You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Kara Eaker

It’s time for the 320th 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 are Kara Eaker’s ring leaps on beam credited? Do you think she will make any adjustments to how she performs them or will she eliminate them outright?

It depends on the competition, which is a judging problem, because her leaps always look the same and shouldn’t be credited. Yet judges at 2018 worlds and at 2019 Pan Ams had no problem with them, and judges at 2019 worlds were like oh, whoops, yeah, we gotta downgrade those. I don’t think they ever should have been credited from day one domestically because all it did was hurt her…had the U.S. judges not credited them, her coaches would have known to change her routine, and she would have been fine going forward.

But the U.S. judges credited them, as did multiple international judges after that, until worlds last year when suddenly, finally, judges were like “haha no.” I feel like all of it was really unfair to her, and points to a major problem with how judges are trained to use the code of points more than it says anything about Kara and her coaches. They stuck with what had been working for them for several years, and had no reason to change them because they were never penalized for them. I hope now that the 2019 worlds judges slammed her routine she and her coaches have gone through and made any necessary changes so that she can keep her routine difficult without any glaringly problematic issues.

Why are judges allowed to discuss scores with each other and influence each other before finalizing their score?

This is typically only allowed if there’s an issue with the start value. The E panel judges can’t discuss with each other about why they’re giving certain scores, and in fact, at bigger competitions they sometimes even have dividers between them so they can’t peek over and see what the other judges are noting down in terms of deductions. But occasionally, judges coming up with the D score will have a discrepancy, and while the various E scores are averaged together, there can only be one agreed-upon D score. If one judge comes up with a 5.5 and the other comes up with a 5.9, they have to conference about why that is, and agree on the D score that should be awarded. This is likely especially common on beam, where one judge may award certain connections that another judge does not.

Do you think Simone Biles is capable of upgrading her floor routine by doing the tucked full-in and double double in a layout position?

I think it might be tough even for her, but I bet she could do it, and it would be awesome to see her do a floor routine with all of her passes in layout positions! Okay, I’ll let her tuck the triple double, but the Biles, front full to full-in double layout, and Moors would be so amazing and I honestly don’t doubt that she could do it. Maybe not regularly, but she could downgrade for qualifications and then bring in all of the layouts for the apparatus final?

If you could pick three people (gymnasts, coaches, anyone) to ask a question that you’d love to have an answer to, who would you pick and what would you ask?

Hmm, I have so many…I don’t think I’d have specific questions, though, but more just like, please tell me EVERYTHING. If I could do this, I’d want to talk to Alicia Sacramone, just because I feel like she’d be really open and hilarious in a private setting even if she doesn’t spill too much tea publicly, Hong Un Jong because I need to know absolutely everything about the North Korean program and just her life in general, and the Karolyis (I’m considering them one person) because they’ve been silent since the Nassar news broke and I need to just interrogate them about everything they knew/scream at them for a full week/really get deep into why they thought they could treat children the way they did as if it was okay.

I noticed some gymnasts on bars will arch their back in handstand before whipping in to the next element, sort of winding up for it. Is that a preferred technique? Is it a bad habit? Is it a form deduction?

It’s a technique that helps generate momentum, sort of replicating the motion of a tap in a giant swing. I think you usually see it most when a gymnast does a skill out of a circle element that isn’t a giant, so like a toe-on or clear hip or something, so they need that little extra push to help get them around the bar, and that little arch helps. As long as they show that they hit the handstand before, it’s not a deduction to then arch out of it into the next skill.

Since when are ties broken in event finals at worlds?

Tie-breaking is something the FIG has gone back and forth on over time…it came up in discussion again after the four-way tie for gold happened on uneven bars in 2015, so for the current quad, the FIG put tie-breaker rules back in place for apparatus finals.

On every apparatus but vault, the most basic rule is that the gymnast with the highest E score wins in the event of a tie. If the gymnasts have the same total score and the same E score, then the gymnast with the highest D score wins (this is usually the case if there are neutral deductions in play), and if they’re still tied, then the gymnast with the best rank in qualifications wins. On vault, if the average score is tied, then the highest of the two vaults wins, and then the highest E-score, then the highest D-score, and then the highest qualification average.

Why are pointed toes required in gymnastics? Is it to hold leg positions or just aesthetic preferences?

Gymnastics is an aesthetic sport, and pointed toes are part of that aesthetic, but the aesthetic is also tied into leg position requirements for many skills. It’s not so much about the toes, but more about showing extension through the entire body line, and creating one long, uninterrupted line from the hip through the knee, feet, and toes. It just makes the legs look tighter and longer, which makes all skills look better, and when anything breaks that line – whether it’s soft knees or a piked hip or flexed feet or unpointed toes – then it makes the skill look sloppy, and all of these will incur deductions. Pointed toes don’t help you perform a skill better, but they do make all skills look better.

Where is Alexander Alexandrov coaching now?

He returned to Houston after finishing up his role with the Brazilian program, and he’s now a girls team coach at Discover Gymnastics, where Sophia Butler trains (though he doesn’t coach her directly). Svetlana Boginskaya also has a tie-in with Discover…they host her invitational, and she coaches Oksana Chusovitina there on occasion.

Do you think Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker, or Jade Carey will go pro? Will it make financial sense for them?

I could see Morgan going pro if she makes it to the Olympics and has some success in Tokyo. She has the outgoing personality for it and I think she could do very well for herself, but I do think she or anyone else who considers it will probably wait and see how things go before making any decisions. I don’t really see Riley or Jade going pro, but you never know! People have surprised me before.

What does “lights out” mean in NCAA gym?

It doesn’t mean anything NCAA gymnastics-specific…in general “lights out” is an idiom used in sports when a player or team does really well. To say something like “UCLA had a lights-out floor rotation” would mean that they just had an especially incredible performance on floor that week.

Prior to all of the injuries heading into Beijing, which women were supposed to compete all-around in qualifications?

I personally would have had both Chellsie Memmel and Sam Peszek doing the all-around in qualifications, along with Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin, and then with Alicia Sacramone on vault, beam, and floor, I would’ve put up Bridget Sloan just on bars. Even though Bridget had a stronger vault than Chellsie, I would have valued Chellsie’s potential to qualify into the all-around should something happen to Nastia or Shawn, and wouldn’t have minded her leading off vault qualifications with a Yurchenko 1½. I remember being like “her?” when Bridget made the team, and was hoping that Jana Bieger would get that spot essentially just for bars based on how she finished there at trials. Still bitter.

I wasn’t as invested in gym back then in the sense of following the nitty gritty of the lead-up to the competition with podium training and lineups and everything, so I don’t remember every specific of the team or whether there were any pre-made lineups before all of the injuries happened (and I can’t seem to find any that were official), but I probably would’ve thought something along the lines of…

VT: Chellsie, Nastia, Sam, Alicia, Shawn

UB: Sam, Bridget, Shawn, Chellsie, Nastia

BB: Sam, Chellsie, Alicia, Nastia, Shawn

FX: Nastia, Chellsie, Sam, Alicia, Shawn

That could of course differ from what Martha Karolyi had, and Bridget ended up doing decently enough in qualifications to finish 11th, but I think both Chellsie and Sam had the potential to finish top 5, and I would have wanted to capitalize on that in case anything went wrong with my top gals.

On bars most gymnasts have to do something so they don’t hit the low bar during giants (bend legs, split legs, pike down). What is the correct thing to do so they don’t get a deduction?

The split legs is the most correct, and is a legitimate way to do a giant. It’s actually a skill, and is called a straddled giant. There is some leniency for the slight leg bend and slight pike, since without it, gymnasts would hit the bar, but I think too much bend either way isn’t really necessary to avoid hitting it, and would be deducted accordingly.

Chellsie Memmel’s 2005 worlds beam routine is really impressive. What would that routine be worth in difficulty today? Would you explain how the half turn back tuck/pike is credited now?

