It’s time for the 338th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered!
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Was Brooklyn Moors the first elite gymnast to not have a ‘real’ back pass in her floor routine (doing a random layout stepout instead)? Why did no other gymnast use this loophole to fulfill the front salto requirement (like doing a random front aerial, for example)?
Editing my entire response because I thought I remembered a back 2½ in Moors’ Olympic routine but nope, that’s just my brain melting apparently! She did in fact have three front tumbling passes, and then a random back layout stepout that counted as her fourth pass and fulfilled the back tumbling requirement. I know she has competed the back 2½ in the past, and I BELIEVE her goal for a four-pass routine would have been the Podkopayeva, double front, front double full to front layout full, and back 2½ to punch front, but since she was dealing with injuries and limited training time due to the pandemic, I think she and her coach knew the four-pass routine would ultimately hurt her execution/risk a fall, and since her front passes were stronger than the back 2½, I believe that’s why she went with what she did best for her three front passes, and then just threw the random layout stepout to count as the fourth.
She’s not the only gymnast to rely on this strategy in the current code, however, and in the previous code, many gymnasts would rely on the opposite by doing a random side aerial or front aerial in their routines to fulfill the ‘front tumbling’ pass. Now, these random A- or B-valued acro elements that are often included as side passes within the choreography would have to count as a tumbling pass if used to fulfill front or back tumbling, so it’s much more rare than it used to be…but it’s still out there, especially for those who struggle to build up difficulty in their routines if they don’t have the stamina or strength to do four more difficult passes.
During the Olympics I saw some people suggesting that Tom Forster’s reasoning for always picking the top all-arounders was because he coached an athlete who missed out on the Olympics despite being at the top of the field and he felt his athlete was cheated. Do you know if there’s any truth to this or if it’s just speculation?
Forster has never said that his reasoning for choosing a team is because of his own experiences in 1996, but it’s widely speculated that there’s still some bitterness there and that’s why he was so personally offended by Gabby Douglas being named to the team in 2016 despite being outside of the top five ranked athletes at trials.
However, in 2017, before Forster was even named as national team coordinator, a coach of a national team gymnast told me that they would be selecting athletes based on rank order going forward because so many coaches were mad about what they saw as Steve Penny “favoring” Douglas in 2016. They apparently voted on it, and the first time they used ranked selection was at worlds trials in 2017.
This obviously continued when Forster took over, and I think as he continued to select teams based on all-around ranking, the rumor about him doing this because of 1996 grew stronger, especially with the Olympic selection last year. It makes sense, and I imagine even though it IS speculation he likely believed strongly in this being the “fair” way to do things even though it’s not actually all that fair, especially if some athletes over the years have been judged in a way that is…lenient, to say the least, practically ensuring them spots on teams regardless of how they actually performed.
I personally think “fair” means giving team spots to athletes who can best contribute to the team whether that’s as an all-arounder or in more of a specialist role. In 2016, there were multiple gymnasts who could have fit onto that team, and whether they went with the straight top five all-arounders or went outside of the all-around to find those who worked best, it was still “fair.” Douglas’ selection to the team was fair, Kocian’s selection was fair, and anyone else who could have worked in one of those five spots also would have been fair. Marta Karolyi had her reasoning for selecting the team she ultimately went with, and her justification was absolutely fair. If anything, it’s unfair to the athletes to be so lazy and afraid of potential conflict that “top-ranked athletes” is the only solution. Is it really “fair” to the team to select athletes who are ranked near the bottom of the top all-arounders, but who won’t realistically contribute anywhere in the team final and won’t be able to earn any individual medals? Individual medals should be part of the equation always, and a team’s success shouldn’t only be tied to the team medal. And add the issue of not judging athletes equitably? That makes it even less fair.
Peaking for the Olympics instead of trials seemed to really work out for Jade Carey. Is there a way to duplicate this for everyone?
The reason it worked out so well for Carey is because she didn’t need to peak for trials, as she already had a spot at the Games. She could show up to trials and use it basically as a practice meet and it wouldn’t have affected her, and the same can also essentially be said for Simone Biles, who was going to the Olympics regardless of how she looked at trials…but pretty much everyone else needed trials as the way to prove themselves, and I think for some of them, it meant going all out at trials and then maybe not being at a hundred percent in Tokyo.
Jordan Chiles is the best example here as someone who was in the exact opposite position Carey was in. This is an athletes with no major international experience, who only got two small international assignments in 2018, and who going into 2021 wasn’t on anyone’s radar for making the team. But then with her early season performances at the WOGA Classic and Winter Cup, it was like, oh, she is very clearly a legitimate threat for the team…but with so many other options, she still had a lot to prove, and she needed those hit routines at nationals and trials to continue making her case.
