It’s time for the 327th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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If there was a sort of contest for gymnasts in which they had to perform all single bar releases in the code, who do you think could hypothetically pull it off after some training?
Becky Downie, Beth Tweddle, Brenna Dowell, Anna Li…there are others but these are the top four who come to mind. Basically any of the women who would also probably be great at high bar! And I’d love to see any of these gals do high bar. Throw a Kovacs into the mix because I think any of these ladies could do a Kovacs, too. I think in addition to being super versatile with skills they’ve trained and/or competed, these four also have super powerful swings with lots of amplitude and could probably pull off anything if you gave them a day to train it.
Hypothetically, the U.S. was allowed to send two teams to worlds last year, but only with those who were in contention for the actual team. Who would you have sent and how would you have split the teams?
Based on readiness as seen in the final trial meet as well as potential from earlier meets that season, my first team would have been Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, MyKayla Skinner, Morgan Hurd, and Grace McCallum, and my second team would have been Jade Carey, Kara Eaker, Leanne Wong, Jordan Chiles, and Faith Torrez. I feel like the first team would have been the clear “this team is going to win gold” team, but I also tried to “spread the wealth” a bit and balance the two teams in terms of not having one team be too vault-heavy the way it would have been if you just took the top five from trials and put them on one team, and then put the bottom five on the other. I also went with Jordan, who was 11th at trials, over Emily Lee, who was 10th, because Jordan didn’t have her best day at trials but I felt she showed at nationals that her potential was a bit greater and I would have forgiven the one bad day (and I’m against the “one and done” team selection strategy in general).
Do you think dance elements on floor are intentionally over-valued in comparison to acro? It takes so much energy and prep to do a double pike, and these also get deducted a ton, while similarly-valued D-valued double turns (especially wolf or forward attitude turns) look so much easier, and there’s not as much to deduct from.
I don’t think it’s intentional, I just think it wasn’t really considered as a potential issue when coming up with the current code of points. I feel like it’s impossible to evaluate the two things within the structure of the current code…I always think about it like, I can’t even do a back handspring anymore but I can (very poorly) do many higher-level dance elements on floor without much training (like I could do a double L turn in my living room on my third try…it wasn’t pretty but it still happened and I stayed in relevé so it would have gotten credit). I really don’t think there’s any comparison between tumbling and dance difficulty and like, yes, dance is difficult in its own right and many gymnasts should be penalized for not doing it well, but to make it worth the same as tumbling has never made sense to me. The difficulty just does not compare between the two. I feel like it should maybe be weighted? Like, keep the values and execution deductions the same, but tumbling is worth 70% of your final score and dance is worth 30% or something? That could make sense to me.
Who are the UCLA scholarship athletes for the upcoming season?
I love that I get this question every single year. The ones I know for sure are Chae Campbell, Nia Dennis, Frida Esparza, Norah Flatley, Margzetta Frazier, Brooklyn Moors, Kalyany Steele, Pauline Tratz, and Sekai Wright…I don’t know about the other three, though. The three missing scholarships makes sense, though, since we were expecting Jordan Chiles, Emma Malabuyo, and Ana Padurariu to come in this season and they all ended up pushing back a year. It would be really cool to find out that their now-available scholarships ended up going to some upperclassmen walk-ons who have been really great for the team in recent years, like Kendal Poston or Samantha Sakti. Anyone really. There are a few seniors and it would be great to figure out a way to reward all of them for their hard work over the years.
Also, because I know I’ll get questions about it, Brooklyn is redshirting her freshman year, meaning that while she is not competing, she IS on the roster and likely starting with some online classes, not deferring outright. That means she is getting a scholarship this season.
When NCAA athletes defer, how does it affect the 12 scholarship limit? Does it “screw” the school in terms of not giving a scholarship as planned and having one fewer to give for an additional year? Is there a situation where a school could pull a deferred student’s scholarship?
