You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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Eleftherios Petrounias

It’s time for the 334th 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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With the postponement of the Doha apparatus World Cup until June, does this change how Olympic spots are allocated? Specifically, if continental championships like Pan Ams take place before Doha, what happens if the U.S. earns a +1 spot from Pan Ams? Since they have already qualified a team and one additional gymnast, would they be eligible to earn a sixth spot at Pan Ams, or does Jade Carey get her spot from the apparatus world cups?

I’m going to write an article this week that specifically covers everything going on with the world cup qualification process, but to answer your specific question about world cups vs. continental championships, technically qualifying happens in the order of the competition, so the apparatus world cups ending after many continental championships would mean that countries that qualify two additional spots prior to the world cups ending would technically have to take those two spots (which, for the U.S. women, would be the all-around world cup spot that was allocated to them with the cancellation of the events, and the continental championship spot).

However, I don’t believe the U.S. is going to attend continental championships, and believe this is because they are sticking to their plan of sending Jade, since that was always how they planned on doing things. And honestly, I don’t think continental championships will even happen, and if they do, I don’t think many countries will attend, just based on what I’m hearing about Brazil and how they’re handling COVID. The U.S. was originally going to host continental championships in Alabama, but I think they gave it up when they realized they had no reason to attend, aside from just giving experience to athletes. But if they DO happen and if the U.S. does attend and if they take place prior to the apparatus world cup spots being determined, I think the U.S. can choose to turn down the spot knowing that Jade has already mathematically secured the apparatus spot, even if the FIG hasn’t made her spot official yet.

Editing to add that the FIG clarified in its newest qualification rules update that any country that has qualified any world cup berth can not earn a continental berth, which means the U.S. couldn’t earn a spot this way anyway, and neither can Russia or China now as well.

What happens if Eleftherios Petrounias wins the next world cup? He will have a perfect 90 just as the Chinese athlete. The same with Epke Zonderland and the Japanese gymnast. How do they break the tie?

The tie is broken based on the actual score of the three routines that count into the 90 point total. Right now, Liu Yang’s counting scores are 15.200, 15.166, and 15.133, giving him a 45.499 total, while Eleftherios is counting a 14.866, 15.066, and 15.100, for a 45.032. Eleftherios would need to drop his first score and get above a 15.333 to surpass Liu, but of course, that’s assuming Liu doesn’t also increase one of his scores at the final world cup.

As for Epke and Miyachi Hidetaka, the Japanese federation said they were no longer going to send Hidetaka to the world cups because they’re likely to get the pommels berth from Kameyama Kohei. Even though Weng Hao of China leads there, only one gymnast per country can qualify to the Olympics via the world cups, and Liu Yang’s rings scores beat Weng Hao’s pommels scores, opening pommels up to Kohei and rendering Hidetaka ineligible on high bar, so Epke will go unchallenged for that spot.

I like the way you do coverage in both your blog and on Twitter. BUT. I get that extension is everything, but could you please stop cheering on hyperextension and mobility? It’s not healthy for the joints and in many cases it’s related to genetic diseases which can and will worsen after generations. It creates pretty lines but at what cost? Could you perhaps do a blog on hypermobility as well as repetitive strain injury? Both are very closely related to gymnastics training, over training, and malnutrition/inefficient nutrition.

This is a very good point, and thank you for bringing it up. As someone with hyperextended knees who does ballet/pointe, I have knee stability problems with my right knee due to my hyperextension, so I completely understand the “other” side of it and why it’s not necessarily a good thing even if it does make the line pretty. I actually train in ballet to NOT stand in hyperextension so I don’t do further damage…one of my teachers is always reminding me to pull up and align my knees over my ankles, especially when jumping or using plié because bending the knees or landing on them in hyperextension creates more problems. I’m also in physical therapy right now because of my knee and have to do a lot of exercises to strengthen my glutes, and I wear a patella band to help stabilize, which also subconsciously reminds me to lift out of my hyperextension when standing or jumping or doing barre exercises.

I do love the aesthetic of hyperextension and talk about it often when it’s especially noticeable, like with Riley McCusker, who already has great lines as it is, but her knees just add to it. But I do realize that this also creates a lot of problems for her, so as pretty as it is, it’s probably also causing her some pain at the very least, and could potentially lead to future injury, as I know very well from experience!

I think it’s also important to talk about how hyperextension shouldn’t be glorified because it’s not something you can or should try to achieve if you don’t have naturally hyperextended knees. In ballet more so than gymnastics, athletes will try to force hyperextension because it’s such a desirable trait, but this can obviously be super harmful because you’re not stretching muscles, you’re straining your joints and creating an opportunity for injury.

That said, there are many physical traits that some athletes have naturally while others will never be able to achieve them, so I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to call it out when one of these traits improves a gymnast’s overall look, and for some, hyperextension is that trait (just like there are also some physical attributes that don’t look good aesthetically, which is why we’ve had to hear people complain about Rebecca Bross’ knock knees for a decade, as if she could change it). However, there’s a reason hyperextension isn’t a requirement on leaps or Pak saltos or any other skills where it looks nice…you can train to have nice extension from your hips through to your toes, but you can’t train to have hyperextension, and I would hope that no judges see hyperextension and assume that the skill has no faults just because the legs “look pretty” (and I’m proof of this…my knees might be hyperextended but my feet are almost always flexed on leaps, haha…the hyperextension is there but the true extension is NOT!). Unfortunately, I’m sure this does happen, though, where judges are like “ooh, shiny!” and ignore everything else.

I’ll try not to point out hyperextension in the future, but if I do call it out for whatever reason, I can maybe clarify that this is a physical trait and make it clear that this is just a “bonus” aesthetic for some athletes who naturally have legs that do this, not something that should be glorified in a way that suggests skills ONLY look good with this shape. There are plenty of athletes with gorgeous extension who don’t hyperextend their knees at all, so I’ll also try to point that out when I see it to show that while hyperextension can look pretty, it’s not the be-all, end-all of how a skill should look.

As for an article about hypermobility and repetitive strain…I’m not someone who knows enough about this to be super accurate, all of my knowledge just comes from my own experiences, and while my knees, ankles, and finger joints are noticeably hypermobile, my other joints aren’t, and I really only know about knee hyperextension since that’s where I actually deal with pain. Maybe we can get a physical therapist or doctor to do a guest piece? My D.O. actually was a gymnast and works with mostly gymnasts and dancers, so it would be cool if I could get her to talk about it!

How do you think Jordan Chiles would have done in 2017 if Ragan Smith had gotten injured a day or two before qualifications? Any chance for an all-around medal?

I think a medal definitely would have been in the cards for her had she hit. Possibly even gold! Since the medal cutoff ended up being a high 54, I think that would have been more than achievable with the routines she was doing at the time, with vault kind of giving her an advantage. I think she would have been more or less on par with Ellie Black’s scores with Ellie having a beam advantage going in while Jordan was ahead on vault (and also floor if she was really on her game), but I think her consistency at the time also could have been a disadvantage. In a competition where Jordan and every other top contender hit every event to the best of their ability, I do think she probably would have ended up on the podium.

In the acro section of the connection bonus table for beam, under 0.2 CV, it says C/D + D (or more). I’m confused by the specificity — I thought C+D would have already implied D+D is also eligible for 0.2, and that all connection formulae implicitly include ‘or more’ if they already got 0.2. What are they trying to indicate? Is it an order thing? Could you have C+D but not D+C?

I’m not sure why they specify C/D instead of C (or more)…I don’t think it has to do with the order, because this is the connection bonus a gymnast gets for a side aerial to layout stepout, which is a D+C. Maybe anything greater than a C/D would be eligible for additional bonus? Just grasping at straws here but that would make sense. The lowest-valued combo that wouldn’t fit into this “C/D + D or more” requirement would be an E+E, and the only “realistic” combo there would be like, a free aerial roundoff to two-foot layout, which is not super possible, and would definitely be worth more than 0.2 if someone could pull it off. But I don’t think the FIG is super likely to encourage that level of difficulty, otherwise they would have included an “E+E or more = 0.3 CV” line, so I think the C/D limit for one of the skills in this series is probably the FIG being like “don’t even think about trying an E+E or more,” lol. Like they’re trying not to encourage it by not including it.

What kind of deductions did Aly Raisman receive for her leaps in Rio? Is there any way she could have beaten Simone Biles in the floor final if she had full extension in her leaps?

It’s impossible to know which of Aly’s leaps had deductions, or for what reasons, without having insight into the judges who were there at the time and judged that specific routine. I can tell you where she likely got deducted, or where she should have been deducted, but again, can’t say for sure. She was almost half a point behind Simone and only had 1.1 in deductions total…getting nearly half of her deductions from her leaps would be a stretch, but she probably came close.

Her leaps were not always the prettiest or most aesthetically pleasing, but she was usually at 180 on most. The tour jeté full at the start of the routine usually had noticeably soft knees and feet, but she was at her cleanest in the final and hit 180, her switch half had the feet…they could have taken a body shape deduction on both I think (these cover knees, feet, hips, etc), but I think they were pretty lenient with her in general and probably took a tenth at most for each leap even though they probably could have gotten away with three tenths if they were being strict. The switch full was…interesting, lol. Honestly, she was at 180, but just angled so poorly that it looked like her front leg didn’t lift at all, I’m like, did they even credit this? I don’t see how they could take less than three tenths on that, but Olympics judging is always wild, so who knows, they could have taken one tenth.

My guess is that her leaps accounted for at least 0.3 in deductions, but (I’d imagine/hope) closer to 0.5, in which case, if she was perfectly amazing at all of her leaps, she probably could have beaten Simone. But to be fair you’d also have to give Simone back any tenths she lost on leaps, and while her leaps are great and the majority of her deductions come from her tumbling landings, she definitely should have gotten slight body shape/precision deductions on a couple (the tour jeté full most notably), so if she also had perfectly amazing leaps with no deductions, she still would have beaten Aly. 

Just looking at the two routines again side by side, Aly’s incredible, but Simone is next-level with her form on everything. Aly’s lack of extension didn’t only apply to her leaps, she also lacked extension (and leg form in general) in a lot of her tumbling, and I think there should have been more separation in their execution scores. I think if Simone stuck all of her passes, she’s SO clean and technically proficient, she could probably get like, a 9.7 E score, no joke.

Do you think the NCAA being a feeder to the men’s program is the reason the U.S. men have low difficulty compared to top programs like China, Russia, and Japan, because they have to do routines on a weekly basis?

That could have something to do with it, but I think those who are the top elite guys still in college usually end up downgrading a bit for NCAA so they’re not doing full elite-level difficulty at meets where it’s not needed. I don’t think they’re purposely holding back on difficulty just because they’re in NCAA and think most are training more than they’d normally compete on a weekly basis, but I do think being in NCAA in general could affect them as elite competitors. They’re limited in their training time while at school, and are focusing on academics as well, whereas the top gymnasts in China, Russia, and Japan consider the sport their full time job. Some might study simultaneously, but many put off high-level, full-time university programs until their gymnastics careers are over, especially if they’re the top guys in the country. Same with the U.S. elite women…most of the top gymnasts are either just focusing on gymnastics, or they’re still in high school, but doing homeschool programs where they have full control over their schedules. 

College is important and gives the guys many vital team-related skils, plus their training and education are both fully paid for, which is important when the national program is underfunded and not centralized like it is in China, Russia, and Japan. NCAA is limiting in some ways, but without the advantages that these other countries have at the national level, it’s also necessary. The real disadvantage for the U.S. men is not having a national program that provides for them and allows them to do the sport full time. They’re a strong team regardless, but I think if the U.S. could make gymnastics a singular focus for men in that 18-22 age range, they’d have a better chance at producing higher-level elites.

Do you know why Jody Kime is leaving Birmingham and going to Notts?

I saw that she made the move in December but don’t know her reasoning for leaving Birmingham. She coached at Notts prior to going to Birmingham, so maybe that had something to do with it? Everyone who welcomed her to Notts said things like “she’s a keeper” and that the previous management at Notts “made a huge mistake” letting her go. I don’t know the ins and outs of how things were running at Notts, but I know they were one of the gyms under review due to abuse allegations and I’ve heard many gymnasts talk about how terrible Claire Starkey was when she was director there. It seems Jody is stepping into the role at Notts that Claire held previously, so it sounds like Notts is just trying to rebuild its reputation as a club and getting Jody back to lead the WAG program is part of that process. Of course, again, that’s my understanding as an outsider…I can’t speak for Jody or the club!

After reading the New York Times article about Maggie Haney, do you think she truly believes she’s been the target of a witch hunt, or is she just doing damage control at this point?

I honestly think she truly believes she is an incredible human who hasn’t ever done a thing wrong in her life. I think despite everything she’s done, she’s truly bewildered that any of her behavior could possibly be seen as “abusive” and think she was genuinely blindsided by the accusations. I think she likely sees her behavior as “tough but necessary” in a “no pain, no gain” or “beauty is pain” kind of way that some coaches think is a requirement for high-level elite sports, and while that might be true for a lot of her behavior and while strict coaches aren’t inherently abusers, she clearly did cross the line in many ways that WERE abusive, but she truly can’t see where that line is or how her behavior qualifies as abuse. 

I think this is the case for many of the coaches with abusive coaching practices who are similar to her, like Mary Lee Tracy or Kim Zmeskal-Burdette. I think many of these people literally just do not understand how detrimental their behavior can be in the lives of their young athletes, because they’re getting them to the top, and everyone knows the Olympics require hard work and sacrifices, right? 

Of course it’s not going to be an easy journey for anyone regardless of who the coach is, but these coaches go beyond what should be accepted at any level of the sport and turn an already difficult journey into a nightmare. This kind of training may have “worked” in the 80s or 90s when nearly every coach was outwardly abusive and it was just “normal” but I think we’ve learned so much since then to know that this type of coaching hinders gymnasts rather than helps them, which is why most of the gymnasts from these gyms are struggling to keep up. These coaches are taking kids who are beyond talented and completely destroying them mentally, yet they think they’re doing what’s “necessary” and believe their kids just aren’t tough enough or can’t hack it.

It’s wild to think that someone wouldn’t see things like openly mocking their athletes, calling them names, punishing them for mistakes, and forcing them to train while injured isn’t abuse, but they think this is “discipline” and unfortunately, a lot of other people – including many children they’ve victimized – think so too, which is why they have so many supporters and why it’s difficult to suspend a coach for non-sexual abuse without physical proof. There have been so many cases in the past few years with gymnasts coming forward and launching SafeSport investigations into coaches who won’t even get a slap on the wrist because they and others defend or justify their behavior.

Discipline is important for any sport, especially at a high level, but there should be a very clear line between strict coaching and abuse, yet for many coaches, there isn’t. You’d think it would be easy to tell the two apart, but sadly so many don’t understand and refuse to learn.

If Beth Tweddle was competing her 2012 routine to the same standard tweaked to fit the current code where do you think she’d fit amongst the 2021 contenders for gold?

Yes, definitely! I think she’d be right up there with Suni Lee, Nina Derwael, Becky Downie, and the others who are doing the impossible combos. She basically invented this style of bars, and I think she’d possibly come out even better than she did in 2012 with just small tweaks to her routine.

What are the questions that you just do not care about? Which ones are just SO boring to deal with? As a reader — it’s anything Olympic qualification or NCAA eligibility related. Love what you do — just trying to break up the questions about how X gymnast would have done if they’d gone to college!

The Olympic qualification questions drove me nuts this quad because the system was so complicated, even though I wrote a bunch of articles about it, it still changed so often PLUS everyone is too lazy to actually look for and read the articles, or search for previous responses, so they’d just ask the same exact questions that had already been asked a million times before and I’d end up just answering them (usually just copying and pasting previous answers). It was just easier than yelling “GOOGLE IT” every time, but ironically, I found my previous answers by…googling. Some of these questions are really useful and aren’t repetitive, and they’re kind of necessary now that everything has changed due to COVID, but the repetitive ones (especially the basic “HOW DOES IT WORK?”) killed me.

So yeah, those were rough! NCAA questions also are hit or miss with me…I don’t cover NCAA because the time I spend doing elite is so much, and I barely watch it anymore because I’m personally just not super interested in it (mostly due to the bickering and discourse…when I do watch a meet I don’t look at scores and don’t join in the discussions online so I can just enjoy the gymnastics), but I don’t mind questions that are more in-depth I guess. I don’t love questions like “where would this elite gymnast have done NCAA?” because like, it really doesn’t matter? I think people have it in their mind that gymnasts “fit” certain programs, but they really don’t, at all. There are like, 80 programs, and most programs don’t have styles or vibes so specific that gymnasts pigeonhole into just one. People also love to ask about All American which is basically just an honor for gymnasts to slap on their resumes, and yet I get the same “what is All American?” question about 10 times a month. Again, super easy to find by googling for a previous response…you will literally find at least five of my responses, and it will be the same response in each because again, I just copy and paste so I don’t have to answer the same thing over and over again. But because sometimes it’s been a year since I’ve last answered, I’ll just go for it again as a refresher. I don’t mind doing it every year or so, but again, just not every single month! So I delete a LOT of those.

I also can’t stand hypotheticals. I even have a disclaimer down where you ask a question that’s like please do not ask me how so and so would have done at such and such competition. It’s not real. It didn’t happen. It doesn’t need to be answered! Mainly because the hypotheticals I usually get are like, what if Viktoria Komova didn’t step on her Amanar?! Like yeah, maybe she would have won? Shocking how it happens that better competitions probably mean better results. I feel bad because I think people just have favorites and want so badly for their favorites to have accomplished some goal that just didn’t happen, and they just want that validated, so they ask to get some validation, but also like, it’s been NINE YEARS. I sometimes want to hit the delete button on my entire blog when I get these. 

I think I also have a disclaimer about not asking me who I think will be on various teams. I write article after article covering various competitions, so if you read these articles, you will see exactly who I think will be on basically every team. Instead of asking me who I think will be on the French Olympic team, it’s really just as easy as looking at all of my coverage of France (follow this url format for literally any country for the same tagged coverage, it’s literally ALL tagged) and seeing every last thought I have about them, which is much more comprehensive and interesting than you’d get in just a paragraph or two in a response here. I don’t like saying outright “I think the team will be these four people,” but I think if you read my coverage of each country, you will know pretty much exactly who I think is in the mix without me saying directly who will be on it. And when it gets close enough, I DO say who exactly I think will be on it in my recaps of national and friendly meets.

Is that it? I swear I don’t hate every question. I love most questions! It’s really just (a) questions I have already answered before, (b) hypotheticals, and (c) predictions, and then I guess we can also add (d) non-gymnastics drama questions, like why did this person unfollow that person on Instagram or why does this gymnast have a sucky YouTube, or whatever. I truly do not care, I don’t follow any gymnasts on social media unless I know them as humans beyond gymnastics, I don’t want any part of this! If a question has something to do with news in the sport, then I’ll take it even if there is a ‘drama’ or ‘gossipy’ aspect to it (for example, a lot of the Maggie Haney questions I get are borderline drama bait but they still count as news), but if athletes are being gross on social media or fighting with each other I don’t need to bring it here, so I usually delete those.

Do gymnasts always lunge with the same leg after a tumbling pass? 

Hmmm, I’ve never thought about it, and will have to keep my eyes open! From my own experience, the leg I would lunge back with depended on the landing and where the instability came in. For example, if you’re doing a triple full and come up short, you might steady yourself using your “inside” leg (the left leg in most cases but it would depend on the direction of the twist), but if you rotate it well and just feel a little unsteady on the landing, you might lunge back with the “outside” leg (the right in most cases). For planned and controlled lunges, the gymnasts generally always choose to lunge back with the same leg and train those landings the same way they’d train any other skill.

Can you lunge out of a tumbling pass in J.O.?

Yes, lunging out of passes is allowed in J.O.

Has Amelie Morgan gone pro?

As far as I know, she’s still committed to compete at Cal in NCAA, so no, she hasn’t gone pro.

Why does everyone act like the four-person U.S. team is going to hurt the U.S.? It seems that if anything, the all-around depth would give them an advantage compared to a program like Russia, which has historically relied more on specialists.

I don’t think people think it will hurt the U.S. team…I think most of the complaints have just been about the FIG cutting down the team size which sucks because bigger teams make the puzzle more interesting and they give more athletes the opportunity to go to the Olympics. I agree on the team puzzle argument, but the U.S. women were definitely going to qualify two individual spots this quad, meaning they get six total spots which is more than 2012 or 2016, and even though the additional two won’t get to compete for the team, it’s still one extra spot compared to last quad so I’m on board with that.

Narrowing teams down to four gymnasts instead of five or six makes the team competition much easier for countries that lack depth, but like you said, for teams that rely heavily on specialists, it makes things more difficult because there just really isn’t room for a one-event gymnast even if she’s scoring two points higher on bars than anyone else in her country. At the very least, countries are going to need two really strong all-arounders, and then two gymnasts who can add tenths on certain events but still compete all four events just so the team isn’t missing any scores in qualifications or the final. That’s something that can be tricky for some teams, and there will be some puzzles to work out for many, but for the U.S. it’s easy. They can literally just take the top four all-arounders from any given trial and that team will probably easily win gold.

If Larisa Iordache does not qualify to the Olympics, but the Romanian federation believes she can be better than Maria Holbura, can they say Maria is injured so Larisa takes her place?

No, if they take away Maria’s spot for whatever reason, they would be throwing away their berth entirely, and it would go to the first alternate, who is Megan Ryan of Ireland. A few countries – notably Hungary – have said that they “haven’t decided” who they’re going to send but I don’t think they understand how nominative berths work. Like, you don’t get to decide, that athlete earned HER spot fair and square at worlds. But in Larisa’s case, I feel like she should pretty easily qualify at Euros.

Why did Alexa Al Hameed retire?

I don’t think she ever shared a reason…on her instagram post from October 2019, she just said that after 16 years of doing gymnastics, she “decided” to retire so probably just physically or mentally done with the sport, which isn’t uncommon at this level. She’s still at Georgia and seems to remain close to the team.

Why did Macy Orosco transfer to Missouri?

I don’t think she gave a reason, but she didn’t see competitive action at Alabama, so maybe she just wanted a chance to actually compete instead of sitting on the sidelines? That’s just a guess. But in her Instagram post talking about how she’d no longer be at the program, she talked about how her freshman year at Bama “overjoyed” her and it’s where she met her best friends, but it also “broke her heart,” partly due to the season getting cut short due to COVID, but she also mentioned being “exposed to the most terrible people.” She also said that it caused her “great sorrow” to not call Bama her home for the rest of her college career, so it doesn’t sound like it was entirely her decision to leave, or if it WAS her decision, it was due to some aspects of her situation not being great. That’s just speculation based on how she phrased things. At that point, she hadn’t yet shared transfer plans, and then a month later she announced she’d be going to Missouri, so it seems like she didn’t leave Bama to go to Missouri…it seems like Missouri just came up as an opportunity after she left Bama for whatever reason.

Do the Karolyis speak Hungarian and Romanian as well?

Yes, I believe they speak both.

What happened to Aliya Mustafina? Is she even training?

No, Aliya stopped training seriously about a year or go (or more I think at this point? I can’t keep track…) and then the federation announced this year that she was named the acting coach of the junior national team and removed her from the national team, so it seems she’s officially done. But now that Russia got an additional non-nominative individual Olympics berth, I’m only 80% joking when I say I could totally see Aliya spending the next four months getting back in gymnastics shape and putting together a 7.0 bars routine just to take that spot.

What will happen with the Russian teams in 2021? Since the athletes qualified teams, I don’t understand if the teams will participate under a neutral flag or if the qualified athletes will compete separately (in the mixed teams with athletes under the Olympic flag).

They’re supposed to compete under a neutral flag, but nothing will change in terms of how gymnastics will work. They’ll still have four gymnasts competing together for the team competition, and likely two additional gymnasts competing individually. They’ll be referred to as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” instead of as Russia, which is like, we get it, they’re still Team Russia, and this is barely a punishment. Not that the gymnasts deserve to be punished for any reason, they had nothing to do with this, so I’m glad things won’t really change for them. But I find this whole situation laughable because the IOC claims they want to punish the Russian NOC for encouraging doping, and this just isn’t gonna do it. They can still claim any medals their athletes win as theirs. Either punish them for real, or don’t punish them at all, but this middle ground “Olympic Athletes from Russia” thing is just nonsense. It’ll suck for athletes who did nothing wrong who won’t get to wear the usual gear or hear their national anthem if they win gold, but that aside, the federation isn’t really suffering anything.

Do you know the point of using the two-per-country rule for the European junior all-around competition?

For many FIG competitions that don’t have a separate all-around final, they still want to use two-per-country for the official rankings, because that’s their rule for ALL finals, even if the final isn’t held separately. So because they allow more than just two athletes from each country to compete all-around on that one day, they just cancel out anyone’s all-around score from outside the top two as not being eligible for the all-around final rankings. You essentially have to think of that one all-around competition as both qualifications AND the final. In 2020, for example, Iulia Trestianu placed third behind two other Romanians, so she could basically say that she was “third all-around in qualifications” but wouldn’t be able to claim that she was an “all-around finalist” because technically, being in third place for her country, she was not “in the final.” Daniela Batrona or Ukraine, meanwhile, was technically fourth “in qualifications” and then third “in the final” even though, again, it was the same competition.

Assuming the top two at trials are a lock, what will happen if Jade Carey is second? Tom Foerster seems to be all about transparency and fairness, but in this situation, what is fair? Leave her off the team for her already earned spot, or allow her to be on?

Tom has said that Jade essentially had to make up her mind whether she wanted to try for an individual spot or a team spot, and that since Jade went for an individual spot, she won’t be eligible for the team no matter how she places at trials. I think that’s pretty transparent and fair…she knew what was at stake going into her situation, and made the choice to take the steps she did to earn her Olympic spot, which was very smart because she qualified to the Olympics in her own right and no one can take that away from her. Of course, if she places second at trials, she might have some regrets about going her own way, especially during team finals when she has to watch the team medal instead of being out there with them.

But regardless of whether she competes for the team or for ‘herself’ she’s still representing Team USA, and besides, the team and individual team athletes will be so closely interlocked at the Games, it won’t make that much of a difference. She won’t contribute a score to the team in qualifications or get to compete in team finals or get a team medal, but she’ll still be competing for the U.S. team, and I think she was smart to guarantee that opportunity for herself rather than wait and see if she could be one of the four to get named at trials. I won’t say she took the ‘easy’ way because she still worked really hard to get her spot, but while everyone else has been stressing for an entire extra year about whether they’d be able to make it, she knows she’s going and only has to focus on training for the Olympics, not on training to make the team, which is a huge advantage over pretty much everyone else who ends up competing in Tokyo.

Did the Brixia Four change gyms from Brixia to Fiamme Oro?

No, Fiamme Oro – which means Gold Flames – is the police sports group. In Italy, the top athletes in amateur sports can earn a living by joining the police or army. They usually have to do a couple of weeks of “duty” each year to earn their salaries, but they still train at their regular gyms, so the Brixia Four are all still at Brixia, while Desiree Carofiglio – who is also on the Fiamme Oro team – still trains in Milan. The Brixia girls all joined this police sports group last year, but the only change they’ve had is that they now just have to represent Fiamme Oro by name at major national competitions.

Has there ever been a gymnast who did a Pak salto out of a Gienger?

It’s not something you normally see in elite competition now, or at least not something I’ve seen recently. Dominique Moceanu connected the series at 1997 nationals, and it was weak in prelims, but great in the final…though at worlds she competed the two skills with a break between them, and she also did a much easier Gienger to shootover at some competitions. That’s the only time I remember seeing it…it’s not a super difficult combo (at least not compared to many of the other combos we see today!), but things can go wildly wrong on the Pak if you don’t get enough momentum out of the Gienger, so it’s too risky for just a tenth in CV, I think. It’s much easier to build momentum from a Tkachev to Pak, so I think that’s why this combo is much more popular.

Why does almost nobody do handstand turns? The only person I have seen do them is Zane Petrova. Are they really hard/not worth the difficulty?

They’re actually not in the code anymore and don’t count for the value of the routine, so she was basically doing it for choreography. Maybe it’s a throwback to when they were required in routines? When was that last a thing…the 80s, probably? It’s cool that she does it, but no, they’re not difficult at all really, and today they’re basically just warm-ups in many gyms.

What are some promising juniors that competed at 2019 junior worlds that stand a good chance of becoming world class athletes?

So many! There are the obvious ones from Russia (Viktoria Listunova, Vladislava Urazova, Elena Gerasimova), China (Ou Yushan, Wei Xiaoyuan, Guan Chenchen), the U.S. (Kayla DiCello, Skye Blakely), and Romania (Ioana Stanciulescu, Silviana Sfiringu), but there are others from smaller programs who will definitely be in the mix for either the Olympics this year or world teams going forward.

Probably the most notable is Jennifer Gadirova, who upgraded a ton after junior worlds and has a really big chance at making it to Tokyo this year. Noémie Louon of Belgium is also one to watch, she’s fabulous on bars and beam and just gorgeous to watch on floor. Chiaki Hatakeda of Japan will also be one of the country’s top all-arounders and is a fantastic beam worker, though Tokyo might be a push for her because she’s still a little inconsistent…though she’s definitely going to have a big future for them. For Canada, Clara Raposo is going to do huge things as a senior, Brazil had two – Julia Soares and Ana Luiza Lima – who will hopefully be able to take over some senior spots as current gymnasts start to retire, Jennifer Williams of Sweden is one of my absolute favorites, and there are two girls from Uzbekistan – Dildora Aripova and Anastasiya Miroshnichenko – who are at a super high level for that program, and though we all know Oksana Chusovitina will literally never retire, if these two continue the way they have been, Oksana will need to WATCH HER BACK for 2024 because I’m pretty sure both could beat her in the all-around. Oksana is literally 30 years older than both of them, which is hilarious and amazing. Both girls and Oksana were on the roster for the Doha World Cup before it got pushed back to June, so I hope all three do end up going together because that’s such a cool little team.

Is Nile Wilson still training seriously or has his shoulder/neck injury prevented him from being competitive?

His shoulder/neck injury kept him from training and competing for the second half of 2018 and then basically all of 2019, and he announced his retirement this January, citing these injuries as his main reason for leaving the sport. Though he came back to training in 2020, I don’t think he was ever able to get back to a hundred percent.

Why do some gymnasts wear socks on the uneven bars?

I don’t know, honestly. It totally messes with the line and the aesthetic so any advantage it may give them would be lost if judges are super picky about that and see the sock as breaking up what should be a clean line (or can’t correctly gauge extension with the sock in the way). My guess is that socks somehow help for toe-on skills, but that would be surprising to me if so, unless they’re the grip socks or something. Gymnasts’ feet slip out of toe-on skills all the time just barefoot, but I’d imagine socks would make that problem WORSE, not better!

Let’s say a gymnast competes this in NCAA — Pak salto, Maloney, cast to handstand, and double front half out. Would this start from a 10? Does the dismount fulfill the half turn requirement?

No, the lateral turn can’t be in the dismount, so this would be missing that requirement and wouldn’t start out of a 10. Change the Pak to a Bhardwaj or the Maloney to a van Leeuwen and she’s fine…OR, since the dismount is a double front, she could do a half turn out of her cast following the Maloney, and then do a blind change or toe half or something into the dismount. The construction would look a little clunky at the end considering she’d already be in the correct direction after casting out of the Maloney and would just reverse her grip into the front swing for the dismount, but I’ve seen worse!

Has a gymnast ever done a double en dehors turn on beam as opposed to en dedans? I know some do it on floor in a combination, but I can’t remember ever seeing it on beam. As a dancer, I think it’d be a lot easier to control.

I don’t think I’ve even really seen a gymnast do a FULL en dehors turn on beam, let alone a double. They’re rare on floor as well, but beam…I personally don’t think I’ve ever seen it. I could see how it might be easier control, but I also could see how it could throw some people off balance. When I was playing at a gym while on a visit a couple years ago, I tried an en dehors turn on the low beam and prepped the way I would for dance in terms of straight body alignment, clean fourth position, shoulders down, high relevé, foot going through passé, and I kept falling, and the coach – an elite-level coach – was like, no, here’s what you do, deep lunge forward, chest forward, turn en dedans, don’t go all the way up in relevé, and keep your foot below your knee for now, and I got it first try. I’m not the best turner in ballet, but if I could turn the beam way (or I guess the gymnastics way since most floor turns also look like this), I’d be amazing, it was just SO much easier. In ballet, so much of your pirouettes depend on having a strong core, which is a weakness for me and probably why I suck at turning, but in gymnastics, they’re definitely more chucked around. Maybe if they started training en dehors turns with ballet technique from day one, that element of precision and control would be easier?

Edit: I was thinking about this in terms of solo turns, but there are en dehors turns on beam out of a combination. I was thinking if anyone has done a double en dehors, it’s probably Sanne Wevers, but I just went back to watch her Olympic routine and it’s only her full turn (in combo) that’s en dehors. I can’t think of any double turns in combination that go en dehors!

What do you think about Elisabetta Preziosa’s comeback? Is she the Italian Chellsie Memmel?

I’m excited for it! She was one of my favorite Italian gymnasts. I think even if she doesn’t get back to a high enough level to make Olympic or worlds teams, especially if the current generation sticks around, it will still be amazing just to watch her at national events, and maybe some world cups? I seriously just need to see her back on beam and then I’ll be happy.

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

33 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Pingback: You Asked, The Gymternet Answered – SportUpdates

    • Yes!! They’re SO good. They always have a couple of gymnasts who are strong and lovely to watch on some events, but these girls seem like they have really strong potential as all-arounders. I hope UZB can send those three plus someone else to Asian Games next year because I think they’d have a lot of potential to be among the top programs!

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      • Quite crazy to remember the team of Uzbekistan finished 12th at the 1997 worlds ! I guess top 24 at the 2022 Worlds would already be a huge accomplishment. No clue when Oksana will retire … in her early 50s ? (!!!)

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        • Yes! It would be awesome if they sent a full team and made the top 24. It’s definitely achievable if they can keep everyone healthy! They should at least be on par with where the Czech Republic was in 2018 if Chuso sticks around and gives them a vault boost. She can NEVER retire!!!

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  2. If Holbura couldn’t go to the Olympics, wouldn’t it go the next ROU gymnast in line, i.e. Ioana Crisan? I’m not even sure if she is still training, but all of the Romanians at 2019 Worlds finished ahead of Megan Ryan, so I would think they would be allowed an internal replacement of people who were at Worlds before it would go to Ryan? Maybe it’s a moot point if all the other ones have retired.

    Also, haven’t there been many gymnasts who have done full en dehors turns on beam in a combination with a full L-turn? The one I most remember is Aly Raisman in 2012 because she initially didn’t get it credited until Miahi inquired, but I feel like that hasn’t been an uncommon combination.

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    • So technically, yes, the other Romanians who qualified would be next in line if Maria got injured…but they couldn’t just say she’s injured, she would have to give up the spot herself, and there’s no way they could give it to Larisa…it would have to be one of the girls who finished behind her and would have qualified had it not been for two-per-country. I’m pretty sure the Hungarian federation, which really wants Bianka Schermann going to Tokyo for some reason, will try to get away with saying Zsofia is injured or something, but I’d hope a gymnast who is being forced out in this way would go straight to the FIG and be like “actually, I’m not injured, the federation is being shady and stealing my spot.”

      And yes, you’re right about en dehors turns in combination! I was just picturing single turns on their own, which I definitely don’t think I’ve seen, but yes, the combo turns do happen en dehors. Now I don’t know if I’ve seen a double…probably Sanne Wevers if anyone but I’d have to go back and look at her routine.

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      • Yes, Ioana Crisan, Carmen Ghiciuc, and Denisa Golgota will all be eligible one by one had Maria Holbura gave up her spot. However, ALL of them already retired.

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        • I am reading the updated criteria, both China and USA are not eligible for a +1 at Continentals.
          However, Russia still is as they did not get a +1 through the World Cup Apparatus.

          “An NOC who qualified a team in Criteria 1 (2018 World Championships –
          Team Final) or 2 (2019 World Championships – Team Qualification) and
          qualified two (2) additional individuals in Criteria 5 (Individual Apparatus
          World Cup Series) and 6 (Individual All-Around World Cup Series) may
          participate, but may NOT qualify an additional quota place for his/her NOC
          through the Continental Championships. ”

          VT=USA, UB=CHN, BB=JPN, FX=ITA (Mori or Ferrari)
          World AA= USA, CHN, RUS
          Russia only earned a World Cup AA spot not a World Cup Apparatus spot, they can compete for a spot at Euros.

          Only Russia, Japan, and Italy are all still capable of joining USA and CHN with 6 athletes in Tokyo.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, for some reason I thought the updated rules said EITHER AA and apparatus world cups, not both combined…which like, we knew both combined meant they couldn’t get a continental spot, so I don’t understand why this is an update?! Technically the apparatus world cup spots haven’t been decided yet (not officially) so the U.S. wouldn’t be out of it until they do. The issue is that we don’t know if the apparatus berths will be official before or after continental championships, so until they become official, wouldn’t the U.S. still be in the mix for continentals?

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        • Right. It is still weird and I feel like the qualifications criteria is changing by the seat of everyone’s pants. What was already complicated is even more complicated now.

          But at least we know that if Doha can’t happen they will go with 7 out of 8 meets. Either way Doha won’t change the results on VT, BB, UB. Just deciding who from Italy gets to go from FX.

          But like they did with the World Cup AA I think they will make a quick decision with finalizing results and issuing invitations. As it is USA WAG are not attending Pan Ams since they aren’t eligible for a spot, why send anyone?

          Even the wording for Continentals qualification is weird and vague. If these don’t take place they get allocated to the next non full team NOC, but it says limit 1 per NOC. Does that mean that Australia, Ukraine, Brazil and Korea all get to send an additional athlete? Or does it go further down the line so Europe would be Ireland and Georgia, Oceania would go to NZL, and Americas would go to Costa Rica and Puerto Rico? The 1 per NOC would be in effect anyway as you can only obtain one spot by top 2 finish but not 2 spots if you go 1 and 2. Or does it mean since Australia already has a spot they can’t get a second.
          I love Maia Fishwick, but I would prefer Emma Nedov get to go to the Olympics because she is a potential finalist on BB.

          Hopefully I didn’t make it more confusing.

          It also make it more interesting in the US because Jade Carey no longer has a choice (not that she ever had one) of accepting or not because for sure if she declines, the US is out of a spot. She would never be named to the 4 person team by USAG and she would never be top 2 after Trials, but there it isn’t impossible although highly improbable.

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  3. Betty Okino speaks Romanian, so when she was training with the Karolyi’s, she translated what they said to each other in Romanian to the other gymnasts. This worked for a while until Marta said to Bela (or vice versa) that she wanted the gymnasts to train floor exercise. Betty told them all to move to the floor even though the Karolyi’s hadn’t told them to in English, so that’s how the Karolyi’s figured out Betty understood Romanian. After that, the Karolyi’s switched to Hungarian when they wanted private conversations.

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  4. Victoria Karpenko competed a pak salto out of Geinger. It was a rare combination, but I love it. Victoria did it especially well.

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  5. Hey Lauren,
    I want to chime on what is abuse/what is discipline. In my opinion as a researcher in the field, the line is clearly defined in the literature, but few people know about it.

    The example used in this article for disciplining athletes is actually abuse – not discipline.

    If you don‘t want to go into a grey area as a coach – never use conditioning/extra exercises as punishment.

    Btw Conditioning should not be used as „punishment“ for many reasons. For example, kids should learn that conditioning is a good thing, even if it is strenuous. Using it as a punishing method is making athletes believe it is something negative. Who would want that?

    Please read up on what abuse in sports is, I‘ll leave you one of the most used articles on this topic:

    Stirling AE Definition and constituents of maltreatment in sport: establishing a conceptual framework for research practitioners British Journal of Sports Medicine 2009;43:1091-1099.

    I hope you see why I pointed this out. I would be so glad if you chose a better example for discipline. I would recommend something along the lines of: If kids are late for practice, kids & parents should have an explanation ready. The kid will have to complete the full warm-up by themselves because of safety reasons (proper warm ups are very important) and will have limited time on the first event. If it happens often, there are clear guidelines&consequences, e.g. for remaining on team. But this needs to be clear beforehand.

    And to be honest – kids usually are brought to practice by their parents, and it is in my experience mostly the parents fault if they are late. So if you need to punish someone – let the parents do the extra conditioning 😉

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    • Thank you for this! This is really important to know. At my gym, we conditioned for every possible fault, and that included being late, missing practices, excessive talking, and so on. I never felt like this was abuse because my coach was genuinely a good coach, but this was also the 90s and so I think to just have a coach who wasn’t screaming constantly (like the upper levels in my gym had to deal with) was like, incredible I’m sure. I never would have considered this practice abusive, and in my own experience, I still don’t because I didn’t really see it as a punishment (just like I didn’t see extra laps in soccer as a punishment), but I’m glad that things are changing and fully understand why this is not okay and why any sort of conditioning shouldn’t be used as negative reinforcement. I do think discipline and consequences are important for any sport or activity, but I’m glad you pointed out this distinction because it’s not something I ever would have seen as abusive in its own right.

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  6. “I’m pretty sure the Hungarian federation, which really wants Bianka Schermann going to Tokyo for some reason, will try to get away with saying Zsofia is injured or something”
    What makes you think this ? Though I found Schermann a very promising prospect at the 219 Worlds, Kovacs totally deserve it, especially given her 2020 Euro results (you obviously share this opinion). There must be some political/internal conflicts that really don’t help Hungary … they had the potential to open a few eyes at the 2019 Worlds (but Spain did it !).

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    • After 2019 worlds, the Hungarian federation said they wanted to send Bianka to the Olympics and that Zsofia would have to work very hard to “keep her spot.” I’m like, uh, that’s not how it works? Zsofia is clearly the (much) stronger athlete, but apparently there’s some personal connection Bianka has to someone in the federation and that’s why they want her to go (this is according to someone with ties to the federation). There’s a lot going on in the WAG program that’s pretty messy, unfortunately…they could be such a great team if they didn’t have all of these back door dealings and dramas going on.

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  7. I was wondering about the handstand turns as well. I don’t feel like they are easier. I assumed is was because they take too much time for their value… but if they’re not in the code that’s obviously the reason. It’s one of the things I don’t like about the current code. Each second of the routine is constructed to increase difficulty it’s hard for their artistic expression to shine.

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    • There are a few elements that were once legitimate skills that are basically considered “just choreography” now, and while they’re not EASY, per se, they’re just not considered difficult when compared to tumbling or leaps, I guess…yet due to their difficulty, most gymnasts won’t include them in choreography because the choreography is often the one chance they get to breathe, so if they’re not getting value for those handstand pirouettes, why bother with them? It’s funny because I can’t even do a handstand, let alone a handstand pirouette, and yet I can do many of the pirouettes and some of the leaps in the code! They clearly take at least as much skill, if not more, than most of the standing turns. I wish they’d add handstand pirouettes in the turns section of the code or something.

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      • I am not sure if we’re talking here about beam or floor but on floor a 1,5 turn in handstand is acutally a B acro element! I competed in a federal state league in Germany in the last years which is judged by CoP. The difficulty is not really high here (almost noone is doing a double salto and not everyone is doing even a full twist) and quite some girls do the handstand pirouette to have a B element in their routine to count into the required three acro elements.
        I also think the biggest problem is the time, not the difficulty. For most elite gymnasts handstands are actually basic stuff. And especially for bars, they also need the pirouettes.
        On beam, a press handstand with full turn is a C mount but you lose so much time with it! And also, you would waste energy which does not add much to your routine difficutly-wise.

        I also wanted to point out Catherine Lyons’ stand-alone en dehor Y-turn on beam. I always thought it looked cool and unique. She was doing it with the leg already held up, taking the momentum only from the standing leg. Also, if I remember correctly, Tabea Alt did a non-connected full turn on beam en dehor.

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  8. For the coaching practices question, obviously one can’t speak for every abusive coach, but I strongly suspect that Kim Zmeskal is one of those who truly believes she was doing the right thing, because, as some articles pointed out when that story first broke, she was a gymnast who came up through that same system and got to the Olympics through it, and that’s an excellent way to get it in one’s head that it’s a good system that works. That’s not to say it justifies her actions in any way, but it does point to a way in which that system potentially perpetuates itself and as such points to some of the things that the larger system needs to address if they want to break the culture of abuse.

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  9. I’lll be curious to see if any Americans retires before trials. As Kyla Ross did in 2016. First, there’s so much competition for a spot on the team. Then there’s pandemic restrictions at the games (Lack of crowds, etc) , which might hamper the Olympic experience for athletes. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people pack it in. What does everyone else think?

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    • I think Kyla’s decision came a lot sooner than we are right now, and her situation was a bit different as a returning Olympian who already had her dream come true and while it would have been nice to make it a second time, she wasn’t going to kill herself to get there. I think everyone now is probably mentally in it to the end. Considering there are only three months until trials, I don’t see anyone being like “yeah, I’m done” unless they get injured or something. I thought the Olympics getting pushed back a year would have caused a few to back out, but at this stage with so little time left, I don’t really see anyone leaving, again, unless they’re injured.

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  10. Curious random question. What is the qualification process to make it to Olympic trials in the USA? Classics in about 2 months away, and then Nationals, then Trials.

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    • They usually take 15 gymnasts based on how everyone finished at nationals. It’s usually the top 10-12 all-around from nationals, and then 3-5 specialists. I think this year, since there really aren’t any specialists like there have been in the past (like Alicia Sacramone in 2012 or Ashton Locklear in 2016), we’ll probably see a full all-around field, so maybe just the straight-up top 15?

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      • Oh I see. And Classics is where people qualify for Nationals? Chelsie will have to compete at Classics in order to go to nationals etc? Do the specialists have to get certain scores at nationals to qualify? Even though there are only a few. And curious will Jade even compete at classics, nationals? Since she is already got the spot.

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        • Yes, seniors need to score a 52 AA, 39.75 3 event score, or 27 2 event score at a camp, the American Classic, or the U.S. Classic to qualify to nationals. There is no qualifying score set for trials, they just kind of take gymnasts based on common sense…like in 2016, Ashton was a top scorer on bars and won the event at nationals so it made sense to take her, but Nia Dennis was getting mid 14s on bars and placed 8th on the event, so she was clearly not in the mix for the Olympic team, and they didn’t include her at trials. If Chellsie only does one or two events at nationals and hopes to qualify to trials as a specialist, she’d probably need to place in the top 2-3 on those events.

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  11. My guess with the C/D + D (or more) is that it’s to make it clear that more than just the minimum C + D is covered by this category. If they wrote it in as just C + D, then a gymnast doing, like, a D + D or C + E combination (I think we’ve seen the former at least once this quad) might try to petition for extra CV, but the “C/D + D (or more)” phrasing extends that pre-set CV to those combinations as well, which helps make the case that they’re not eligible for additional bonus CV.

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