You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Simone Biles

It’s time for the 325th 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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Having never been a gymnast, why do vault skills seem to be harder than the same skills on floor? WAG elites can do a roundoff back handspring triple full or 3½ backwards twist on floor, but no one’s successfully landed a Yurchenko triple on vault, and even a double or Amanar seems impressive on vault, but not on floor. Why is it crazy that Simone Biles has posted a Yurchenko double pike on vault in training when lots of elites can do double pikes on floor? Wouldn’t the longer run and extra height from the vault table make it easier to throw harder skills on vault than on floor?  

This is a super common question I get pretty regularly from people who have never done gymnastics before! The simple answer is that on floor, gymnasts are punching into their passes from their legs, but on vault, they launch off of the tables from their arms. This makes vault harder for two reasons: one, power comes from the legs on floor, but from their shoulders on vault, and it can be more difficult to built the type of muscle necessary to get a powerful block from the shoulders, and two, they also have to do an extra half revolution in the air on vault (so while a layout on floor is just one flip, a layout off the vault table is a flip and a half…since they start out upside down, they have to go right-side up again before doing the actual flip). Pretty much any of the most difficult level of twisting or flipping you’ll see on vault is considered relatively easy or common on floor for this reason.

So yes, a double pike on floor is a pretty basic skill for any WAG at the elite level, but on vault, for many gymnasts just learning the roundoff back handspring entry, even a single pike can be super difficult, and most will start out with non-salto Yurchenko vaults (meaning they will just do that half flip to upright themselves rather than adding on a tuck or a pike or a layout). Doing a double salto off vault – which is essentially two and a half flips blocking off of the hands – is essentially impossible for most women, with only two of the best vaulters in the world – McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles – seriously training it. The power and technique needed for a vault like this is beyond the capability of most gymnasts, male or female, and that’s why it’s so crazy that Simone is landing it on a mat and could legitimately compete it someday.

Why has Simone never intentionally reconstructed her bars routine to have the Weiler full named for her?

I think she said at one point that she doesn’t think she could do the skill consistently if she wanted to, but only accidentally does it sometimes when she doesn’t have control in the half. I’m sure she’s trained the full with the intention of hitting it, but imagine that she would have done it by now if it was in a place that was reliable enough to work into the overall construction of her routine. That said, I’m dying for her to round out her eponymous skills with a bars skill, so I’d love to see her just go for it at some point.

Watching nationals from 2017 and there is a female coach on the floor with Morgan Hurd I never saw again at later competitions. Is she no longer part of her coaching team? Who is she?

That’s Cleo Washington! She is awesome. She moved to California…I want to say last year from what I remember? She’s coaching at Airborne now and has a few gymnasts training at the elite and Hopes level, and one of her elites, Kaliya Lincoln, made the junior Gymnix team earlier this year. Actually, Kaliya’s family recently moved to Texas and Kaliya is now at WOGA, but there are still several who should be really fun to watch at Airborne. They also have Izabella Trejo, who has competed for Sweden internationally and is committed to UC Davis!

Aliya Mustafina looked out of shape in her recent picture at the Nemov Show. Can she still get back to competitive level for Tokyo next year? Were there cases before of any gymnast getting back to competition level after being severely out of shape?

Honestly, I think it’s not really going to happen for her at this point…it’s not the getting back in shape aspect that’s hard, anyone with the access to a training facility and the resources like Aliya has with Round Lake could do it relatively easily (compared to “normal” people trying to get in shape, I mean). It’s having the motivation to put yourself through the training and diet it would take to get there, first just to get fit in general, but then also to get into top-level athlete shape. If that’s not what Aliya wants to be doing with her life right now, then pushing herself through it and hating it won’t be fun for anyone, so I’m glad she’s not forcing herself through the process if it’s not what she wants to be doing right now. But I do believe that if she wanted to do it, she would.

How she looks aside, because looks inherently have nothing to do with fitness ability, Aliya was featured in a training video a few months ago where she just seemed like she wasn’t able to do some basic things that gymnasts need to be able to do. Obviously her fitness level just isn’t where it needs to be in general, so she’d have to spend a few months just on that alone before she could even really think about building back up to doing routines again. With the Olympics only about eight months away, I just don’t see it happening, especially not with the current talent level on the Russian team. 

Aliya has accomplished so much, if she was truly desperate to do more, she is clearly a person who goes after what she wants and puts the work in to make it happen. The fact that she’s not really prioritizing it must makes me think she has other things she cares about more, which is great for her.