I’m rusty on putting D scores together so let’s see how I do…

Handstand planche mount – B
Side aerial to two feet – E*
Straddle jump full – C
Switch leap + wolf jump full – C + D (0.1 CV)
Standing arabian – F
Front aerial – D
Full turn – A
Front tuck + bhs + loso – D + B + C (0.1 SB)
Switch side – C
Double pike – E

CR – 2.0
Skills – FEEDDDCC – 3.4
Connections – 0.2

Total – 5.6

Not the most difficult routine under today’s standards, mostly because her front + back series is worthless now, and the current code values a lot of connections, whereas Chellsie just has a lot of solo skills, like the random C leaps, which are so absolutely pointless now.

As for her “barani”…so. This is a tough and annoying one. I call all front half elements baranis, but there are such subtle differences between how front half skills are credited on beam, and I feel like even judges don’t know what they’re doing when they’re figuring out how to credit them. With this one in particular, I only know because Chellsie said the judges told her they credited it as a side aerial to two feet instead of as a true front pike half, which is what she was going for. 

The reasoning is that she twists as she punches off the beam, before flipping, making it an aerial, whereas the twist in a barani should come during the kickout, showing that she actually completes the front salto aspect before doing the half twist. With the way she was credited, she would get an E for this skill, but if she did the true barani, she’d get an F.

I heard a rumor that the 2021 code might start allowing the “lunge” on floor again. Do you know anything about this, and what are your thoughts?

I also read about this, and basically am worried that it’s going to end up being very ambiguous because it isn’t always clear what a “controlled” lunge is versus a gymnast using a lunge to cover up an otherwise bad landing. That’s my problem with a lot of the lunges in NCAA, so I think judges will need to be properly trained in what to look for so that they can be fair in how they evaluate landings for all gymnasts. It’s not a huge deal, and they’re only planning on allowing one lunge per floor routine, but the code already has enough messy and ambiguous spots in it, so I just hope this doesn’t create one more. At the very least, it’ll be good for gymnasts who find it painful to stick three or four passes in a routine, so I’m for it for that reason.

Are there any gymnasts in the U.S. who were elite but chose not to go pro or go the NCAA route?

A few just leave usually because they were planning on doing NCAA but then burn out and end up medically retiring. I can’t think of any who were like, I don’t want to do NCAA but I also don’t want to go pro, so I’m just gonna end my career right at the moment where it’s time to choose, at least in the past decade or so…and at least not those who made it to that point in their careers where they were at a place to be ready for either. I can think of several elites who retired from the sport prior to getting to that point, but for those who make it to 18 or older and/or fully complete their elite careers, they at least have plans for NCAA/going pro even if they don’t fully materialize for whatever reason (medically retiring as a freshman due to injury, not really getting any endorsements because they didn’t go to the Olympics, etc). For most who don’t do either, it’s not so much that they choose not to, but more that their circumstances lead to them not being able to do either.

I really enjoyed Colbi Flory but I heard she no longer has a scholarship at UCLA. Can you confirm or deny?

This is confirmed, and actually, this is kind of relevant to the above question…Colbi completely retired from gymnastics a couple of years ago and has been doing high school cheerleading instead. She will go to Baylor University next year.

Why didn’t Cassandra Whitcomb make the worlds team in 2009 or 2010?

In 2009, she was up for the bars/beam spot, but even though she was second on bars at nationals, both of the all-arounders selected for worlds – Rebecca Bross and Bridget Sloan – had stronger bar routines than Cassie’s, while Ivana Hong had a better beam routine with a good shot at the podium, so Cassie ultimately just didn’t make sense.

The next year, she just wasn’t really top three on any event, and wasn’t a top all-arounder, so I don’t think she was ever a top contender. Rebecca Bross, Alicia Sacramone, Mattie Larson, and Aly Raisman were essentially locks based on nationals and camp, and then the team really needed bars, so Cassie could have been a good option, but with both Bridget Sloan and Mackenzie Caquatto in the mix, they kind of took her out of the running. Honestly, with Bridget injured, I thought it maybe made a bit more sense to take Cassie and give her a chance/some experience, but at the time it looked like Bridget was still making a serious run for 2012 so I guess that also went into the decision? I don’t think Bridget did anything so spectacular in Rotterdam that would’ve made her stand out more than Cassie, so I wish Cassie had gotten the shot, but Cassie could also be a little hit-or-miss. We also didn’t really learn anything about camps at that time, so we don’t know how she looked there, and I’m sure that would have factored into the decision.

What makes the Yang Bo a difficult skill?

I think first and foremost is the position itself. The leg position and the back position both require rhythmic levels of flexibility. The gymnast has to have her legs in an oversplit, and the back has to be extended so that the shoulders basically reach all the way down to the leg, which is just not a level of flexibility most artistic gymnasts train for. In addition to the position, the head release that comes with that back position is really difficult to manage, because it requires losing sight of the beam, which means you can’t spot the landing. Blind skills like these are always going to be hard because if you’re even slightly off, you risk falling…and the Yang Bo makes it even harder, because you’re not just casually throwing your neck back slightly…you’re reaching an inhuman position while doing so.

What do people mean when they talk about ‘built-in deductions’? How can a deduction be built in?

Mostly when people talk about ‘built-in deductions’ they’re referring to a specific gymnast and her technique. If a gymnast’s technique is incorrect in some way, then it doesn’t matter how well she performs a certain skill…because of her ‘built-in’ technical deduction, she’ll always get tenths off. Simone Biles’ Amanar is probably the best example, because she’s had times where it’s been pretty close to perfect in terms of her form in the air, her landing, everything…except her feet are crossed one in front of the other, which is a technique she uses to help glue her legs tight together. Crossed feet happen to have a one-tenth deduction, but since she needs to do this to make everything else look good because it’s the technique she learned to keep her leg form clean, it is essentially a ‘built-in’ deduction for Simone. The deduction isn’t due to her losing form in the air or making a mistake in that one particular vault. It’s a deduction that will essentially always need to be taken until she changes her technique.

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

9 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. If the twist was early enough, Chellsie could probably get an F for the “half twist to back tuck/pike” version of the barani, which is apparently a thing.


    • I think she would have to twist later than she does in this routine, but still before the flip. In her 2005 routine, she twists as she punches/on the ascent, making it an aerial…but for the half twist to back pike, I think she’d have to wait until she was already in the air right before the flip?


      • The confusing thing is that in the 2017-2020 code… apparently the F skill is the half twist before the flip and the E skill is the half twist after the flip… I know it doesn’t make sense, but I’m gonna post an image with the two skills in the code:
        As you can see, in the E version drawing, the gymnasts turns after the flip, when they are upside down.
        In the F version drawing, the gymnasts immediately turns and then does the flip.
        Another possibility that I think it’s possibile is that in the F version you have to do the half twist with a straight body and then pike/tuck, as it can be seen in the drawing. While in the E version, the gymnasts twists while already in a tuck/pike position. So maybe it’s not when the gymnasts twists, but if the gymnasts twist with a layout position or in a tuck/piked position.


  2. With regards to the question about US elite gymnasts who never went pro or didn’t end up doing NCAA gymnastics, I just finished watching the 2016 US Nationals and there was a gymnast named Maggie Musselman from Hills gymnastics who didn’t appear to commit anywhere and just quit..? Injuries maybe..There was also Nica Hults, but I don’t know if I’d count Junior elites who got injured and never made it to the senior level in the US. (There is probably a lot more of those ones.) So yes I guess Maggie Musselman would fit the no pro/no NCAA team for a former Senior Elite from the US.


    • Maggie had an illness that was unrelated to gymnastics so she had to retire before she got the chance to commit to an NCAA program, though NCAA was her plan initially. If I remember correctly, there was something with Florida maybe? A picture with Gators gear somewhere…but then she got sick right after that nationals and that was the end of her career.

      Nica made it to the senior level and competed as a senior elite in 2014, and was committed to UCLA, but got injured and dropped to level 10, lost her scholarship spot at UCLA, got injured again, and then quit before she had a chance to look into another NCAA program.


  3. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Stop the count! Count the votes! | The Gymternet

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