It’s time for the 322nd edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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Can you please explain how difficulty is built in NCAA routines?
NCAA routines have basic requirement levels that they have to meet in NCAA, and each event has its own set of requirements (except vault…on vault there are just a list of vaults and what they’re valued, whether out of a 10.0 like a Yurchenko 1½ , out of a 9.95 like a Yurchenko full, and so on).
There are four requirements for bars (two bar changes, two flight elements, a minimum C turning element, and a minimum C dismount) and floor (one acro combo with two saltos, three different saltos in the routine, a minimum C dismount, and a dance passage), and then five requirements for beam (an acro series, a dance or dance + acro combo, a dance element with a 180 split, a full turn, and a minimum C dismount). For all three of these events, any routine that meets all requirements and includes three A elements, three B elements, and 3 C elements will automatically get a 9.4 start value.
From there, it’s all about adding 0.6 in bonus to reach a 10.0 start value, and for all three events, the two key ways to do this is through (a) competing difficult D and E skills, and (b) building connections. Here are the bonuses for each apparatus:
– D pirouettes, transitions, and dismounts: 0.1
– D same-bar release: 0.2
– E pirouette or dismount: 0.2
– E same-bar release or transition: 0.3
– C+C connection: 0.1*
– C+D: 0.1
– D+D: 0.2
*both elements must show flight/turn, or must begin from clear hip, toe-on, or stalder roots
– D elements: 0.1
– E elements: 0.2
– B+D (no dismount combos): 0.2
– C+C (no dismount combos): 0.2
– B+B+C (includes dismount if C element): 0.1
– B+C+C (includes dismount if C element): 0.2
– B+B+D (includes dismount if D element): 0.2
– B acro + C dismount: 0.1
– A+D (dance/mixed): 0.1
– B+C (dance/mixed): 0.1
– B+D (dance/mixed): 0.2
– C+C (dance/mixed): 0.2
– C (danced) + C (dismount): 0.1
– A+C (turns): 0.1
– B+B+C (series bonus): 0.1*
*series bonus is in addition to B+B+C 0.1 acro CV; dismount series is not eligible for SB
– D elements: 0.1
– E elements: 0.2
– A+C (direct acro): 0.1
– A+A+C (direct acro): 0.1
– B+B (direct acro): 0.1
– B+C (direct acro): 0.2
– A+D (direct acro): 0.2
– C+C (direct acro): 0.3
– A+A+C (indirect acro): 0.1
– A+D (indirect acro): 0.1
– C+C (indirect acro): 0.2
– B+D (dance/mixed): 0.1
– C+C (dance/mixed): 0.1
– D salto + A jump: 0.1
– C salto + A dance + A salto: 0.1
– C+D: 0.2
All of the different connection values make it easy to built difficulty in a variety of ways, and there are also a number of ways to combine some of the bonuses into single passes or connections to knock out a significant portion of the difficulty all at once, like doing a D acro pass to get 0.1 in bonus and directly connecting it to an A acro skill to get another 0.2 from CV, getting you 0.3 total bonus, which would be half of the bonus needed to get to a 10.0 SV.
Let’s put together a bars routine just for fun to try this out. I’ll use Kyla Ross’ routine from last year, since her routine doesn’t have a same-bar release and people often ask how that’s allowed. Kyla’s routine looks relatively simple, with just a Maloney to bail to toe shoot, and then a double layout dismount, but I’ll show you how she actually goes above and beyond in the NCAA code.
First, the requirements. Two bar changes? Kyla transitions from low to high with the Maloney, then back to the low with the bail, then back to high with the toe shoot, so she exceeds requirements there. Two flight elements? Again, the Maloney and the bail are both flight elements, so she’s killing two birds with one stone. Minimum C turning element? In NCAA bars, a turning element doesn’t have to be a pirouette, and can be any element where there’s any sort of lateral turn in it, like a van Leeuwen or a bail, so Kyla’s bail is what counts here. Her bail is just serving her honestly. Finally, a minimum C dismount? Kyla’s double layout is worth an E, so yeah, that’s covered, and Kyla satisfies all requirements to start her routine at a 9.4 before any bonus.
Now here’s how the bonus works out for her:
Maloney – D skill bonus – 0.1
Bail – D skill bonus – 0.1
Maloney + bail – D+D connection – 0.2
Bail + toe shoot – D+C connection – 0.1
Double layout – E skill bonus – 0.2
Kyla actually gets 0.7 in bonus from her “easy” routine, so technically, if a routine’s start value wasn’t capped at a 10, she would have a routine out of a 10.1! All from just four skills and no same-bar release. A queen.
If there are universities that don’t offer scholarships for athletes, why can’t pro athletes go to those schools?
Even though universities may not offer scholarships, athletes still have to be amateurs, so they still can’t accept money even though they’re not receiving any tuition/housing benefits from the program. The worst of both worlds? Athletes in this situation have said that there are more reasons to do college sports than scholarships, and most who go to programs that don’t offer scholarships wouldn’t be at a level to accept endorsements anyway, so the point is kind of moot.
For an example of how it maybe could’ve caused a problem…my school didn’t offer scholarships, but was really big on fencing and we had a couple of Olympians so maybe they could have been in a position to earn a little money…but even in that situation, fencers aren’t exactly raking in the dough, so I don’t know. Maybe if one of them won Olympic gold and got some national attention and had some opportunities come up, they would’ve been kind of screwed because they wouldn’t have been able to take money, and they weren’t getting a scholarship, so it’s like, they did all of this work to become the top athlete in their sport and they get literally not a cent for it?
But that very rare hypothetical aside, every athlete I knew in college was just proud to be a D1 athlete and at an Ivy League school, so they didn’t care about scholarships, and many were on academic scholarships anyway (or rich lol). One girl I was close with was on the basketball team and all through high school, she didn’t think she was talented enough to even walk onto a D1 basketball team. She considered herself lucky to have made it at all, even if she wasn’t at a scholarship program, and she was on a full academic scholarship. It wasn’t about getting an athletic scholarship, and absolutely wasn’t about earning endorsement money…it was simply about getting the chance to be a D1 athlete, which is something most high school athletes will never get to do.
Other than traditional rivalries in college, do gymnasts particularly care about winning meets? Objectively it’s better to lose a meet with a 197 than win with a 196, but is that how the athletes feel or would they rather win?
Yeah, they do! Even though it’s more about the score itself than about the win, getting the win is still a big boost for the team’s morale, especially going into postseason where it IS all about the win. The only time they’re not particularly thrilled is when they win with a weak meet against a much lower-level team…like, obviously a stronger program is going to win against a team ranked 35th or whatever, so the vibe at that meet isn’t like “let’s murder them!!” like it is against a similarly-ranked rival school. Instead, it’s more like, let’s do some really great gymnastics, and if they don’t, the mood after isn’t great even if they win or get a decent score.
The score doesn’t even really matter, honestly…sometimes they’ll purposely put up weaker gymnasts or routines at meets like these knowing they don’t need a steady stream of 9.95s, and they’re fine with a 196 for a good meet with some of their weaker gymnasts instead of a usual 197+ knowing it’ll fall off of their NQS. But they’re not happy if they have a sloppy, careless meet with lots of issues that shouldn’t be there, especially if it’s later in the season. So getting the win with a 196 when they expected more from that particular team on that particular day is a bummer, but a win with a 196 when you’re up against another top program and all of your athletes are injured and you’ve really fought for it can be an incredible feeling and motivator for the athletes, even if you’re usually a 197+ program and generally want those 197+ scores in your average/NQS. It’s all relative, and how you feel after really just depends on the goals for each meet.
Why do people act like Shawn Johnson was such a big failure in 2008?
I don’t think most serious gymnastics fans would consider what she did “failure” as most people who understand the sport knew that it was always going to come down to her and Nastia Liukin for the Olympic gold, and that it was never a guarantee for Shawn to get the win. But I think people who didn’t pay attention and only saw the nonstop “SHAWN IS THE NEXT OLYMPIC CHAMPION” press tour for a full year leading up to the Games and didn’t realize Nastia was major competition probably feel that Shawn didn’t end up winning gold because she somehow ended up screwing up, essentially “giving” the title to Nastia? Otherwise I don’t know what to tell you.
