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Extremely Tall Female Gymnasts

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Sparkles<3

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Watched Whitney Bjerken's most recent video, and in it she stated that she is 5' 8", almost 5' 9"... I was FLOORED. She is obviously tall for a gymnast, but I always assumed she was in the 5'4"/ 5'5" range at the absolute tallest, and she just looked tall standing next to the other girls because they are all short. I believe her goal (if she can get her elbow healthy again) is still to qualify elite, and she looked beautiful on bars earlier in the year, before her elbow injury issues and second surgery. It really did seem like an attainable goal based on where her skills were at. Looked like she had been focusing on high value dance elements in combination on FX and BB and her vault and floor skills had been improving despite her growth, but she was looking very good on bars. Definitely seemed like she was on her way to being able to qualify elite at least...

Now I am wondering, is it even possible for her to compete elite, given her height? Have there been any successful elite WAGs her height? Who is the most successful 5' 8" or 5' 9" gymnast that you know of? In NCAA I know it isn't as unheard of especially for event specialists, but in the elite world I cannot recall ever seeing a gymnast of that height competing at the elite level. Would bars be in issue in elite because of her height? Is she practicing on bars that are farther apart than would be allowable in elite competition?

It is possible that her goals have changed and she is no longer aiming to become elite, but focusing on her NCAA goals instead, but I do not believe she has ever expressed that change of goals publicly if she has.

Would love to hear insight and perspectives from those who know better than me.
 
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JBS

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I think it's more about explosive power than anything else. Believe it or not... bars is actually one of the easiest events if you have been trained in the elite / international style from the beginning.
 
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Carabistouille

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In France noone uses settings wider than FIG (1,80 m between the bars) because it's not allowed, no matter the level (and actually our bars physically can't go any wider than that), and taller girls don't seem to struggle (at least not moreso than shorter girls).
FIG settings aren't that much of an issue as long as you are used to it. Changing settings would probably be hard though.
 
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GAgymmom

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Watched Whitney Bjerken's most recent video, and in it she stated that she is 5' 8", almost 5' 9"... I was FLOORED. She is obviously tall for a gymnast, but I always assumed she was in the 5'4"/ 5'5" range at the absolute tallest, and she just looked tall standing next to the other girls because they are all short. I believe her goal (if she can get her elbow healthy again) is still to qualify elite, and she looked beautiful on bars earlier in the year, before her elbow injury issues and second surgery. It really did seem like an attainable goal based on where her skills were at. Looked like she had been focusing on high value dance elements in combination on FX and BB and her vault and floor skills had been improving despite her growth, but she was looking very good on bars. Definitely seemed like she was on her way to being able to qualify elite at least...

Now I am wondering, is it even possible for her to compete elite, given her height? Have there been any successful elite WAGs her height? Who is the most successful 5' 8" or 5' 9" gymnast that you know of? In NCAA I know it isn't as unheard of especially for event specialists, but in the elite world I cannot recall ever seeing a gymnast of that height competing at the elite level. Would bars be in issue in elite because of her height? Is she practicing on bars that are farther apart than would be allowable in elite competition?

It is possible that her goals have changed and she is no longer aiming to become elite, but focusing on her NCAA goals instead, but I do not believe she has ever expressed that change of goals publicly if she has.

Would love to hear insight and perspectives from those who know better than me.
She has stated on a social media forum that her goal is college gymnastics. Marcia Newby is 5’ 7” and was great at UGA; Sarie Morrison is 5’ 9” and was very successful at LSU.
 
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Sparkles<3

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She has stated on a social media forum that her goal is college gymnastics. Marcia Newby is 5’ 7” and was great at UGA; Sarie Morrison is 5’ 9” and was very successful at LSU.
Yes, I knew one of her main goals is college gymnastics. I also remember her saying that one of her main goals is to qualify elite at some point. Has she stated that is no longer a goal for her?

I know there have been many successful NCAA gymnasts who are her height, I'm going to go back and watch videos of Sarie Morrison, do not believe I ever watched her. I guess I was more just wondering if it is unprecedented to qualify and compete at the elite level at her height.. it is obviously rare. Has the US ever had a woman 5'9" or above make the national team, for instance? Just curious..
 

Sparkles<3

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In France noone uses settings wider than FIG (1,80 m between the bars) because it's not allowed, no matter the level (and actually our bars physically can't go any wider than that), and taller girls don't seem to struggle (at least not moreso than shorter girls).
FIG settings aren't that much of an issue as long as you are used to it. Changing settings would probably be hard though.

That is interesting... so possibly part of the problem for taller NCAA girls is they might have difficulty switching back to the standard FIG settings after getting used to training on farther apart bars settings in NCAA? Interesting...

I watched an interview with Maggie Nichols maybe a year ago and the I recall the interviewer asking her something about if she might ever consider returning to compete elite and I remember part of her answer is that she is taller than she had been as an elite and the FIG bars settings would be a problem for her.. She definitely isn't 5'8" or 5'9" but still.. it seemed like those couple inches of extra growth made the FIG settings difficult for her.. Maybe its just a matter of having trained with different settings for the past 4 years though. (I realize she has had plenty of injuries in NCAA as well, and I'm sure that was only one small factor in her decision, just focusing on the impact height has on ability to compete in elite gymnastics, because that is what I was curious about and wanted to understand more.)
 

Sparkles<3

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I think it's more about explosive power than anything else. Believe it or not... bars is actually one of the easiest events if you have been trained in the elite / international style from the beginning.

Yes, I understand the challenge of explosive power with a taller body type.

Opinion question if anyone has an opinion on this and would like to answer: Do you think the US national team would have room for a gymnast that racks of difficulty with dance elements and E score rather than explosive power? Like, with routines that are competitive in the same way Sanne Wevers/ the entire Netherlands team/ Older, more mature Mustafina routines have been competitive? Lots of connections on difficult dance elements, high execution, high consistency?

That has never seemed to be what the US team values, but clearly can bring in results. Could a tall gymnast with less explosive power potentially have a chance to be on the US national team if they are consistent and able to craft routines to maximize combinations of difficult dance elements? Obviously this is just a theoretical question. I could see the US team accepting a gymnast like this if they are a VERY strong UB worker. Like, if they are strong on UB and their BB and FX routines are consistent and mostly built on high SV dance combinations potentially, as long as they have a VT with reasonable difficulty that could be used as a backup if absolutely necessary (like Madison Kocian), but with 4 per country, I'm just not sure if specialists that are not powerful gymnasts would ever make a major Worlds or Olympic Team again, except for maybe as a specialist outside of the team competition.

Can anyone think of examples of bars specialists in elite that have been 5'9"? I would love to watch... that would be beautiful to watch!
 

gymisforeveryone

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I coach several girls who are 5'7 and in my country only FIG setting is allowed, no exceptions.... And it IS a struggle, especially because the girls are not super talented like Whitney. Good gymnasts but still average. Bar transfers are really hard. Learning or re-learning the giant after growth has been a year long struggle for some. Front giants require really good technique. Giant-half giant-half is not an option for tall girls (that's a bonus in one of our levels). The list goes on.
Some of the 5'7 girls hit the ground on FIG setting so they have to petition a 10 cm bar raise for competitions. And it takes time to raise the bars and the girls are embarrassed.

I wish we had rules like NCAA or JO, where you could set the bars where ever you liked.
 

Sparkles<3

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I coach several girls who are 5'7 and in my country only FIG setting is allowed, no exceptions.... And it IS a struggle, especially because the girls are not super talented like Whitney. Good gymnasts but still average. Bar transfers are really hard. Learning or re-learning the giant after growth has been a year long struggle for some. Front giants require really good technique. Giant-half giant-half is not an option for tall girls (that's a bonus in one of our levels). The list goes on.
Some of the 5'7 girls hit the ground on FIG setting so they have to petition a 10 cm bar raise for competitions. And it takes time to raise the bars and the girls are embarrassed.

I wish we had rules like NCAA or JO, where you could set the bars where ever you liked.

Wow. That sounds like quite a challenge. Yes, I was wondering which skills would be impossible on FIG bars settings when a gymnast is taller than average and which skills are possible but still quite difficult. That is really interesting, thank you for sharing specifics of which skills you have noticed to be more difficult or not possible for your girls. If Whitney is almost 5'9" now I wonder if she will hit 5'9" this year or if she might even keep growing past that.

You said, "It IS a struggle, especially because the girls are not super talented like Whitney"... just out of curiosity, have you watched Whitneys more recent bars videos, like, from the past year. Are there skills she is working right now that would be exceptionally difficult for most gymnasts of her height? Are there skills that she will most likely not be able to do because of her height, which might hold her back? Her video on learning the Maloney and Maloney Half was crazy, because it seemed like she learned the skill SO quickly, compared to how long it would usually take someone to learn.

I kind of hope that in time, the FIG will allow bar settings to be changed if a gymnast is over a certain height, because I feel that this is another way that the system is set up for only girls of a specific body type to be able to succeed at the highest levels of gymnastics. Young women have no control of how tall they grow, and for those rare girls whose growth is not stunted enough by their crazy level of physical conditioning in gymnastics, it is heartbreaking for them to train all those years and then literally "outgrow" the sport because the equipment can only be set at settings that are ideal for shorter girls in order to meet FIG regulations.
 

Jenny

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The transitions she was doing should be easier because she has a longer reach.
 

gymisforeveryone

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Maloney and Maloney half are really good choices for a tall gymnast! For really short girls those are harder.

But the "easy" transfers like pak and bail are harder for taller girls, simply because they will hit the low bar on the way up. Whitney was doing a pak, and she seemed to strugge a bit, even if she did some good ones too. However, I'm pretty sure her bars were set wider than the FIG setting.

I wonder why the FIG has decided that the high bar should be so low. I mean, even in my club there are at least 10 girls who would hit the ground when swinging. We hardly ever petition for a bar raise, we don't bother for lower ("less important") levels and take the deduction for bent knees because it's such a pain to raise the bars at meets if the bar set is anything other than Gymnova Rio, which is usually pretty easy to work with. But with Spieth bars? No way! At one meet we petitioned for a bar raise and it took 4 men 10 minutes to raise the bars. The gymnast said she would never want to be put in that position again, she was so embarrased that everyone was waiting because of her. And it needed to be done for warm up and for short event warm ups... I guess bars in the USA are usually more easy to raise and lower and set apart?

If the FIG decided to set bars 10 cm higher for everyone, I don't think that would be a problem for anyone? Maybe for really really short girls, who want to start the routine from the high bar.. But you know, you can always train to jump higher. But you can't really train to be shorter.
 

Sk8ermaiden

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Yeah, they can be changed pretty quickly. When there's a session of upper level girls where there might only be one or two girls from each gym it seems like practically every kid will have her own setting - all the coaches in the rotation will pop in there and the bars will be changed over in under a minute. But just our coach alone still can set the bars without much trouble. At practices, the girls learn by a certain level how to set the bars for their group so the coaches don't even have to do it.

I think vault and bars really should allow for individual settings. When everyone has to have the exact same, one specific size/type of girl will have an advantage over everyone else. Why not make them start their run at the same spot for vault too? It makes just as little sense.
 

GymDadWA

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Is she still NCAA eligible with all her profits from being a gymnast on You Tube?
Yeah that is a great question, NCAA's stance used to be that if the videos were non-athletic they don't count, but recently changed their rule to allow any use of their likeness.


I guess the other factor is that her videos revenue goes to her parents, but that has always been a slippery slope.
 

LJL07

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I thought Kyla Ross was pretty tall? Yes, Sarie Morrison was 5'9" and a great bar swinger! A nice person too.
 

jennyj

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Isn't Nina Derwael the elite gymnast from Belgium pretty tall too, maybe 5'7" or at least 5'6"?
 

JBS

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Isn't Nina Derwael the elite gymnast from Belgium pretty tall too, maybe 5'7" or at least 5'6"?

Crazy good on bars... one of the best... I'm not sure about the other events though.
 
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