You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Becky Downie

It’s time for the 335th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!

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Does Becky Downie have an individual spot for Tokyo, or is she trying to make the team? If the team, what do you think her chances are, given that she only competes one apparatus?

Becky doesn’t have an individual spot, and Great Britain doesn’t have any “extra” spots right now (though they could potentially get a non-nominative spot at Euros). Right now, Becky is hoping to make the team, and I think she’s bringing back her all-around program to make that more likely. But if they get a non-nominative spot at Euros, I can see them considering her more for that if she can’t get vault and floor back in a decent enough place to put up prelims scores? That said, I think they’d rather have her 15 on bars and consistent beam in the team final, so even if her vault and floor don’t end up scoring well, it would still be worth putting her up in qualifications with the expectation of dropping those scores just so they could count on her for the final.

In the past few years, you wrote extensively about KZB and MH, showing them in a positive light and giving them significant positive press before their abuse was uncovered. Do you feel you shouldn’t have spoken/written with such authority, knowing what you now know? Are you going to be more cautious about writing about the culture of a gym in the future, when you do not know the truth of the situation?

I actually wrote an article about this last summer, in response to everything that happened with Texas Dreams, because that was a gym I really loved (and even worked for at one point). I assumed that despite all of the injuries, I knew the coaches to be nice, friendly, progressive people who took their kids to BLM marches and joked around with them in podium training and did fun pool conditioning to get out of the gym in the hot summer, and I had heard things from many athletes that backed this up (including two who told me that the gym “saved their lives” after terrible experiences at previous gyms, one in 2018 and one last year). I had not even the slightest reason to question what was happening behind closed doors. This is elite gymnastics, everyone is always injured, how is that an indication of anything truly terrible when everything else about them seems so GOOD?

And as I talk about in my article, that’s the problem – judging how “good” coaches are based on what I personally know about them, when really the only people who have authority to tell us what they are like as coaches are the gymnasts who have trained with them. I think if anything, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that looks can be deceiving, and how coaches present themselves in public settings can be wildly different from how they approach things in the gym. Not only that, but that while some athletes can have incredible experiences, the same isn’t true for everyone, so just because we hear one athlete talk about how certain coaches “saved her” doesn’t mean we can assume that everyone is treated the same, so we can’t make overarching claims about a gym being “good” just because a couple of athletes – in most cases, the top athletes who wouldn’t be targets due to what they’ve achieved – say it is.

I hope it’s evident in how I’ve talked about gyms and coaches in my articles or tweets since then, but in case you haven’t noticed (because it’s pretty subtle and you probably wouldn’t have caught on unless you were specifically picking apart my writing!), one change I’ve made is qualifying anything I say about gyms or coaches by reiterating that this is MY experience or one athlete’s experience instead of claiming something like “she is a good coach.” If someone asks about a gym or a coach, I will say “I’ve heard ___ or I’ve experienced ___but I can’t speak beyond that” just to try to constantly remind people that while many good experiences with these people probably do exist, we can’t definitively say “this is a great gym with zero problematic behavior” until we know literally everyone’s experiences. I don’t want to automatically assume every coach is problematic until proven otherwise, but I also don’t want to make claims about what a coach is like when it’s impossible for me to experience their behavior in a way that one of their gymnasts experiences it, so whenever someone asks something like “what gym would you want to train at if you were elite” or something, or when I just talk about gyms in general while watching a competition, I just try to make it as clear as possible now that my opinions here are literally just that – my opinions based on my own limited experiences.

I’m going to share my experience with Maggie, because in hindsight, that gave me a small glimpse into what it’s like for athletes who are in abusive situations at “good gyms” with “amazing coaches.” I’m not an athlete, but I was bullied and threatened by her, for an entire year…and though this happened back in 2014-2015, it took me years to understand that what transpired was a reflection of the person she is in private as a coach. This is partly because anyone who knew about my situation at the time said I was “overreacting” when I got upset about the things she was doing to me, and one person even gushed to me, “I know you don’t like her, but I just went to her gym to do a feature, and she’s amazing.” I felt like my experiences were fully invalidated to the point where I questioned my behavior and thought, yeah, everyone else is probably right, she had a reason to behave the way she did with me, no one else has had a problem with her, so this is clearly on me. Even AFTER all of this went down, despite my own personal feelings and the sheer terror I felt when I had to stand a few feet away from her in the mixed zone on several occasions between 2016-2018, I took my experience out of my reporting and continued to give her positive press based on what I knew from the outside. I didn’t want to be advertising my negative experiences, not when everyone else was still talking about her like, “she’s the best!”

I completely pushed my feelings aside to the point where when she tweeted an article I wrote about Riley, I got excited because I was like, “maybe she doesn’t hate me anymore!” People can treat you terribly, but because everyone else says they’re great and you’re wrong, you blame yourself and even try to put yourself back in good standing with them. It’s so messed up. It wasn’t until I started hearing abuse stories from her former gymnasts until I finally realized hey, I think I was right about her. My feelings were valid. I felt a tiny percentage of what athletes in these situations have to deal with every single day, which is that YOU are the problem, not your coach. That’s why most athletes do not come forward at all, and why when they do, coaches are so easily able to pull in dozens of their supporters who all attest to how amazing they are, and why many emotional abuse cases will never see the light of day in SafeSport hearings.

Coming to terms with Maggie and then seeing how everything unfolded with multiple Texas Dreams athletes coming forward taught me a lesson about perspective, and how even though things seem good from the outside, we never know what is happening within the four walls of a gym. For me, having seen a lot of coaches behave inappropriately in public and having heard so many stories of abuse over the years, seeing the public versions of Texas Dreams and MG Elite back when I first started this website in 2014 was like a breath of fresh air, and it was so easy to talk about them as being “good” based on what I saw and experienced at first.

Even now, I have to remind myself to take a step back and think about the bigger picture when I see something at a competition that makes me want to praise a coach or gym. For example, I saw a coach and athlete interacting at the Winter Cup and was thinking like, wow, the kid looks so happy, maybe this coach has changed…and then I was reminded of the time a mom told me about how she has a photo of her daughter and that very same coach in which the coach is smiling, but under her breath, she was whispering threats to the athlete. I know many coaches today who I truly believe are wonderful, amazing people who genuinely have their athletes’ physical and mental wellbeing at the forefront of their coaching philosophy, but I would never declare this the way I would in the past when I had similar feelings for coaches. I do sometimes point out coach/athlete relationships as I see them in the arena, but that one observation in time coming from an outsider’s perspective should not reflect everything about who that person is as a coach. While I think it’s okay to say something like “Riley and Laurie look so happy and confident with their new coaches” based on what I saw at the Winter Cup, I do not want to romanticize these coaches like “…and that means these coaches are heroes and have never done a bad thing ever” because we just don’t know. I’d like to think their new coaches are improving their experience in the sport, and hope that what I saw in the arena is exactly who these people are in the gym, but it’s important to me that I never definitively say things like that again…and that’s also why I make sure to say “they LOOK so happy” instead of “they ARE so happy,” because that little change in phrasing makes it clear that this is just my observation at one moment in time, not me trying to speak for them or invalidate how they may have actually felt.

I would never want an athlete who had a negative experience to feel invalidated if they came across me making sweeping claims about how “amazing” their coach is. A few months ago, I actually had a chat with an athlete who came forward about abuse in her gym. We had been following each other for a while, and she sent me her statement and asked me to retweet it. I was shocked, and apologized to her for anything I may have said about her coaches that could have potentially caused her to question herself, and she said, “how would you have known?” That’s what I try to think of every time I talk about coaches. We DON’T know, so we shouldn’t assume.

Do you think Gabby Douglas’ comeback would have played out differently in any way if she had been able to see it through with Liang Chow instead of being forced to change gyms?

I think the consistency probably would have helped her. Coming back is hard enough, but switching gyms in a dramatic fashion and then not really “feeling” your new gym makes it even harder. I think her mom was also behind the decision to move her (something with needing to sign a contract at Chow’s that her mother wasn’t a fan of) so if this also wasn’t Gabby’s decision, then it must have been extra difficult to deal with the change, which I think reflected in how she experienced Buckeye. At that time, there was a lot of talk from people related to the gym who said she just looked like she wasn’t really motivated in the gym, and things were often contentious between her and her new coach, which I think culminated in Gabby (or again, possibly her mother) kicking her to the curb at trials. Whatever went down, she clearly started struggling in some ways, and as excellent as her comeback ended up being, I always think about what she could have done had she been given consistency and control over her training situation from the start of her comeback.

Is there a reason why gymnasts do a triple wolf turn and then a double when they have two wolf turns on beam?

You mean as opposed to a 2½ and a triple? A double and a 2½ are both rated a D, while the triple is an E, so a double and triple are the easiest ways to get the two highest-rated wolf turns in the ‘easiest’ way possible. Since the 2½ is worth the same as the double, there’s no real incentive to add that last half turn when a double turn is easier to get around and control.

I’ve heard people refer to Aly Raisman’s floor routines as being not very good artistically and I’m wondering what about her routines make them considered to be that way? Especially in 2012 with her Hava Nagila routine where she incorporated elements of traditional Jewish klezmer dance, which I loved and felt different from typical floor styles. Do you think Eurocentrism/other forms of bias play a role in what people consider ‘artistic’?

I think it’s less about her choreography, which I agree was overall an excellent mix of music and dance, especially because there were a lot of subtle connections between the two, and I don’t think she gets enough credit for how great that was. I loved both of her routines because of this. However, at the same time, I don’t think Aly is a very strong performer NOR do I think she has great musicality, which factors into someone’s overall artistry. You can give a gymnast the greatest music and choreo in the world, but if she can’t express anything with that performance or even just move to the music well, it takes away so much. 

Also, you’re correct in that there are still very many people who consider “artistry” as being only “ballet” or “elegance” which just…isn’t a thing. I recently saw a comment about how Aliya’s arm waving is artistic because it’s “elegant” and “goes to the rhythm of the music” and I’m just like HELP lol. Aside from maybe two pieces of choreo that she truly threw herself into, her routines have been mostly so dull, but when she really goes for it, she saves them from being total duds. I think Aliya with brilliant choreography probably could have worked it well, because she had it in her to “turn on” her ability to perform, so it’s too bad that she never really got anything that great, especially post-2012. But instead, she just got the arm-wavy routines, yet people still considered it more “artistic” than some of the best-choreographed and best-performed routines out there. You can hate Simone Biles’ style all you want, because style is a matter of opinion, but most of her routines have been excellent examples of encompassing almost everything a floor routine should be. Her routines are very divisive, but it even says specifically in the code – there’s no one style that is acceptable, and any personal opinion you have about a gymnast’s style goes out the window as long as she’s performing that style in a way that works.

What’s most evident is that with so much tied into what artistry is, it’s very rare to find a gymnast who embodies everything the code demands. I always look at three cateogries – if the choreography is good and matches the music/has a theme, if the gymnast can perform it (meaning puts emotion and feeling into it like an actor would with a script), and if the gymnast has musicality, or can generally move well and be on the rhythm. Sometimes gymnasts don’t have any of these things going on, while most only have one or two things going for them, but it’s the rare gymnast who can do all three well. When I watch Aly’s routines, I appreciate them for what went into them and think they have the “bones” of artistry, but the “meat” of the routine – what the gymnast puts into it – is lacking.

I’m confused about the rules for the 2021 Olympics. If the four person team/specialist rule had been in place in 2016, could Ashton Locklear had gone to the Olympics by doing only bars competitions?

Yes, it’s possible that had that rule existed, Martha Karolyi would have sent her to the apparatus world cups to try to qualify a spot…or maybe MyKayla Skinner could have gone and qualified for vault? Either would have been strong options. But with only four on the team itself, Madison Kocian probably wouldn’t have made the team and so she and Ashton would have likely been fighting for an individual spot the same way they fought for the team spot in 2016. All three also could have been in contention for the individual non-nominative spot, which the U.S. also earned this year…I personally would have taken Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and Laurie Hernandez for the team (god all four of them doing the all-around in qualifications would have been epic), and then MyKayla and Madison for the individual spots…whichever one earned the apparatus spot would obviously get the nominative spot, and then I would have given the other one the non-nominative spot. Those two made the most sense for individual medals, and MyKayla could have also been a built-in alternate for the team had any of the four been injured.

What happens if an NCAA team had all 12 scholarships planned for 2022, but then a much better gymnast comes along? If a gymnast decides to change her commitment and they don’t have any scholarships left, can the coach take away the scholarship from the least good gymnast and give it to the person who wants it?

No, once athletes have signed their letters of intent, it’s virtually impossible to take a scholarship away unless an athlete has done something breaking her team’s rules. Sometimes, in rare cases, you see gymnasts who are underperforming and not making lineups asked to medically retire to open up a spot, but they’d still have their college paid for. I think I’ve only heard of couple of instances where a gymnast on scholarship was forced out of a program completely, and I can’t say for sure if the reasoning behind any of these was to get someone else into a scholarship spot. Usually there’s some other discord between the coach and athlete in those cases as well. But if a coach was like “you’re out” and the gymnast hadn’t broken any rules or wasn’t performing below standard, she’d pretty easily be able to fight that.

I read that Sabrina Vega’s bars routine in 2020 didn’t have a start value out of a 10. Why was that, and what could have raised her start value?

In the routine I just watched (which was from January…it’s possible she changed it eventually but that’s the latest one I can find) she did a toe-on to toe shoot, Gienger, Pak, and full-in, so she was missing a turning element. Had she done a bail instead of a Pak, that should have taken care of things. This is off the top of my head, but I think she had all of the other requirements and met the up-to-the-level standard…maybe she was short on bonuses? She had a couple of D skills to get her to a 9.8 and the toe-on to toe shoot should have been a 0.1 connection, plus her dismount was an E, so I *think* the lack of a turning element is what got her. I remember reading that they weren’t planning on using her in the lineup on this event and she only became necessary when everyone else got injured, so it’s possible she just wasn’t really training seriously and just had to throw together skills she knew she could crank out? I feel like I hadn’t seen her compete bars since probably 2013, so it’s crazy that she brought this event back for the first time seven years later. She had a bail in her routine in 2012, but maybe she struggled with it and that’s why they went with a Pak instead? I don’t know.

If you were a gymnast looking for the perfect college, which one would you choose and why? If they didn’t have a scholarship for you would you join as a walk-on?

This changes every time I answer it…I say Washington and Oregon State a lot, because I was actually planning on applying there as my #2 choices if I didn’t get into Columbia (and before I went to Columbia, I actually took a bunch of classes through Oregon State’s distance learning program because they were one of the only universities doing a great job with online learning back in 2008-2010). Both schools have really strong academics, great gymnastics programs, and I LOVE the Pacific Northwest. I think even if I was a top elite and had Florida, Oklahoma, and LSU fighting for me, I’d absolutely still choose Washington or Oregon State over any of those. I’d also include Cal, Utah, Denver, and Stanford on my list. Oh, and Boise State now too, I just went to Boise last year and loved the city and the surrounding area. I feel like 90% of my decision is location just like it was when I was actually applying to schools back in 2010, haha. Since my residence is in NY, if I didn’t get athletic scholarships at any of these programs, I probably wouldn’t walk on unless I got offered an academic scholarship or had some other means to pay, so I’d probably choose to take a scholarship at a lower-ranked program instead…in which case I’d want something like Utah State or Alaska.

I feel like I never see double pikes with pointed toes on beam or floor. Why is it difficult or uncommon?

Since a gymnast isn’t in the air very long on any skill, I think they often end up anticipating the landing, and so they flex their feet to prepare for that, especially in a double salto. It seems like it’s difficult for many of them to switch their foot shape from pointed to landing-ready, and I can only picture a few who point their toes throughout the majority of the skill, only prepping for the landing a split second before it happens. Because so many don’t point their toes in the midst of a skill, it sticks out to me when someone DOES…I remember being at classics in 2018 and seeing Deanne Soza point her toes in her double pike from across the arena, and I was just like WOW YES that’s what it’s supposed to look like. I just went back to watch, and on her full-in, double tuck, and double pike, her feet are fully pointed until she’s halfway through the second flip, which is when she opens up for the landing on all three. Just textbook. 

I have seen a lot of hype about Amelie Morgan’s beam mount. Do you think she will compete it and if she does, what value do you think it could be?

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

In your opinion, why aren’t there more questions about Mary Lou Retton winning the all-around in 1984 over Ecaterina Szabo? I know it was so long ago but as a gymnastics junkie since 1968 the look on Szabo’s face still haunts me. I would love to hear your opinion on this.

I’ve answered this a few times, and because of that, I generally don’t re-answer the question every time I get it. I personally think Ecaterina should have won, and think had the Olympics been held in literally any other country on Earth, she probably would have won…they both had great competitions, but Ecaterina was much more polished and more of a total package gymnast, and there’s no way Mary Lou made up for what she lacked on bars and beam with what she did on vault and floor. Just a half tenth of difference between Mary Lou and Ecaterina’s bars is just…it still blows my mind. I think it came down to Mary Lou being in front of a home crowd…and I assume there was probably an anti-communism sentiment among most of the countries that attended? Since the Soviets and many of their allies had boycotted in 1984, most of the judges were probably anti-communist and I’m sure that factored into how they treated Ecaterina compared to America’s Sweetheart, even if it was subconscious. I think it would have been questionable for the Americans to have won team gold, so they couldn’t justify something like that, but with the all-around where Mary Lou was so dynamic on her own, it was like, this is our chance!

Who do you think is the best Canadian gymnast ever (or within the last 20 years) on each event? Has there ever been a Canadian bars finalist at worlds or the Olympics?

I think when looking at the last 20 years, most of the “best” on each event have actually been within the current generation! I would go with Shallon Olsen on vault, Ana Padurariu and Ellie Black on beam with Peng Peng Lee also one of my favorite beam workers even though she never really had a major international breakthrough there (aside from Pac Rims in 2012), and probably both Victoria and Brooklyn Moors on floor, though Kate Richardson I think can also be considered for that as well. 

On bars…Brittany Rogers and and a 2015-2016 era Isabela Onyshko I think (and I’d probably also add Isabela to the best beam worker list), but honestly Ellie would also fit as a top bar worker, especially with the routines she’s been doing over the past few years, which is funny. No, she’s not the most aesthetically amazing bar worker, but she’s pretty clean and consistent on most skills, and she’s doing some of the more difficult bar work we’ve seen from Canada, which is why bars is consistently a 14+ apparatus for her at major international events. I think even though I wouldn’t consider her the absolute top on any event aside from beam, she is undoubtedly the best Canadian gymnast overall, probably of all time, and that’s thanks to being such a balanced all-arounder. And no, no Canadian gymnast has made a bars final at the Olympics or worlds. I think Ellie has gotten closest! She was 12th in 2017…I think Brittany is right behind her with 16th in 2015. I probably need to rewatch Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs’ bars and beam from the 2006 era because I’m sure she’d fit in on both…I’m just picturing her college-level routines right now.

Sunisa Lee posted on Instagram that she misses gymnastics. Someone asked if she was training and she said no. Why isn’t she training?

I’d guess she was taking a break at that specific moment in time due to pain or something? Her foot has been consistently bothering her since the summer and it’s why she hasn’t yet brought back vault and floor either at the Winter Cup or at the most recent camp.

Why do you think Aly Raisman did a punch layout out of her arabian double front when a punch front tuck would’ve had the same CV? Isn’t the layout harder?

She explained the reasoning behind this at one point, but I can’t find it now…it was back in 2012, I believe. You’re correct in that a tuck or layout out of the arabian double front are both worth the same in CV, and even though the layout is worth more as a skill itself, she wasn’t going to be counting a B skill in her routine anyway, so it was all about the CV. I believe Aly’s reasoning was that the layout was actually cleaner for her, because with the power she had punching out of the arabian, she was over-rotating the tuck? I’m like 85% sure that was her reasoning but I can’t remember it specifically and I can’t find the interview where she discussed it!

Do you know anything about Liang Chow’s career as a gymnast before becoming a coach? I’ve seen so much conflicting information. Some places say he was a bronze medalist at worlds, some say he was an Olympian, but he wasn’t on the roster in 1992 and he was too young in 1988 according to Wikipedia.

He never made it to the Olympics as a gymnast…he was shooting for 1992, but a back injury ended his career and he moved to the U.S. to coach at the University of Iowa after retiring. Before his injury, he made a couple of international teams, and won gold with the Chinese team at the Asian Games in 1990, but while his bio says he won bronze at 1989 worlds, he wasn’t on the team as far as I can tell…probably an alternate? He also won a bunch of medals at smaller international meets, and when I was watching the 1991 American Cup last year, there was a gymnast listed as “Ziao Liang” and I was like…wait, no, that’s CHOW! I think his last name in Chinese is actually Qiao, so I assume this was a typo on the broadcast, but it was unrecognizably him. Basically, he was a strong gymnast, but not one of the top guys in China, I assume because his entire career had been plagued by injuries.

Why do people talk about Shawn Johnson’s comeback like it was so fake while considering Nastia Liukin’s comeback more legit? Shawn started in 2011, added upgrades, and competed internationally at Pan Ams. Nastia didn’t start doing routines until a few weeks before nationals, right? 

I don’t think they consider one more “legit” than the other…I think it was pretty clear in the months leading up to London that neither would be going based on what we knew about both of them. I think in 2011 people were more excited about Shawn, and I remember people actually getting pissed about Nastia announcing her comeback at 2011 worlds just after the women had won the team gold. There were many people who wanted Shawn on the worlds team in 2011, especially after Alicia got injured…she was the non-traveling alternate, and there was a lot of talk about wanting Martha Karolyi to fly her in for vault and beam since Anna Li – who was named the alternate in Tokyo – couldn’t have replaced Alicia on her events. I think based on how she looked in 2011, she was an incredibly exciting prospect if she could keep improving at that level, but the issue people had was that in 2012, she kept stringing people along as if she was seriously training for London, only to eventually admit that she had a knee injury and was ending her comeback. I think she kept up appearances for sponsors who were still interested in seeing if she could be in the mix for the team, but despite not actually training for months, she waited until June of 2012 to retire, so people talked about that months-long period where she wasn’t actually training as being “fake.” With Nastia, who started her comeback much later but went to camps in the spring of 2012 and made her first appearance back at classics, it was clear she was on the right track and would be in the mix for London. I think in 2011, the talk was that Shawn was looking on track while Nastia was “faking” it for the media, but then in 2012, it flip-flopped, with Shawn now the “faker” and Nastia seemingly in a solid place for contention.

I saw Laney Madsen is training without a coach. Do you think she can make it to the next Olympics or worlds without one?

I think she has a coach…last I could tell, she was at Team OC Gymnastics in Costa Mesa. Maybe a lot of her time is spent working out alone or not on a team in the way she would have been at Gym Max or WCC, but there’s probably still someone there supervising her…I feel like I’ve seen her mom at a meet with her before too? That said, it IS possible to train solo with just guidance from a coach…that’s how Houry Gebeshian trained for Rio! IIRC, she had someone she was in communication with in terms of her routines and training plan, but she was mostly in the gym on her own, essentially coaching herself through it. Of course at that point she had done NCAA and knew the ropes, and since Laney’s a little newer to the sport in comparison, a coach would make things easier…but I’m sure even if she’s not always one-on-one with someone in the gym, she likely has SOME guidance, especially in terms of training plans and goals leading up to her next competitions.

Which do you think will be the toughest team to get on for the Olympics, and where do you think we’ll see surprises?

The U.S., Russian, and Chinese programs all look like they have a tremendous amount of depth right now, which was expected for the U.S., but Russia and China have really stepped it up this quad, and opening up this quad’s Games to 2005-born gymnasts makes it even more difficult for both. The same can be said for any country sending a team in terms of the Games getting extended a year to add to the depth, but I think all three of these particular countries could each send two teams of four and still have a few super talented gymnasts left over. I think Italy is especially deep right now in terms of the smaller programs, and they’re going to end up leaving several talented people behind.

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

74 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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

  2. What is the program with Laney in general – why did she switch gyms twice in one year? I thought she had gone to WCC because COVID was so bad in Cali that she couldn’t train there, but the fact that she didn’t return to Gym-Max when she went back home seems to suggest that it was something else? (Sorry if this also came in as a question submission, I tried it there and the form acted like it had frozen)


      • I’ve been on this site like, twice in the past week because I work 16 hours a day at my real job during the week, chill. It’s 2:15 am and I just finished work, having started 17 hours ago at 9 am. I replied to a couple of comments when I got notifications in my email, yours didn’t come through my email and isn’t the only one I missed. I just opened the comments page on my browser and had a ton of notifications.

        To answer your question, I don’t know why Laney switched gyms – she never said and I’m not her so I can’t speak for her. Originally people thought she was going to WCC because COVID was bad in CA and most gyms were closed for a significant amount of time. Then things got bad in Texas, so I was like okay, I guess that didn’t work, and I assumed she went back to Gym Max. I was surprised to see that she had gone somewhere else entirely, but assumed it probably had to do with where she lived and not being able to travel back and forth constantly…but Gym Max is pretty close to her new gym so I honestly have no idea. Maybe she had problems with the coaching at Gym Max? Maybe they had a problem with her not being 100% focused on gym since she is also simultaneously doing cheer? I know her mom (and dad too maybe? idk) also coaches so maybe she just wanted to work with her directly?


        • I mean, you had answered or added to the thread of several comments which came in after mine, and at least on my end, replying to the email on the site takes you to the webpage, where one can see all the comments which have been made, not just the comment one is responding to, but ok


        • Those were all comments that I received in my email, which I replied to via my email. I didn’t receive email notifications for you or for a comment from EchoGirl (also posted on March 23) in my email so I didn’t know they existed until I checked my notifications on the site just now for the first time since I was last physically on this site when I posted the article. I also missed comments from scorpiodancer and Sherpa on March 24, but replied to one right after their string, because again – I got an email notification for it but not theirs. If you were literally the only person I “ignored” then maybe take it personally but you weren’t.

          I tend not to even let myself login to the website on busy workdays (or weeks in this case) because I know I will get caught up in comments/other website stuff rather than focus on my actual work. That’s why I also haven’t posted about 1000 results that still need to go up, why I planned on doing an Around the Gymternet this week but then had to scrap it because I didn’t have the time, why I haven’t put up anything about Euros nominative rosters, and why I haven’t checked comment notifications. I don’t know why WordPress is selective with the notifications I get, or if they’re just going through a spam filter, but when I do get email notifications, I reply to them instantly because otherwise I’d forget. Had I been notified of yours in my email, I would have responded. I wasn’t. I can promise you I wasn’t scrolling the comments on this post and evilly laughing while selectively ignoring one anon comment for literally no reason.


        • Hi Lauren! I was wondering if you were gonna write the third book to your series? IM OBSESSED WITH IT and I NEED to know if Amalia won an olympic medal haha


        • Wow. Not only is this anon a comprehensive asshole with an entitlement problem, they’re also apparently a budding sociopath without a conscience! What a shitty, disappointing, garbage bin of a person.


        • lol literally no one asked for either of you to butt in with an opinion but ok. i had asked a direct question, while the other comment lauren hadn’t responded to had just made a general remark about something in the article. sometimes lauren knows more about what’s going on behind the scenes than the general public and I was hoping she might have a clue what was up there; when she didn’t respond while several other comments did get replies – yeah I read it as a really passive-aggressive way of saying that she didn’t care and wasn’t going to dignify me with an answer, so I made a passive-aggressive comment back.
          Apparently I misread the situation, and I am sorry for that, but how the hell was I supposed to know that WP hides notifications from her and apparently lets her answer comments directly from the notification email, without having to visit the webpage to reply like anyone else subscribed to the comments has to do?

          Anyway, “Shamrockstar81” and “Rosie” – you’ve had your fun; you’ve mocked me in front of god knows how many people read these comments for asking a reasonable question and then wondering why it wasn’t answered; I hope it made you feel better about yourself but it’s time to butt out. It’s nice that you think it’s your job to tell other people how to act but this is really none of your business and no one asked for your input. So again, fuck off. 🙃


  3. In regards to the flexed feet on double pikes one that stands out for having pointed toes always on her double pikes is Shawn Johnson circa 2007-2008.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes!!! Deanne is the one who just happens to stick out most to me, but Shawn is definitely someone I’ve noticed in the past. Whenever I see it happen before my eyes in a competition I always shout it out in the live blog because it’s one of those things that’s little but important.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Yes!! I think her double pike was what I noticed in real time, but when I went back to watch the video while responding to this question, I noticed her full-in and was like YESSSS. I think Deanne is probably one of THE best technical gymnasts the U.S. has ever seen. It’s too bad technique doesn’t automatically translate to being able to pull off the biggest elite-level difficulty, but I thought at least she’d get to be a major standout in college. SO SAD.


  4. I also recall that Aly was training a double arabian pike + punch front tuck. There is a video of her training it somewhere but can’t remember if she ever tried it. Would make sense switching to the layout if she was playing around with the tuck.


    • Yeah, I remember seeing her do that at training in the 2016 quad, maybe at a classics? I was thinking the same thing, since I believe punch front tucks out of two passes would fall under a routine composition deduction so planning one into a layout and one into a tuck would have made sense!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lauren, why do you think Kim Zmeskal has remained quiet on the issue with TD? Has she reached out to her ex gymnasts privately?


    • I don’t know if she has reached out to anyone…I would hope so! I feel like since she’s “only” facing allegations and wasn’t actually facing a SafeSport investigation or anything, perhaps she feels it isn’t something that needs a public response or defense? Seeing her at Winter Cup was like nothing had happened, she was her usual (public) self. I would imagine/hope she’s talked to her current gymnasts and that they’ve made changes so any current gymnasts would be able to voice how they feel in the gym. I would also hope that if one of her former gymnasts reached out to try to get some closure, she’d listen to them and apologize.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting. I remember someone asking Betty Okino KZB BFF on instagram when it first came out, what her thoughts were?? Betty said something like ” I have a lot of thoughts, but nothing I want to publicly share.” She is still bff with Kim, so who knows.


        • I feel like if she didn’t want to share, it probably was something in defense of KZB and she maybe thought she’d be ~canceled~ or something if she spoke up about how wonderful she is?

          I will say that I do think (well, optimistically hope) KZB has changed, just based on the more recent gymnasts who have defended her…it seems like everyone who was with her post-2017 who has spoken out hasn’t had any issue, and the majority of the complaints about her have been pre-2015, so…I guess a lot can happen in 6 years and my HOPE is that her most recent generation of gymnasts did get a vastly different experience than her OG kids got. But who knows…in another 5 years I wouldn’t be surprised to hear gymnasts like Ragan and Bailie suddenly switch sides, because when you’re still so close to a person/situation, it can be hard to understand what you went through wasn’t right. I STILL make excuses for people who harmed me as a young teenager and that was almost 20 years ago. But for everyone’s benefit I really do hope she has changed and the experiences Ragan and Bailie currently say they had at TD turn out to be what everyone has experienced since. When I was talking to Ashton, who was one of the gymnasts to come forward about how she was treated, she actually said she doesn’t want to see Kim lose her job or anything like that, but just wants to make sure she’s aware of how her behavior affected her gymnasts so she would change her methods as a coach, which I thought was great. I also would rather see coaches change and become better coaches/humans than “cancel” them, because if they can learn from past behavior and become better, then they can use their experiences to help others change as well? It seems like some coaches will NEVER change regardless of what they’ve learned (MLT ahem) but I think a lot of the younger coaches still have time to turn things around and I hope that many are legitimately trying. What Kim did was abysmal, but if she can (a) apologize to those she hurt, and (b) make a promise to be better and then actually act on that, I’d be all for giving her a second chance.

          So maybe Betty has seen those changes in Kim and wanted to talk about how she has become better? Obviously Sydney just left her gym which doesn’t bode well for her reputation among gym fans, most of whom still want her investigated, and maybe she is still “selectively abusive” in that she treats her “stars” well but is garbage to everyone else? I just hope for the best, honestly…since she still has kids under her wing, I just want her to have changed so that they’re not going through anything awful.


  6. With the 2020 question, I feel like the biggest difference would have been that if it was Madison and Ashton competing for a non-nominative spot, Madison potentially being able to fill in on any event could have been less of an issue since she wouldn’t be contributing in team qualifications anyway. Then again, Marta might have still wanted that flexibility so that if someone got hurt, she could potentially bump up the non-nominative athlete to the team and let the injured person stay as an individual rather than have to bring in an outside alternate (which I know was a thing of hers).


    • Yeah, I think it could have been a lot closer between them had they been going for a non-team spot, but I agree that knowing Martha, she still probably would have looked at the overall picture and thought, okay, but what if Gabby gets injured, we wouldn’t want to swap MyKayla in her place (assuming MyKayla had the other non-team spot), so let’s do Madison instead, because she can handle all four in qualifications AND still bring a great TF bars score? Whereas had Gabby gotten injured and they swapped MyKayla in, they would have needed to use Aly on bars most likely, and had Ashton been the other non-team gymnast, they wouldn’t have been able to use her on anything but bars and beam in QFs which could have been risky. Martha definitely would have been thinking about that, for sure!


    • Yeah, just Emma for elite right now, though she had a bunch of kids at an elite qualifier a couple months ago (none made it). I’d guess she’s working with L10s as well? I know when they had a ton of elites, they had a sort of blended L10/elite group for the top L10s, and the weaker L10s worked out with the L9s in a JO-only group not coached by KZB. But now that there are really no elites, she probably has a lot more L10 kids in her group.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. In terms of difficult teams to get on, I would say the British team is tough too. I just saw the European roster with both Gadirovas, Amelie and Fragapane and thought I would have loved to have seen Ondine Achampong there instead of Frags. But that of course doesn’t count the Downie sisters, Alice Kinsella or Georgia Mae Fenton. As the British team doesn’t have an extra non nominative spot yet (or will?), it’s a tough call for team. I totally agree about the Italians too. I just want Ferrari there so much. I will be devastated for her if she misses out due to the world cup saga.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Only 4 on a team is tough. I love Becky but I think it is too risky to put her on the team. If GB earn an extra spot at Europeans than Becky should have it. The team of 4 is a tough selection to make as there are a few at very similar standards. I just hope it is a fair selection. I don’t understand why Claudia (does she even do 4 piece anymore) is constantly selected, Ondine is definitely the better choice and should be given the experience. My OG team, Ellie, Jennifer, Amelia, Ondine with Alice/ Jessica/ Georgia Mae as reserves


      • Before anyone wonders why i put Alice as a reserve, it’s simply because l don’t believe she is as strong as the others. Last few years for GB have been relatively weak, 3 of my team are born in 2004 so little chance to compete before lockdown. I believe Alice had reached her potential where others may have been able to make more improvements. That said not seen anyone train since Covid so who knows


      • Totally agree with everything you’ve said. It’s a shame for Becky but she is too risky. Although I feel conflicted because I would love her to get the opportunity to do UB final as I think ahe has a shot at a medal. To be fair it’s probably a better chance than the tea getting a medal. So perhaps on reflection, she should get a spot. A perfect compromise would be GB getting an extra spot.


    • Yeah, the Brits are looking pretty deep! I think I have more of a clear picture in my head of who I’d send, compared to the Italians where I’m like, maybe two are safe, but the other two are throwing me way off right now. I THOUGHT I had a clear picture of the Italians since they seemed hell bent on sending the “Brixia 4” but things have changed and now I’m like okay, there are legitimately like, eight gymnasts I’d take at this point. Similarly, my “clear picture” for the Brits is based on what we last saw from them in 2019 so obviously things have likely changed with them as well! Like based on 2019 I wouldn’t even consider Frags for a spot, but a lot can happen in 18+ months, so the team I have in my head could end up being TOTALLY off.


      • I think a lot of people are expecting Jennifer to nab a +1. I hope she doesn’t feel too much under pressure. My money is on Amelie being able to remain consistent for the highest Brit finish, but we’ll see. Glad to see them having some depth. 2018 was a bit of a low point for the programme with so many injured (although I think it did give some of the other gymnasts a chance to shine and be in major teams)


  8. Aliya could literally stand waving her arms for 1.5min straight and she would still look more artistic than Alexandra.

    That said, while I agree that during her last couple years her floor routines were dull, you can’t take anything away from her routines in 2013 and 2014, and doing so makes you a hater.


      • Lauren literally never said that. It only takes a second to see Aliya has an elegance and grace that many just dont have, her posture, shoulder line was to die for… and she had beautiful gymnastics hands! The way she carried herself!

        However, someone with less grace etc, could actually have a better actual put together floor routine, better choreography, showmanship. BUT Better dance lines, elegance, grace etc etc? NO! Just because you have those things doesnt mean the choreography etc lives up to it. I can see what Lauren meant about Aly and her routine. I get it. It worked for her. Sometimes knowing your limits, helps you find exactly what works.

        It’s like singers who have amaziiinngg voices, who always rely on belting in each song, sometimes producing monotonous songs, and the other girl who doesnt have the amazzziinng voice actually makes the better record, song etc. Not better singer, NO, not better vocals, NO, but better song in that instance. Aly’s routine in 2012 was perfect for her. She new what she was lacking and tried to make up for it. She was never my favorite gymnast at all, but you can tell she worked for it. Aliya on the other hand, if she just gave a bit more my god, some of her routines when they worked, they really worked!

        Liked by 1 person

        • The singing bit is a great analogy! Coming from the theater world, I also think of floor performers the way I think about actors, where it’s like, some are phoning it in, some are over-performing, but then a few are just gifted in how they express themselves because they have a lot of range and emotional depth to their performances. They can be more subtle, but still create an immense impact. I think Aliya had it in her to be one of those gifted floor workers who could do so much without over-selling a routine, but I think the material she was given was just never something that worked for her. I don’t think a single person would deny Aliya’s elegance, carriage, poise, etc…which is why it was even more shocking that she had some of the routines she was given. I feel like sometimes her walk out onto the floor was more of a performance than her actual routines!


  9. I hate how people are so quick to jump on Lauren for the smallest detail that they think is wrong even when it isn’t! The amount I have learned from this blog over the years is invaluable and I appreciate everything you do. It takes guts to put your knowledge to the test everyday and you succeed everytime.


    • Thank you so much! I appreciate it. There are always going to be things I don’t know off-hand and have to research before answering, and there will always be times where I don’t include every single example of something that has happened (e.g. whenever someone says “has anyone ever done this skill” and I bring up a couple of recent examples or the first one to compete it, I always get people saying “you missed this person, this person, this person…”) but I put a lot of work into these making sure I can bring some knowledge to the table, whether it’s knowledge I already have, or something I have to look into. I love doing it and actually increase my own knowledge of the sport in the process, especially going back to older eras I didn’t get to witness firsthand!


  10. I feel like Shawn Johnson at least partly kept up the facade of still being an active gymnast in the mix long past the point where it was remotely possible because she had a book come out? I recall side eyeing that whole situation HARD. I have no hate for Shawn, I just thought it was all for marketing and it annoyed me for that reason.


    • Johnson was the non-traveling alternate for the World Team in 2011 and had she been able to do FX (knee), she might have even been an actual member of the team.
      She could have been in the running for London if she was able to compete at top form.
      Ultimately her injured knee she sustained from skiing in 2010 is what hindered her from a 100% full comeback.
      The fact she was a World team alternate and went to Pan Ams and came home with two medals is not something you would label “facade of still being an active gymnast”.


      • The façade was throughout the 2012 season, when she kept doing interviews about going to Nationals / Trials when in fact per Gabby she had not been in the gym in months. No doubt that was for the PR and sponsors. 2011 she seemed legit and on the right track. Though the way she has recently talked about how unhealthy she was at the time (taking adderall for weight loss, etc.) and how messed up she was psychologically, I’m glad she quit when she did.


        • No.
          Johnson was still planning on Nationals and Olympic Trials and was hoping to be a specialist on UB/BB, but rehab went too long and it became apparent that it was not going to happen.
          Agreed that it was too much pressure and too short a window to come back in time and glad she did quit instead of pushing through and further injuring herself or doing further emotional damage.


        • lol I can’t imagine Shaw Johnson as an UB specialist. No hate, just the fact that bars were always her worst event


      • It wasn’t a facade per say, but her recollection of events, and they way she shifted her narrative about it years later, was suspect. Oh I was in the running to be on that 2012 team but I didnt want to take a spot from a girl? lmao sure sis. Shawn Johnson lies videos on youtube are funny as hell.

        And SJ as bar specialist? lol bye! A delusional stan is in our midst. God love ya.


        • I actually can’t stand Shawn Johnson. But she as capable of a 14.500 plus score on UB in 2011.
          Considering they put up Sabrina Vega who was scoring 14.3 at Worlds that year it is completely feasible that Johnson could specialize on UB and BB and be usable. Would she have a 7.0 SV on UB? No.
          But she also competed on UB in Team Finals in both 2007 and 2008 demonstrates she was counted on for an UB score for the team.
          It wouldn’t have really mattered and I don’t see the London team changing one bit. But it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that she could contribute to USA on UB and BB. At that point her VT didn’t make a difference and there was likely no way FX would have been doable with the knee and all.


        • Yeah, I can’t figure out if she genuinely doesn’t remember correctly, which would be weird, or she exaggerates. Like she has said multiple times that she was on track to make the 2012 team, to the point of saying she WOULD have been on the team had she not quit due to her health. Obviously this is completely false. She also talks about making the worlds team in 2011, which again she was the 3rd alternate, so no, Unless she confused Pan Ams with Worlds. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


  11. I totally disagree about Aly’s floor not being artistic. As someone with 17 years of dance experience, part of the reason I loved watching Aly was that she has some of the best movement quality compared to other elite gymnasts, meaning that her movements look smooth/intentional/just pleasant to watch. I totally get that she didn’t have the most dynamic facial expressions, but to me that’s secondary to whether the way her body is moving actually looks good. The superiority of her movement quality is especially clear when you compare her to McCallum or DiCello – who are the gymnasts this quad most often compared to her – who I think look like their limbs are just flopping around with no control or artistic quality of movement (and clearly little to no dance training).


    • I mean, you can have all the movement quality in the world (which I would argue Aly really didn’t have especially in her first senior quad), if you are not on the beat of the music in half your performances they’re still going to be painful to watch. I don’t think most of Aliya’s routines were anything special artistically, but I’d definitely put her ahead of Aly


    • I don’t think Aly was BAD per se, and find that she’s much more preferable than a lot of other gymnasts from the U.S. (and around the world!) but I still just didn’t find her movement quality all that great, at least not in the 2012 quad…she definitely improved as she got older and I found her 2016 routine to be MUCH better, so maybe she learned something at DWTS? But her 2012 routine always just felt a bit stiff/off to me…and the parts that I did enjoy I think had more to do with the choreography and how it went with the music, which wasn’t so much HER…I guess she was on the beat for the most part, and regardless, she was still absolutely the gymnast I wanted to see win gold on floor in 2012, but I think compared to a lot of other top floor performers who had more connection in their movement and who could really perform their pieces, I think she was a little bit behind.


      • Re. being on beat, Aly may have gotten her shit together literally *for the Olympics* in 2012, but as recently as Nationals she had still been a disaster in that department – see the choreography sequence at ~0:30 where she did not wait for the cue and winds up a beat ahead for the whole thing


        • (this was partially the routine composition making it such a consistent error – the break between the tumbling pass and the point where the choreo picks back up was far too long – but also like… girl. how hard is it to wait until you hear WHUMP, WHUMP, WHUMP-WHUMP-WHUMP-WHUMP loud enough to wake the dead before you start moving again?)


        • My guess is, it was probably kind of a double bind because she doesn’t want to start the choreo early, but she also doesn’t want to be just standing there because that’s a potential deduction, and not everyone can improvise on the spot. What they really should have done is put in some optional choreo that she could drop if the pass finished late, but that’s primarily on the choreographers.


  12. Hi Lauren,

    Do you know why Maxi Gnauck was not part of the East German team for 1985 Worlds? I am just asking because she competed at the 1985 Europeans held in Helsinki from May 11 to May 12, and there she became the AA silver medalist and the UB champion. And despite her being a superstar with the consequent high expectations, no one could consider those results mediocre by any means. That is why I wonder what happened between May and November (worlds started on November 10, 1985). I guess she was injured, maybe. I hope you have more info about why she wasn’t there. Thank you for your help!


  13. Hi Lauren!

    I was wondering why do you think Yelena Piskun is kind of underrated among the gymnastic community. I mean, I know she is twice a world champion, but is surprising the little love she receives considering she had not the backing of a strong team supporting her and the fact that she competed in an ubercompetitive era of gymnastics. I know she had some form issues, but her skills were so much ahead of her time and she was truly and all arounder.

    I am adding a second question related to Piskun, if you don’t mind:
    Being her peak in the 93-96 period (worlds: 1993VT Gold, 1996UB Gold; euros: 1994VT Silver, 1996BB Bronze), what do you think is the reason she underperformed at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games?

    Thank you very much for your time Lauren 😉


    • Yeah, I was thinking that it is, but wasn’t 100% sure…in which case I don’t think she was missing anything in her routine, at least not in the routine I saw!


      • I’m thinking maybe she missed a connection once or something and THAT routine ended up not being out of a 10 due to lost difficulty, rather than that her routine as designed was below a 10.


        • Yeah, that would make sense…also, this is all based on the Georgia student newspaper claiming that she didn’t compete a routine out of a 10, but like…it’s highly possible that it came up in an interview at some point that maybe one specific set wasn’t out of a 10, not that she couldn’t do skills to build up to a 10 and therefore had to do a lower-difficulty routine.


    • The person I know now at TD who praises it is a level 10 but there, it doesn’t matter what level they are…all of the experiences are pretty personal. I know of lots of L10s who hated it and lots of elites who praise it, and vice versa. I think that’s going to be the case with most gyms because most human experiences are going to be wildly different.


  14. Hey. I dont know much about this sport. The maneuvers are crazy. Would you say the athletes are conscience during those maneuvers or its instinctual?


    • Very much conscious. From her earliest days of gymnastics a gymnast will learn to do what is called spotting, where she catches sight of her landing spot or another steady point while performing the skill in order to help her ensure that she knows where she is in the air. This is actually the exact problem Simone is currently having – she’s experiencing what’s called the “twisties”, where you have trouble with your spotting and proprioception and wind up doing too many twists in all your skills.


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