I feel like it went back and forth between Nastia and Shawn winning titles for all of 2008, and it was clear that Nastia was always going to be pretty serious competition, yet Shawn was always pinned as the golden girl and Nastia was always the “underdog.” It made no sense, but hey, it happened again four years later when people pretended Aly Raisman wasn’t going to get close to the all-around final and were then shocked that she “took Jordyn Wieber’s spot.” How about we stop giving titles and finals spots to people before they actually earn them? Shawn didn’t fail in 2008. She did her job, but Nastia did her job even better on that one particular day, so Nastia won gold, and Shawn won silver. It’s that simple.
I could imagine if I did a routine, I would get distracted by all of the people screaming things like “Come on!” and “You got this!” around me. Does that not bother gymnasts or can they just completely ignore stuff like this?
When I was competing, the background noise wasn’t distracting at all…dead silence was! You don’t hear the individual things being yelled, really…instead it’s more like a constant white noise and it actually helps you focus…and then in environments where it’s really quiet, it’s hard because then a single noise will happen, and it can totally burst your concentration bubble. I think many gymnasts tend to feel this way, which is why I find apparatus finals at major competitions so stressful, especially on events like pommels, beam, and high bar. During qualifications, all-around finals, and team finals, it’s nonstop screaming, but in apparatus finals, arenas get so quiet you can hear a pin drop, and then someone will randomly shriek and I’m like, STOP IT! Hahaha. At least some arenas will play music. Anyway, I still need white noise/ASMR to focus on things like work or writing, and I blame gymnastics for that!
Is there a list of average GPAs for each collegiate program?
Yes, the WCGA announces the team GPA rankings at the end of each season. Here’s the list for the 2019-2020 season, where Texas Woman’s University had the top team GPA with a 3.8881, followed by Eastern Michigan with a 3.8875, and then Northern Illinois with a 3.8768. The rankings also include a complete list of the Academic All-Americans, which is any student-athlete with a GPA above a 3.5.
Any word on Anastasia Grishina? I heard she was training again.
I think I received this question at the end of 2019, but while she has been in and out of the gym a few times since having a child, it hasn’t really been at a serious level. She last competed at the Russian Cup in 2015, and then Valentina Rodionenko announced her retirement in January 2016, which is the last time she’s officially been part of the national program. I think it’s entirely unlikely that we’ll see her return at this stage.
Is Aly Raisman done? Why hasn’t she announced her retirement?
Yes, Aly is done with gymnastics. Not every gymnast officially announces their retirement…for most, it’s kind of just implied. But when Aly was dealing with the Larry Nassar fallout in 2018, she told the press that taking on the system of USA Gymnastics was more important to her than continuing to train or compete in the sport. To me, that was basically the announcement of her retirement even though she didn’t straight up say “I’m retiring from gymnastics” using those words exactly. But if that isn’t enough, I think the fact that she hasn’t been in the gym since Rio is kind of a big hint, hahaha.
I love Peng Peng Lee but are her double layouts off bars not a deduction even though they’re piked?
Technically, yes, that should be a deduction, but so should a lot of things in NCAA gymnastics. Unfortunately a lot of things in NCAA that should be deductions are overlooked, so if a routine is otherwise “perfect” in terms of not having any MAJOR mistakes, then form errors like slightly piked double layouts won’t cause the routine to miss out on a 10, just like leg separation in a full-in wouldn’t cause Madison Kocian to miss out on a 10, or like any other relatively minor form deduction never really mattered for anyone in the history of any team that gets 10s handed out like candy.
What’s going on with worlds in 2021? How late is it for a host city to say “we’ll host it?” How will a city be chosen to host? What do you think about Morgan Hurd going for the worlds team, and Chellsie Memmel?
With so much still up in the air with COVID, I think the FIG is going to take things slow and not make any decisions too quickly, but I’d imagine a country with experience hosting or that has hosted recently will end up taking the task. I also think that due to COVID, and with the Olympics happening just a month or so before, it’ll probably be a very watered-down worlds, so I don’t expect it to be a huge event as we’ve seen in the past.