I don’t think going all out at trials is what limited her at the Olympics, as I think without any real international experience, it would be difficult to replicate the nerves she’d feel going into Tokyo…I don’t think her gymnastics declined in Tokyo, but think she was just dealing with a lot of nerves that unfortunately made it difficult for her to focus on being as consistent as she was throughout the entire domestic season, because she truly was THE most consistent U.S. gymnast in the run-up to Tokyo.
In general, I would say that peaking at the Olympics is the goal, and that gymnasts should be at 90-95% at trials but still saving something for the Games…but when you’re trying to make a team, especially one determined solely on all-around rankings, you can’t show up at trials in the way the already-qualified Carey did, with lower difficulty routines and competing only two events on the second day of competition. Had Chiles done that, she would not have made the team, period, within the boundaries of the 2020 selection criteria…but if the criteria wasn’t rankings-based and if the U.S. had a national team coordinator who could see the potential for athletes to do well at the Olympics even if they placed outside the top group, athletes wouldn’t be forced to give everything they had to prove themselves at trials, could be at only 90% but still be recognized as being valuable to the team regardless, and then they wouldn’t be physically and/or mentally fried by the Olympics.
I think Gabby Douglas is actually a great example of how this works…she would not have made the 2016 team based on the all-around rankings due to her performance at trials, but despite her struggles there and not being at 100%, she WAS at 100% in Rio, coming in as the third-best all-arounder and bars worker in the world in qualifications (as well as being seventh on beam and ninth on floor), she made the bars final, and her contribution on bars in the team final helped give the United States the best bars score in the competition despite not actually having the best bars team. The U.S. now forcing athletes to push to be at their best to make a team definitely has the potential to take away from what they may be able to do at the competition they’re aiming for, and while I do think in some sense think you should have to prove that you’re the best choice for a team, the current “top-ranked” system is not the way to prove that. If anything, it’s limiting.
Can you elaborate on the possible deductions for a Jaeger, Tkachev, shaposh, and shaposh half, assuming they catch and don’t hit the bar?
For these and basically any releases and transitions on bars, it’s the usual deductions you’d see in most gymnastics skils, like having the correct body position (a straddle, pike, or layout for the releases, or that slightly arched shape a shaposh transition should hit in the air), staying extended throughout the skill (no soft or bent knees, pointed toes, correct hip position for the shape), and no leg separations (obviously unless you’re doing a straddle!), or hesitation before completing an element (on bars, this would be a tenth off for standing in handstand too long before moving on to the next skill). Then you have bars-specific deductions, like amplitude on releases, catching at the correct distance (e.g. not too close but also not so far that the gymnast has to stretch or lean forward to reach the bar), full arm extension in handstands and when catching elements…I think that just about covers everything?
Has Morgan Hurd retired from gymnastics?
No, Hurd is currently a freshman at Florida, though she’s redshirting this year due to a knee injury. I don’t know if she’s planning on returning to elite at any time…at one time a couple of years ago she said she wanted to stay past the 2020 Olympics and try for worlds in 2021, but with the way things worked out with the Olympics being postponed and worlds happening in the same year, obviously it didn’t work out that way just because of timing. But if she IS done with elite, she still has four years of NCAA eligibility coming up!
I’m noticing no one really performed double back flips on floor in the 2008 quad. Is that just a coincidence, or did something change in 2009?
Hmmmm…I’m picturing a lot of double backs? I just went back and watched the floor final to refresh my memory and pretty much everyone did multiple double back saltos. Do you mean double tucks specifically? In the 2008 code, the double tuck was only worth a C while a double pike was worth a D, compared to more recent codes where both are worth a D, so in the 2008 quad many gymnasts could probably easily do both but the double pike was the clear choice just for the value itself.
Also, in general, the body shape in a double pike makes it a bit easier to land for many gymnasts, especially at the end of a long routine. I think even though the double tuck and double pike are worth the same today, we still see many gymnasts choose the double pike for this reason.
I remember a floor routine I really enjoyed a few years back but can’t figure out who the gymnast was or when it happened. Here’s what I remember…the gymnast was very tiny, she may have had a blonde ponytail, and I assume it was nationals or trials, because it was televised. The music and routine were very upbeat, fun, and super playful. Her dancing/choreography were stronger than her tumbling skills. I don’t think she was ever on an Olympic team, the routine ended with her in a split with her head cupped in her hands, and it was somewhere between 1992 and 2008. Any thoughts?
I have literally no idea but have put out feelers and will let you know what I find! Anyone who may know, please feel free to comment…so far the general consensus is Betty White in an episode of “Golden Girls.” 🙂
Jennie Thompson is also a guess going around…she fits the description perfectly, but I haven’t been able to find a routine that ends in this way. Other suggestions include Lindsay Wing, Katie Teft, Sierra Sapuner, and Karin and Kristi Lichey.
Edit: This is from 1989, so a little out of the time window, but I think it makes the most sense out of anything else mentioned? And you probably wouldn’t have known who Shannon Miller was at the time since it was before she was a huge deal! Thank you to @samrandomnumber on Twitter for the suggestion.
I feel like a lot of NCAA gymnasts lose up to a tenth on the handstand pirouette they do on the low bar after a transition, so it serves like a bulit-in deduction (though I don’t know if it’s taken each time). Couldn’t they kip and stand on the low bar and then jump with a half turn and skip the pirouette, or would that not be allowed?
I think there are a LOT of handstand-related deductions that should be taken in NCAA but aren’t, hahaha, and this is definitely one of them. I’m pretty sure jumping with a half turn to the low bar isn’t allowed to count here, but gymnasts can get away with doing turns within other elements so they don’t have to do a pirouette…for example, a gymnast could do a bail, van Leeuwen, or Bhardwaj and these would all count as fulfilling the turning element requirement. I feel like some gymnasts find pirouettes easier than turning within a flight element, so they’d rather just do the pirouette, and the flight elements come with their own deductions and are a lot riskier, so there are some pros and cons with both.
What was your favorite gymnastics moment of the 202One quad? It can be a routine or just a moment you really enjoyed.
I had a LOT during the quad but I think the one that really stands out to me is Morgan Hurd winning the worlds all-around title in 2017, because it just wasn’t something that was expected either after nationals, going into worlds after she made the team, or even DURING the final itself! As much as I love Simone Biles, I do think something was missing for me in WAG in the 2016 quad because while it was so exciting watching her absolutely dominate, it also made the all-around like, okay, so Biles is winning this, and it’s not BORING, but it just doesn’t have the same vibe as we got on multiple occasions in the 2012 quad (and of course in pretty much every previous quad, especially before the open-ended scoring system kicked in). This was the first time in five years where it was really like, anything can happen in this final. I loved the nail-biting ending, and as a fan of Hurd’s since she was a level 10, it was also just really gratifying to see her come so far. I’m not a very emotional gymnastics watcher, but I definitely teared up there!
I would say also…Angelina Melnikova’s steady rise throughout the entirety of the quad, from someone who started out really rough and just not believing in herself and always posting sad captions on her Instagram posts to someone who slowly became a leader and who really came into her own as a gymnast to go on and get an all-around medal at the Olympics, lead her team to becoming Olympic champions for the first time post-Soviet Union, and then become world all-around champion?! It was incredible. I was so sad about her start to the quad, especially knowing how strong she was as a junior, and to see her no only overcome that but to just get better and better with age and experience…it was like a dream. She’s a real legend and proof that setbacks don’t have to be an ending.
Basically anything with Russian MAG as well. This quad was a REVIVAL for them, especially thanks to the energy Nikita Nagornyy and Artur Dalaloyan brought in with them. One of the most thrilling – and then devastating – moments in my gymnastics blogging career was the 2018 worlds team final. My heart was RACING at the end there, it was so exciting. I wasn’t in person to see them get the world title in 2019, but I DID thankfully see them make it happen at the Olympics with all of the crying and screaming and general Russian MAG dramatics…I was always a casual MAG fan but these guys truly pulled me in and made me look forward to covering MAG.
Oh, and of course, Rebeca Andrade making history for Brazil multiple times in 2021 between the Olympics and worlds. Elisabeth Seitz and Becky Downie finally getting bars medals at worlds after trying for a decade. Nina Derwael putting Belgium on the map for the sport and Carlos Yulo doing the same for the Philippines. So many other things…in one way it was such a terrible quad between the post-Nassar fallout, so many allegations of abuse and coming to terms with just how much nearly EVERYONE suffers while trying to make their dreams come true, and then the pandemic on top of all of that, but there were tons of little things throughout that reminded me why I loved the sport so much.
Are Maile O’Keefe and Grace McCallum related?
Not that I know of?! I don’t think they have any connection aside from having done elite and both now going to Utah.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins