It’s time for the 319th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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In hindsight, would you have put Vanessa Atler on your 2000 team?
I would have. I feel like despite the issues she had in the lead-up to the Games, I would have trusted her as a competitor and believed that she would have gotten her mental game back under the circumstances of the Olympics. I’m not so much a one-and-done person in terms of thinking only one meet should count toward something as big as the Games, which is part of the reason why I’m for Martha Karolyi’s justification of adding Gabby Douglas in 2016, and I thought Vanessa’s career – including her performances at classics and nationals that summer – spoke for itself, and proved that she was just as good an option for the team as anyone else who was named. A “meltdown” at trials shouldn’t have been the be-all, end-all for her, and even with her “meltdown,” she still finished sixth, which I think said a lot. I don’t think they should have given up on her, and think that despite her struggles there, she was still one of the strongest options, and deserved the chance to go to the pre-Olympic training camp and prove that she had what it took to compete in Sydney. In hindsight, given how the team competed, I’m like…could it really have been any worse to have her on the squad?
How do you choose who gets a profile on your database? Can we suggest profiles?
I try to prioritize any currently active members of national teams who compete internationally. Because of this, almost any current international-level gymnast you’d expect to have a profile should have one. Basically as soon as someone gets an international assignment, I add them to the list so that I can start tagging them in results and competition reports to make it easy for people to find out more about them.
I also want to include every gymnast who has (recently) competed at the Olympic Games, world championships, world cups, continental championships, and the junior versions of these events, in that order of priority. Right now, I have profiles for every gymnast who has competed at the Olympics and worlds dating back to 2014, for example, and am working my way back to that date (which is when I started my website and how far most of my results records go back) for the other competitions as well. I think I have profiles for nearly all gymnasts who have competed at these events dating back to 2017. Maybe 2018 for the junior meets.
There are currently 1,141 profiles in the active and retired gymnast databases, and I have about 50 or so on my current to-do list before I start going back and looking for who’s next, but since all of the currently-competing gymnasts are up-to-date, I’m happy to take suggestions for my list as long as the gymnast is at the national level with reasonable expectations for international competition! Like, if she got a 44 at one U.S. Hopes meet in 2017, then no, I probably won’t rush to include her, especially as I’m trying to be equitable and inclusive with representation for all countries (aka not overly U.S.-heavy, which is hard enough as it is because the U.S. sends one million random gymnasts to international meets).
Where did “you are beautiful, you are lovely, go out there and enjoy this” originate from?
Dana Duckworth, the head coach at Alabama, said it as her kind of team mantra before meets. I think Gymcastic then adopted it as the way to close out the show, and it became the stuff of gymternet legend. Fun story, I had never heard it before, because I usually don’t watch meets with the sound on, and I had also never really listened to full episodes of Gymcastic, so when I was on Gymcastic once and everyone said it in unison I was VERY freaked out.
Is there a way for fans to influence future rules in the code? Can we spam the FIG on Twitter? I want the women to be allowed to do landings like men can do on floor.
I highly, highly, highly doubt it. The FIG barely listens to athletes and coaches when determining what the code of points should look like, and that would be a priority over fans having a say. I do think fans have a great deal of knowledge and insight that could be beneficial to the code, and I often find the technical committee to be incredibly out of touch with the reality of the sport, whereas fans are constantly watching routines, building their own routines, and deep diving into competitions from over the years so they have a pretty comprehensive understanding of what could work.
I wish there was a way that fans could be taken seriously because I think the fans are generally supportive of code changes that would be more in line with what would be physically better for athletes, but unfortunately we have very little influence at any level, and frankly just aren’t taken seriously as people who aren’t actively involved within the realm of the sport. I get it, it’s the same for any sport. It’s not like the NFL is asking middle-aged men who watch football on their couch every Sundays for their opinions even though they’ve watched 10 games a week every season of their lifetimes, but the major decisions for any sport are made by a few people in power while some of the most knowledgable are left out of the conversation. It’s a bummer, but no amount of spamming the FIG’s Twitter will even reach the women’s technical committee, let alone cause them to change anything.
