If I have to remember this so do you
It’s time for the 331st edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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What competition had you on the edge of your seat most when you watched it for the first time?
I’ve had a lot of competitions where I’ve felt excited about the outcome, but the first one that really had me on the edge of my seat was the men’s team final in 2018. I think it’s because I was there, which was a very different feeling from watching online? Like, the last women’s team final I can remember getting really excited about was the worlds final in 2010, but because I was watching online in my dorm room at a ridiculously early hour, I was just kind of like…this is exciting, it’s so close, both teams are so good, but I’m just not feeling it? Same in 2011 when the tables turned and it was the U.S. coming out on top. But I honestly thought I was going to explode watching the men in 2018…and seeing the Russians get so close but miss out by the narrowest of margins, especially sitting about 20 feet from the high bar where Artur Dalaloyan was curled up in a ball on the floor hugging the side of the podium? I was doing a live blog but could barely type, I was shaking and sweating and about to cry. I’ve never been that stressed in my life, hahaha. SO GOOD. I’ve never felt that way about a WAG competition, but I can’t imagine what people felt like in the arena in 1984 watching Mary Lou Retton and Ecaterina Szabo going head-to-head, or Tatiana Gutsu and Shannon Miller in 1992…I probably would have passed out. Or passed away.
Georgia once was a powerhouse team. Now, the team barely gets any elite recruits. Why is this? Is there a chance UGA is recruiting Sophia Butler or Shilese Jones? Any other elites?
I think with all of the coaching changes in the wake of Suzanne Yoculan retiring, it became difficult for them to attract a lot of recruits, especially after Jay Clark was then pretty quickly fired after taking over. Several of his recruits jumped ship, including Lexie Priessman, so I think gymnasts became wary of how things were being handled within the athletic department there and without knowing what to expect or wondering if they’d even have the same coach who recruited them by the time they showed up, it just made sense for them to look elsewhere. Now that Courtney Kupets is there, I’m hoping they’re able to become a more attractive program once again…getting Victoria Nguyen was a huge win for the team, and they have a few good elites and level 10s in the coming years…no superstars yet, but that’s hard in general because there are only a handful of ‘superstars’ anyway, and they tend to all end up at the same very top programs. I think if Georgia continues to show faith in Courtney as a coach, and if the team continues to rise in the standings, they can definitely get back on track and start recruiting the very top athletes again. By the way, Sophia and Shilese are both committed to Florida. 🙂
I feel like 90% of the Beijing team was injured at some point. Why didn’t Martha Karolyi pick up an alternate?
The alternates didn’t have visas, so they basically got stuck in Japan and weren’t available to be swapped in. I think there’s also the issue that most of the injuries happened after the point where alternates could be swapped in (if I remember correctly, for the Olympics they have to officially make the change before the submit their official lineups, which happens about 24 hours before qualifications) so even if they did have an alternate ready to go in Beijing (an actual alternate, not Shayla Worley casually just hanging around for fun), it may have been too late. I also don’t think Martha would have called someone in if someone was available and they had the time…she had said that after 2000, she never wanted to call in an alternate again even if she needed one, and I personally don’t think any of the alternates would have subbed in for anyone who actually competed anyway. I think if it was like, Alicia Sacramone and Nastia Liukin who were injured, then they had some holes to fill, but I didn’t really see them using Bridget Sloan for almost anything on the team if everyone was healthy, so I felt like she was almost a built-in alternate who ended up stepping in for some of Chellsie Memmel and Sam Peszek’s routines in qualifications.
Is there a difference in value or CV between the front whip and the front layout? I feel like most of the front layouts into other front acro skills look more like whips than saltos.
There isn’t really a front whip, at least not in the code. I think most front layouts that are used as connecting elements do end up looking more whippy in that they’re low and long, in that way, you could say that this is a front whip, and that makes sense because it works more like a front handspring to build momentum into the next skill (just like a back handspring or back whip would be used to build momentum into back tumbling). But since you’re asking about values, there’s nothing in the code that would distinguish between a front layout or a front whip since a whip doesn’t exist in that sense. Anything that has a straight body position (no matter if it’s arched or whipped) with forward momentum is going to be considered a ‘layout’ whether it’s high and short or low and long in terms of how it’s rated for credit and CV.
You talked a little about rebounding twisting passes, causing a lot of injuries/falls. Men do a lot of these too. Do they have the same problems with their ankles and knees, or is it less so because of their build or differences in training?
Men still deal with the same knee and ankle issues that the women deal with, but I think maybe at a slightly lower rate if I had to guess? That’s a guess, of course, but because it’s acceptable for them to land differently, in a lower/deeper kind of position where they can sink into and absorb the mat, I think that helps with limiting some of the injuries that we see with the women trying to land their twists more straight-kneed and lock-legged. This low/deep aesthetic is absolutely hated in women’s gymnastics, and even though it’s safer, it gets deductions in elite. Maggie Nichols and many of the Oklahoma gymnasts land this way in NCAA and even though fans cry all day about how gymnastics needs to be safer for athletes, they also scream about how Oklahoma should be deducted for these landings, and yet the men do them and everyone’s totally chill. Love that double standard!
That said, there are some men who still have the same problem that some women have with overcompensating with power to get a twist around, and will continue twisting into the ground, which is a wildly different problem that can’t be solved with a low and deep landing. It doesn’t matter how well they absorb the landing into the mat, that’s not going to stop their knees from continuing to twist after their feet have already stopped moving, and then it’s bye bye ACL. This is the problem specifically with rebounding passes…I can’t say for sure if rebouding passes are where men are getting injured most on floor compared to non-rebounding twisting passes or non-twisting passes, but if men are better able to escape knee injuries on these kinds of passes compared to women, it’s probably because they’re focusing more on strengthening the muscles that protect the knee, which lowers the risk of harm to ligaments. Think of Aly Raisman doing nonstop plyometrics as part of her training – she could probably take a bunch of bad rebounding twisting landings and be fine compared to someone who wasn’t doing similar training who has one bad landing and tears an ACL. I feel like this kind of training hasn’t historically been a priority for many women in the sport, but maybe it is more so for men?
How much force can the uneven bars take? Is there a weight limit?
Most don’t have a weight capacity listed but I’ve heard that the majority can safely take up to about 200 lbs of force I believe? Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m pulling this stat from a coach from years ago, so it could be incorrect…I just googled and I can find how much the uneven bars themselves weigh, and how much home gymnastics bars can hold (like the little kid bars), but none of the main brands (AAI, Taishan, Gymnova, Spieth) seem to list a limit for their actual uneven bars sets.
I’ve noticed that sometimes gymnasts end up having to kip cast out of a turn element on bars if they mess it up badly enough. Is there an additional deduction for that on top of what the gymnast gets for the mistake that caused it?
No, gymnasts are allowed to kip cast within their routines, so even if it wasn’t planned, as long as it’s in a spot where a kip cast is okay (so like, not directly out of a Maloney or something), then it’s totally okay and they won’t get a deduction.
How do the age groups work in Hopes? Is it based on actual age in the moment or is it based on birth year like the elite levels? If Hopes had existed earlier and Gabby Douglas, whose birthday is literally the last day of the year, had done it, would she have aged out on the first year even though she would have been 13 for the entire season?
Age groups work the same as they do in elite, so it goes by birth year and not by actual age in the moment. So for 2021, the 10-11 group means any gymnast born in 2010 and 2011, while the 12-13 group means any gymnast born in 2008 and 2009. You’re correct, even though Gabby turned 13 on the 31st in 2008, she wouldn’t have been eligible for Hopes in 2009 and she would have had to do elite, just like she had to compete as a senior in 2011 despite being 15 all year.
Fun fact, though – Hopes actually did exist in Gabby’s day! They had Hopes 10, Hopes 11-12, and Junior 11-13 divisions back in 2007, and then they changed the system to Hopes and Pre-Elite for a couple of years before adopting the current Hopes system. Gabby did Hopes in 2007 before deciding to compete as a junior at age 12 in 2008, and she was the top Hopes gymnast in the 11-12 division at the U.S. Challenge in 2007! When she was 11, but technically 12 going by birth year. 😉
What are the possible landing deductions for the roll-out passes men do on floor? It seems to me like deductions couldn’t add up for them the way they do for normal tumbles landed on your feet, since there’s no notion of being able to take multiple hops or steps. If this is true, why don’t men do more of them? Is there a cap on the number of them in a routine?
Well, roll-out tumbling lines are banned now, so that’s why we don’t see them in ANY routines anymore…but when they were allowed, essentially yes, there was a cap to how many there could be in a routine, so that’s why men weren’t just doing full routines with nonstop roll-out passes!
Right now, the MAG code of points has four element groups, and on floor, this includes non-acro, forward acro, backward acro + arabians, and dismounts. In 2016 and earlier, there was a fifth element group, and on floor, this included side acro, which is where arabians fit in, and this group is what also included the roll-out skills. Gymnasts have a cap at how many elements they can use from each group, so that’s where the limit comes in.
Also, you could avoid landing deductions like hops and steps in roll-out skills, but there were still requirements for how the skills were supposed to finish. Gymnasts still had to show precision and control, and not only in order to not receive deductions, but also so they wouldn’t get seriously injured. For most gymnasts, the risk really wasn’t worth the benefit of avoiding a couple of tenths from a landing deduction.
What was Nastia Liukin’s injury in 2008?
I think she was still battling back from her ankle injury in 2008…that was the injury that kept her out of the all-around at world championships in 2006, she had to change her tumbling and dismounts to have forward landings, she got surgery and the recovery took roughly 100 years, it’s why her competitions in 2007 were such a ‘mess’ comparatively (her words, I think she called it her worst year and never spoke very fondly of it, and she said it was because she was so hurt she just couldn’t trained and wasn’t prepared at all), everyone said she was washed up and should become a specialist (at 17!)…she was still coming back from that in 2008 when the competition season started but I think she was good by the time they got to the summer of 2008.
What is a blind change on bars? I always assumed it was the half turn to L grip but I saw Chellsie Memmel call the half turn to reverse grip a blind change in a video. Is there a non-blind change giant with a half turn?
I’ve always called basically any half turn into a front swing a blind change because it’s rare that I’m going to actually be close enough (or paying close enough attention) to see the grip in the heat of the moment, but if you want to get technical, a half turn to reverse grip is a blind change, while a half turn to L-grip is a Higgins roll. They’re both worth the same, so it’s not a huge deal if you just call everything a blind change. But if you do spot a gymnast doing a Higgins roll, definitely shout it out. These are usually most common into front pirouettes skills (as opposed to a blind change, which a gymnast will usually just do into the front giant into a Jaeger)…when I do actually notice a Higgins roll, it’s usually a Chinese gymnast, and it’s usually fabulous. They just emphasize the transition to L-grip with such a flair, it’s almost impossible to miss.
What happened to Ariana Agrapides?
After she was removed from the roster, she tweeted that she’s grateful for all of the memories she made at Iowa, but “due to personal reasons” she decided to return back home to New Jersey. She thanked the coaches and her team for making her time there unforgettable and for providing her with new experiences as she starts the next chapter of her life. Coach Larissa Libby tweeted in response that they’ll miss her and “will be proud of the diligence, loyalty, and maturity [she] demonstrated in making probably one of the toughest decisions of [her] life” and that she knows Ariana “made the right choice for all the right reasons.” A bummer that she didn’t really get much of a college career, but it sounds like she left on great terms and will be missed!
Why do a lot of gymnasts have hyperextended knees? Do they train in some way to have legs like this so their lines look better or is it just a result of injuries?
It happens when people have loose ligaments and tendons around the knee joint, which most people who have it are born with and it can even be something people have naturally throughout their entire body, but it can also be caused when the knees regularly go beyond the appropriate range of motion, usually due to stress on the knee joint ligaments (like…from gymnastics). It does make for nice lines, but it can also make people prone to injury because it shifts your center of balance and puts more pressure on the knee.
I have hyperextension in my knees, and in ballet, my teachers are constantly correcting me at the barre so that I don’t get injured. When standing straight, instead of your knees being stacked over your ankles, they end up being quite a bit behind your ankles, so your shins are angled back. To fix this, I have to stack my knees over my ankles, which then causes my knees to lock, so then I just have to remember to slightly bend my knees a tiny bit, and my legs look more “normal” and everything in ballet becomes safer…even though I lose my obviously gorgeous lines. I feel like so many people who are in sports like ballet and gymnastics love the line so much, they sacrifice knee health for the aesthetic.
Reality TV contestant Angela Rummans was a level 10 gymnast around 2008 and 2009. She got burned out on gymnastics and switched to pole vaulting. This was her college recruitment video. Was she really a contender for a college team? Which team might have taken her?
She had the skill level you’d see from a gymnast who could be recruited by a D3 school, maybe a D2 depending on the needs (but a D2 back in the time she was being recruited, probably not a D2 today), and definitely not D1. She’d probably be a pretty solid D3 gymnast on vault and bars, maybe floor too.
Is the bonus for a whip directly into another tumbling skill always the same? What bonus would a whip + double double get?
A whip into almost everything is the same. An A+D direct connection is worth 0.1, and then they up that to 0.2 for an A+E direct, but connect a whip to anything higher than an E and you’re still gonna get just the 0.2. Since a double double is so far beyond an E, rated an H, I’d guess this would be the kind of scenario where a gymnast could maybe ask the FIG if they could petition for a bit more CV? Honestly it’s silly that there’s an entire tenth of CV difference between D and E and then absolutely nothing beyond that so it wouldn’t hurt to ask.
Is it true that the perfect handstand requirement for pirouetting skills on bars is relaxed if the gymnast goes directly into another skill? If that’s true, is a 30- or 45-degree late turn deducted or deducted less than normal?
It’s not like, a black-and-white code rule, but I do think judges are more relaxed with late handstands in pirouettes that connect than they are with solo pirouette handstands…it probably depends on the judge (or, ahem, on the gymnast), but I’d say most are going to be less rigid if they see a full pirouette finishing 30 degrees late going right to Tkachev than if they just saw a full pirouette on its own. I think the general sense is that if a gymnast is doing one skill and focusing on the one skill, she should have more control over her movement, and there is no reason to be late if that’s all she’s focusing on, but if she’s doing a full pirouette and focusing during that pirouette on building momentum into the next skill, they might give her the benefit of the doubt. If they were going to initially take three tenths, instead they’ll just take one, and if they were going to take one, they just won’t take any. Again, super subjective, and not a written rule, but definitely one of those unspoken things that happens with many judges, especially if they know a gymnast would otherwise finish in handstand if not connecting the skills.
Every year there’s a competition that decides who is the best all-arounder in the world, but who has been the best one, let’s say from the new code of 2006 until now, in your opinion? Apart from results I mean. Even one that was great on all four apparatus, even if she didn’t have a stunning D score to go on the podium.
I mean…Simone Biles. Scores aside, difficulty aside, she is literally the best gymnast who has ever lived?! I think if you stripped every gymnast’s difficulty away and just had them doing more simple routines, she would still stand out as one of the best because she has basically everything a gymnast should have, on every apparatus. No, maybe not the most incredible bars swing, but she still ticks basically every box in terms of form and technique, and I think more than any other gymnast between 2006 and the present day, she encapsulates perfectly what it means to be a complete all-arounder.
Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos also comes to mind. I think behind Simone, she’s one of the only gymnasts who really “has it all”…and lately I’ve been thinking the same about Angelina Melnikova as well. I was thinking about the Russians, and was obviously considering Aliya Mustafina because she’s won medals on every apparatus which is so rare, obviously that means she fits this mold as well, but I really don’t consider her a great vaulter or floor worker and think she was just in the right place at the right time for both of those medals (well, floor especially)…I think Melnikova right now is more balanced than Mustafina ever was, even in Mustafina’s prime.
Has any gymnast ever performed or trained a circle element or anything other than a kip directly out of a Bhardwaj?
No one has competed it, at least not that I can recall…I’m not sure if someone has trained something connected out of a Bhardwaj. I feel like if anyone has trained it, it’s probably Suni Lee, or Jonna Adlerteg, they seem like the most likely! I think the Bhardwaj is tricky to directly connect out of because it’s so difficult to keep it straight in the air, almost everyone ends up catching it with their legs either a bit to the left or the right, and being off-balance in that way can really make it impossible to be in a good enough place to do anything after, even just a clear hip or something. I think they really need that kip to regain their awareness and rhythm before moving on with the rest of the routine, and while it would be cool to see a legit connection, I don’t think most could do it consistently, not with the way almost every Bhardwaj looks. But perhaps one day it will happen!
On uneven bars, for the purpose of CR and CV, would a hop full pirouette like the Chusovitina be considered a flight or a non-flight element?
It’s a non-flight element. Even though the gymnast technically releases the bar in this skill, it’s part of the pirouette skill group in the code of points, and so wouldn’t be eligible to count as a flight element either as a credit requirement or for connection value.
Do you think Alyssa Baumann could have challenged Laurie Hernandez for her Olympics spot if she was healthy? They’re both amazing beam workers and solid on vault and floor.
I don’t think so. Alyssa was a lovely gymnast, but I don’t think she had quite the same level or ability on beam that Laurie had, and Laurie was also clearly the stronger all-arounder, which definitely would have factored into the decision. I don’t think a fully healthy Alyssa would have factored in even as an alternate…she was lovely on floor, but she didn’t really have the scores there generally, and her bars were also pretty weak. I would have loved to see her at trials, but don’t think her presence there would have changed anything that happened.
Do you know anything about Sage Thompson? She changed her commitment to Utah, but didn’t appear on signing day and I doubt she will join the Utes in the 2021-2022 season.
As far as I know she’s still committed to Utah, but I’m guessing as a walk-on, so maybe that’s why she didn’t do an official signing day? Maybe she was still figuring things out? She could be waiting to sign in the spring…but Utah was also weird with their signing day announcement. Lauren Letzsch signed with Utah in the fall, but she wasn’t included in the video that they produced (which featured only Grace McCallum and Kara Eaker), so I’m not sure why that was. The point is, based on Lauren’s signing, I wouldn’t take the lack of appearing in signing day materials as the only indication of whether or not she’ll be there.
If you fall on an element, does it count towards your difficulty score?
It depends on if you ‘hit’ the element…because you can still ‘hit’ an element even if you fall. If you catch a Jaeger and then let go, for example, you can count it toward your difficulty score, but if your fingers don’t touch the bar, you can’t count it. The same goes on beam…if you land a back handspring layout stepout layout stepout and then fall, you’re counting a triple series, but if you fall before you hit the first layout stepout, you have to repeat the series, otherwise you’re basically just counting a single back handspring.
What is the situation with Alaska? I heard many gymnasts left the program and that it was canceled, but then reinstated? What is going on now?
The program was scrapped, so a lot of people started jumping ship knowing the likelihood of it being reinstated was pretty low. The program was supposed to finish up in 2021, and was going to spend the 2021 season campaigning to get reinstated for 2022, but then the 2021 season was canceled due to COVID-19. Now those who are left are still campaigning and fundraising in the hopes they can come back next year, but if they can’t, then they’re done, and the 2020 season that got cut short is going to be the end.
What do you think about the LIU program? Do you think it can be the “the UCLA of the east coast” in a few years or decades?
I think it’s really cool that we’re getting a brand new D1 college gymnastics program, especially during COVID-19 when so many college sports are getting shut down entirely. Will they be “the UCLA of the east coast” in a few years? Probably not. It’ll take them some time to start getting top recruits. They have a couple of really solid gymnasts right now, but obviously building a program takes time, and it’s really difficult to stand out in D1, so we’ll see how they do with recruiting over the coming years. The goal for the team in their first few seasons (or, more realistically, first decade) will be to make regionals, and then once they make that happen, they can start thinking about how to break into the top 20, and then the top 10, and then how to become a national-level program with their sights set on an NCAA title.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins