You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

Joe_Fraser_world_gold

Joe Fraser

It’s time for the 337th 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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When Joe Fraser won the world title on parallel bars in 2019, was he the first Black man to win an individual world or Olympic title in MAG, or was there someone who did it before?

I believe he was! I know for sure there hasn’t yet been a Black Olympic champion, and I can’t think of any Black world champions either, though there have been individual silver and bronze medalists at both the Olympics and worlds. I don’t know how every individual identifies, of course, so there could be someone who is biracial or multiracial who identifies as Black, but based on records I’ve been able to find over the years, I don’t think this is the case…feel free to let me know if I’m missing someone!

I read that judges in NCAA get gifts for judging in addition to getting paid? This seems sketchy and weird and something that shouldn’t be allowed, even if it’s just meant as a “thank you for your time.”

This may be a tradition for some programs, but definitely not most. Judges are paid by the university or college, so maybe a team will want to give a “thank you” as well, but most judges will get a meal, maybe some candy, and occasionally, maybe some team merch like a poster or t-shirt. I just spoke to a judge who said “at the most, I got a bowl of candy and a meal” and that even for bigger conferences, teams don’t gift the judges…so maybe the team you read about had a special tradition to treat the judges, or maybe the “gifts” are just merch or candy and not like, elaborate presents to be like “wink wink, give us 10s” or anything.

When NCAA athletes have to take a fifth year to finish their degree (but don’t get a fifth year of athletic eligibility), do they have to pay for that considering they likely would have finished in four years without the athletic time commitments? Obviously it wouldn’t be one of the team’s 12 scholarships, but do athletic departments find a way to cover the costs?

I believe when they get a scholarship to a university, it covers all university costs, which includes their entire tuition. Since all atheltes are enrolled full-time but “full-time” only requires 12 credits at minimum, it’s likely that many athletes need more time to finish their credits, especially since many athletes take lighter courseloads during competition season. But I believe most tuition is credits-based (at least this is how it was at my university as well as those I was looking into attending), so if someone took 12 credits in a semester, they’d only be paying for those 12 credits, and if someone took 16, they’d be paying for 16.

I graduated a semester early, but because it was the same amount of credits regardless, it still cost me the same as if I had done the full four years, or if I had taken an extra year. I think the only cost differences if I extended would have been that extra semester or two of room and board, plus the difference in cost with the annual tuition increase. If anything, the extra semester or year of room and board may not be covered for athletes? But by that point, many choose to move out of the dorms and into apartments anyway, so it’s probably not a huge deal.

It seems like a lot of NCAA teams fill the stands by appealing to young children (like “bring your American Girl doll” day). Do you think this risks limiting the reach of NCAA gymnastics in the long run, if going to meets is perceived as a “kid activity” by college students and people in the area?

Hmm…I see the benefit of having themes meant to bring in children, since most of those who want to go watch gymnastics are probably young gymnasts from the area (which is why many competitions in the U.S. make the majority of their money by selling ticket packages to clubs). I don’t think advertising aimed at children necessarily takes away from also being able to appeal to older crowds. Look at Utah – they have a TON of kid-themed meets but they’re bringing in 15k+ people and their student section is always packed. The crowds there look like a good mix of college students, youths, and people in the community who are like “what is this” hahaha. But if you’re still building an audience, it could be possible that people will only see the kid-themed advertising and not want to go, I guess. But I also don’t think the kid themes are a weekly thing for most programs, and I don’t think any of the kid advertising is that aggressive, so it’s probably not THAT damaging even if it does turn a few people off.

What do NCAA commentators mean when they say a gymnast had “soft knees” on an acrobatic element?

I say this a lot too when I live blog. For me, it basically means a gymnast’s legs aren’t fully extended from the hip to the toe, so their knees have little bends in them that wouldn’t be there if they were fully extending their legs. I say “soft knees” usually when the bends are just kind of like, lazy legs, where if they just pushed the extension a tiny bit harder it would be fixed…which is different both in the aesthetic and in the deductions when you compare to fully bent legs, where the knee bend is more serious, either looking more angular or fully tucked.

Is it incredibly weird that Georgia scheduled North Carolina as its senior night opponent this year? This is Courtney Kupets Carter’s fifth season as head coach, Danna Durante was fired after five seasons, and there were questions of Kupets Carter’s job security this year. UNC is a much-improved team this year, and there’s a big chance UNC will beat Georgia, which would be pretty embarrassing. It seems like Kupets Carter has nothing to gain and a lot to lose by hosting UNC, and I can’t figure out why anyone thought this is a good idea?

I don’t think it was intentional or that the coaches thought this deeply about it when putting the schedule together. They probably just both had an open night after finishing their conference schedules, and since they’re geographically close, it makes things easier. Georgia typically matches up with Utah most seasons, for example, but not this year, and most of their competition outside the SEC looks a bit closer than usual, so I think it’s just more about convenience if meets are canceled for COVID-related reasons. I do think UNC has a big shot at taking down Georgia on Georgia’s senior night, but I think even while Georgia has struggled this season, there’s a lot they can fix in the next month and I don’t think UNC is so far ahead that they’ll be unbeatable, especially with senior night SEC scoring working in Georgia’s favor, haha. This Georgia team has the talent, but it just hasn’t come together yet…a meet where they simply just don’t count falls would easily reach a 196.

If an NCAA gymnast competed during the 2021 season, but missed two other seasons with injuries (say, 2020 and 2022), could she theoretically be given seven years of eligibility (two medical redshirts and the COVID year)?

Getting a second medical redshirt is VERY rare, so in most instances, no…and frankly I don’t know if anyone would want to spend a full seven years in college unless they could also knock out a grad program at the same time? But exceptions can be granted, like with Peng Peng Lee getting a second medical redshirt because she was fully out of commission for two straight years. I just read about a track athlete at Weber State who had NINE years of eligibility granted – one for a medical redshirt, one for a pregnancy, two years so she could go on her Mormon mission trip, and then the COVID year. She competed at nationals in both 2013 and 2021! 

Do the handful of gymnasts who compete the Moors manage to avoid a deduction for piking down?

I think the bent leg deduction is the more noticeable in most of the Moors I’ve seen, but I’d say pretty much anyone who has done a Moors would get a hip angle deduction with the exception of MAYBE Jade Carey…her hips weren’t fully extended but I also wouldn’t call them piked. From what I’ve seen, though, despite hip and knee angle deductions, no one has been severe enough to be downgraded to a tuck or pike on their best attempts.

Do you think there was any U.S. Olympic team composition that did not include Simone Biles that could have won the team all-around gold?

I think if Simone Biles ended up having to withdraw before prelims, both Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner proved in qualifications that they would have also been incredible contributors to the team, and I think either of them with similar team finals performances could’ve made the U.S. a gold-worthy team…and both of them had strengths that would have made up for the loss of Biles’ strengths. 

Based on how Russia looked in the team final, counting two beam falls and still winning by more than three points, I think without Biles – or even WITH Biles! – the U.S. would’ve needed a perfect day, meaning Grace McCallum’s bars and Jordan Chiles’ floor would’ve needed to hit better. Also, erasing Biles’ vault score with a solid 15 from Carey or Skinner would’ve added more than a point to the team on its own, so that plus hits from McCallum and Chiles, AND relying on Russia counting two falls? The U.S. could have won. I think Russia showed that they were the stronger team as a whole, though, and I think if both teams – even with Biles at full strength for the U.S. – were at their absolute best in the team final, Russia would’ve taken it.

How would you have judged the Tokyo floor final?

Do you mean in terms of how the routines were ranked? I actually think this was my favorite final of the meet and felt like it was pretty perfect! Given that Simone Biles had to miss out, I wish Vanessa Ferrari had taken the gold, and I think she did everything in her power to get it…she was definitely more of a total package floor worker compared to basically anyone else in the final. But Jade Carey also hit a great routine, and if Ferrari wasn’t going to get it, I’m glad Carey did. They’re probably the only two I’d flip-flop, just based on personal perference, but I think both deserved it and I was fine with how it turned out. I also think Murakami Mai and Angelina Melnikova tying for bronze was the absolute PERFECT way to wrap up the podium, because I wanted them both on it and I think they both deserved to be. The others in the final were also excellent, but I think if I had the choice to replace any of the medalists with one of the other four, I wouldn’t change anything.

Do you think Simone Biles is going to try for Paris 2024 or do you think she will retire?

I think had Tokyo gone her way, she probably would have been a little more keen to retire…but with everything that happened and the situation with her mental health, I feel like anyone with her talent and drive would have a little fire in them to want to prove that they can do more. Not that she has anything to prove, she’s literally the biggest legend in the sport and could retire right now and go out with records that are nearly impossible to beat…but I feel like many people in her position, regardless of their success, would have this little nagging “unfinished business” feeling, even if it’s not about medals or titles, but just wanting to end her career on her terms. I’d say her beam medal at the Olympics maybe could have fulfilled that, but even though that was an incredible moment after all she’d been through…I don’t know. I say even if she doesn’t do the all-around, we’ll still eventually see her back in some capacity in the leadup to 2024. Or at least attempt it.

Which MAG and WAG gymnasts have retired since the Tokyo Olympics?

Most notably for MAG is Uchimura Kohei, and Sam Mikulak also finished up his career in Tokyo, but I haven’t heard of anyone else who said they were definitively done post-Tokyo. For WAG, I think the biggest names to retire have been Larisa Iordache, Giulia Steingruber, Murakami Mai, Teramoto Asuka, and MyKayla Skinner. Most of the gymnasts on the U.S. team (including alternates) are now in college, so I’d imagine most of them are also done with elite, but a few of them have said they may plan on coming back, so we’ll see. Oh, and Brooklyn Moors and Ana Padurariu are also done.

Do you think we’ll ever start seeing more interesting bar mounts at the elite level? Which do you think would be most likely to have a revival?

I think they’d have to be more worth the risk to have a revival, because right now, throwing a big mount at the start of the routine isn’t really worth then potentially not having the stamina for the rest of the routine, and sacrificing big releases and connections isn’t worth it. I’d love to see more salto mounts come back, and there are some saltos with great difficulty…but I think in addition to wasting energy at the start of the routine, a lot of how the salto mounts catch don’t create good momentum into subsequent skills. I love the roundoff arabian, but I think it risks a big dead hang would create deductions right off the bat. And of course, there’s also the risk of falling on the very first skill, which would set a negative tone of the rest of the routine. There are also some that are more old school that just don’t work with the way the bars are currently spaced. Maybe a rule in the code saying that you need a C+ mount or something would be helpful? I’m not sure what gymnasts would prefer to bring back, but the jump to immediate full pirouette is a D skill and seems one of the more “worth it” elements in terms of not having as much risk, so maybe any of the more difficult mounts that go straight to handstand or circle elements could be good.

What is the most efficient way to get on the uneven bars? My sister says it’s a pullover, but I would think hopping on and grabbing with your hands is way faster and takes less energy.

It may depend on the gymnast, but I know when I was training (at a low level), a glide kip was easier than just grabbing the bar and trying to do anything, because I wasn’t super strong and the glide kip helped me with momentum. Even now when I watch gymnasts jump to the high bar and just kip out of that, I’m like, amazed that they have the strength to basically start the momentum without the glide action. And it often does look like it’s more muscled while glide kips look more smooth…but if you prefer to start your routine from the high bar, the jump from the springboard is the way to go. You do get SOME momentum from that if your motion is going forward as you jump and catch, but not as much that you’d get from the glide kip low bar mount, so that would be my vote for most efficient.

Some elite gymnasts and their coaches say it’s harder to get to worlds than to the Olympics. Is this true, and if it is, why?

I personally don’t know if I agree with this? If this is elite gymnasts and coaches in the U.S., maybe they find that there’s generally more depth in worlds years compared to that depth kind of thinning out in most Olympic years…but it really depends on what that gymnast looked like when attempting to make worlds compared to attempting to make the Olympics? Like, for Jordan Chiles, it was obviously harder for her to make a worlds team than the Olympic team because in 2017, 2018, and 2019, she was struggling and wasn’t scoring high enough to make any team…but then in 2021, it was like watching a different gymnast and she ended up practically a lock for the team a few meets into the season. But for Morgan Hurd, she was at her healthiest during years with world championships and then was dealing with injuries in 2021, so making the Olympic team wasn’t in the cards. I definitely see it more as a personal or situational thing than it being objectively harder to make either worlds or the Olympics.

How far would a transgender gymnast be able to go competing as the gender they identify as? All the way to worlds or the Olympics?

Some national governing bodies for the sport have opened up so that transgender and non-binary gymnasts can compete to the highest level nationally. In USA Gymnastics, for example, transgender athletes don’t need to apply to participate in the discipline that aligns with their gender identity, and surgical, legal, and hormone therapy requirements have been removed. However, because the FIG is not yet on the same page, while transgender athletes could compete the elite level at U.S. nationals, they wouldn’t be able to make the national team because they would be ineligible to compete internationally in their discipline, at least at FIG competitions. Other countries have similar rules for domestic meets, but it’s the international governing body for each sport that determines whether an athlete can participate at worlds or the Olympics, and right now, that’s unfortunately not possible.

Is Suni Lee’s Nabieva to Bhardwaj the most difficult connection ever performed? What bonus does she earn from it?

It’s one of the most difficult, for sure! Unfortunately, transition elements are capped on bars, so this is just an F to E combination, and it receives the highest bonus possible, which is 0.2. A Bhardwaj should be worth more and this combo should be worth more, for sure! I think even more difficult than this, though, is Lee’s Bhardwaj to Maloney combo…I always thought connecting out of a Bhardwaj would be basically impossible, at least in a full routine and not just playing around at practice. This is sadly only an E to D combo and only worth 0.1 which is criminal. I think specific skill connections need to be evaluated individually, especially transitions like this where there is a value cap in place. Anyway, I also think a lot of the L grip pirouettes into Jaegers are SUPER difficult even if they don’t look like it…especially the marathon pirouette combos many of the Chinese gymnasts do. It’s not as flashy as connecting two huge flight elements, but it’s still incredible and super difficult.

I believe Gymnastics Australia recently hosted a senior virtual competition and I was wondering if you could post results because I can’t find them anywhere?

I’ve seen that they held an aerobics competition virtually, as well as a few lower level competitions, but I received this question in December and don’t think there were any virtual elite competitions within a couple of months of this question being asked. They were supposed to have the National Clubs Carnival, which usually includes the Australian Classic for elites, in September, but the latest information I can find about this meet on their website is from 2019 so I assume it didn’t happen?

What difficulty would a quadruple twist on floor likely be rated in WAG?

I think with a double full being a C, a 2½ being a D, a triple full being an E, and a 3½ being an F, there’s no way they’d skip over G, and I think I kind of agree with this? I do think the 3½ should be pushed to a G, though, and then a quad would make even more sense at an H.

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

9 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Regarding scholarships: one of my childhood friends competed for Georgia back in the day, and I seem to remember her explaining to me that her scholarship completely covered whichever degree she was working on when her fourth year of eligibility was up. That’s why you see some gymnasts actually graduate early, so that they can start their graduate degree within four years and have that covered, as well. I’m not sure if that’s still the case, or even something that varies school to school.

    Also, am I misremembering Grace McCallum’s TF bars routine? It was only 0.4 down from her season high, which doesn’t exactly scream missed routine, especially in light of a three-point difference.

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    • I think it would be an NCAA-wide rule, not based on the school…I just looked up the rules and found a resource for NCAA student-athletes “staying on track to graduate” and it says “80 percent of required coursework for a degree must be complete by the end of their fourth year” so it sounds like if an athlete hasn’t finished but is “on track,” they are allowed to stay an extra year to complete the degree even if they have completed their four years of athletic eligibility. Some athletes are able to graduate early and start grad school but I think it’s more rare, and most grad school athletes (in gymnastics, anyway) are fifth-year students…I know many will limit their credits during season so they won’t have as much work, but I think in this case to graduate within the four year period, most would probably then take a couple of classes over the summer or maybe take a few extra credits in the fall.

      Grace didn’t have a missed routine but if I’m remembering correctly, I think she had a big arch over at the start of her routine or something so I remember thinking that her score could’ve been higher without that mistake, but maybe it wasn’t as severe as I thought…I was just going by memory and didn’t look at scores, for some reason I thought it was a big mistake that cost her like, half a point, but I could be thinking of an entirely different routine!

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  2. National competitions are super tricky here in Australia at the moment because there’s so many domestic border restrictions with COVID-19. For example, the premier of my state, Western Australia, won’t allow anyone in from other states – even if they are West Australians returning home. It’s an absolute sh*tshow to be perfectly honest. But it basically means anyone travelling east for a sports competition would have to stay there indefinitely until the border rules lifted.

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  3. I feel like there should be some kind of Venn diagram overlap between the “soft knees” question and the “Moors deductions” question. They answer to one includes parts of the other’ question…or something.

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  4. I totes agree with individually evaluating combinations. Just remember:
    A back layout 21/2 twist + punch front layout 1/1
    is worth exactly the same as
    A double back pike + punch back layout 2/1

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  5. I always find the “how could the US have beaten Russia” questions a bit fascinating, because there’s always this assertion on behalf of US fans that goes “if THIS person had been on the team and competed THIS event with NO MISTAKES” – it kind of assumes that the mistakes made by the Russian team (like the two beam falls) were predetermined but the mistakes made by the US team were a one-off fluke, which I always find a bit insulting to the Russian athletes. It’s treated like the US mistakes were slip ups that could easily be undone but the Russian mistakes are inevitable. I’m glad you agree that the Russian team were just really good in Tokyo – I know it’s normal to question if things could have been different, but I really don’t like the way a lot of these questions seem to suggest a US win as default! It’s not fair on the other teams, or indeed on the US team to hold them to an unreasonable standard.

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    • Yeah, these hypotheticals usually just come from people who want their team to have been more successful, and it’s like if we change everything about this one team, but NOTHING about the rest of the situation…I don’t get it but still entertain some of them, lol. It’s not just U.S. hypotheticals, though, people ALWAYS ask if Russia could have won if so and so had been healthy at various Olympics, they ask if Komova would’ve won in 2011 or 2012 if she hadn’t XYZ, if Romania could have made the Olympics in 2016 if Iordache had been healthy, and so on. I think they just want to hear from someone else and have it validated that their preferred scenario could have been realistic?

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