You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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Nia Dennis

It’s time for the 336th 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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What makes for good NCAA floor choreography/dance elements? What exactly brings UCLA’s floor to the next level?

It’s all about crowd engagement. Some gymnasts are really good at getting a crowd engaged through their expression alone, so that level of performance ability plus really entertaining choreography is always a hit, especially if the choreo is a bit gimmicky sometimes. I feel like many of the UCLA routines rely on gimmicks (the over-the-top themes, certain gestures that prompt crowds to do it with them, well-known music that almost everyone watching would know, cultural references, etc) and that’s why they go viral.

I think if Brooklyn Moors or Lieke Wevers did their elite routines at the NCAA level, they would be great examples of incredibly talented and engaging performers, but that wouldn’t be enough to get national attention the way UCLA routines (and others like Llominincia Hall and to a less-viral but still heavily discussed in the gymnastics community extent, Shannon Evans with her Mario music and flossing) have done in the past. Being a good, engaging performer isn’t quite enough if you don’t also have the bouncy well-known music and/or the more gimmicky choreography. I don’t think Evans’ Mario routine was necessarily “great” in terms of a lot of the choreography, for example, but it was entertaining, engaging, and memorable because of the gimmicky little moments it had and because she performed it so well. That made it a “great routine” in terms of it being next-level, and that’s why I’ve watched it roughly a million times and show it to everyone.

I call some of these viral routines the Toddlers & Tiaras routines, because it does become kind of more pageant-y and showy than what I would normally enjoy, but regardless of what I like stylistically or what I consider to be artistic, routines like these still make me turn my head and watch them over and over. Like, I don’t think “Don’t Stop Believin” or “Uptown Funk” are great songs in many ways, but I still love them and will turn the volume up when they’re on because they’re catchy and fun, and that’s what the viral floor routines have going for them as well.

MyKayla Skinner posted a video where she says she can’t do a double layout. Why is she competing a Moors if the double layout is hard for her? Is it even worth her to compete the Moors given the potential for downgrade?

MyKayla was hoping to compete a double layout at one point, but after discovering in 2012 that she had a stress fracture in her back, her doctor told her and her coaches to protect her back as much as possible so she could stay in the sport, meaning they had to look for tumbling that worked for her now in this situation. 

MyKayla felt the most pain when arching in skills, so she found that the double layout – which arches in flight – was really painful for her compared to other skills. She and her coaches soon discovered that if she twisted in a double layout, she could keep her back straight and not arch, so they started experimenting with twists. They were originally going for a double full-in, pike back-out, which is what Alexis Brion did, but the way MyKayla twisted throughout the skill looked more like a double double layout, which is how coaches and judges credited it at camps and meets, so they went that way instead.

I think it’s worth noting that while it always had a bit of incorrect form in the air, it was never enough to be downgraded, so she’d get deductions but would still get full D credit. Going into Tokyo, MyKayla and her coaches were hoping to put the tucked triple double in as her first pass so she could replace the Moors, because that would save her some execution deductions and still give her even more difficulty, but with her setbacks early in the season, they just didn’t have the time to get it ready safely.

Still, they obviously still needed her to have enough difficulty to remain competitive, so the Moors stayed. Again, even though she doesn’t fully extend and has some bends in her hips and knees, the angles are not enough to downgrade, and while she does get deductions, she’s not actually at risk of it being called a pike or tuck by judges. It was still absolutely worth being in the routine, especially since she can’t physically do some of the other higher-difficulty tumbling skills due to her back. 

Anyway, there’s a reason gymnasts do what they do, and compete the skills they compete, even if said skills are not perfect. I’m sure she’d love to be competing a skill where she didn’t have to take as many deductions, but there are only so many H+ skills in the code, and this and the Silivas are the only two that work for her. It’s a compromise to choose to do a skill like that knowing it won’t be perfect but knowing you’ll get more in difficulty than you’ll lose in execution. Ultimately, it helps her more than it hurts her, both in terms of her score and in terms of her being physically capable of doing it without pain. 

The pros outweigh the cons, essentially, and this is hardly just a MyKayla thing – I would say the vast majority of gymnasts are taking a gamble by including skills that aren’t perfect because they add value in other ways, and quite often gymnasts will compete more difficult skills because they are easier for them than skills the code says are easier.

I don’t understand how the scoring system worked before 2006. Was the baseline an 8.0 and your difficulty then added up to a 10? How did that work?

Kind of. It depends on the code, because each of them were a little different and the closer we got to the open-ended code, the more of a focus there was on combining difficulty and execution while the earlier codes didn’t really take difficulty into account at all. I feel like the earliest codes were barely codes at all and that judging was so much more like, “this was my favorite so I’m giving it a 10!” regardless of what was competed or how skills looked, hahaha.

I’ll focus on the 2001 code, which had an A-score (the start value) and a B-score (deductions for execution, composition, and artistry), so it’s similar to the D and E scores we know today. The A-score was comprised of Value Parts (the structure of the exercise, worth 2.6 points), Special Requirements (worth 1.2 points), and the additive value (skills rated D, E, and “super E” as well as connections, worth 1.2 points), which would equal 5 points if everything was met, and then the B-score added the other 5 points from which to deduct. Assuming all value parts and special apparatus requirements are met, the base value of a routine would be an 8.8, and then gymnasts could earn up to 1.2 additional points to reach a 10.0 start value.

Here’s an example for how this works:

Base value: 8.8

– Missing Value Parts: -0.0 (full credit for completing all)

– Missing Special Requirements: -0.2 (missed one requirement)

– Additive Value: +0.6 (in extra difficulty and connections)

Total A-Score: 9.2

From there, they’d obviously deduct for execution and artistry vaults, but even if they were given a perfect B-score, the highest score they could reach would be a 9.2.

If you wanted a little more info, in the 2001 code, the required value parts to reach that 2.6 total included two A skills (0.2 points), three B skills (0.9 points), and three C skills (1.5 points). There were then six special requirements for each apparatus, each worth 0.2, so if a gymnast met all six she’d get the full 1.2, but if she was missing one, it would only be 1.0, and so on.

As far as the extra difficulty and connections, the D skills were worth 0.1, E were worth 0.2, and “super E” were worth 0.3, while connections were worth either 0.1 or 0.2. In order to receive credit, the difficulty and connections had to be performed without a large error (-0.3 deduction).

This is all related to bars, beam, and floor, by the way. Vaults were rated based on difficulty similar to how it works now, so a gymnast doing a simpler Yurchenko back tuck would have an 8.9 base in the 2001 code, while a Yurchenko double full would be worth a 9.8 and an Amanar got the full 10.0 start value.

What’s with NBC ‘updating’ their coverage with a younger female commentator, but not doing the same with their male commentator? It feels sexist to oust Elfi Schlegel but not do the same with Tim Daggett. Surely there are qualified American MAG competitors who have competed more recently than Tim and can learn to commentate?

I wish I could tell you…I actually don’t dislike Tim, especially knowing that he’s purposely dumbing things down and dramatizing things for his NBC commentary. He’s actually really qualified and when you hear him talk about the sport outside of NBC it’s amazing, so I don’t know why we can’t have him at his best on the network. I do agree that getting a “refresh” for Elfi but not for Tim is pretty sexist, though, especially because the reasoning was literally that they wanted to refresh and get a younger commentator, not anything necessarily that she did. 

Steve ‘The Mustache’ Nunno – what’s the deal with this guy? Did he ever coach anyone of note other than Shannon Miller? I LOVED your 12 days of live blogs and I had no idea he pulled Shannon out of the team competition at worlds in 1994. I can’t imagine anyone letting the U.S. down in that way. Have you learned anything else about this since you blogged about it? Did his hand ever get slapped or was everyone too scared of The Mustache?

He continued to coach at the club level until around 2000 and then he was the WAG head coach at Oklahoma before focusing more on the business side of sports. His family moved to Florida in 2011 and he eventually purchased four gyms, but he was mostly just managing them on the business end and wasn’t actively coaching until Emily Gaskins contacted him in 2015 and asked if he’d coach her. He coached her for a year before Emily went back to Cincinnati, but that was literally it in terms of elites post-Shannon.

I’m glad you loved the 12 days of live blogs! It was fun watching meets I’d either never seen before or was too young to fully enjoy when I did. I also had NO idea about him pulling Shannon from the 1994 competition, and I definitely read as many articles as I could find at the time, because I was so shocked. From what I remember, he didn’t want her to compete at the team worlds at all because she had already done individual worlds in addition to other meets that season, and with three days of competition at team worlds (compulsories, optional prelims, and the final), he didn’t think she’d make it through and didn’t want people to attack her if she messed up. I think the original plan was to just have Shannon for compulsories, but then USAG tried to get her to do more, and Steve was like “NOPE.”

I guess the wildest thing about it wasn’t that he pulled her from the competition – especially if he was saying from the beginning that she shouldn’t compete and USAG kind of pressured her into it – but leaving the country was super dramatic. I feel like it wouldn’t have been such a thing if she they stayed and she just sat it out and watched or helped along on the side or something. I’m sure USAG was pissed but I’m not sure if he was officially punished or anything…but I doubt it?

Do you think it would be possible to catch a shaposh type of element in reverse grip (so, if the gymnast had a sufficient swing, it could be connected directly to a Jaeger)? I’d imagine it would be tough to get enough height on the Jaeger but wondering if the grip required is even physically possible!

It’s possible to catch a shaposh in reverse grip (and I’ve known some gymnasts who have done this in training and find it easier than catching in regular grip!) but you’re right that the momentum out if it likely wouldn’t be enough to get a Jaeger or a forward uprise to pirouette or something…a Jaeger could be physically possible, but I feel like the amplitude of the release would be super low/basically horizontal which wouldn’t be worth it with the deductions. Since shaposh elements have to be connected in the current code, it wouldn’t make sense to do it this way as connecting out of it wouldn’t be realistic (unless the gymnast does like, a hop switch back to regular grip after the uprise into a Gienger, Tkachev, or pirouette or something).

What’s the logic behind getting rid of the touch warmup in event finals? Why on earth wouldn’t they allow the gymnasts to be as comfortable on the apparatus as possible? Is it purely for aesthetic/viewership? Like we wouldn’t want to see them be less than perfect?

I got this question before the FIG decided post-Tokyo to bring the touch warmup back due to the number of mishaps in event finals at the Olympics, so I’m first going to say that I’m thrilled that they’re back and that the FIG finally made the right decision in turning this around.

The official reasoning for them going away is that it made broadcasting the competitions difficult because it added “too much time” between events. During Tokyo, we sat in the arena for a half hour at times for the medal ceremonies between events, but they couldn’t spare four minutes per event for warmups and athlete safety or broadcasters would be upset?! PLEASE. I don’t understand why the international governing body for a sport would prioritize broadcasts over the safety of athletes…oh wait, I do. Money.

Did Irina Alexeeva ever share any of the differences between training in the U.S. and Russia from her perspective?

I actually asked her about this at worlds in 2018 but unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time to get into it (and I’m not really remembering what she said now three years later!). Okay, I actually just found my interview with her (I completely forgot I had filmed it), and she said: “It’s hard to say, some approaches are different, we’re all together all the time and in the U.S we mostly train at home but we’re pretty much at Round Lake all the time…it’s a pretty different environment.”

Why is there no team competition the year after the Olympics?

It’s basically a time to give programs a way to go on hiatus or refresh since many of the Olympians as well as gymnasts who attempted to make the Olympic team want to either retire or take breaks, so most countries aren’t able to put full teams together and I don’t think we’d see very many complete teams in the competition in a year immediately following the Olympics. I think it’s also cool that we get to see some athletes who wouldn’t really fit a team scenario because they’re more specialists, so it gives them more of a chance to shine, and it’s also a great time for smaller programs to get their athletes into finals, which I love.

Do volunteer assistant coaches in the NCAA really not get paid? BJ Das said the role is a bad business decision. They give up a lot of time to train and travel, I expected some compensation.

Correct, as “volunteer” applies, the role is a volunteer role, not a paid role. It’s kind of like an unpaid internship where you’re not making money, but you’re gaining experience that gives you the skills to get a paid job in the future. I’m not saying this is right (either in terms of internships or volunteer positions), and think it’s crazy that companies and universities that bring in millions and millions of dollars a year can’t throw a stipend at an intern or volunteer, but unfortunately that’s how it works right now and if someone is really serious about a certain career path, it becomes worth it for them to take volunteer roles.

It’s definitely a “bad business decision” if you don’t have other financial means…I couldn’t intern when I was in college because I was in school from 9-2 every day and then had to work an actual job that paid me enough money to survive from 3-9, but all of my friends who did internships had their parents paying their rent and bills, so they didn’t have to work and the lack of payment wasn’t even something they had to consider. I’d imagine most of those who are able to take on volunteer roles for NCAA programs have to be in a similar financial position, OR they are just so thrilled to get any kind of role with a program that they make it work by doing a couple of part time jobs on the side. If I really wanted to be in a certain industry that would have required an internship, I probably could’ve taken out additional student loan money or something for a semester so I could intern instead of work, or I could have tried to save money from my job to take a semester off from working, but there was no internship I wanted badly enough to make those sacrifices…though a volunteer role at an NCAA program is an incredible way to build your career and network at the highest of levels, so I could see why these sacrifices would be so worth it for many people who choose to take on volunteer roles. Again, I wish it could be different and that internships would pay actual money to human beings doing real work, but that’s capitalism, babe.

Also, there are some volunteers in NCAA programs who do it just for fun and because they want to be around a program without taking on the responsibility of a full-time job. I think people get upset about Courtney McCool Griffeth always getting volunteer roles while her husband gets coaching jobs, but I think I remember her saying (or someone else saying about her?) that with kids and other stuff going on, this gives her the opportunity to stay involved in gymnastics and work with her husband but not be fully consumed by it.

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

14 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. I feel like I saw a video somewhere of someone training a Maloney to Jaeger, although I think it was just out of a regular grip. (Maybe the grip is less important if it’s out of a shaposh instead of having to actually circle most of the way around the bar? IDK) The Jaeger looked lower than normal though, so there might be the issue of value vs. likely deduction.

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