What are your most recommended Chinese beam routines?
God, I have a million…sticking with the current era to make it easier on me, I’ll link to a few of my recent favorite routines.
Li Qi has been one of my all-time favorite beam workers in the world since I first saw her compete at the Australia-China friendly meet when she was just 13…this is her routine from this year’s nationals, it’s too bad she’s injured literally all the time and can’t make teams and has basically been limited to just this event, but if retiring from every other apparatus means she gets to stay in the sport to keep doing beam, then I’m okay with it.
Liu Tingting is an obvious favorite for many, and it wasn’t a surprise to see her win the world title in 2018, which was something that became a very clear possibility when she debuted her connections-heavy routine tailor-made for the new code of points at the 2017 Melbourne World Cup. Ou Yushan is absolutely fabulous, Guan Chenchen can be hit or miss but when she’s on she’s phenomenal, and I also absolutely love 13-year-old junior Lyu Junliang, who I profiled earlier this year mostly just because I was so obsessed with her beam routine..she is so fantastic on this event, and has such a bright future ahead of her.
These are my current faves, but I feel like at every meet, whether it’s in China, or at an international meet where a few Chinese gymnasts happen to attend, I always find at least one new routine that I fall in love with, so this list is constantly growing and changing.
Why did Brandy Johnson leave Kevin Brown, train with Bela Karolyi for six months leading up to the 1988 Olympic Games, and then go back to Brown’s after the Olympics?
She thought that she needed to be at the absolute best gym in the country to have a more realistic shot at the Olympic Games, and back then, it was kind of true. There were a growing number of clubs in the 80s, but often you saw that the gymnasts who made the big teams were all from the same clubs, and so once gymnasts got to a certain level, they’d leave their smaller gyms and go to the well-known programs that would make them into superstars.
Going into Seoul, Brandy felt she needed a bit more motivation to make sure she got onto the Olympic team. She was basically like, “I need to be with Bela Karolyi,” so that was that. She moved to his gym. She said she doesn’t regret the move, but her experience over that six month period was so emotionally and physically draining, instead of motivating her for the Games, it almost drove her to quit. Still, she kept going, made it to the Olympics, and was the top U.S. all-arounder in Seoul.
Brandy almost decided to retire after the Games, but when she ultimately gave a comeback a shot, she said there was no way she could go back to Bela. Doing so would make her hate the sport, so she made the decision to go home where she could have more of a balance instead of just doing gymnastics 10 hours a day. Of course, Bela was super bitter, and kept calling her asking her to come back to him, but when she refused, he was like “that’s okay, 1992 is for young gymnasts.” What a dick lol.
Are there any Americans you think could upgrade to an Amanar before the Olympics that also have a legit shot at making the team?
I think if anyone does it, it’ll be Grace McCallum. I know Leanne Wong has been teasing an Amanar for years, but I honestly don’t know how realistic it is at this point. That’s pretty much it? And then of course Jordan Chiles and MyKayla Skinner, but they’ve already done them and would be bringing them back. I think Kayla DiCello has done really great doubles, but she was so tall even as a junior, and now that she’s grown even more, I feel like an Amanar isn’t in the cards for her. I’m sure someone I didn’t mention could potentially throw one, but based on what everyone’s doubles have looked like in the past, I just don’t see it as being super realistic? But of course there could be people I’m forgetting, and it’s been over a year now since we’ve seen so many of these ladies compete, so much may have changed!
The ‘belly beat’ skills looked SO painful. Have you ever heard whether or not that was actually the case?
Sometimes, yes, these could be VERY painful and could even result in massive hip bruises, especially if the gymnast miscalculated her timing or made even the slightest error. But if executed correctly, you could get used to the feeling, to the point where it wouldn’t hurt or even bother gymnasts in the slightest. The gymnasts really just have to hit the sweet spot, which most elites could do with ease, though I’d imagine the early stages of training these skills often resulted in a lot of mishaps and pain. Alas…that’s gymnastics.