If an athlete defers, it opens up a scholarship for that season, though typically if an athlete defers, the program generally has enough time to figure out how to use that scholarship, whether it’s finding someone else to use it, or just being able to fund a walk-on for that season. Take a look at the question above…because three athletes who were expected to join the team this season ended up deferring until the 2021-2022 season due to the madness with the last-minute deferrals due to COVID-19 pushing the Olympics back a year, it looks like they could potentially have some open scholarships, but they also have a lot of walk-ons, so in a situation like this, they could fund some senior walk-ons for their final seasons if they’re feeling charitable.
As for having one fewer scholarship to give for a later year, it doesn’t really make much of a difference…if a gymnast commits to compete in the 2021-2024 seasons initially but then bumps that up to 2022-2025, the only year that’s really affected is 2025, and it’s not at all likely that a program will have a single commit for that season, let alone be fully booked up. Actually, I think the recruiting rules now don’t even allow for 2024 high school graduates competing in the 2024-2025 season to even be recruited right now, so this wouldn’t even really be an issue at all anymore. I don’t think there are really any situations where a program would pull a scholarship due to a deferral, and think that most programs want their recruits badly enough, they’d be willing to wait an extra year to get them.
I feel I don’t hear a lot about Michigan’s WAG team, although they’re consistently pretty good. Is that just my perception, or do they get overshadowed because they never win nationals?
I think they’re hard to follow sometimes because the Big Ten isn’t as accessible sometimes as the SEC or Pac 12…I know I can’t always watch all of their meets if they’re actually broadcast on the network, only if they’re streamed, so there is some weirdness and that difficulty makes me not bother trying sometimes, whereas the SEC and Pac 12 have both become super accessible over the years, which has really helped to build the fanbase for programs like Florida, LSU, UCLA, and others within these conferences. I think this alone makes them a bit overshadowed, but I also think they’re just a more quiet contender, and people overlook them because they also don’t have the top elites and they’re not getting 10s week in and week out. They get the occasional big scores and are pretty clean and solid, but the Big Ten judges are way more conservative, and an SEC or Pac 12 perfect 10 is basically a 9.9 in the Big Ten, so I think you’re just less likely to notice them when you’re not seeing standout scores, honestly. But they’re a fantastic team and always have been, and if they were in the SEC or Pac 12, they’d be right up there.
During Sandra Izbasa’s 2012 floor finals routine, Shannon Miller commented that she fell because she had a “double bounce” on her final pass. What does this mean? Is it a technical error, or just a bad luck thing where she hit the floor in the wrong area?
It’s fully a technical error. I think part of her issue was that she under rotated the 2½ so that she was facing sideways instead of forwards when she punched out of it, and then in trying to correct that, she then had the “double bounce.” Basically, when you bounce down on the floor, the floor springs back up in response. If you use your knees to work with the floor, that rebound is what helps punch you into your next skill. But if you’re off, sometimes instead of rebounding, you can actually hit back against that force, and your force colliding with the force of the floor can just stop your momentum dead in its tracks, which is essentially what happened here. Instead of using that momentum to punch into the next skill, it looked like as she was rebounding, her legs kind of locked, bouncing her back down against the force of the floor and ending her upward momentum, which is why she couldn’t get the next element around even though she really tried like hell to go for it anyway.
I just learned that Aliya Mustafina used to do a Khorkina and it’s definitely the best I’ve ever seen. Any idea why she took this out but kept her Tkachev for a while even though her Tkachev was a total butt scraper?
Her Khorkinas got a TON of height, and were absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous in that sense, but maybe they were concerned about her catching it so close to the bar? If it got that close in competition, she probably had a lot of problems with it in training that just made it not worth it, which is often the case with skills that disappear despite being seemingly excellent in competition. Her Tkachevs were low, but I feel like they weren’t low enough to be too much of an issue, whereas her Khorkinas had noticeably bent arms that sometimes caused her to muscle into the subsequent kip. I think with Tkachevs, there’s also more room to grow than with the Khorkina…if they improved the Tkachev height, they could expand on that and do more with it in terms of upgrades, but with the Khorkina it’s kind of like, okay, but where do we go from here? But I do agree that it’s probably the most effortless-looking Khorkina ever and it looked so gorgeous in the air.
Can you explain what a piked landing is? In my mind I know what a piked position is but I can’t figure out how that translates to a landing deduction.
Usually a ‘piked landing’ doesn’t mean someone is in a legit piked position. It usually refers to someone being piked down in their hips, whether that’s on a landing, in the air on a skill that isn’t a piked, in a giant on bars, whatever. When someone’s hips are piked, it just means that they’re bent or angled. I usually say someone’s landing is piked down if they’re bent forward at their hips in any way. It could be just a slight pike, like if their chest is just angled maybe 45 degrees forward, but if their chest is at a full 90 degree angle or is down at their knees, that’s a pretty significant pike down on the landing. And yes, even though the bend comes at the hips, it’s usually easier to tell how significant the pike is based on their chest position for landings, because that’s just easier to contextualize than looking at a hip angle. I look at the hip angle for a lot of skills, like a layout on vault or a giant on bars, for example, but that can be kind of hard to gauge sometimes and for landings the position of the chest really does make it easier.
What makes inverted giants so easy for some gymnasts but difficult for others? Sometimes I see gymnasts struggle to make it back up to handstand without straddling near the top of their swing, but for others it looks effortless. Is it a matter of strength? Flexibility? Technique? All of the above?
Like most skills, it’s usually a combination of things, and it also just depends on the gymnast. Some gymnasts are just better at certain elements and worse at others, and it could be for a number of reasons or it could be for no reason.
I think looking at it as a whole, those with the best inverted giants tend to have really excellent bars coaches who know what they’re doing when teaching these elements, which is why they’re able to advance beyond just basic inverted giants to the L-grip elements, circle elements, and pirouettes.
The inverted giants do take a lot of skill in terms of timing and so having a coach who knows how to teach that correctly is half the battle, so I’d say coaching is key, and with good coaching comes good technique, so with those two things going right, you probably have a pretty good chance at a gymnast who can do inverted giants well…but still, even with all of the building blocks in place, there will still be girls who will just struggle with certain elements, and she might have the most perfect Nabieva and Fabrichnova and Bhardwaj but still just not be able to figure out inverted giants. C’est la vie.
What makes front tumbling more difficult than backwards?
I actually don’t think front tumbling is more difficult in terms of requiring more skill or anything, and in fact, I think most front tumbling is actually a lot easier for many gymnasts, especially those with mental blocks. I learned the basics of back tumbling as a kid (like roundoffs and back handsprings) but was generally terrified of tumbling backwards and pretty much refused to progress beyond that, and I know a lot of gymnasts who have that problem, and who modify their tumbling to do all front elements even at the highest J.O. levels. I learned how to land a front tuck before I ever learned how to rotate a back tuck, let alone land one, and always found that all front elements just made more sense to me.
But that said, it takes so much power to do front elements because you don’t have the same momentum-building elements that you have with back tumbling. With back tumbling, you can run into a roundoff back handspring to build power into a double tuck, but those building blocks don’t exist the same way in front tumbling. It takes way more power to just run and punch into a forward double tuck, and instead of a front handspring making it easier, it can actually make it more challenging for some gymnasts. The front skills that mirror the back ones are going to be worth more in elite because they are just harder to physically make happen (like the super common back 2½ compared to the super rare front 2½)…and some skills, like a double layout or a double double, will just never exist as forward elements. But basically, power. It’s all about power.
Why doesn’t anyone do a Mo salto anymore?
It’s just really difficult and not necessarily worth the risk in most cases? Especially now that so many gymnasts are competing the Nabieva, which is worth the same value but is relatively “easy” in comparison, it’s just one of those situations where it’s like, we have two elements worth the same, but one is a natural progression from other Tkachev elements and gymnasts can work their way up to it from the time they’re young while the other is a kind of out-of-the-blue release out of a front giant with a totally blind catch that could go wildly wrong. The Nabieva is an obvious choice if you want a G element in your bars routine, essentially, and the Mo salto is something that could work for a few who are super talented and great at throwing tricks on this event, but I feel like it’s rare that we see someone who could be consistent and solid with this kind of element.
Any idea why the paralell bars aren’t higher up so the men can do swings without bending their knees to avoid scraping the ground? Aesthetically it bugs me and I can’t figure out why it’s set up that way.
I’ve always wondered this and wished there was a way to raise the bars because this has definitely resulted in mistakes and deductions in the past. I’m all for raising the bars, but all I can think of is that it would make dismounting really awkward? I think if the bars were higher, they’d have to rework the entire event, and with the ability to do more giants, we’d probably see a lot more crazy salto elements, and how dismounts worked would definitely have to change…I’d guess revamping the entire apparatus is probably not a priority just to change the whole dragging of the legs issue. But the apparatus itself is like 200 years old at this point, and I think the early modern history was more about pirouettes and support skills than the long swings into hangs or saltos that we see more of today, so maybe this kind of evolution just wasn’t anticipated?
On bars, do you have any insight on why clear hip variations on skills (like the Hindorff and Shaposhnikova) tend to pre-date other entries? I would think it would be harder and consequently come later than, say, a toe-on or stalder version of the same skill?
Clear hips go WAY back, even before they became root skills for releases and transitions, and that goes for both MAG and WAG. I think because they just pre-dated the other root skills as elements in general, it just made sense that gymnasts would try to build them onto other skills? Gymnasts were working the most basic free hip circles super early in WAG, so it made sense that this would develop into the clear hip cast to handstand, and then that the clear hip would then in turn be worked into the Shaposhnikova transition to the high bar and then the clear hip into the Tkachev in the late 70s. Stalders and toe-ons came a bit later in general, so it just took a little bit longer to turn these into root skills for other skills, with the stalder to Tkachev coming in 1983 and the Chow coming in 2000, while the toe-on Shaposh was named in 1997 and the toe-on Tkachev was named in 1999.
Actually, fun story, the toe-on Shaposh and toe-on Tkachev both did actually exist in the 80s, but the Maloney was done in NCAA by a gymnast named Lucy Wener, and the Ray was done at the 1980 Alternate Games by Marcia Frederick, so neither had the elements named because these weren’t eligible competitions. You’d think coaches would have jumped on both skills, so the fact that it took so long for both to finally get named is kind of surprising.
When did SCATS and Gliders stop being powerhouse, elite-producing gyms? I hear so much about these gyms during the 80s and 90s, but I never would have known they existed without watching competitions from that era.
I feel like lots of gyms go through periods of being top gyms for elites but then exist more in a dormant stage for the most part. It’s rare for a gym to be a powerhouse for decades and decades, and I can only think of about a handful that have existed in this way…and even then, it’s like, they’re not producing world or Olympic champion level gymnasts every quad. I think of gyms like Parkettes, Cincinnati, and GAGE as being current strongholds in terms of consistently churning out national team kids for several decades straight, but that aside, gyms will have maybe a decade or so where they’re straight crushing it, and then it’s like, where did they go? SCATS and Gliders both still exist, and both have still had elite-level gymnasts within the past ten years. They just don’t happen to be cranking them out the way they did in the 80s and 90s, and a lot of this has to do with reputation, because a gym that becomes known as being abusive in some way is no longer going to attract talented gymnasts from around the country who move for the sole purpose of working with a certain coach.
Like right now, Texas Dreams is going through its own abuse allegations and that’s certainly going to affect parents making decisions about where to send their elite kids who are at smaller gyms and need higher-level coaches, as well as parents who might choose from one of the other millions of gyms in the Dallas area for their wee ones just starting out. Texas Dreams had a half dozen kids at nationals a few years ago and were similar to what SCATS and Gliders were in the 80s and 90s, but in the next few years, they could go the same way and soon be in a position where we only see them at nationals once every few years.
I haven’t seen any gymnast do a double layout dismount in combination, they all just do it out of giants. Do you think there’s a reason why, when an equally valuable skill like a full-twisting double back is nearly always done in combination?
I don’t think full-ins or full-outs are “nearly always” done in combination off bars…from the higher-level gymnasts, sure, but even then, I think the majority of full-twisting double backs are solo elements. Even so, the fulls are still easier to do out of a pirouette or something because they have more room to land them. When you eliminate the giants and do a pirouette, you get less height off the high bar which means less room to make it through the saltos, so a way to compensate for that is to do saltos where your body is tucked so you’re better able to get them both around. A double layout is hard enough for many gymnasts out of giants…less momentum and a lower release off the high bar out of the pirouette would be super difficult, and I feel like only a very short gymnast could really pull it off.
As to the question about bugs and the issue of the gymnasts turning 16 and not being able to compete the year before, I just watched the 2019 world cup where Carolann Heduit competed and Tim Daggett mentioned that her December birthdate during the Olympic year made her just barely eligible, so she was allowed to get this competition done the year before. I thought they had done away with the whole year before eligibility in 1997?
Carolann was born in December 2003, so she turned 16 in 2019 and was therefore eligible to compete as a senior in 2019. Had she been born in 2004, her first year of senior eligibility would have been 2020, so she wouldn’t have been eligible to compete at the world cup in 2019.
If the Tokyo Olympics will be held in 2021, will the next Olympics be in 2025, then 2029, and so on?
No, the next Summer Olympics after 2021 will go back to normal, so it will be held in 2024. They won’t throw off the entire schedule for the rest of human history just because the Tokyo Games were pushed back a year.
During the 2008 bars final, Tim Daggett said that Ksenia Semenova was warming up some upgrades, but didn’t compete them…any idea what she was training?
No idea…this was before the time of social media upgrades being posted everywhere and they never showed any part of her warmups from what I can remember, so I never saw any of it. I know she did a couple of interviews after that got translated to English and she mentioned wanting so badly to upgrade but not being able to because she didn’t have enough time to get them consistent. I think she also had beam upgrades, but she really wanted to make the all-around final, so she made improving vault and floor more of a focus and kind of ignored the bars and beam upgrades, though she did try to get the last-minute bars upgrades in there.
They said in 2012 that Gabby Douglas wouldn’t have been selected for the team if it was chosen at nationals. If the team was selected at nationals, who do you think would have been on it?
I honestly don’t even remotely agree with that comment? It doesn’t make any sense at all. She was great at nationals? Even with a weak beam, she was still second all-around and only lost the meet to Jordyn Wieber by two tenths, and she also won bars, which was the weakest event for the team compared to other countries like Russia and China. She was also in the top three on floor. The only one at nationals who wouldn’t have made my team was McKayla Maroney, because of her injury there that took her out of the competition, so I would’ve had Alicia Sacramone in her place…but even then, it was kind of obvious that McKayla was going to be on the team if she was healthy by trials. I feel like the commentators just had it out for Gabby and were looking for ways to keep her off of the team but like, who would THEY have put on the team in her place? I very clearly remember going into trials thinking that Gabby, Jordyn, McKayla, and Aly Raisman were locks, with the bars spot the only one really up in the air depending on who seemed the most prepared (this was back when there was still a remote possibility that Nastia Liukin was going to show up to trials with a complete routine and beat Kyla). Literally no idea where the weird anti-Gabby nonsense came from.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins