You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Dipa Karmakar’s Produnova

It’s time for the 332nd edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!

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Why hasn’t the FIG banned the Produnova vault outright? Are they waiting for someone to snap her neck first and then they’ll ban it?

I have mixed feelings about this. I think there are many women who can probably do this vault safely and beautifully, but they just choose not to…though I think they should still have the choice. However, the ones who end up doing it are usually the ones who probably shouldn’t be doing it, yet choose to because it’s worth more than any other vault yet is still “technically easy” (in that it doesn’t take a lot of skill to coach or learn). I don’t think we should take it away as an option for gymnasts who could conceivably do it well, but I also don’t think most of the gymnasts who have trained/competed it should have been allowed to.

I feel the same about Simone Biles’ double double off beam. Part of me feels like the FIG is right to keep the value low to keep other gymnasts who shouldn’t be attempting it from trying it, but I also think that since Simone does it so brilliantly, she should absolutely be allowed to do the skill and she deserves much more in terms of the skill value than what the FIG ultimately allowed. I wish there was a way to regulate the more difficult skills in the sport…like a list of skills and if gymnasts want to compete any of the skills on that list, they have to submit a video of them training it and get it approved or something? There’s gotta be some sort of balance between limiting the top athletes from doing next-level difficulty while still making sure other athletes don’t get hurt at the same time.

I think also banning skills just for the potential for serious injury would be difficult, because you could argue that many skills could result in serious injury. Like, yes, banning roll-out skills where you literally land basically on your neck is probably a good idea, but more gymnasts have gotten seriously hurt (broken backs/necks, paralyzed, or even killed) training bars dismounts than the Produnova, which I don’t think has resulted in any similar serious injuries to date (that I know of, anyway). Should we ban bars dismounts? Gymnastics is inherently a dangerous sport, and with any skill, there is the potential for something to go slightly wrong and result in terrible tragedy. Banning skills that add unnecessary additional risk – like roll-outs, or Igor Radivilov’s triple front off vault – makes sense, but I think the Produnova falls just within the bounds of “necessary risk” for the gymnasts who do have the power and ability to pull it off (like Elena Produnova herself).

The FIG devaluing it this quad helped those who shouldn’t be doing it decide it wasn’t worth it. With most difficult skills across all four events, it’s not worth it for gymnasts who shouldn’t be doing them to do them anyway because they’re going to lose more than they can add in difficulty, so you’re not going to see a lower-level gymnast randomly bust out a Fabrichnova on bars only to crash it every single time because what would the point be? She’d get a higher score landing a dismount worth only a few tenths less. But when the Produnova had a 7.0 SV compared to a Yurchenko full being two points lower, a gymnast could do it and fall, and still score higher than she would attempting a vault she could actually land. Devaluing it changed this, and it seems to have been working so far, so I’m fine with it not being on the banned list. But I still wish there was a way to ‘regulate’ skills like these to make sure only those who are capable of doing them are ‘allowed’ to.

Other than Ellie Black’s tumbling pass, what are some other more-or-less realistic connections where judges might grant a petition for extra CV? Could a 3.5 to punch front layout (B+F) qualify?

I don’t know if they’d go for that…Ellie connected a D+E indirect to get the extra CV, but she doesn’t get extra for her 2½ to double tuck which is a D+D indirect, so the bar is pretty high for granting this kind of petition. I don’t think any of the direct combos into A or B skills would be awarded additional CV…but I think anyone who connects a front layout out of any of the front-landed F skills (like a 3½ or a Dos Santos or a Dowell) should absolutely get  more than an A+E (which are 0.2), but should they be worth 0.3 when a D+E indirect is 0.3? It doesn’t make sense.

I feel like in general, the values of tumbling passes should be doubled just so there would be more room to play with connection values. I can’t justify giving 0.3 in CV to a combo where one of the skills would be less than the CV, but if a B skill was worth 0.4 instead of 0.2 and an F was worth 1.2 instead of 0.6, then 0.3 in CV compared to 0.2 in CV for an A+E would make sense. Obviously then skill values for every other apparatus would have to be doubled so this would involve a major code overhaul, but yeah, in general I think that’s really what needs to happen. I think if we do see petitions for skill combos getting extra CV, it’ll probably mostly be for indirect connections where two difficult (D+) elements are involved, or direct connections that involve C elements out of E+ skills…like a whip full right into a triple full or something.

Are Rhonda Faehn or Rene Lyst still coaching or involved with gymnastics?

The last time I checked, Rhonda was doing some coaching at Waverley in Australia back in 2019, but according to Wikipedia and various social media channels, this is no longer the case, and she moved back to the U.S. to be with her family. Her husband is now a tennis coach at Nebraska so maybe there is some potential for her to return someday? Rene is coaching optional levels at a club in Pennsylvania.

Some people said Shawn Johnson’s level was deteriorating after worlds in 2007 and if the Olympics were held six months later, she probably couldn’t perform some skills (like the Amanar). Do you think this is true? Would we have had a different U.S. team if the Olympics were held six months later?

I think that maybe if it was a day before the Olympics and the sports gods were like “actually we’re gonna move these to next winter” then Shawn may have had a problem pacing herself to get to that moment. I think she was just really fighting a growth spurt, and if they pushed the Olympics back six months, then maybe her growth spurt would have hit and she wouldn’t have had enough time to rework her skills with her ‘new’ body. But if the Olympics had always been planned for February 2009, who knows what might have happened? You can’t really plan for when puberty and growth spurts will hit, but I think there are ways to prepare for different outcomes, and I think all athletes looking toward Beijing would have been paced differently if they knew in advance that they’d happen six months later. 

That said, athletes often do hit a ‘natural’ peak and no amount of pacing is going to make them perfectly ready on one specific date. I always talk about pacing athletes for longevity being more important than pacing them for one day in time, but this usually happens for adult athletes who don’t have to worry about their bodies changing. I think for someone in Shawn’s position where the Olympics are going to fall either right before or right after they go through puberty, it’s impossible to know what will happen, and you either get a Shawn situation where her body is fighting the intense training and limited food intake, or you get a situation like Bailie Key, where your body changes and you don’t have enough time to get used to it and you end up getting injured or just falling behind.

I do think that for any Olympic Games, if they were held six months later, or held in the mid-quad years, pretty much any team would have been different. There might be two or three who would’ve made it no matter the timing, but I think for the rest, it just comes down to who is the best when it counts, and in the U.S. or any country with a lot of depth, that could change monthly. Maybe Shawn would have kept pushing her body through to 2009 because it was the Olympics, and maybe she would have made it regardless. Who knows?

If Riley McCusker makes the Olympic team, will this be the first time under the current system that multiple U.S. gymnasts will have the same coach?

Yes! At least, the first time multiple gymnasts have had the same coach simultaneously. Sam Peszek moved to Sharp’s after the Olympics so she and her Beijing teammate Bridget Sloan had the same coach for a little while, and in 2012, McKayla Maroney used to train with Kyla Ross at Gym-Max, but moved gyms a couple years before London…but that’s as close as we can get!

Do you think from the Olympic hopefuls, there will be any who decide to retire before Tokyo? Maybe some difficulties or too many injuries?

I think we may see a couple who are in the mix right now who don’t end up making it to trials, not based on anything in particular with this current group, but just based on the fact that this is something that always happens in every quad to every group. I hope everyone can make it through the process in one piece, but I feel like it’s already been such a tough process, once we see everyone getting back into competition mode and training to compete again, the injuries are going to start becoming more common, unfortunately.

Why did Jade Carey commit to Oregon State when there are bigger and more successful teams, and I’m sure most would have been happy to have her? Does she have a relation with the coaches?

When she verbally committed, she wasn’t yet an elite, so she probably had a little less name recognition on the J.O. scene. I believe she committed in late 2015 or early 2016, which is before she was even known for being a strong level 10 all-arounder…2015 was her first full year as a level 10, and she was known for incredible results on vault and floor, but didn’t really have the scores on bars and beam to stand out overall. The top teams tend to look at elites and then top J.O. all-arounders, so she probably just flew under the radar for many. Oregon State was super smart to snatch her up because she really began to stand out as an all-arounder in 2016 with some improvements on bars and beam.

Her performances on vault that season are what caught Valeri Liukin’s eye, and were why he recruited her for elite. The rest is history, as they say. Now, I’m sure every NCAA program would die to have her join the team, but I’m glad she’s sticking with Oregon State. First of all, they’re a fantastic university, both for academics and gymnastics, and on a personal note, I hate that every elite ends up going to the same four or five schools, and love that we’re going to see Jade at Oregon State and Suni Lee at Auburn. It’s cool that the top U.S. elite talent is going to be spread out a little bit more than usual.

Do you think it’s realistic for Konnor McClain to compete the Cheng or the Amanar in 2021 or later? 

Based on how good her DTY was looking as a junior, I can see the Amanar working out for her. Her Cheng also looked good in training videos but never having seen her compete anything from that family, it’s hard to say for sure if she’ll go from zero to Cheng overnight…though she is very talented on this event and I’d love to see her at least attempt it at some point, whether it’s this year or somewhere down the line.

How will the Olympic team selection look officially? In the past, whoever got first at trials had a guaranteed spot. Is this number two now? So basically Simone Biles and the next best gymnast get their ticket automatically and the other two are decided by the committee?

I believe they said officially, the top two at trials will automatically be named to the team, and then unofficially, they’re probably also going to just take the next two best all-arounders from trials, so the team will be the top four all-arounders from trials. Again, only the top two are guaranteed, but I think in an effort to show ‘fairness’ the selection committee is going to stick with the top all-arounders like they’ve done for all of the big meets this quad. I don’t know what the criteria is assuming the U.S. gets a non-nominative individual spot, though…take the fifth all-arounder because it’s ‘fair’ or put a little more thought into it and choose someone who might not be the best all-arounder but could legitimately win a gold medal on an apparatus?

Aly Raisman said in an interview that every member of the Fierce Five had some injuries that were kind of dangerous to compete on but they just went on and ignored the pain. I know Jordyn Wieber had a fracture in her bone, McKayla Maroney had a broken toe, what about the others?

I don’t think the others ever said specifically what they were dealing with, but I think pretty much every gymnast is dealing with some sort of injury or another at any given time, and that’s especially true during competition season when they’re training hard landings multiple times a day every day. None of the injuries are ever ideal, but they’re the kind of injuries gymnasts push through for competitions like worlds or the Olympics, because the alternative is not competing and no one wants to lose their spot, especially at the Olympics. I think the Olympic team coaches prefer to just shift things around on the team when someone has an injury that limits them, and so in 2012 that’s why McKayla only vaulted and didn’t go up on floor instead of being taken off of the team entirely.

Did Ragan Smith actually get surgery on her ankle prior to going to Oklahoma? If not, will it affect her for the rest of her life?

I don’t know what her situation is like with the surgery and whether she got it or not. Either way, she seems to be doing okay now, so I’m going to hope/trust that she’s seen doctors and that they know more about her condition than we do with no information other than “she has an injury.” It’s also impossible to say if it will affect her if we don’t know what exactly is going on with her ankle. It may affect her gymnastics but be totallly fine otherwise.

What is the difference between a layout and a flyaway? Nastia Liukin competed what looked like a back layout off bars, and the commentators said she didn’t even do a layout, she did a flyaway.

I’ve always just used the two interchangeably, but when I say flyaway, I usually just differentiate between the body position. Maybe hers wasn’t fully laid-out, so they didn’t consider it a ‘layout’ or a ‘layout flyaway’ or something? In the code, a flyaway is worth an A no matter what shape it is, so whether Nastia did a tuck or a layout, it could still be referred to as a ‘flyaway’ and it wouldn’t really matter. Usually when I see a gymnast dismount with something simple like a tuck or a layout, I just call it those things instead of saying ‘layout flyaway’ because it’s just easier. I think if you see ‘flyaway’ it probably refers to a layout, especially at the elite level…and I do think Nastia’s was a layout even though commentators apparently said it wasn’t? At least from what I can remember.

Did Laney Madsen change gyms again?

Yeah, it looks like she’s at Team OC Gymnastics in Costa Mesa. I’m not sure why she left WCC, but I guess with COVID-19 flaring up so much in California and Texas at the end of last year, it made sense for her to just stay in one place when she went home for the holidays rather than going back and forth between the two? That’s what I’m hoping, anyway…she at least seemed to have been making good progress at WCC and hopefully will continue to do that at her new gym!

What is Lilia Waller’s status at UCLA? Is she on the roster? Can she compete if she makes lineups? Or does she just train with them since her dad is the head coach? Is she a team manager?

Yes, Lilia is on the roster and can compete if needed. She was a walk-on, and had an injury that kept her from training or competing in her first season back in 2018, and then she left the team for two seasons, so this is really only her second season with the team even though she is a senior. I don’t know how likely it will be for her to compete given her long absence, and doubt she’s at the same level as many of the team’s top gymnasts, but given their situation right now with so many injuries and so many walk-ons getting competitive opportunities, maybe she’ll be able to sneak into the mix as well?

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

23 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. I really think with uber difficult skills like the double double off beam or the Produnova, judges need to threaten to downgrade them of they’re done incorrectly. If landing looks a certain way or if air form looks a certain way, the CoP should basically threaten to downgrade it. Maybe that would help but maybe some gyms would still chance it

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    • Don’t think this would work. With the Produnova, the gymnast scores a zero if they landed on their butt first. Yet despite that risk of a downgrade, they still did it

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      • Right, but that’s for not landing. Many gymnasts can have terribly unsafe form but still be able to put them to their feet. If they downgraded based on block and form in the air (although that’s a little difficult for a tuck…so maybe downgrade based on height and distance?) that might do the trick? I’m thinking along the same lines as what’s done for ring leaps

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        • I agree. Or better yet, just increase all form deductions, so the reward is more for good execution than ugly chucked skills. I personally miss the days like the ’92 quad where a big step on a dismount would cost you a medal. If you can’t land a double pike off beam without stepping or hopping (ever freakin’ time!), then you shouldn’t do a double pike. If your triple full on floor looks like crap, then you should be rewarded with crap. Honestly, my idea is, keep difficulty values exactly the same, and double all execution errors. We might end up seeing less tricks, but more beautiful gymnastics.

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    • They already did this for the Produnova. If a gymnast lands it in a sit (not just a “butt grazer”, but to where they’re actually landing with their weight not all on their feet, like Yamilet Pena used to do), it’s a handspring front tuck.

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  2. Re:connections, the D+D indirect already has a set value in the code (0.2), even though basically no one except Ellie Black does it. You could argue that the value it’s given is too low (and I’d probably be inclined to agree with that), but given that it does have a specified value, it makes sense that they wouldn’t give her an extra tenth.

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  3. “like a list of skills and if gymnasts want to compete any of the skills on that list, they have to submit a video of them training it and get it approved or something? There’s gotta be some sort of balance between limiting the top athletes from doing next-level difficulty while still making sure other athletes don’t get hurt at the same time.”

    This is exactly what they do in ‘team-gymnastics’! You are not allowed to compete any tripple front flip until you submit 3 video’s of you doing the skills (with required landing height) and only if the judged tell you that is is safe you are allowed to compete them. (I am think that you are allowed to have a semi hard landing on your video).

    Can we please start this rule and give the really hard skills the proper value..?!!!

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    • That’s awesome! I didn’t know that, but it totally makes sense and I wish the FIG required it for artistic gymnastics as well. The top gymnasts in the world shouldn’t have their difficulty capped just because others might start dangerously throwing these skills…this limits the evolution of the sport and is unfair to the gymnasts who are capable of doing the most difficult elements. I think a video review to judges if you want to compete skills of a certain value is the perfect way to solve the problem, and if gymnasts don’t have the basics down or otherwise show that they can’t do the elements safely, then they’re not allowed to compete them, period.

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  4. Unsure about the multiple athletes with one coach and what was meant by “current system”.

    McCool and Humphrey both had Al and Armine as their coach in 2004 Olympics. Is this not part of the current system of team selection?

    If you look at Worlds:
    2009: Ivana Hong and Rebecca Bross both were coached by Valeri
    2010/2011: Raisman and Sacramone both had Mihai
    2014: Kocian and Baumann were coached by Laurent Landi

    It definitely has been a while since we had an Olympics with more than one athlete with one coach. 17 years this year!

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    • I assumed they meant current scoring system, not team selection, since that changes basically every other quad in the U.S…and I was going with Olympics only since that’s what they asked specifically. A few worlds teams have had multiple athletes with the same coach.

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      • Gotcha. I was not sure what they meant.
        I originally thought “selection process” as previously it was by finish at Olympic Trials and then changed in 2000 and every Olympics since involved a selection committee.

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        • Yeah, whenever I hear “current system” I just assume “scoring” and that seems to make sense in this case since 2004 and earlier had multiple teams with girls who had the same coach, so that’s just what I assumed even though it’s not like the scoring system would have anything to do with team selection!

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        • I’m the one who asked, and essentially yes. I basically meant “has it ever happened since it stopped being the norm”. I knew there was a point in time where it was normal (before the semi-centralized system really took off), but I was wondering if it had happened once the system started to expand and bring in new coaches to the point where having six gymnasts with six different coaches was actually a thing that could happen.

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  5. Can we please talk about an amazing feat in gymnastics history?! Lauren… you have wrote 332 of these! That is an incredible feat. Wow. Awesome job. Please know that you are greatly appreciated and that I am always excited to see a new one posted. Thank you.

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    • Yes and same Olympics, Strug and Moceanu

      In 2000, Ray and Dawes were both with Kelli Hill

      In 2004, McCool and Humphrey

      We can go back various Olympics previous where multiple athletes came from the same coach due to the fact that there were a lot less elite coaches back then.

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    • They were asking “in the current system” which I assume means post the 2006 scoring system change since there were plenty of Olympic teammates with the same coaches in 2004 and earlier.

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  6. There is an existing deduction for doing a skill unsafely and one for not making the difficult look easy. If these were actually applied, they could act as major disincentives for performing skills beyond an athlete’s ability.

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  7. Lauren, any idea why Sae’s front 1/1 to double front didn’t get a .3 CV instead of the .2? It’s the only C to E direct connection we’ve seen and it’s something the men typically do as a mid routine tumble.

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    • I won’t think the WAG code has any .3 CV in it. .2 is the largest for any connection. Which is why Ellie petitioned to get .3 given for her D+E tumbling pass (and was denied).

      I would agree that Sae’s pass would be worthy of .3.

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    • I assume the Japanese federation just didn’t think to petition for more value? I think that’s something you have to actively fight for and not something the FIG will just award if you don’t ask…if they DID petition and the FIG turned it down, then I can’t believe it, because that pass was crazy and is absolutely deserving of 0.3!

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  8. They have something similar in trampoline, not for a specific skill, but to enter at elite level you have to submit a training video to BG to show you are safe to compete at that skill level before they allow you to compete. It can be done 🙂

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