What happened to The United States of Amanar? It seems like the U.S. has become weaker on vault.
Amanars are largely irrelevant in the United States now for two reasons – how far ahead the team is without them, and how little they’re worth in comparison to Yurchenko doubles. Back in the 2012 quad, the Big Four countries were all still relatively close in how they could score in the team competition, and though the U.S. women proved in 2011 that they could defeat the rest by a pretty big margin (and not even at full strength), Russia and Romania especially were coming in hot going into the Games, and there was absolutely no guarantee for U.S. gold in London. They needed to do anything they could to hold onto that advantage, and with Amanars at a 6.5 SV compared to DTYs at a 5.8, three strong Amanars in the team final could have been the defining moment for gold if the other teams were all at a hundred percent.
But with the Amanars devalued so that they were just five tenths more than the DTY in 2013, and now only four tenths more in the current code, they don’t provide the same advantage that they once did. Even if the U.S. women weren’t so far ahead on the other events, Amanars wouldn’t really make up a lot of ground, especially since the really solid DTYs are outperforming the execution scores for most Amanars anyway. Why kill your body to get an 14.6 on an Amanar when you can land a great DTY for the same score? Of course, the U.S. would love if they could have three Simone Biles-level Amanars in a team final, and last year, they had excellent Amanars from Simone and Jade Carey, so two out of three is pretty sweet…but they’re also not pushing for Amanars like they were back in 2012. That’s a good thing, because gymnasts who shouldn’t be doing Amanars are working on other things that can make them competitive instead of busting their knees for vaults beyond their level of difficulty that they have no business training. If the U.S. absolutely needed Amanars again, we’d probably see another push, but it’s really just not a priority, and I’m glad only those who can realistically land them safely are the ones training them.
Are you in favor of the women doing six apparautses again? What would you add?
Not really with six at the moment, but I’d definitely be okay with one additional event. I’m really obsessed with adding a trampoline beam right now just for my own personal enjoyment. Like, one foot wide, 20 feet long, raised several feet off of the ground, and super bouncy. I need it more than I’ve ever needed anything. If this isn’t realistic enough, I’d want some sort of trampoline apparatus…not exactly the way it’s done in the actual trampoline discipline, but maybe something a bit more similar to double mini? I feel like there are already too many long endurance events in gymnastics, so I’d want something short and sweet to balance it out.
Why is the stoop through to high bar transition (like the one Kim Gwang Suk used) not allowed anymore? I understand why jumping to the high bar is banned in elite, but the stoop-through transitions are usually a lot more fluid and less rhythm-breaking than the jump version.
I think that while Kim Gwang Suk did hers very fluidly in her routine, the nature of the skill itself is similar to that of the squat-on in that there is the opportunity for a gymnast to stop her movement and prep for the flight to the high bar. That could be part of it, but I think there’s also just the simple fact that it’s probably just considered too easy for elite? It doesn’t show flight in the traditional sense, so I think that’s why it’s just not allowed to be considered as part of the CR for “flight from low bar to high bar.”
It’s not actually banned, though…just not up to the difficulty level expected for the most basic elite-level routine. You do see the squat-on kind of skills often in lower-level elite programs, where the overall skill level on bars is very low and where gymnasts just don’t have the ability to do more difficult flight skills between the bars. The only real ‘penalty’ is that they just don’t get the 0.5 CR for the flight between bars, because you need to show true flight from low to high as well as high to low.
If Kenzo Shirai would do the Memmel turn or even the Mustafina turn on floor, would he get credit for it? Do you think it would get named for him? Would it get the same value as it has in WAG?
There is no category for dance elements in MAG the way there is in WAG, so I don’t think he would be eligible to have these skills evaluated. They do have a non-acrobatic elements group, but it includes strength holds, balances, front supports, and circle skills/flairs. No dance elements. Technically the code does not specify that gymnasts can’t do turns or leaps, both of which would technically be considered non-acro, but I’m sure there’s a sexist, historical reason why leaps and turns are for girls and “I know I just showed you five impossible tumbling runs in a row but I still need to prove to you how strong and manly I am by flailing around on my arms for 10 seconds” nonsense is for boys, and I doubt the technical committee would evaluate leaps or turns for value (or for naming) without some sort of conference about it. Like, standing still in a basic ass arabesque for two seconds is an A skill in MAG floor, let Kenzo do a frigging Mustafina.
In the NCAA, how many girls can be on the team (including team managers) and how many coaches/staff can there be overall? Also, is there a maximum number of teammates that can compete in competitions like national championships?
There are 12 available scholarship spots each year for most D1 teams (with the exception of the Ivy Leagues), and these can be split up however works for the team (which is why a team might have six seniors, one junior, four sophomores, and two freshmen, or some other super unbalanced situation in some years). Most try to keep it relatively even so that they have a steady stream of incoming and outgoing student athletes, though. In addition to the scholarship athletes, they can have pretty much as many walk-ons as they’d like, which some programs really take advantage of, while other programs don’t actively recruit for walk-ons as much.
Teams also usually have a head coach, one or two assistant coaches, and one or two volunteer coaches, and a team manager isn’t always a requirement or something a team has, but if a program has someone interested (usually a former student athlete who retires, or just someone who is involved in sports and volunteers to help out) then these people are often very helpful in managing the day-to-day of the program. Most will have just one, especially because they don’t usually have space for multiple team managers to travel along with the group, but other programs will have more.
Really, any team’s individual situation in terms of athletes, coaching, and additional staff is just fully dependent on an individual team’s needs (and budget), but while basically everyone can be on the floor during a regular season meet, there are limits for how many can travel and be on the floor at competitions in postseason, so a lot of “extraneous” team members (like those who are injured or otherwise don’t often compete, as well as team managers and others who volunteer in any way) have to sit in the stands, and these people also can’t go up on the podium with the team to get the trophy…though everyone who is part of the team in any way can get a trophy/ring later on.
The origin stories of World Champions Centre and Moceanu Gymnastics are pretty similar, but have drastically different outcomes. Why do you think one gym flourished while the other failed?
The Moceanus’ gym was a shit show from day one, pardon my French, because it was essentially something Dominique’s dad built as yet another way to make money off of her more than a legitimate business operation, whereas the Biles’ gym was created so that Simone could have a better training situation with state-of-the-art equipment and coaches of her choosing in a place near her home. The Biles’ gym was essentially for Simone, funded with her parents’ money, and they started out slowly, putting a L10 program in place, and taking time to add in the lower-level and recreational programs as they grew. The gym was about both what was best for Simone’s career, and then also about creating a solid family business that could one day maybe become profitable.
The Moceanus, meanwhile, used Domnique’s earnings from her gymnastics career plus nearly $1 million in loans to fund the gym because she was their cash cow, and they wanted it to be part of the “empire” they were building based around her. She trained there during its existence because Bela retired and she needed a gym, and her dad even had a private 20,000 square foot “back gym” added on that no one else was allowed access to, but it was less about her and more about her dad thinking tons of kids would pour in for the name alone…but they didn’t. The gym was a laughingstock in the gymnastics community, her dad spent tons of money on nonsense and owed way more than he could bring in, and within a year or so, it completely folded. It was one of many ways Dominique’s parents mismanaged her money to live off of her earnings, and part of the reason why she later sued for emancipation at 17.
If Amalie Morgan hadn’t suffered from injuries over the past year, what do you think would have happened to her in terms of worlds and the American Cup?
I think she would have had a good shot at making the worlds team, or at least being alternate. Great Britain ended up having a super strong team in Stuttgart. In hindsight, seeing that Georgia-Mae Fenton didn’t have the best meet, Amelie would have made sense for that spot, but Georgia looked really good going in so it would have been a tough call…though I think it would have been good for Amelie to get some experience. I probably would’ve included her over Georgia. At American Cup, she probably would have had a good shot at finishing in that 3rd–5th place area on a good day. I don’t think she would have been competitive against the Americans, but she would’ve been at the higher end of the international competitors if she was at full strength.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins