Anon Possibly Unpopular Question: Former National Team Members Competing in Nastia?

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There are often questions on this forum about "is it fair for former elites to compete L10?" or "Is it fair for someone training tops to compete L4?" or "Is it fair for someone with L7 skills to compete L5?" etc. etc. and my opinion to all of these is a simple "yes." I mean, we all know that gymnastics isn't fair, and there are many reasons for gymnasts to compete at various levels. It's complicated, and the best plan in this sport is for athletes to just focus on themselves, IMHO.

But I'm finding myself wondering about this overall philosophy when it comes to the Nastia Cup. I'm not an expert, but it's my understanding that the competition was established to give DP (formerly JO) athletes an opportunity to "compete on the big stage." To get the experience of competing on a podium, with commentators, a broadcast, etc. While I'm so happy for all who qualified and won, I kind of have to wonder if it's in the spirit of the competition for someone who was on the national team, presumably had many opportunities to compete on podium, maybe even in international competitions, etc. to compete (and in this case, win) the Nastia Luikin Cup. I am NOT trying to throw shade on any particular athlete (who I'm sure is AMAZING and of course qualified and won under the rules that are in place.) But I'm kind of wondering if the rules/qualification criteria are in line with the intent and spirit of the competition. (As I understand it, only current and recent national team members are excluded.)

Yes, I'm looking for a distraction in my day and CB hasn't had too many spicy debates lately, so I thought I'd ask the group. What do you think?
 
I agree with you and have said the same thing here in the past. I understand that it is allowed and I understand the argument that is usually made about how not allowing gymnasts to drop back to level 10 and compete in nationals or the Nastia cup wouldn't be fair either. But it just doesn't feel like a level playing feel to me. But half (made up percentage, but definitely a lot) of those who qualified have been involved in the hopes/elite training world it seems. It just makes it more impressive to me when someone without that background qualifies and does well there. :)
 
I had a similar thought, with a slight variation in theme. I didn't feel it was congruent with the goal of the NL Cup that an athlete could compete both NL Cup and the Winter Cup, literally on the same weekend. This was the case for the junior winner, and while she is clearly remarkably talented and crushed the meet, she is clearly not aiming for level 10/college to be her final resting point with regards to this sport. And she definitely does not need NL Cup in order to compete on "the big stage" given that she had already qualified for Winter Cup. Meanwhile, for at least one of the two runners up, NL Cup will truly be her only big stage opportunity. I thought that was a bit of a bummer.

I'm less bothered by girls who have left the elite world and are strictly now training and competing level 10 being included in the NL Cup than girls who are currently actively on the elite pathway.
 
Has the purpose of NL Cup changed? When my dd was in JO, NL was for aspiring elites. I specifically remember being surprised by how many finalists did not have Elite hopes but were focused only on NCAA. It does seem odd that someone who is already an elite would be allowed to compete but for those who are just training Hopes and elite, I see no problem with it as I thought that was the intent of that competition.
 
Has the purpose of NL Cup changed? When my dd was in JO, NL was for aspiring elites. I specifically remember being surprised by how many finalists did not have Elite hopes but were focused only on NCAA. It does seem odd that someone who is already an elite would be allowed to compete but for those who are just training Hopes and elite, I see no problem with it as I thought that was the intent of that competition.

Not that I know of. I have never really heard of it as an aspiring elite competition... that would be Hopes and the national qualifiers. It was created for the world of JO / Dev.
 
Not that I know of. I have never really heard of it as an aspiring elite competition... that would be Hopes and the national qualifiers. It was created for the world of JO / Dev.

Link Removed

"In 2010, and just two years prior before her retirement, she struck a partnership with USA Gymnastics to launch the Nastia Liukin Cup, an annual artistic gymnastics competition for junior gymnasts which serves as a debut for pre-elite competitions on the national stage. The competition has now been ongoing for 10 years, with the last one held in March 2020.

There aren't many references to this in google searches now so the premise must have changed along the way. But I do remember in those first 5 years that the focus was on the future elites, not the college bound gymnasts. And certainly, that is where much of the media coverage was focused during the competition - on those striving for Elite - which is understandable because they want to catch a glimpse of the potential next Olympians
 
From https://www.nastialiukincup.com/faq/

"Athletes that are ineligible to qualify for the NLCup include:

Any athlete who has competed in a Winter Cup or Classic meet as a junior or senior, and has not completed the Elite drop back petitioning process
Foreign athletes
Current National Team members – click HERE for current NT members
Any athlete that has been a member of the National Team within the last 6 months."

Because the winter cup is after the Nastia cup an athlete can compete in both (and maybe they should change that).

And information on the history/intent is here: https://www.nastialiukincup.com/info/

"On Aug. 11, 2009, USA Gymnastics and Nastia Liukin announced a partnership to create the Nastia Liukin Cup, which would provide a competitive opportunity for the country’s top Junior Olympic gymnasts..."
 
There aren't many references to this in google searches now so the premise must have changed along the way. But I do remember in those first 5 years that the focus was on the future elites, not the college bound gymnasts. And certainly, that is where much of the media coverage was focused during the competition - on those striving for Elite - which is understandable because they want to catch a glimpse of the potential next Olympians

I have to be honest... I have never watched the Nastia Liukin Cup as these are just athletes that were competing in regular JO competitions... so I have never heard the media spin of it. If they had athletes that were in the competition that had future potential toward elite... then I'm sure they sold it very hard. There have been Nastia Cup athletes that have gone to the Olympics and even won the Olympics.

The Nastia Cup may have been created for other reasons that no one ever heard (like to convert some of the top JO athletes to elite... find hidden gems... etc)... but it has always been sold the same way...

On Aug. 11, 2009, USA Gymnastics and Nastia Liukin announced a partnership to create the Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup, which would provide a competitive opportunity for the country’s top Junior Olympic gymnasts.

The above is from the original Nastia Cup page from USA Gymnastics... here is a link to it on the Wayback Machine...


It was sold that way from the beginning.

Again... this does not mean that Elite path gymnasts / coaches did not attack it... it does not mean that they still don't attack it.

The Hopes program was only created around 2006 and was not as well known or popular as it is now. The USA Gymnastics elite path back in 2006 was kind of weird. See the following link...

Link Removed

The elite path has been tweaked over the years... so that is most likely what you are seeing. The Hopes program has developed and over the years some of the National Staff have urged coaches / athletes to drop the JO program and only use the Hopes program... so maybe more of the elite tracking athletes are seen in Hopes Championships... not really sure. Maybe these athletes run the Hopes Championships path and then when they drop back to L10 they come to Nastia now... I don't really know. I do know that as someone that was training an athlete towards elite... the Nastia Cup was just something extra that could be shot for... not something that was necessary.
 

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I have consistently come down on the opinion that gymnasts that are not actively competing elite, even though they may have been or training elite, do not have any unfair advantage against other DP athletes that should preclude them from competing at NLC or other DP event.

Points for consideration:
  • Whether you call it training elite, DP or Yoshi, all athletes in general are going to train to highest standards that they can/want and are able to. Point being, the idea that an athlete who is training with other elites has some unfair advantage is silly, they are just training as hard as they can like everyone else.
  • I havent looked at all the competitors for NLC but I feel confident that 90+% of the athletes were/are at some point in TOPS, Hopes or Elite program. Especially for the seniors. And if you dont believe that, then you have been around the DP program long enough and exposed to the big L10 gyms and positioning of competions.
  • Of the 20 plus athletes the winner of the junior division had the rare benefit of timing of just qualifying as an elite while competing DP. Its a rare occurance that you see this, its not like a flood of NLC athletes that then went on to participate in the Winter Cup. Not a problem in my opinion.
  • NLC involves some luck too. What about the girls that turn 15 in January competing against girls that are 12-13 in the Junior division? I think these girls have more of an unfair advantage than the random "turning elite" girl does due to body maturation and probably multiple year L10 experience.
I appreciate the appearance of unfairness, but I think if you are around the sport long enough you realize its really not.
 
I guess you could also say that when they say that the girls competing in the NLC are the top jr. and sr. are the best in the country... Yet some qualified with technically low scores early in the season when a lot of girls had to score in the mid to high 38's to qualify. They also us elite birthday qualification, when i think it should be the age the girls are at the time of the competition like they do for the DP nationals. Pretty much every girl in the Sr. division are committed to big colleges ( except for 4 ) and i think they are still to young to be committed.
 
I have consistently come down on the opinion that gymnasts that are not actively competing elite, even though they may have been or training elite, do not have any unfair advantage against other DP athletes that should preclude them from competing at NLC or other DP event.

Points for consideration:
  • Whether you call it training elite, DP or Yoshi, all athletes in general are going to train to highest standards that they can/want and are able to. Point being, the idea that an athlete who is training with other elites has some unfair advantage is silly, they are just training as hard as they can like everyone else.
  • I havent looked at all the competitors for NLC but I feel confident that 90+% of the athletes were/are at some point in TOPS, Hopes or Elite program. Especially for the seniors. And if you dont believe that, then you have been around the DP program long enough and exposed to the big L10 gyms and positioning of competions.
  • Of the 20 plus athletes the winner of the junior division had the rare benefit of timing of just qualifying as an elite while competing DP. Its a rare occurance that you see this, its not like a flood of NLC athletes that then went on to participate in the Winter Cup. Not a problem in my opinion.
  • NLC involves some luck too. What about the girls that turn 15 in January competing against girls that are 12-13 in the Junior division? I think these girls have more of an unfair advantage than the random "turning elite" girl does due to body maturation and probably multiple year L10 experience.
I appreciate the appearance of unfairness, but I think if you are around the sport long enough you realize its really not.
Not that it matters because it is within the rules and I do understand what you are saying. But to your points:
1) I don't want to get into the whole fair versus not thing, but I don't think you can really argue that girls that are training higher skills with more experienced coaches and for more hours aren't at an advantage. Is it an unfair advantage? No. They are putting in the time and effort like you said. But take a level 10 at a small gym with no elite training in site, and the level of gymnastics is not that likely to be the same even if they are putting in maximum effort.
2) We've had several compete at the NLC and we are just a regular (albeit large) gymnastics club in a state with very few elite possibilities. I just checked and, by my rough count, it was almost 50/50 in this years competition. I may have missed 1, but I think I counted 19 out of 40 with no hopes/elite. Nowhere near 90%.
3) Yes, that was rare timing.
4) Sure

I have always thought that the NLC was a chance for the "best of the rest" to compete and show off, but I didn't know much about the history of it. Our gym purposefully goes to several qualifiers every season in hopes of sending someone. I by no means think having tried a qualifier years ago or having trained hopes/elite in the distant past should disqualify you. But if you were on the national team? Yeah it doesn't feel fair. And, for the record, I also think that olympic gymnasts competing in college is rather unfair too. But it is the way it is and I love watching them. :)
 
Not that it matters because it is within the rules and I do understand what you are saying. But to your points:
1) I don't want to get into the whole fair versus not thing, but I don't think you can really argue that girls that are training higher skills with more experienced coaches and for more hours aren't at an advantage. Is it an unfair advantage? No. They are putting in the time and effort like you said. But take a level 10 at a small gym with no elite training in site, and the level of gymnastics is not that likely to be the same even if they are putting in maximum effort.
2) We've had several compete at the NLC and we are just a regular (albeit large) gymnastics club in a state with very few elite possibilities. I just checked and, by my rough count, it was almost 50/50 in this years competition. I may have missed 1, but I think I counted 19 out of 40 with no hopes/elite. Nowhere near 90%.
3) Yes, that was rare timing.
4) Sure

I have always thought that the NLC was a chance for the "best of the rest" to compete and show off, but I didn't know much about the history of it. Our gym purposefully goes to several qualifiers every season in hopes of sending someone. I by no means think having tried a qualifier years ago or having trained hopes/elite in the distant past should disqualify you. But if you were on the national team? Yeah it doesn't feel fair. And, for the record, I also think that olympic gymnasts competing in college is rather unfair too. But it is the way it is and I love watching them. :)
I agree, it is definitely an advantage, but that is an advantage that exists for everything in life. People will always strive for an advantage and people always make utility decisions (yay economics lol!) on what they are willing to trade off to achieve those advantages.

You may be right on the numbers. I just know decent number of the junior and a few of the seniors that were in TOPs and have been to developmental camps. There were a couple of juniors who seemed to hit the right meet to qualify with a few lower than usual scores. I think I even saw one junior compete with a layout, which is extremely rare, so at least there are some "average" (I mean that respectfully) gymnasts getting an opportunity to have this fantastic experience.
 
When I saw this thread, I had a brief moment of “maybe it’s unfair”. But as mentioned above, it might be easier to qualify at certain meets, a gymnast might end up in an “easy” age bracket at a qualifier, etc. By level 10 I think gymnasts have been through it all and if they can’t handle the random “unfairness” of the sport, they probably left it way before then.

My gymnast is little but already knows that she might not medal in her age group but her teammate with a birthday a few weeks later might win their age group with a lower score. Or she might compete against a girl who is repeating a level. Or the really competitive team might go to a different travel meet that weekend so her team sweeps everything. So, so much luck is involved in gymnastics.

We had fun watching NL but made a point of looking up the scores of a few girls from our gym who came very close to qualifying so my daughter would know that many other similarly talented gymnasts weren’t there.
 
By level 10 I think gymnasts have been through it all and if they can’t handle the random “unfairness” of the sport, they probably left it way before then.
I like this take. Even if the Nastia Liukin Cup was unfair (however you want to define "unfair"), I see this as feature not a bug. A successful gymnastics education includes teaching students hard life lessons such as Life is not fair. Even as an adult I struggle with this reality! The best we can do for our students is to teach them how to perservere in spite of this unfair world that we live in.

Of course, it is the job of adults to create a reasonably level playing field for children (e.g. age brackets, divisions). I'm curious to know how OP would tweak the current rules to make the Nastia Liukin Cup more fair. It sounds like there is some incongruity around the stated mission of the event (i.e. marketing) and the actual qualification rules.

Anyway, I am generally against needlessly unfair competitions. It is not illegal to take advantage of poorly-defined rules. But I personally think it is selfish (and short-sighted) to enter an athlete into a competition that they are guaranteed to win.
 
I have consistently come down on the opinion that gymnasts that are not actively competing elite, even though they may have been or training elite, do not have any unfair advantage against other DP athletes that should preclude them from competing at NLC or other DP event.

I agree with this. If they are not classified as "elite"... then where else would they compete?
 
Or the really competitive team might go to a different travel meet that weekend so her team sweeps everything.

This is so important. Coincidentally, my daughter just competed at a Nastia Liukin Cup Qualifier for the first time. She's not a level 10, so I didn't think too much about it. However, the fact that it's a qualifier seems to have meant that every single one of the best teams in our region went to that one particular meet because they wanted their 10s to qualify.

I've never seen a meet that had a higher level of gymnastics across all levels. My daughter was competing a compulsory level and some of the girls she was competing against had their skills so clean that they looked like an upper optional girl at our gym.

It was insane and the real mind blowing thing is that the judging was extra super tough too. I saw so many routines that would have been a 9.8 or 9.9 at a regular meet score in the low 9s. And even so, you needed to score above 9.5 to even get a medal because they only went down 9 spots at a huge comp!
 
Link Removed

"In 2010, and just two years prior before her retirement, she struck a partnership with USA Gymnastics to launch the Nastia Liukin Cup, an annual artistic gymnastics competition for junior gymnasts which serves as a debut for pre-elite competitions on the national stage. The competition has now been ongoing for 10 years, with the last one held in March 2020.

There aren't many references to this in google searches now so the premise must have changed along the way. But I do remember in those first 5 years that the focus was on the future elites, not the college bound gymnasts. And certainly, that is where much of the media coverage was focused during the competition - on those striving for Elite - which is understandable because they want to catch a glimpse of the potential next Olympians
You are exactly right! When she created this competition, she stated that she wanted a place where gymnasts who would never get to be on a big stage like National championships or college to have a chance to compete on podium. Now it’s turned into the same gymnasts repeating year after year, or thise training elite (that means 30 hours and having an advantage over others, and also doing elite qualifiers or have already qualified HOPES or elite). I also find that some gyms, which shall remain nameless, take their level 10s ONLY To NLC qualifiers, so that they can qualify several girls (my opinion is for them to have bragging rights). I’ve always said there should be a limit, like if you win, or if you’ve attended twice, that you’re no longer eligible to qualify. If it’s truly for those who will never compete on podium like that, then let more gymnasts have that experience.
 
When I saw this thread, I had a brief moment of “maybe it’s unfair”. But as mentioned above, it might be easier to qualify at certain meets, a gymnast might end up in an “easy” age bracket at a qualifier, etc. By level 10 I think gymnasts have been through it all and if they can’t handle the random “unfairness” of the sport, they probably left it way before then.

My gymnast is little but already knows that she might not medal in her age group but her teammate with a birthday a few weeks later might win their age group with a lower score. Or she might compete against a girl who is repeating a level. Or the really competitive team might go to a different travel meet that weekend so her team sweeps everything. So, so much luck is involved in gymnastics.

We had fun watching NL but made a point of looking up the scores of a few girls from our gym who came very close to qualifying so my daughter would know that many other similarly talented gymnasts weren’t there.
When the NLC first started, they named certain meets as qualifiers. Back then, all level 10s were in the running to qualify. They would say they the top 2 seniors and the top 2 juniors out of all level 10s in every session would go to the NLC. If there was more than 1 session of level 10s, everyone would wait until all sessions were complete to see who had come out on top and qualified. It was pretty exciting!

Then, a few years in, it became where the coach would choose 1-4 gymnasts to be designated as trying to qualify to the NLC. They competed in a special level 10 session, the “Premier” session. Only those designated would be in that session and allowed to qualify. It was such a crushing blow to my daughter, when she wasn’t chosen (there were only a few level 10s at her gym, and she had qualified to Easterns in level 9), since the years before she was just as much in the running to qualify. I‘ve seen many non-designated level 10s score better in their sessions than the ones in the premier session with the same judges, but it doesn’t matter because they weren’t designated ahead of time. I liked the old way better, where all the 10s had an equal chance.
 
Many clubs just go to the Nastia Cup meets as they attract good Level 10 competition. Typically they attract more Level 10's than the average meet.
 

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