You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Carlotta Ferlito

It’s time for the 321st edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!

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What’s going on with Carlotta Ferlito? Will she compete internationally again?

Carlotta has retired, with last summer’s Universiade, where she won the gold on floor, her final competition. She was kind of pissed off at the Italian federation’s love for the Brixia girls, with Giorgia Villa, Elisa Iorio, Alice D’Amato, and Asia D’Amato heavily favored to be the four selected for Italy’s Olympic team. Italy has essentially been grooming these four for Tokyo since 2018, and for good reason – they’re incredible. But in doing so, they’ve essentially told everyone else they’re not making the team, which isn’t good, because the Brixia Four are almost always injured, and with everyone else retiring because they don’t expect to be included, who’s going to be around when the Brixia girls are too injured to compete? 

So Carlotta retired knowing that she was never going to be considered for Tokyo under these ‘unfair’ conditions, and while she isn’t my favorite person, I’d have to agree that the Italian WAG program was a bit unreasonable in essentially choosing its Olympic team when its gymnasts were still 14 or 15. In one way, it’s cool to identify a group of gymnasts that work well together who can grow up together and be nurtured together…but not when they’re part of a wider federation with a dozen other gymnasts who are also training for the team and should have an equal shot at making it yet aren’t even being considered. Especially when your federation’s head coach also happens to be the coach of the favored four.

Is the good/bad leg inherent or acquired? Do gymnasts ‘feel’ that they are doing roundoffs, turning, or kicking into walkovers on a certain leg when they first learn them? Can it be changed through training?

It might depend on the gymnast, but I think it’s a mix of inherent and acquired. I think everyone has an inherently good and bad side, and because you favor a certain side for that reason, you tend to train more on that side while neglecting the other side, so your good side gets better while your bad side gets worse. 

I definitely knew intuitively as a five-year-old tumbling for fun even before I took my first gymnastics classes which sides were my good sides for various elements, which looking back is funny because even though I’m right-handed, some elements just felt more natural on the left side (I tumble and leap right, but have always twisted and turned left). I never did left-handed cartwheels or roundoffs, only right, because I was terrified of going left and didn’t trust myself to do it without falling, but meanwhile, I can’t even imagine twisting right. It feels unnatural even thinking about it and I don’t think I’ve ever done it! And with leaps and turns, I would practice about 75% on the dominant side and only 25% on the weaker side, so naturally, my weaker side would suffer. I also always cheated, so when we’d go back and forth across the floor switching sides with the direction, I’d just change directions but stay on my dominant side hahaha.

If a kid takes practice seriously, though, they can definitely get better on their bad side. They might continue to favor a certain side, but they at least won’t be totally screwed if they’re having some pain or muscle cramps or whatever and need to switch sides out of necessity someday. There are also some kids who are definitely ambidextrous with skills and can do both sides pretty evenly. I’m sure there are coaches out there with more insight than I have, since I’ve never coached and am just going off of my own experience and what I’ve seen in the gym as a kid 20+ years ago, but I hope this is somewhat helpful!

I just saw this on YouTube. Who is the gymnast? Are there other gymnasts that have competed either a Jaeger or a Gienger from a non-traditional entry? I wonder if a toe-on Gienger would be feasible.

I’m pretty sure this is Li Linjing! I haven’t seen anyone else compete a Jaeger or a Gienger from anything but a giant…for the Jaeger especially, it’s pretty difficult to get amplitude out of a front swing as it is, but when you add one of the fancier front circle elements, which are difficult enough on their own, it becomes incredibly hard! The other options aside from the Endo we see here would be a front toe-on, a Weiler, or a front inbar, and these skills are rare to see on their own let alone into a release. 

As for the Gienger…non-giant entries just don’t seem to make sense for how the flip works? I feel like you need your legs to kick out into the salto right as you release the bar, and by the time you release, your body should be upside down, head about level with the high bar. Coming from a toe-on, stalder, clear hip, or inbar would make it impossible to get into that position, because your feet would still essentially be on or next to the bar as you release…I feel like I’d need to see it in action to wrap my brain around it, but I think the Gienger itself is easy enough that we would have seen these variations by now if they were possible!

Do you know anything about Justin Laury’s gym-hopping? He was a coach at WCC, Metroplex, and then WOGA all within a year. Is something going on?

I heard he left WCC because a really good opportunity opened up at Metroplex in 2017, but unfortunately that didn’t last long. The only thing I had heard directly was from someone at the gym who said “busybody parents” forced him out, but he’s now been at WOGA for about three years and is doing really well there as a girls team coach. Sometimes it can take a little while for coaches to find a good home, but it looks like he’s settled well at WOGA now, and is doing good work there.

Would the following routine have a 10.0 start value in NCAA – Jaeger + Pak + Komova I + Moors dismount? Could the entire routine be connected? Is it possible to connect a Komova I out of a Pak?

Yes, this could have a 10.0 SV in NCAA, and yes, it’s possible (but difficult) to connect a Komova I out of a Pak. It’s also possible to connect the entire routine, and it would be really cool to see someone go for a toe-front dismount out of a Komova I (or any kind of shaposh half element). I’ve only very rarely seen shaposh half elements directly into a toe-on element…that’s usually that’s where a gymnast will take a break and kip out to handstand. It would take super precise timing and a lot of endurance to do a Komova I into a toe-on front dismount, but…it IS possible!

Can you explain the obsession with a single bar release and the hate for the shaposh? People bash gymnasts doing a shaposh for a release requirement…is it because a same-bar release is harder? One gymnast told me a shaposh was harder for her than a Jaeger. Is it different for each gymnast?

I think the obsession is that people automatically think ALL single bar releases are inherently harder and are “real” flight elements whereas shaposh elements are “just transitions.” I think the elite code having a cap on transition elements might have something to do with that? But NCAA isn’t elite, and that cap is total BS anyway. Shaposh elements are also “real” flight elements, and they can absolutely be just as difficult as same-bar releases, if not more so. The timing for a shaposh element can be way more complicated for many gymnasts to learn than that of a Jaeger or Gienger due to the upward lift to the high bar. There may be some gymnasts who find shaposh elements easy, but Jaegers and Giengers generally require a lower level of bars ability/technical skill than shaposh elements, which is why they’re more common in level 10 and NCAA.

Who should the double layout on floor be named after?

I believe the first gymnast to do the double layout in WAG was Stella Zakharova, possibly as early as the USSR Cup in 1977 when she was just 14 years old! There’s a mention of it in this archived article saved by the Gymn Forum, but no video exists (that I know of) so it’s hard to say for sure. The first I’ve seen on video was Mary Lou Retton at the American Cup in 1984, but uh, I’m gonna give it to Stella. THE ZAKHAROVA IT IS! 

Does Daria Spiridonova train all four events, but only competes bars because she’s needed on bars? Or does she only train bars?

She used to train all four events, and at one point she was quite good – she even won the Russian Cup in 2015, in a depleted field, but still, with lower difficulty on vault and floor, I was impressed. But going into this quad, the work she was doing on beam and floor kept deteriorating further and further, and she slowly went from the mid 50s, to the low 50s, and by 2018, she was barely in the high-40s before basically giving up everything but bars. Actually, she stuck with beam for a little bit, but not at a very high level, and she may still work beam and floor at a low level, but I don’t think she’s training either seriously at all, at least not seriously enough to intend to compete internationally.

Assuming Shallon Olsen goes to Tokyo, would it make more sense to be part of the team or have an individual spot?

It definitely makes sense for her to be on the team. Canada really needs her score on vault in the team final, so even though she doesn’t have the highest scores elsewhere, she can add more on vault than anyone else can add on any other event, so she’d be super worth having along to boost the team there. Plus, even though her scores on the other events aren’t huge, she’s actually pretty consistent and could put up some solid leadoff routines on any event in qualifications. I trust her and her big NCAA attitude, and would absolutely want her on any Canadian team until she retires.

Do you think Mihai Brestyan will continue to coach the Australian national team if they don’t qualify for the 2020 Olympics?

I got this question last year, but in the end, he and Australia decided to part ways. I don’t think it was solely related to qualifying for 2020, and I do think that he got them much closer to the Games than they were expected to get based on how they were looking early in the quad, but I don’t think a lot of his training methods worked for the Australian programs and know that there were a lot of complaints about how he ran things, with gymnasts very unhappy with changes made in the elite program under his reign. I was hoping he would primarily revamp the developmental level and help transition talented juniors to the senior level, but instead, under his guidance, two of the program’s most talented juniors retired before even getting to the senior level, so unfortunately it didn’t seem like things worked out and last I heard, the Australian program – which is facing an abuse investigation of its own – was in the process of hiring a new national team program director.

Why don’t U.S. gymnasts work on flexibility as much as other countries, and why don’t they try leaps with flexibility, like a Yang Bo?

The U.S. gymnasts work on flexibility plenty in comparison to most other countries! There are a few gymnasts who aren’t super flexible, but that’s usually because they’re more muscular, and generally the more muscular you are, the less flexible you are, because bulkier muscles make it more difficult for your muscles to be as pliable. But I’ve been at many U.S. national podium training sessions and have seen tons of chair-level oversplits in warmups. These ladies are definitely flexible. Yeah, they’re not going to do rhythmic anytime soon, but I don’t know who else you’re looking at in the current worldwide WAG field – aside from like, China and Cintia Rodriguez – that is so flexible in comparison? Literally no one in the world is doing a Yang Bo right now, and the Yang Bo aside, U.S. gymnasts are doing some of the most difficult leaps in the world on beam and floor. Even Simone Biles, who is one of the least flexible, has a split 1½ (or tour jeté full) on floor, which almost no one does, and it’s pretty great.

What’s so bad about Kara Eaker’s ring skills that they get so much attention? I know they’re not phenomenal, but to me, it looks like only the switch ring that’s noticeably worse than other gymnasts with less-than-perfect rings. But Kara’s rings get talked about so much more than anyone else’s.

I think because she has one of the highest difficulty routines because of all of her ring elements, she tends to just be more in the spotlight than any other gymnast, so she tends to get a bit more attention, which equals a bit more negative attention, unfortunately. But you’re right – the majority of ring leaps on beam are pretty bad, honestly, and most don’t get credit, not just Kara’s. 

I think it’s also unfortunate that there are just a lot of really poorly-timed, bad angle photos of Kara’s rings? Like this. That makes her ring look SO MUCH WORSE than it actually is, but people spread it around and just trash it. Granted, the side-angle photos of her rings also aren’t great, but there are some that aren’t THAT bad, and overall they’re not that much worse than the majority of ring elements being competed on beam. There are literally like four gymnasts who do ring elements correctly on beam, and yet only Kara gets crap for it. It’s unfair to her for sure.

Are gymnasts still deducted if they accidentally put a foot out of bounds during choreography, or is it only for evaluated skills?

They get deducted if they go out of bounds for whatever reason, whether it’s for an actual skill, for choreography, if they just randomly take a step backwards before a skill, literally any reason. Gabby Douglas used to always take a step back out-of-bounds before one of her passes and get a penalty for it. I guess some gymnasts don’t have the BEST sense of awareness!

What is a strap bar? What is the point of a strap bar/being strapped to a bar? What does training like that do that training on a regular bar can’t do?

It basically helps a gymnast keep from flying off the bar while training swinging elements, usually giants, but also other tap swings, circle elements, etc. Since your hands/wrists are strapped, you obviously can’t train releases or pirouettes, but it can be helpful if you’re new to giants or other swinging elements and are afraid of peeling off.

The bar itself is more similar to a MAG high bar, but metal usually, and then there’s about a foot of a kind of PVC pipe over the metal in the center. Your hands are strapped to the PVC, and when you swing, it’s the PVC going around the metal bar, with your hands staying still, if that makes sense…so your hands aren’t swinging around the bar, your hands are strapped to the PVC and the PVC is doing the swinging.

Do you think Jennifer Gadirova could seriously contend for a top eight all-around finish in Tokyo?

Yeah, it’s possible! Especially knowing that she has some upgrades coming on vault, beam, and floor that could bring her scores way up…if she can get into that 55-56 range, she’ll be in top eight contention for sure. And possibly even medal contention! You never know, especially when things have been so close for that silver and bronze this entire quad.

How do you think Australia will go in the 2024 quad considering how close they were to qualifying to the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games?

I think that with the team they have right now, they’re in a great position to go into the 2024 quad looking very strong…but at the same time, I’m worried that a lot of their top gymnasts from this quad are going to retire leaving them with no one to take them into the next quad and keep them at this level. They have a lot of gymnasts who have been at the senior level for two or three quads now, like Georgia Godwin, Georgia-Rose Brown, and Emma Nedov, who led the team at worlds last year. But with Georgia fulfilling her dream of going to Tokyo, and the other two now in their mid-20s, I’m anticipating some retirements, and I’m afraid that the younger gymnasts on the team just aren’t strong enough to keep things going at the same level, especially since no juniors really transitioned at a super high level over the last few years. 

They do have several lovely juniors and young seniors right now that I hope end up doing really big things in the future, but with the constant coaching upheavals at the national level and now the abuse investigation, they clearly have a lot of problems, and once they lose that core top group of athletes, they won’t have much left. I do hope we continue seeing the Georgias and Emma continue as the backbone of the program, because they have been the glue holding it together for so long, but I also would understand if any of them are ready to move on. 

I just hope the federation can figure out a way to put a sustainable system in place so that athletes can train in a healthy way going forward, and so that they can bring up young talent through the developmental pipeline so they don’t have to be reliant on the same handful of gymnasts quad after quad going forward. It’s unfortunate that things have turned out this way after their success in the 2000-2012 era, but I really don’t see it improving anytime soon without some major changes taking place at pretty much every level.

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

One thought on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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

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