I can see a city that typically hosts world cups or the challenge cups offer to take it on, since they have the infrastructure in place for a smaller-level individual world championships. Cottbus, one of the Hungarian cities (Györ or Szombathely), Baku if things have calmed down between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Mersin…I feel like all of the organizing committees in these cities (and their national federations) are good at throwing together international competitions, and with Mersin just picking up Euros out of the blue with only a couple of months after Baku had to give it up, I feel like it or any of the other cities I mentioned could do the same with worlds. I don’t think it’ll be a brand-new city with no hosting experience, that’s for sure, and I think the FIG will pick a federation/LOC they trust can pull it off.
As for Morgan and Chellsie, yeah, depending on what happens with the Olympics, one or both will probably go for worlds. I’d obviously love to see Morgan go to Tokyo and then keep training and go to worlds, especially since there probably won’t be a big tour or anything (assuming COVID is still a thing, which we’re supposed to expect it will be until the end of 2021). I can totally see her just going from one to the next, maybe taking a week or two off in between to chill since she won’t need to be at such a high level at worlds, but that would be the dream. I think worlds is more realistic for Chellsie, but she’ll obviously have a whole bunch of younger U.S. gymnasts to contend with, so hopefully she’ll be in a place where she’ll be able to match them competitively to earn a spot.
In the 2008 quad, why did gymnasts do a fifth pass down the side instead of utilizing the entire diagonal of the floor like their other passes?
It was basically a way to add the difficulty of a fifth tumbling line without dying. Many gymnasts didn’t have the endurance to do a more difficult fifth pass, so they’d do a simpler “side pass” as a way to add in a few extra tenths without running out of steam, usually something like a double full a Rudi. Most people HATED this because it was like, these gymnasts are doing double doubles and triple fulls, why do we need to see a random double full along the side? I personally was glad to see the routines get cut down to eight skills instead of ten, which allowed for a more manageable three or four passes and no longer necessitated the use of the side pass just for the sake of it. If someone could truly do five difficult passes really well, then yes, GIVE IT TO ME. But no one could, so this is a better option.
Do you think certain gymnasts on the Dutch team are never getting spots when they could be helpful? Like Elze Geurts, for example, and maybe Maartje Ruikes, Julia Bombach, and Reina Beltman a few years ago? It seems like they kind of play favorites with a few.
The Dutch team has requirements regarding who can compete for the national team, usually based on certain scores they have to achieve at certain meets throughout the year, and regarding Elze, I remember last year she got very close to that score, but fell just a bit short of reaching it…I think it was at the Dutch Team Championships, and she needed around a 50 or 51 but she got a 49.933. It’s too bad because she’s a very talented gymnast, especially on vault, and I think there have been times where the Dutch team could have used her as a backup on that event.
The problem with the Dutch and several other teams is that they have such high requirements to be part of the national team and then kind of ignore everyone else, but then they don’t have a B team and they’re totally screwed when everyone’s injured and they need alternates. I feel the same way about Dorien Motten for Belgium…there was a time when the Belgian team was basically down to five senior gymnasts exactly, so they couldn’t even have an alternate, and I was like…but Dorien exists? And she competes like 50 times a year at every single country’s league meets (Spain, Italy, Germany) and a ton of invitationals, and always puts up great vault scores and good scores elsewhere, so she’s better than nothing even if she’s not a top choice, certainly?
The reason the top teams succeed is because they’re able to replace injured athletes with gymnasts who are nearly at the same caliber, because they nurture B and C team athletes, and give them opportunities, and realize that they need to be training more than just the main athletes that they want at the Olympics. But the programs that can be in the top eight one year and then barely in the top 16 the next are the ones that don’t encourage depth in this way and basically shun talented gymnasts from programs instead of using them to build out their reserve teams, which are just as necessary as the top teams. Elze, Maartje, Julia, Reina, and many others all should have been more highly valued at the national team level, and part of the benefit of giving them that higher-level experience is that they get even better, and then have even more to contribute in the future, and maybe someday, they’ll be the ones leading the teams. Instead, they don’t do anything for the team and eventually retire. Such a waste!
You said in a previous post that you would have put Vanessa Atler on the 2000 Olympic team. Who would you have replaced on the actual team?
