By Anna Rose Johnson
The U.S. Classic provided an invaluable look into the current status of the main contenders for the U.S. World Championships team, and the competition truly set the stage for the upcoming P&G Championships in August. In addition to our full recap of the meet last night, we’re taking a look at the performances that will factor into the World team selection process.
Alyona Shchennikova won the senior all-around with a 54.950, nearly two points ahead of second-place finisher Abby Paulson. The incredible thing about Shchennikova’s victory was the fact that she won by such a large margin despite a fall on her beam dismount. Her lovely lines on uneven bars contributed to a score of 14.500, which took the bars silver last night. Her all-around victory, combined with her capable bars routine, will definitely keep her in the hunt for 2017 Worlds. She’ll need to improve her performance at P&Gs, but she’s certainly on the right track.
Speaking of Paulson, she had a steady night, with four routines scoring between 13.000 and 13.500. Her floor exercise, where she sparkled in Jesolo, was a joy to watch in Chicago with her graceful choreography and solid tumbling. The type of athlete who can fill any hole on a prospective team, Paulson’s performance was one of the finest of the evening.
Jordan Chiles made her long-anticipated return to competition last night, finishing fifth in the all-around and scoring a 14.700 for her Amanar vault. Still on the comeback trail after a significant injury in summer 2016, Chiles had trouble on balance beam but will remain a contender with her all-around capability and noteworthy vault.
Jade Carey definitely lived up to the potential she showed at the American Classic earlier this month. Bringing a Kasamatsu and an Amanar to the vault table, she scored an average of 14.475, which could conceivably contend for a vault medal at the upcoming World Championships. She was the only gymnast to perform two vaults in Chicago, and should this be the case at P&Gs next month, it will be hard not to envision her on the Montreal team. (She also won floor gold with a powerful, stylish routine!)
The U.S. Classic has always been a meet where some of the top national team members pick and choose which events they’ll compete, avoiding burnout in the lead-up to Worlds. This was again the case last night; 2017 American Cup champion Ragan Smith competed only on bars and beam, winning both events with gorgeous routines. Her steadiness and difficulty on beam will be a huge factor when it comes time to select the Worlds team. Riley McCusker had a bit of a rough time, but she still performed her 6.0-valued bars routine, and her floor presentation was applauded by the gymnastics community. Morgan Hurd’s floor was also a highlight of the meet (and won the event silver) although she fell on beam, her only other event. 2016 Olympic alternate Ashton Locklear skipped bars—her signature event—and performed only on beam, where she hit a solid routine until she put her hands down on her dismount.
Other notable performances: Emily Gaskins tied for sixth in the all-around and snagged a bronze medal for her beautiful, polished floor routine (13.500). Returning to her first elite meet since 2014, Marissa Oakley produced a difficult bars routine that scored 13.750. Kalyany Steele (Colorado Aerials) and Luisa Blanco (WOGA) tied for the all-around bronze; Blanco also took home the beam silver with a highly elegant routine. Sydney Johnson-Scharpf was unable to compete all-around due to an illness, but she did land a lovely full-twisting yurchenko vault.
Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com