Can you explain the magic or science of peaking? What does it mean to ‘peak at the right time’ or to ‘peak too early’? Can you give examples? A lot of coaches get criticized for pushing their gymnasts too hard. Can you talk about what they can do to make sure their gymnasts ‘peak’ at the right time?

There is no magic or science to it, really. Sometimes, as much as coaches try to plan for a gymnast’s peak, their bodies have different plans, and when they’re at their best physical condition for gymnastics can’t really be controlled by any outside force. That said, there are ways to manage athletes to have better longevity, which I think is more important than trying to peak for one specific moment in time.

I think if we were to do a case study, it’s kind of proven that pushing gymnasts to do big difficulty before puberty means that they will often struggle to get those skills back once their bodies change and grow, after which they have to essentially re-learn their skills with a brand new body which often leads to injuries and causes them to burn out by 16, whereas gymnasts who wait until after puberty to train the bigger skills for the first time won’t have any of those struggles and are able to stay at the elite level longer. Those who are doing huge skills at 13 or 14 and then go through puberty thus end up peaking at 13 or 14, but those who hold off not only peak later, they also hold onto that peak longer, and they can also take more time off and come back and reach a similar level of peak ability after taking breaks (like Aly Raisman between 2012 and 2016, or Simone Biles between 2016 and 2018).

While it’s almost impossible to make sure a gymnast peaks for one specific competition over an entire lifetime, I do think it’s possible to train for longevity at peak ability, and with that sort of longevity, you’re also able to train for peaks over certain periods of time (for example, looking at one year, so that you have a hiatus where you’re just training skills and conditioning, a period where you’re building back up into routines, a period where you’re at 60% competitive shape, a period where you’re at 80% for nationals, and then peak ability at world championships, after which you can then go back into hiatus mode).

I think many coaches have learned from the “bad” examples from the last few quads – Katelyn Ohashi, Lexie Priessman, and Bailie Key being three notable cases – and have stopped pushing Amanars and 6.0+ start values on 12-year-olds, instead keeping them in J.O. or Hopes until they’re 13 and then slowly introducing bigger skills as they get closer to senior-level competition. That’s a great change for the sport, and will hopefully lead to a greater number of top athletes who have more longevity at peak ability. But in such a difficult sport where bodies are under so much physical stress, it’s also going to be natural that due to how they’re built, some gymnasts, no matter how well-managed they are, will break down earlier than others, while others – hello, Chuso! – can go on for decades with no major injuries.

What’s the difference between being devalued vs deducted?

So, usually most shapes that a gymnast is supposed to hit in gymnastics are going to have execution faults that will earn deductions, unless a gymnast is perfect, which is rare. But if a gymnast is so off in hitting those shapes correctly, it goes beyond deductions and instead, the D panel will devalue the skill. Say a gymnast is doing a Yurchenko layout on vault. If she has a slight bend in her hips, the judges would take off a tenth, and if her hips have a greater angle to them, it would probably be three tenths deducted. But if she’s so piked down that she’s actually doing a legit pike shape, she can no longer be credited with performing a layout, and the D panel will instead devalue the intended layout, crediting her with doing a pike instead.

What federations do you believe are the best at doing what is right for their gymnasts?

It’s easy to say as an outsider that I think certain federations seem to be doing well for their gymnasts, but as I’m not a gymnast within any federation, it’s impossible to know for sure. There are plenty of federations that haven’t outright done anything harmful that we know about, and in the current climate, that in itself is remarkable, but I also haven’t heard any stories of federations going above and beyond to “do what’s right.” 

I will say that I was happy to see Gymnastics Canada taking pretty immediate action with Dave Brubaker when there were sexual assault allegations against him, and even though he was acquitted, Canada still went forward with a ban against him and his wife (both nationally and within their gym…compare that to the U.S., where John Geddert and Maggie Haney technically shouldn’t still be coaching but are still around doing essentially whatever they want as long as they just don’t show up at USAG meets), and they launched an internal investigation. I’ve also heard of other quick investigations of non-sexual abuse allegations in Canada, as well as actual consequences when athletes break rules (which isn’t taken seriously at ALL in the U.S. even when other athletes are affected by a gymnast’s behavior), so from an outsider’s perspective seeing other federations cover things up and fight to protect themselves and/or abusers, this seems shockingly responsible of them. 

Of course, I don’t know every detail, so I’m probably missing things and it’s probably not perfect in every way, but just in comparison to the United States, Great Britain, and Australia, they at least seem like they are trying to take things seriously to make sure athletes are safe. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are stories that contradict this, because nothing surprises me anymore, but so far, what we’ve seen publicly has been promising and I hope that it’s all true and not just for show.

Can you explain the process of ‘submitting’ routines/skills to judges? When and why does it happen? Is it so judges can expect what’s coming and be prepared? What if someone changes stuff around in her routine after it was submitted?

Skills are submitted to judges for consideration to be included as new elements in the code of points. Athletes don’t submit entire routines, and they can compete whatever they want without judges knowing what’s coming…the judge’s job is to evaluate the routine they see in that moment during the competition, so a gymnast can perform one routine in qualifications and an entirely different routine in finals without explaining what she’s doing or why she’s changing things to the judges. The only time a gymnast really tells the judges what she’s doing is vault, where you’re supposed to put up the number of the vault you’re doing, but even then, if you put up a 435 for an Amanar and just do a DTY, there’s no penalty for changing your mind. 

But if a gymnast is doing a new skill, and she wants that new skill named for her, she has to submit it to make sure her name is included in the code if she competes it successfully. If she doesn’t submit the skill, the judges will still evaluate it and give it a rating because they have to, and they will probably include it in the next update of the code, but it just won’t be named for her (or anyone) because it wasn’t submitted to be named.

In 2017, literally right before the vault final, Shallon Olson thought that she might actually do the Yurchenko triple, so she rushed to submit it to be evaluated/named, so even though she didn’t end up going for it, she still wanted it to be submitted just in case she worked up the nerve in that last second before sprinting…what a bummer it would have been had she landed it and made history only to not get it named for her!

Why are training leotards usually sleeveless and competition leotards usually long-sleeved? Is there a rule?

There’s no rule. Sleeveless leos are way more comfortable, especially in hot gyms where you’re training and sweating for hours at a time…and many gymnasts prefer to just train in sports bras and shorts (though coaches usually don’t allow this for younger gymnasts and have rules/dress codes requiring training leos with no shorts allowed, because – according to coaches – shorts usually break up the body line, though I think it’s more a way to keep things uniform, much like requiring a leotard and tights in ballet).

Long-sleeved leos became the standard for competitions in the 1950s because the sport was all about elegance and artistry then, and the look of the sleeves helped to extend the line of the arm (kind of like tights and pointe shoes in ballet), making the “look” a bit cleaner. Even though it isn’t really as necessary or important now that the sport is about so much more, it’s just one of those things that has stuck around for decades as a sort of tradition and most teams would never show up to a competition in a training leo…but you still see some competitors stick to sleeveless leos in competitions and there’s no penalty for it.

Do Giorgia Villa, Elisa Iorio, and the D’Amato twins train in the same gym?

Yes, they all train at Brixia in the city of Brescia. Elisa actually used to train at Panaro Modena, but she moved to train with the Brixia group in late 2017, and the four have been together ever since!

Why did Amy Tinkler switch gyms? Did her old coaches say anything shady when she left?

She switched gyms because she was in a really bad situation at South Durham, with coaches who were emotionally and verbally abusive. When she came back to training after the 2016 Olympics, she wanted to put herself in a better environment, so she opted to go to South Essex. Her old coaches at first were kind of passive aggressive about it, and had a few comments about how they got her as far as they did, and THIS is how Amy thanked them, honestly really similar to things Maggie Haney said about Laurie Hernandez after Rio. When Amy came forward about how she was treated earlier this year, her old coaches actually went to the press and started badmouthing Amy, even pulling in her former teammates to get them to say how great it is at South Durham, and how everything Amy is saying is a lie. Really not the best look for them.

Is there anything that we as the gymternet can do to increase the odds that the infamous lost documentary about Alyssa Beckermann, Morgan White, and Kristen Maloney ever sees the light of day?

As far as I can remember, this was shown at a festival but wasn’t actually ever aired anywhere. I found that it was called Gymnast and was directed by Edet Belzberg, who doesn’t seem to have any public contact information readily available, but there is a very private-looking Facebook account. I’m not saying harass her, but I am saying maybe get a group of people together, write a letter, post it to some sort of petition website, get people to sign, and send it her way? Maybe she’d be flattered at the interest and try to get it released online somehow now that there are platforms for something like this that didn’t exist back when she originally screened it in 2005.

Who are the current elites at Texas Dreams? Just Emma Malabuyo and Sydney Barros?

I think so, at least in terms of those who have already competed elite in the past. They had two junior hopefuls go to the Everest and KPAC qualifiers this year, Cecily Rizo and Kaylee Wilson, but neither qualified at either one…and I think everyone else who had been at the elite level is either in college or done.

Amelie Morgan has posted a brand new beam mount. What difficulty value would you give it?

I didn’t see it and can’t find it on her Instagram…if you can link it, I’ll let you know!

Okay, someone linked to it in the comments, and it was posted to TikTok, where I literally only watch cooking videos (shoutout to Newt) and Bunny the dog videos (help stranger outside love you mom), but is available to see here. Thank you!

I’d give it an F since it’s a step up from a regular LOSO, and that kind of control makes it a lot harder, but I’m wondering if they would consider it a connection to scale and not its own thing? It’s not technically to a needle scale, but I think they’d still do the acro + A scale CV of 0.1, and that E + 0.1 would essentially make it worth the same as an F. But I can also see the FIG being stingy and just sticking with an E for it since it’s “just” an arabesque.

Do you think there could ever be a mixed team event with men and women of the same country competing together?

At the world or Olympic level, probably not, especially because with the logistics of how team qualifications work for the Olympics, where MAG and WAG both qualify 12 different programs from world championships, it doesn’t end up being even between the two…so then you’d also have to figure out how to qualify the mixed teams, which would take away from individual competitors with only a limited number of artistic gymnasts allowed at the Olympics. 

But I do think it would be really cool to have a mixed team world cup series through the FIG that would include prize money. Lots of federations love attending the apparatus world cups already, and the meets that happen in Europe after world championships – like the Swiss Cup and some of the Grand Prix meets – are also really popular and a lot of fun.

I think having a mixed team world cup circuit start a month or so after world championships (which is usually when the hiatus ends for most of the international gymnasts) would be really exciting. They could do a more low-key format so that it’s not like they have to require full teams of six men and four women…maybe have something like two and two, and the format can be like what the Swiss Cup has where they can pick their best three events each. I think it’d be a really fun and low-pressure way to end the year, with a few of these team events having individual meet winners, and then one overall series winner with grand prize money.

In the 2012 Olympic Trials, anyone wonder why Elizabeth Price wasn’t chosen for the team?

I think it was mainly that they just wanted an easy vault medal from McKayla Maroney, and then Kyla Ross made more sense for bars and beam, and the team really needed to round out both since they were already so strong on the other two events. Despite finishing fourth all-around a tenth ahead of Kyla in fifth, Kyla’s bars routine was second-best at trials behind Gabby Douglas, and she also had the third-best beam routine, so she made the most sense for that final spot. 

I think looking beyond individual medals, Ebee in many ways actually made more sense for the team itself than McKayla, because she was stronger on three of the four events, was also much healthier at the time, and she also had an Amanar that scored within a tenth or two of McKayla’s on a good day, but obviously McKayla was the golden girl on vault and there was no way they were going to leave her at home, even if it meant slightly compromising the team on floor in qualifications. In the end, that wouldn’t matter at all. Ebee made perfect sense for the team, but McKayla also made perfect sense for the team, and with McKayla, they’d also get a vault medal, so that’s what it came down to.

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

16 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

    • Thank you! I don’t follow any gym stuff on TikTok, only cooking hahaha. #NEWT

      Oh, love that, I’d give it an F since it’s a step up from a regular LOSO, but I’m wondering if they would consider it a connection to scale and not its own thing? It’s not technically to a needle scale, but I think they’d still do the acro + A scale CV of 0.1 which would essentially make it worth the same as an F.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Lauren, just wanted to notice that Elisa Iorio did not train in Trieste before Brixia, but at Panaro Modena! Maybe you got confused because at some point she competed with Artistica ‘81 at the Serie A, but she never trained there. These swaps between teams happen to make the competition more fair, since all the talent is at Brixia (of course Brixia always makes sure to still win with ridiculously high margins haha)

    Love your Q&As 🙂

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  2. Hi Lauren,
    I really appreciate your work, however, I don‘t agree with your reasoning on the topic of shorts over leos. Men’s coaches apparently do not need to see the body line to coach and boys don‘t even wear tight shorts.
    Wether it is hip alignment or split position – a coach is able to see that even if the girls are wearing (long, short, mid-length) leggings. I personally don‘t appreciate the look of shorts too much (not that it would matter anyway!), but to say it disturbes training/coaching is not true at all. Many gymnasts feel extremly exposed when they are expected to train this way – that‘s another reason how it might affect a gymnasts training experience and frankly, a gymnasts well-being is way more important to effective progress than a coach seeing a leg line.

    From my own experience as a gymnast, there is no benefit from not wearing shorts in training, except feeling shitty and humiliated when forced to. This feeling gets even worse when an older male coach tells you to take off your shorts.

    As I am a coach now, I would like you to also take into account positive things about certain aspects of clothes: My gymnasts sometimes wear shorts with colorful stripes and stuff – that makes it even easier to explain to them the concept of square hips, as they can see when the stripes of their shorts align. I just tell them to keep (e.g.) the pink line of their shorts straight when doing a skill, and what happens: They square their hips.
    Leggings covering the whole leg often look elegant on many gymnasts, as they can visually lengthen and tighten the legs, most notable when dark colors are used.

    All in all – I understand that many people feel that shorts are unaesthetical. But with regards to all the ongoing abuse allegations, I want to point out that forbidding shorts in training is a technique some abusive coaches use to punish or belittle athletes or to exert power over them.

    A good example from reality for this is something the german national team has done for a few years: Gymnasts were not allowed to wear shorts when training beam. No exceptions. This example leads the argument of needing to see the body line ad absurdum – on floor, gymnast were allowed to train with shorts…
    I would like to point out that gymnasts have complained heavily about this and the rule has been abolished a short time ago for senior athletes.

    I hope you reconsider your opinion on this topic. My concern is that coaches will continue to use your reason (need to see lines) to force athletes to not wear shorts when training, and therefore gymnasts lives are more miserable, for no very good reason. You have so many good opinions and a lot of influence on the gymnastics community, and I hope my comment makes you think about the topic in yet another way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your response. That’s not actually MY reasoning…I was sharing the the reasoning many coaches use for not allowing gymnasts to wear shorts. I personally think gymnasts should be allowed to wear shorts, but unfortunately that’s often not the case in many gyms, and they use the “body line” excuse as the primary reasoning. The REAL reasoning? It’s probably a control thing and a way to keep everyone uniform, similar to ballet often requiring a leotard and tights for kids/teens…and then you get to the adult levels and can wear leggings, and the teachers can see the same alignment/body line issues regardless.

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      • In our gym we used to require girls to wear shorts or leggings.
        While teaching young girls backflips, one would pinch their shorts between ones thumb and index finger (whilst still having the rest of your hand to help lift the gymnast) to make sure they did not slip from our hands. Might be a bit hard to imagine, but it was very usefull.
        So, I’m very pro shorts.
        In the Netherlands, everyone (except the elite level) is also allowed to wear shorts during competitions as long as the shorts are either black or in the colour of your leotard.

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  3. About that petetion for the film Gymnast by Edet Belzberg, you seem to be a perfect person to write a respectful, new era, public compassion and inteterest in gymanastics document. If I missed it, where do I sign. Do you know anything about Belzberg such as where he/she lives or age. i used to be in law enforcement and have some discrete ways of finding addresses, which if I idid I woud only give to you. No good at finding things like e-mail addresses. Thanks for all you do for the sport we love and for keeping us going through the pandemic. Plaease don’t post this other than a place to sign the petition, but please feel free to contact me at the email address below. It is a UK address, but I am in the US.

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        • Yes! There was video taken outside of one of the gyms of her training outside with her daughter and one other minor gymnast. Obviously they’re mostly inside the gym so it’s hard to tell but they went on a jog during training and it was caught on video by a parent who sent it to the OC Register. I personally also was connected to Maggie on FB so I would see a lot of her Venmo transactions, and until she figured out how to make her Venmo private, I saw all of the tuition payments continue to go through directly to her personal account, both for gym and for “tutoring.”

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  4. Looking back at former floor routines (just looked at Sandra Izbasas 2008 EF), I really don’t mind gymnasts standing in the corner for a second or two before their passes. Imo, it’s way more annoying when they stand on one leg awkwardly making some arm gestures or make a sudden half turn into the pass..? Do you think they should change the rules in the next CoP? They obviously need some time to catch their breath, the gymnasts are not robots? Do you have other ideas of possible changes in the next CoP?

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  5. In your response about Canada, you mention repercussions for gymnasts “breaking the rules.” Can you please elaborate? Does this mean in competition or in practice? What would those rules be?

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  6. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Suck it, friendship | The Gymternet

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