You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Kyla Ross

It’s time for the 316th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!

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Why did Kyla Ross change her toe-on technique from one leg at a time to both at the same time?

She actually used to do her toe-on technique with both at the same time, mostly when she was a junior, but I think she tended to go back to the one-at-a-time technique when she was dealing with a lot of back pain and piking down into a toe-on caused too much pain. The one-at-a-time method is a lot easier on your low back, so when you have low back stress injuries over an extended period of time like Kyla did, you typically want to be piking down as little as possible, and the one-at-a-time method is a good compromise to still build up a routine with toe-on skills without being in constant pain. Doing a true toe-on with both feet hitting the bar at the same time is more aesthetically pleasing, so maybe she tries to go for that when she’s feeling capable of it, and then does the one-at-a-time method when her back is flaring up? I feel like I saw her do it both ways in the 2019-2020 seasons.

Apparently in 2018 Jordan Levi scored a 10.05 on vault. Is that possible? Is it a mistake? Can we finally give an 11 to Kyla Ross?

In J.O. there is a one-tenth difficulty bonus for vaults that have a 10.00 difficulty, so she must have gotten a 9.95 for her total, and then also got the one-tenth bonus for sticking to get a 10.05. At Congress before this happened, the technical committee decided that a 10.00 was the highest possible score regardless of bonus, but judges make mistakes all the time so they probably didn’t realize that was a rule? In senior elite, for example, anyone who does a Yurchenko full is supposed to get a two-tenth penalty, which the judges applied at most qualifiers in 2019 except for one, where gymnasts got the full 4.6 SV instead of the 4.4. One gymnast wouldn’t have qualified had she gotten the penalty, but she ended up qualifying without it being taken, so she got really lucky because in that case the judges’ mistake was what enabled her to qualify elite. I feel like a lot of these technicalities with bonuses and penalties that aren’t spelled out in any code are at risk for being forgotten during competitions. This stick bonus does not exist in NCAA, however, so unfortunately we can’t break the scale for Kyla, no matter how perfect she is!

Why do virtually all Russian gymnasts have piano riffs in their floor music?

The simple answer is that the national program probably gets all of the music from the same person, and when this happens, it’s easy to find similar themes between different pieces of music. Another answer could be somewhere along the lines of the Russian program thinking that this somehow sounds “balletic” or “artistic” or whatever else Russia thinks floor music is supposed to be. I know Valentina Rodionenko has a kind of old-school perspective on what an “artistic” floor routine should be and often the whole “balletic” piano trope somehow means artistry to some people, lol. Newsflash…it’s not.

Have you ever considered doing a cross-platform collab with a YouTube channel like sporteverywhere? What do you think about channels like that and their contribution to helping bring the sport to the public?

I haven’t thought about doing a crossover but I really like the channels that try to educate fans about the technicalities of the sport that are sometimes difficult to figure out just by reading the code…I especially love Flip Fly Tumble’s D-score and E-score breakdowns using actual routines and the scores that were awarded in competition to show what the judges credit or what they’re looking for execution-wise. Even as someone who knows the code pretty well, and who has a pretty good eye for what a skill should look like, it’s nice to get an FIG judge’s insight into what they’re looking for. It’s funny because sometimes I find myself judging a routine much more harshly than the actual judges did, and other times I’m much more lenient…so to see what I go overboard on or what I miss is a great way to keep improving as a non-judge judge. 

These sorts of channels are obviously very helpful, but at the same time I and others who own certain videos have had our videos taken without permission by channels like sporteverywhere and some other fan channels, and reposted on these YouTube with ads, which is frustrating. I can see wanting to repost someone else’s content if you’re adding to it by showing a D-score breakdown and then crediting the owner of the footage, but for a recent example, I had exclusive video of Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos training new skills on bars and instead of just sharing my video, sporteverywhere downloaded it, reuploaded it as their own, slapped ads on it, and didn’t credit me as the source. The same thing happened with some of my footage from a couple of gym visits, as well as interviews from world championships, which sucks because I don’t make a profit on what I do and often spend a lot of my own money to travel to these places to get these kinds of exclusives. 

Share footage and credit the source, but taking other people’s content and posting it as your own to earn money off of it is actual theft. I rarely do videos because I’m not legally allowed to film at most competitions (since broadcasters usually own those rights), but I know a lot of other video producers who regularly have their content taken in this way and some of them are in my position of doing it for no money, so seeing it end up on other sites is a bummer.

I’ve noticed some elites have ugly giants where they spread and bend their legs on the swing down. Why do coaches allow them to do this? It’s so ugly and should be an easy fix.

It’s easier to generate momentum through a straddled giant than it is to do so with your legs together…and it’s also easier for someone to hold onto the correct straddle form compared to holding your legs together, so gymnasts are less likely to get hip and leg form deductions doing straddled giants. Finally, straddled giants are also easier for taller gymnasts who want to avoid hitting their feet on the low bar. Both straddled and straight-leg giants are allowed in the code, so there’s no penalty for doing the straddled giants. Even though they’re not as aesthetically pleasing, they’re both easier and more efficient for most gymnasts, which matter more than aesthetics in terms of what judges are allowed to deduct.

Gabby Douglas appeared to look strong at the start of 2016 but seemed to lose steam. Do you know what happened?

I think she was just dealing with a lot and maybe either didn’t fully want to be there, or wasn’t mentally able to be fully committed in the way that it takes to be at a hundred percent. Obviously we know now that she was dealing with the early stages of the Larry Nassar fallout, she had to once again move away from her family to train after getting a sense of normalcy for a couple of years spent with them in California, she was pulled away from a coach she really loved and trusted when she was forced to leave Chow’s, she was struggling with her relationship with her coach at her new gym, her family’s financial situation depended on endorsements which required her to still be in the mix for Rio, she was literally bullied by members of the national team who were supposed to be her teammates…

It’s a lot to deal with, especially as a young adult who seemed like she wanted to have more of a balance in life. Like, Simone Biles now with her own house, choosing her own coach, having a boyfriend, making her own decisions…that’s something Gabby was basically denied in her comeback, and at 20 years old after nearly two decades of gymnastics being her entire life, I can see why someone in her position wouldn’t be as invested. 

Of course, this is all speculation, and I can’t speak for Gabby, but I remember watching her family’s reality show back in 2016 and there was one episode where her mom asked about her comeback, and Gabby seemed pretty ‘meh’ about it in that conversation. I think if she was mentally in a place to be fully invested in the sport, she had the talent to be a major challenger for an all-around medal, and even not at 100%, she still proved to be one of the best in the world, but I think with everything she had going on in her life outside of the sport, it’s incredible how far she came.

When and why did the uneven bars get moved further apart? What was the reaction from gymnasts and coaches at the time?

The bars were moved further apart in the mid-80s, but the change had been about a decade in the making, as gymnasts in the early 70s started experimenting with the more MAG-style releases. Olga Korbut’s eponymous salto was the first to hit the competition floor in 1972, Nadia Comaneci debuted her own release in 1976, and then in 1978, Silvia Hindorff did the first reverse hecht release in WAG with her clear hip into the Tkachev. 

It was clear that the uneven bars were going in a new direction, and since these bigger releases required giant swings to generate amplitude, it made sense to push the bars further apart, which also facilitated innovation with transitions and flight between the bars. I think most gymnasts and coaches were on board with the changes, especially since gymnasts were already doing (or attempting) bigger releases on the old bars in the early 80s, where routines were essentially hybrids between the old style and the new style. Spreading them apart just made everything easier for the athletes, so I feel like most were happy to see them change.

Why do some uneven bars pirouettes look different, like Huang Huidan’s?

What do you mean by “different” specifically? To me, the only real difference is that most of her pirouettes looked like they were actually fully completed while still in handstand instead of finishing late, hahaha. She was always very quick with her pirouettes, and very precise, but nothing stood out to me as being particularly odd in comparison with others!

Do you maybe mean her hand movements? Her transition to L grip is SUPER noticeable compared to how most others do it, and someone on Twitter also brought up that she has some additional hand movements, so I’m assuming that’s it. With most gymnasts I barely pay attention to reverse grip vs. L grip because you don’t see the transition unless you’re really watching the shoulder angle, but with Huang it was so noticeable with the way she changes her hand grip, I didn’t even need to see her shoulder angle to know she was in L grip.

Do you think Liang Chow will come back to the U.S. and get an elite program going again?

I think he seems pretty committed to the Chinese program right now, and don’t see him leaving before 2024. Maybe eventually he’ll return to the U.S. to coach full-time at his gym once again, but I think with his current success leading China at the national level, they’re going to want to keep him around for a bit longer, and that’s a job that comes with so many fantastic opportunities and prestige. Most of the coaching he did at his club was at the J.O. level, so while he did get to do the elite thing a few times a year, it was never his main focus, and he was often double-teaming elite and club gymnastics, which is a grueling schedule…a gig like he has now is no walk in the park, but he’s able to focus on one team, and really take control over everything that goes into creating a successful national program, which is kind of the ideal job for a coach with his level of talent. I think if he does come back to the U.S. full-time for any reason, it would be to take over the U.S. national program, which is still something I’d love to see happen eventually.

Is Emma Kelley still training at Texas Dreams?

No, she only spent about a year or so at Texas Dreams and ended up going back to Stars in Houston in 2018. I think the move to Texas Dreams was so that she could give elite a shot in a stronger elite-level program, but when she didn’t get the scores she needed and chose to just focus on Level 10 again, it just made sense for her to move back home with her family.

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

25 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

    • The short story is that Chow required a contract for Gabby to make sure that she was fully committed to 2016, I think because she was doing so much with endorsements and other opportunities, so he was worried that she wouldn’t be able to focus on gymnastics and he essentially didn’t want her skipping practices or whatever to fly around filming commercials. I don’t think the contract was anything too serious, but obviously it’s worrying for a parent to see a contract that would essentially bind their child to a certain gym/program for a period of time, so her mom was like ‘no way’ and pulled her out of the gym. Gabby didn’t really have a say, which is why I consider her basically being forced out of a coaching situation that she really enjoyed and that really worked for her…she basically always just had a lot of adults making decisions for her despite being a legal adult at that point which must have been so frustrating for her.

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      • Thank you, that makes a lot of sense and is something I wouldn’t have been thrilled about as an adult. I don’t think people understand how much a good coach or teacher can do for someone.

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        • Yeah, exactly…and with all of the upheaval in her life, Chow and the host family in Iowa seemed to be a real source of grounding for her. I think when her family moved to CA after London, she really wanted to stay there with them and was training at Waller’s for a time from what I remember, but her mom was the one who was like no, you have to go train at Chow’s if you want to make the 2016 team, and then her mom was also the one to uproot her again from Chow’s to Buckeye, which ended up not being an ideal coaching situation for her at all. It’s just bizarre and really unfair to her…I don’t think her mom realized how much those constant changes affected her.

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      • I know it’s probably partly just parenting style, but I can’t help but wonder if age might play a role as well? If I’m remembering and doing the math correctly, Gabby was significantly younger than Simone or Aly when they started their comebacks, so while those two had a little more time to get used to the “hey, I’m an adult now” thing (including time over the hiatus, which gave them some room to breathe while figuring that out), Gabby would have started her comeback when she was just barely a legal adult, which may have made her feel even less able to push back against her mom.

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        • It could be more related to just…readiness than actual age? Because Gabby was 19 when she came back, Aly was 20, and Simone was almost 21, so they were all college-aged and there wasn’t much of a difference…but obviously some people are more suited to starting their lives away from home earlier than others. I was 17 when I moved to NYC because I couldn’t wait to be independent, and my high school best friend didn’t feel ready to move out of her parents’ house until she was almost 30. It might be that Gabby just didn’t feel ready to do things on her own, but I do feel like her mother was often very controlling just in pretty much every first-hand glimpse I had at her as a person, so I can see Gabby just sort of going along with it knowing her mother was always going to get her way instead of stepping up and being like “actually I’m staying at Chow’s.” I think Aly and Simone have parents who gave them more freedom, and they both also seem to be very independently-minded, so I think that’s more why they got to dictate more of their experiences than Gabby did. Not to insinuate that Gabby is meek or whatever in any way, because she’s clearly not, but I think she’s probably just a bit more agreeable, especially in terms of how she deals with her mom? I have a lot of friends in their 30s who still don’t fight their parents on things for this reason, haha. But also, with a parent in your life who is a decision-maker in the way Gabby’s mom was with her, it makes it harder for you to make decisions/stand up for what you want sometimes, especially at 19.

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        • Ok, yeah, it looks like I mis-remembered Aly’s birth year as 93 instead of 94 (I *would* remember her birthday perfectly but get the wrong year). Even so, though, I would guess that Gabby started training for her comeback while she was 18, and having dealt with a similar personality clash issue (to a lesser degree, but still), I know that the difference between 18 and 20 was pretty significant for me in how I handled those situations.

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      • Aly and Simone’s parents are well off and did not rely on their kids’ success to be financially stable. So these girls had no external pressure to make it to Rio. They eanted it fot themselves.
        Gabby’s making Rio could have been a financial stabilizer for her family. So imagine the pressure on your frail shoulders. With the endorsements, the reality show, the Gabby Barbie doll that would only make sense if she made the Rio team. So Gabby and her mum were in a VERY different situation from anyone else in the US team. No wonder her mum was a little more hands on than the other parents. And Gabby under a different pressure than everyone else on the team.
        I’m glad she made it though. I know she should not have made the team based on her Trials results, but she finished 3rd in AA quals so she fully showed that she had what it takes to be there.

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        • Yes, this is also very important…Aly and Simone came back because they wanted to and had additional goals they wanted to meet. Gabby met her ultimate goal in 2012 and didn’t really seem to WANT to comeback, but seemed to have more of a need to, so she could stay relevant and keep bringing in the money to keep her family afloat. I think it’s very unfair to her that her entire family’s financial situation depended on her doing gymnastics, and that pressure to come back and make the team was probably so intense compared to what Aly and Simone felt. Obviously they also had pressure to do well from the media and things like that, but yeah, Gabby’s situation was very different.

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  1. Also wondering about the comment that Gabby was bullied by her teammates? So sad! I can’t believe all she went through and still made the team. Good for her.

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    • She was just kind of quiet and introverted, and it often caused problems for her because her teammates were more loud and outgoing and thought Gabby was somehow being rude to them when she wanted to retreat to her room rather than spend every waking moment with them. I’m similar in that sense, so I fully understand Gabby here, and I’ve been in weeks-long group situations where people straight up didn’t like me and called me bitchy because I would read in my bed after a 12 hour day with them instead of continuing to hang 24/7. I think it’s hard for extroverts to understand that more introverted people need time away, but without getting into names, two people especially were pretty awful in how they treated Gabby so I always feel bad for her having to go through that, especially because outside of her own teammates, the world was also treating her like shit for not smiling, for how her hair looked, etc. Literally everyone was so awful to her that summer. It’s heartbreaking and I wasn’t surprised at all to see her go back to the U.S. before closing ceremonies. Imagine being at the Olympics and dying to go home because it sucks that bad?! It honestly kills me.

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      • I feel that, I’m introverted and in public shy and socially awkward, so I’ve had my fair share of moments where I gave the wrong impression. During Rio I was among those that was on the “Gabby shouldn’t be on the team” bandwagon and while I still think someone like Skinner would’ve made more sense logically speaking, i feel almost guilty for being harsh on Gabby when I think about all that she went through in retrospect. Although we may never know all of the struggles that the Olympic team members went though it seems like she got dealt the worst hand out of all of them, and considering every single one is a victim of abuse, that says a lot.

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        • I feel like you can have an opinion about who should be on the team, but can also really feel for an athlete in a situation like Gabby’s…that’s where I am, honestly, but whenever I say I don’t think Gabby should’ve been on the team, I get yelled at like WHY DO YOU HATE GABBY??? Teams are decided by who fits them best, not by who has it the worst and needs a sympathy spot. I think we can feel horrible for Gabby and think that she deserves THE WORLD, but also recognize that there were other good options for that team and that while Gabby did make sense in the scenario Martha laid out, other situations also made sense. I love Aly but don’t think she should have done the all-around over Maggie in worlds qualifications in 2015, I love Maggie but don’t think she was ever going to be on the Olympic team, I love a lot of gymnasts but am also realistic about where they fit in on teams and don’t play games like SHE’S MY FAVE SO SHE DESERVES IT THE MOST which unfortunately is how a lot of people think, hahaha.

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        • People sadly hate on Gabby for everything.
          Her hair, the whole not putting her hand over her heart thing, not following so and so on social media, NBC saying she had a bad and angry attitude in 2016, people attacking her for “stealing Maggie’s spot” on the 2016 team after Athlete A came out, Simone asking her through a tweet if her phone had broken because she apparently wasn’t answering things, and so on. It’s absolutely disgusting how people and the media treated her. And it’s so stupid that after everyone ridiculed Gabby over every little thing, they made up and flaunted that story about how Gabby always looked angry and didn’t look into her comeback. LIKE YOU WONDER WHY!!!

          It really just seems to me that people always rush to attack Gabby over the smallest things that other gymnasts (especially non-POC ones) would NEVER get attacked for. Another example that comes to mind is that a while ago Gabby posted an ad on her instagram for a wig company, and there was a bunch of comments accusing her of wearing wigs in a nasty way… even though that was literally the point of her post.

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      • Was it the whole team doing this? Or was it two people who posed in bikinis eating French fries from McDonald’s in Rio? Which would absolutely break my heart

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        • I have a feeling Simone was one. The way she chose to call out Gabby on social media for not participating in the group chat (despite the fact that she had literally zero obligation to be BFFs just because they were on the Olympic team) and the fact that she chose to turn people on Morgan on social media over petty, inconsequential drama; that’s not to say that Morgan was faultless or
          that gymnasts should keep their mouths shut, pretend everything’s perfect and smile, but that was completely uncalled for and immature, even if they did patch things up. It doesn’t feel right that she caused backlash on others over pretty much nothing. I’d probably be attacked for saying this but the impression I get from Simone is that she’s rude and bitchy to people she doesn’t mesh with.

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        • I absolutely love her as a gymnast, she is one of the greatest of all time, but i do think sometimes she can come across that way. And I was never a number one Gabby fan, but it makes me sad for her that she was treated this way. Especially since all of these girls were abused, you would think they would show more compassion for each other.

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        • It was probably Simone and Aly. They acted like they were best friends that whole time. I think it is very wrong. Although I do think they were friends with Gabby before so I’m not sure what happened

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  2. Hi. Gymnasts seem to have a short carrer especially in WAG, will increasing the Senior age eligibility to 18 help prolonging their career?

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  3. Was it the whole team doing this? Or was it two people who posed in bikinis eating French fries from McDonald’s in Rio? Which would absolutely break my heart

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    • I don’t know which picture that refers to but from what I heard it was mostly two gymnasts who just didn’t like her and didn’t treat her very well. I didn’t hear anything about the other two.

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      • There was a pic after two of them finished one and two hanging out at the beach and eating French fries showing off their bodies, the only one out of the other 4 that seems unlikely to me is Madison. It just sucks to me if they treated Gabby horribly because it just seems like ultimate mean girls stuff. She obviously was going through so much and the amount of abuse she seems to take from so many people isn’t fair. She seems to be scrutinized over EVERYTHING. It seems some of them get a pass but she gets a pass for NOTHING.

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      • National team is a larger group than just those who went to the Olympics. So Lauren is not necessarily talking about other members of the Final Five, the two could also be members of the national team who were alternates or didn’t go to the Olympics at all.

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  4. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Faking COVID is such a Valentina energy | The Gymternet

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