Dominique Dawes. She had issues of her own at both nationals and trials whereas Vanessa only really had trials as her “meltdown” meet, and it was clear in Sydney that Dominique still wasn’t at a hundred percent, putting up most of the team’s lowest scores. I will never understand why she was considered so necessary for the team, and always thought that if it wasn’t for her name, she probably wouldn’t have been there.
I love Dominique, but even with Vanessa’s issues at trials, if you look at their routines from both nationals and trials combined, she outperformed Dominique on every event but bars. Jamie Dantzscher was scoring the same as Dominique on bars anyway, so it’s not like they looked at Dominique’s bars score and were like, well, Vanessa was better on the other three, but we NEED Dominique’s 9.5 on this event! If she was getting 9.8s, then yeah, by all means, take her for bars, but it just doesn’t make sense otherwise. Jamie didn’t do bars in qualifications in Sydney, but she did it in the team final and got a 9.7, matching Dominique’s score, so she clearly would have been fine doing bars in qualifications, meaning Vanessa could have focused on the other three events and probably could’ve done an excellent job without having to worry about the apparatus she feared.
Do gymnasts get their hair professionally done for elite meets? Sometimes they have really cute updos!
Very rarely. They usually do it themselves! Most of them are used to doing it, because it’s something they’ve done since they were very young, and doing hair and makeup is often a way to relax and chill before a meet, as well as a fun way to bond with teammates who are also getting ready to compete. Sometimes parents or coaches will help, especially if they’re young, but as they get older they know what they like and often prefer to do it themselves.
For world and Olympic event finals, when and why did they change the lineup order from random to top qualifier going last? And is the rest of the order still assigned at random?
The entire order is random…they do a draw months ahead of the competitions, but sometimes it just works out in the draw that the top qualifier is drawn to compete last, and at Stuttgart last year, it somewhat impossibly worked out so that the top qualifier was drawn to compete last on three of the four events for WAG (all but beam)! So yeah, nothing has changed, it’s still a totally random draw, and for major events like worlds, you can usually even watch the drawing of lots, which happens a few months before the event taking place.
Why did Elena Zamolodchikova score so low in the 2005 floor final? I get her dance wasn’t fantastic but her tumbling was great! Was she missing an element?
She did have some noticeable issues, like that whippy/arched double layout, being a bit off on her tuck jump double, underrotating her triple by a quarter (and her form in the air wasn’t great either), and her chest being down at her knees on her full-in at the end. Maybe they didn’t credit the tuck jump double? Maybe they downgraded the triple? Maybe she was missing a dance element? She didn’t do the Shushunova, which I know she had in other routines. It seems to me like it was a start value issue more than an execution issue. I don’t think she was missing anything, but could see downgrading being a concern. Watching Suzanne Harmes, who had multiple landing issues, showed a great deal more noticeable form concerns than Elena, and stepped out-of-bounds, yet scored 0.05 higher, there had to be something wrong with how Elena was credited for her difficulty. Elena’s routine overall was clearly stronger.
Assuming her comeback works out, will Chellsie Memmel have to requalify to elite given how long she’s been away?
Typically most elites in her position would have to go to a qualifier to requalify to elite, and I’ve seen several gymnasts who have been elites but not previously on the national team have to requalify via this route this quad. But I think because of Chellsie’s history within the U.S. program and already being in communication with Tom Foerster, I’d imagine she’ll be able to send videos to the national staff to share updates about her progress, and when she looks ready, they’ll likely send her an invite to camp where they can evaluate her. This is how it worked with MyKayla Skinner and Laurie Hernandez…MyKayla was able to qualify to the U.S. Classic based on Tom evaluating her, and Laurie returned to camp in the same way, so I think once Chellsie’s ready, she’ll get the same treatment.
Who has withdrawn from Euros? Who is expected to make a comeback?
Right now, Belgium (WAG, potentially MAG), Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland have withdrawn, with Poland also not attending because they are currently banned from competing by the UEG, leaving 24 countries planning on traveling to Turkey, including France, Romania, and Ukraine.
The biggest comeback we’re planning on seeing at Euros, assuming they still take place, is Larisa Iordache, who hasn’t competed since 2017 and is hoping to make her return at Romania’s national championships this month before vying for a spot on the Euros team.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins