You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Chellsie Memmel

It’s time for the 318th 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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How do you think Martha Karolyi would have received the news of Chellsie Memmel’s comeback? Would she have been as welcoming as Tom Forster? 

I don’t think Chellsie would have even bothered training as seriously as she ended up doing because I don’t think she would have considered even for a second that Martha would have welcomed her back. I think Martha made it pretty clear by not letting her go to nationals back in 2012 that she wasn’t needed in the sport…Martha was always pretty anti-woman and favored her teenagers, and even when Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas came back in 2015, Martha made a snide comment about how it was cool that they came back, but she didn’t need them, not with so many talented young kids on the team (basically all of whom were burned out five seconds later). I don’t think she took Chellsie’s comeback seriously at all in the 2012 quad, and I think if Chellsie started playing around with the idea of coming back in the 2016 quad or this quad, even if Chellsie showed a super legit skill level, Martha would have brushed her aside and then said “told ya so” if Chellsie fell on during a routine at a camp or competition. 

There was a previous You Asked question about elites having ugly giants where they spread and bend their legs on the way down. I am also appalled by how this looks, but I thought I heard somewhere that starting to tap while your feet are still over the low bar is a way to generate more power into dismounts. Is this true? Is it more powerful to do an “overtap” than waiting to tap until after your feet have passed the low bar?

I think that this could be a technique for some, but it’s true that it does generate a ton of power, and it’s a very MAG-style way to do it. If you’re looking at the uneven bars like a clock (12 o’clock is a handstand, 6 o’clock is hanging directly underneath), then the preferred time to arch is usually just before where 5 o’clock is. But for the big releases and dismounts in MAG, you sometimes see them start to arch at around 2 or 3 o’clock, which is super early, and on a set of uneven bars, would definitely place them with their feet still above the low bar. I think the later taps usually work just fine for most uneven bars skills. I just went over to watch Simone Biles’ tap before her double double dismount, since that’s one of the bigger skills we see on the event, and even she doesn’t really tap that early, waiting until her feet are just under the low bar before she arches. I feel the really early MAG taps are also even less aesthetically pleasing than the ugly giants, haha, but I don’t see anyone in WAG do it as aggressively or as not-cute as the MAG taps…it’s really just the straddled aspect of the giants that I don’t love from an aesthetics standpoint for the women.

Did the Landis leave WOGA on bad terms? They spoke about a well-deserved break and later moving and taking the WCC opportunity without it being pre-planned.

I don’t think they left on bad terms, but I think it was more that they just weren’t absolutely thrilled about every part of their situation at WOGA based on things I’ve heard, a lot of which are the things people usually don’t like about their jobs (compensation, insurance, time off, the usual). It can be difficult for coaches who have a lot of success with their gymnasts but don’t own their gyms, because yes, sometimes they can get bonuses depending on their contracts, but often whether you get to the Olympics or not, what you get in return is more or less the same. After getting Madison Kocian to the Olympics, I think it just seemed like the Landis maybe outgrew WOGA and it made sense for them to find a new opportunity. They basically did everything they were going to do at WOGA, and so whatever that next step was, it made sense for them to leave even without knowing what would come next. They were absolutely going to find something, especially with Rio as a major bargaining chip to get a pretty sweet deal, and I feel like I remember reading something where they said they wanted to take some time off…but then, bam, Simone Biles needed a coach. Fate!

Can you name a gymnast on each event who is really good but isn’t your cup of tea when it comes to skills performed, style, and so on?

Hmmmm…I don’t know if I have one for vault. Basically if someone can do big skills and look good doing them, I’m a fan. But I will say that I hate that medals can be won on this event for difficulty alone, so any time that happens, no matter who it is, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Bars is my favorite event and I love a variety of styles, so I don’t think there’s anyone I’d consider not my cup of tea…there isn’t a single bar worker who has made world or Olympic finals over the past couple of quads who I don’t enjoy watching. I guess I get bored with the whole Maloney Pak Chow bail van Leeuwen piked Jaeger dismount routine that became compulsory for so many gymnasts, but if a gymnast has especially gorgeous hyperextension, I’m still like, yes, okay, I’ll allow it.

On beam, don’t kill me, but I was never a huge Catalina Ponor fan. There were some routines that were exciting to watch but overall I just didn’t find her aesthetically great most of the time? Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great beam worker, but I personally was just never thrilled by her the way I am by some of the best beam workers. I’d say I feel the same about a lot of other beam workers people get excited about, but Catalina stands out the most to me. 

And on floor…please don’t burn me alive but the first to come to mind is Aliya Mustafina. In some years, I’m a bit more of a fan, but I really just found her a bit uninspired for the most part, and I really don’t think her floor routine in London was remotely medal worthy. I love her otherwise, but I don’t know where on earth a 9.0 E score came from. She had not one expression on her face in the entire routine other than 😐 and her tumbling was Not Cute. It was a mid-quad worlds fifth place routine at best, though I guess the judges saw that leg hold drop down into her choreo moment and threw the code of points out the window like “that’s it, that’s our medalist” in which case I’m okay with it. But one lovely bit of choreo (a reminder: choreo is not artistry!) and a few nice leaps do not equal an Olympic bronze on floor, I AM SORRY.

Are the tsuk/handspring/Yurchenko half vaults out there genuinely crappier in technique, justifying their lower execution scores, or is this a pro-Yurchenko judging bias? Is this a case of “this is the height and distance we expect and if you don’t get that far, suck it” applied for all non-Yurchenko vaults?

I don’t think these other vaults are necessarily crappier overall, but I do think that it’s harder to vault from a handspring or a front layout position, so they inherently come with a host of deductions that the Yurchenko entry kind of negates. I guess in that sense there kind of is a Yurchenko bias, because with a roundoff entry and back salto, you’re eliminating a lot of the issues that the other vaults get, but it also really is true that these vaults do tend to be much stronger simply because the entry itself makes them stronger. However, Yurchenkos take more skill and are more difficult to coach for those without the experience, so that’s why you still see a lot of smaller programs sticking to the handsprings and tsuks even though they won’t score as high…obviously an unskilled Yurchenko also won’t score very high, but if you have a talented vaulter showing both a Yurchenko-style vault and a tsuk or handspring, she’ll almost always do better with the former. 

What does conditioning mean in gymnastics? Is it a psychological thing, or do they mean physical endurance?

It usually refers to training your body to get in shape to be able to do a high level of gymnastics, and it usually involves a lot of strength training, flexibility, balance, mobility, and so on. Conditioning in some form is a part of the day-to-day life of being a gymnast, with some of every practice dedicated to it (most often during warm-ups). If you’re just coming back to the sport after a long break, or if you’re injured, your focus will be nearly all conditioning until you’re in “gymnastics shape” again (and cardio usually comes into play here as well), but when you’re training gymnastics skills regularly, conditioning is more about making sure you stay in peak physical condition so that performing skills is “easy” for you (or relatively easy, that is). Common conditioning exercises for gymnastics would be like…press handstands, handstand push-ups, levers, leg lifts, rope climbs, pull-ups, and so on. You tend to do more body-strength exercises than lifting weights like non-gymnasts would be more likely to do. I guess gymnasts could also do psychological conditioning to help with the mental aspect of competing routines, but when people say they’re doing conditioning in gymnastics, they pretty much always mean physical.

Do you think it’s possible to start gymnastics as an adult and eventually qualify for the national team or worlds?

To be really real with you, no. It’s probably not at all realistic, at least not in the United States or in any other country with a well-established national program. If you’re in a country that doesn’t really have a gymnastics program (or has a bare-bones program with no one else currently competing) and you’ve been training in another sport and randomly decide you want to take up gymnastics and you or your parents have a lot of money for coaching and to fund your trip to worlds to compete a 3.0 SV beam routine, then yeah, I’ve seen it before, and I’m sure we’ll see it again, hahaha. CHASE YOUR DREAMS, I’M NOT JUDGING. 

You can probably start gymnastics as an adult in the U.S. and have the realistic goal of competing at J.O. or XCEL competitions for fun, but the likelihood of developing a lot of the skills needed even for these levels is going to be impossible for most people, especially because some skills are just really hard for many adult bodies to learn (like a kip cast to handstand with an adult human butt). Maybe some adults who are super athletic and came from other sports can just pick it up naturally and progress quickly, but I’ve been in adult gymnastics classes before, and I’ve seen it take relatively athletic adults a year or more to do a back handspring to back tuck on a trampoline without a spot. That’s partly because they’re only going once or twice a week, so I’m sure things would be a bit quicker if they were going into the gym every day for eight hours, but even then, I’m going to say no, not even the best of those in this situation would work their way up to U.S. national team level material. 

I think those with the best potential to make the national team as adults are those who were already competitive elite or high level J.O. athletes and try to come back later in life, and even they can’t make the national team generally, nor can many 18-year-olds who have been doing the sport for 15 years straight, just to show you how nearly impossible it is for these people, let alone an adult with zero experience doing gymnastics skills.

If Katelyn Ohashi and Norah Flatley hadn’t retired early from elite, how far do you think they could have gone?

I always had the Olympics in mind for Katelyn, and I also thought Norah could be Olympic-level, doing something along the lines of what Laurie Hernandez did in 2016, or at least being alternate that year and then coming back and leading the way to worlds the next. Basically, I had very high hopes for both, and it’s so sad that neither was able to get really anywhere into their senior careers, though I’m happy both were able to still end up making decisions that were best for their physical and mental health, and obviously Katelyn still came out with a phenomenal career thanks to her speaking out about body positivity and having her awesome floor routine go viral.

Do you think any of the 2005-born Canadian juniors have a shot at making the Olympic team or being an alternate? What about the worlds team?

I think if Clara Raposo comes back from her knee injury, she has the best shot at sneaking onto the team next year. At full strength, I still think the team is going to be Ellie Black, Shallon Olson, Brooklyn Moors, and Ana Padurariu, with Zoé Allaire-Bourgie my first pick for alternate, or for an additional spot if Canada gets one at the all-around world cups or at continental championships, but with a good DTY, great beam, and solid floor routine, Clara’s definitely someone to keep in mind as back-up for one of these spots. I wouldn’t want to rush her into it, especially given her injury this year, but if she’s looking good and is in a position to make the team, then she’s one I’d love to see on it. I do think that even if the Olympics are out, she’ll probably be in a key position to make the worlds team, however, especially as so many of the current seniors will probably either retire, go to NCAA, or take breaks after next year’s Olympic selection process. She’ll be one of the new young leaders of Team Canada, which will be really fun to watch!

Why was having an Amanar an unspoken requirement for the U.S. Olympic team in 2012?

Because all of the top gymnasts had Amanars, it became clear that no one was going to be able to beat them in the all-around without also getting Amanars, so there was that kind of pressure to upgrade so that gymnasts would be more competitive as all-arounders at home. At the same time, with a 6.5 start value compared to a 5.8 for the DTY, the Amanar was a great way to put a big margin between your team and a team with lower vault difficulty, so while the U.S. women were favorites for gold regardless of vault, having three really strong Amanars would really make them all but unbeatable. I think it became pretty clear that most, if not all, of those on the team would need Amanars, with an exception likely made only for whoever got the bars spot. Someone getting an Amanar meant that they could basically go from not really being on the radar to suddenly being in contention overnight, which is what happened with Elizabeth Price.

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

11 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

    • Yeah, I feel like I’ve been excited about her beam once or twice in competition, when she’s done really aggressive and kind of perfect routines, but mostly I’m just like…this is fine? There’s just nothing stylistically appealing to me, nothing spectacular about her form or technique or skill level…it’s just fine.

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  1. Lauren you are my spirit animal in your discussion about beam and floor work that was overrated. I like any answer where you say “don’t hate me but…” and then say exactly what half of us are thinking haha

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    • LOL. I’m sure other people feel the same way but I know Aliya has so many fans who overlook her flaws…when looking at the YouTube video of this routine, I saw a comment that was like, “I know her form on her triple isn’t good but there’s still something about it that I like.” WHAT???? They make excuses for literally anything and it’s so funny. All of my faves also have flaws but I will always recognize them!! I absolutely love Aliya but her floor just isn’t it for me.

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  2. I didn’t know where to post this comment and decided to do it here as it is the most recent. Wasn’t there a Chinese senior’s individual championships? Did I miss the results post or is it coming?
    Btw I love your blog, I literally check it multiple times a day. Thank you for your work

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    • It’s coming! It ended on Monday or Tuesday IIRC, All-Japan took me two full days to translate so the Chinese Senior Individual Championships are next on the list!

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

  4. I agree with Lauren about Aliya on floor. I find her movements, and posture, so graceful! But it’s legit a beam routine on the floor. But to be fair, many gymnasts get down that way! lol – Now I respect her as a gymnast 100%, but I have always found her bars overrated! I’m sorry, don’t kill me! Everyone talks about her bars like these legendary routines, but I have never been that moved by her bars – ever, beyond her signature dismount. I don’t know if it was the lil form errors, sickled feet, leg separations, bent knees on the tap, but when I think of bars, her routines never are on my top 10 list of anything. Which is def not a popular opinion! This was even before all the gymnasts started using her 2012 prototype. Even in the airing of the 2012 bar final, I was watching live and I thought god, her routine doesn’t even compare to He, or Komovas, or Tweddles… even though the COP said otherwise. But the others had some errors. I’ve always considered her a strong AA gymnast. Lauren I think you should have a SORRY, DONT KILL ME, section of Gymternet. 🙂 So we can feel safe to express things, and live happy lives! lol 🙂

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    • I’m also not the biggest fan of her bars, mostly due to the sickled feet. I feel like we’ve seen so many gorgeous bar workers over the year, but Aliya just manages to get to a high level of difficulty and then has the additional benefit of being from a big program so the judges ignore a lot, I guess? I feel like she’s very “soft” as a gymnast in the sense that her extension usually just isn’t there, and while she puts together some very nice routines, she’s lacking that polish that makes her a truly excellent gymnast on this event.

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