Does Country Privilege Still Exist?

It’s pretty known that a gymnast from the Big 3 (and to a lesser extent, China) would get a little flag bonus added to their score. But now with Romania having fallen off the podium and star gymnasts coming out of the second- and third-tier countries winning medals, does the flag bonus still exist?

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I hope not. I hope the judges stick to scoring.

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It absolutely still exists. Unfortunately.

If Jade Carey had a South African leotard on, there’s no way she would have beaten Shilese on floor in prelims. No way.


I don’t know if it is necessarily country privilege but rather “known name” privilege. as a non-judge fan, it feels like there is a bit of “paying your dues” when you first launch. Some of this might be skipped by appearing as a junior but a few months ago someone posted a video of a former French gymnast who was competing for a new country and the discussion was that no one could figure out how her E score was so low. And then (I think) it went up quite a bit for event finals. I might be misremembering. There’s been a lot of gymnastics since then.

On the positive side, Finland got into 13th in AA and they don’t exactly have a storied international relationship. Of course, just about everyone else in the top 24 is from a country which can get a team into the Olympics depending on the year.

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Flag privilege or reigning Olympic floor champion privilege? If it were flag privilege wouldn’t Shilese have received the same treatment?


To a certain extent it does. I mean backin 2014 worlds I was ranting off about Sanne Wever vs Mykayla BB E-scores, and I think if Skinner had had any other leo on, she wouldn’t have scored that high, or that, had Wevers had another leo on, she might have scored much much better.

But yes, to a certain extent it turns into name recognition if you do well. It’s just it might be easier to be considered if you come from a big 4 country to do well.

All of which being said, we’re at a MUCH better place regarding this than we used to be…


I think to an extent, but not like it used to. Also, these things move around. So Romanians used to have it, but they barely have a programme now so that recognition isn’t going to be there. The US didn’t used to, then they became one of the leading teams and so they did. It’s also bound up with reputation privilege, and it can be hard to separate the two sometimes.

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And I was thinking about gymnasts like Skinner and Raisman after I made this post. If they were from some underrepresented country like Slovenia or even Canada, would they have been AA and EF medal contenders? Because Raisman definitely received some gifted bonus tenths. Skinner, at least, received the scores she deserved in Tokyo. The best beam routine of her career still didn’t break an 8 in E-score and would have been the sole American not going home with any hardware had the perfect storm not brewed that not only got her into VT EFs, but medaling when optimally, that vault podium would/should have been some combination of Andrade-Carey-Yeo if still accounting for Biles’ withdrawal.

It’s an interesting thought. Goes without saying that there are occasions both likely would’ve scored lower. But I think they both were impacted differently by being Americans, and Raisman got more benefits from it.

Aly barely ever got 2 per’d out of anything, which is the main downside of being from the US. I think it was just the 2015 AA and the odd beam final. Looking at her major individual achievements, she’d have been up against Gabby in the Rio AA and might well have lost to her, but Mustafina and Shang Chungsong put up such a half arsed display that there’s no way that wouldn’t have been bronze. The London floor final is more interesting because there was more competition. I think we worked out on here at the time that the judges couldn’t have applied all the artistry deductions they could’ve and her still come out with 9.1? Although fuck knows that wasn’t a tightly scored final.

Skinner, I think would actually have won more medals were she not from the US. She wouldn’t be a world champion, but as she could usually stand up both an Amanar and a Cheng for the majority of her international career, she’d have got on most teams for that. And in several of the finals during her career, that would’ve been enough for bronze: she probably wouldn’t have done NCAA either meaning we’re looking at a longer period. So it’s how you weigh one world title against multiple world bronze medals.


What are you doing? Don’t. Bring up. Shang and musty rio AA.

God have you NOT been reading this chat?


That bronze on floor in London was wide open. Pretty sure that 6 or so gymnasts ended up outscoring Mustafina’s score at some point in the competition. Maybe even more.

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You know, that’s a really good way of comparing and contrasting the two gymnasts.

This is true. If Skinner competed for a 2nd or 3rd tier country, she would definitely have been named to teams outright instead of constantly relegated to alternate or the Tokyo +1 only after being the final gymnast standing. Not only pretty much guaranteed to be on World and Olympic teams, but the star gymnast.

Interestingly enough, Raisman’s return ensured Skinner wouldn’t do better than alternate for Rio. What held Skinner back is that her strengths were pretty much every other American gymnast’s strengths and she wasn’t strong on the events that would have made her a more viable choice for teams. Marta even said that the final team member was Douglas vs. Locklear, so she was clearly looking at UB/BB for team finals. So a team of Biles, Raisman, Hernandez, and Kocian didn’t need a VT/FX specialist who saw herself as an AAer while not having TF-worthy UB/BB. Skinner was basically the Wish version of Raisman, so there was no way.

What also held Skinner back was her coach not understanding that.


Part of the country/leo bonus is that it is well known that to make the us/rus/chn team, you have to be a top level gymnast. Sure there have been years of less depth where a second tier gymnast has made the team, but in general, to even get on those teams, you are going to be in the top 50ish in the world. So the judges know going in that a russian bar routine is going to be superior to a noname country routine.

That said, the reputation game can work against you. “The US is bad at bars” " the UK is bad at beam" when maybe they aren’t bad at it, they just don’t excel as much as other events. China is getting a reputation for only having 2 events. I imagine if they start vaulting better, they are going to have to work against the headwind of being “bad at vault”.

100%. Look at Akhaimova. Worse than Skinner on every event (except maybe bars) and even she made Russian teams over and over again.

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See and we all thought that after Cheng Fei, China would start cultivating vaulters. Especially when people said that Cheng Fei didn’t have the normal “look” the Chinese team looks for when picking children to attend the sports schools.

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Not just Cheng Fei, but the way the generation below her were mostly serviceable to good on vault. Even when they weren’t really vaulters. Cheng herself is perhaps the sort of rare talent that federations can’t assume they’ll be able to turn on whenever they need it, but then look at the years after. They went into Beijing with 2 Amanars and 3 DTYs. Most of their AAers had one and so did some of their specialists on other events. China seemed to have unlocked the secret to strength in depth on vault.

But then a few years later, after that generation had gone, it all seemed to evaporate. Dare I say it, they never really came up with a viable alternative once they’d presumably stopped with the false DOBs.

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It really seems like China gave all they had to attempt to dominate their home Olympics and completely petered out after.

Crazy to think that if Li Shanshan and Cheng Fei didn’t shit the bed in EFs, China would have won 5 out of 6 golds. I don’t think even the Soviet Union managed that (closest I’ve seen is the 1972 Games with 4/6).


They peakes a bit early. Li Shanshan and He Kexin would both have been untouchable on their events if they’d been as good as they were a few months earlier. Luckily for China Deng Linlin was a slower burner.

In Rio, the US got 4/6 golds and 4/6 silvers. (And 1/6 bronze). Minus Simone’s BB mistake, it would have been 5/6. And minus Gabby’s UB mistake, there is another bronze. It was incredibly dominating.

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Akhaimova made teams because of the strength of Russia’s UB depth. She would have probably struggled to make the teams of lower ranked countries due to her lack of versatility