because it’s required, and when they transition back up, they try to maximize it with a worthy connection.
Why do you think so many top marketable elites are opting out on going pro and are doing NCAA gymnastics instead? I’ve noticed it a lot this quad. Do you think the Larry Nassar scandal has something to do with it and people not supporting USA Gymnastics?
I don’t think it’s so much about Nassar and the lack of support for USA Gymnastics…people still want to support the gymnasts even if they don’t support the organization. I think it’s more because previous quads, gymnasts who went pro too early ended up not being as successful as they expected in terms of endorsement deals, and on top of that, they regretted not being able to compete in college, so I think that kind of served as a warning for later generations.
Now, you see most gymnasts wait to go pro until they actually make the Olympic team and actually compete at the Games, because you never know what will happen. Even Simone Biles was basically a “guarantee” to go to Rio back in 2014 but nothing is actually a guarantee in gymnastics, and she waited until late 2015 to make the decision. That would still be super early for most gymnasts, but for her, it worked because it was clear that unless she got injured, she was going to the Olympics, and she was also rare in that she was getting tons of endorsement money based just on her historic world championships performances.
I think there are a couple of gymnasts who are competing elite in the U.S. right now who have the potential to make a pretty good amount of money if they go pro, but I also think it’s smart for them to wait until the Olympics happen. With nearly a dozen gymnasts in the U.S. capable of earning the four team spots, and considering how close everyone has been in recent years, it would be dumb to go pro before you know your future in the sport and I’m glad athletes now seem to have more awareness here than they did previously.
Regarding Rebeca Andrade in 2016…did her nerves get the best of her? I really thought she had the potential to win an all-around medal but it looked like she said “nope, not interested” starting with her bars. Has there been any interview with her about what happened?
I think nerves probably played a part in her not doing as well in the all-around final as she did in qualifications…I also thought she was in a prime position to win an all-around medal, but her performance following vault definitely seemed like a nervous one to me. I think she was a much stronger and more complete/balanced all-arounder than anyone else in the top ten, aside from the Americans, and it was shocking to see her drop from medal contention in qualifications to 11th in finals.
But just think of the pressure she was under, coming into the all-around final in a position to earn a medal in her home country at her first Olympic Games after being almost completely out of all-around competition due to injuries for like two years?! That’s intense, and it’s incredible that she had the best performance of her career in qualifications, but I think that also piled onto the expectations for her going into the final, and if anything, it probably just rattled her a bit. I almost wish she would have made mistakes in qualifications and then come back into the final ready to rage…I feel like if you go all out in qualifications, it can be really difficult to match that level in finals for most gymnasts, and part of that is mental.
I personally can’t remember any interview with her, and unfortunately the mainstream media tends to ignore gymnasts in the mixed zone if they’re not placing at the top, but I’m sure the Brazilian media must have spoken to her. All media I can find about Rebeca relating to Rio is like, “omg she has a Beyoncé floor routine!!!!!” hahaha. Which we had already known for like two years as gym fans.
Any idea why Dominique Dawes and Kelli Hill fell out? Do you think her concept for a ‘new culture’ around gymnastics can stick?
I don’t know what their falling out was about, only that it was relatively recent because I had a conversation with both of them in 2016 and they didn’t seem to be at odds then. I talked about this in another recent You Asked post, but I feel like with all of the retrospection happening now with athletes coming forward to talk about their experiences, it wouldn’t be that weird for Dominique to reflect on her own career and realize that some of the things she dealt with during her career weren’t right. Even if Kelli was known as one of the least intense coaches of the 90s, she probably still wasn’t all about rainbows and sunshine, so it’s possible Dominique recalled some things that happened that she now sees in hindsight weren’t right, especially now that she has her own children and is thinking about putting them into sports. It’s easy to go through something low-key traumatic that you justify as being normal or worth it, only to look back years later and think “yeah, that wasn’t right,” so without actually knowing what happened, this is my guess.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins