By Gina Pongetti

It is the year after the Olympics and a new quad has started. Tokyo is three years away, and with a young and energetic group of seniors being pushed by their junior counterparts, experience on the world stage to stake their claim for Toyko starts now.

The year following the Olympics presents an individual format for World Championships. Instead of planning, strategically analyzing, and predicting the best “team” that will medal, the selection committees for the men’s and women’s programs must choose the best combination of athletes that have the potential to individually medal as well as contend for an all-around title.

There are not an unlimited number of athletes that a country may send. Therefore, the best individual athlete on one single event may be passed over for another that can possibly medal on two or present a fighting chance for the all-around title.

Consistency of performances throughout training camps, verification events and other national elite meets such as the U.S. Classic is considered in selection, especially if there is a lack of experience at the international level. Going into 2017 Worlds, in addition to accomplishments at Classics in July, international experience lies with some athletes at the senior level, and some seniors from their junior days.

For the women:

  • Ragan Smith (2017 American Cup, 2016 Olympic Alternate, 2016 PacRim, 2014-2016 Jesolo)
  • Ashton Locklear (2016 Olympic Alternate, 2014 Pan Ams and Worlds, 2016 PacRim, 2016-2017 Jesolo)
  • Morgan Hurd (2017 World Cup and Jesolo)
  • Trinity Thomas (2016 and 2017 Jesolo)
  • Alyona Shchennikova (2017 Jesolo)
  • Abby Paulson (2017 Jesolo)
  • Victoria Nguyen (2016-2017 Jesolo, 2017 London World Cup)
  • Riley McCusker (2017 American Cup and Jesolo)
  • Jordan Chiles (2014-2016 Jesolo, 2014 Gymnix)

For the men:

The field is full of international experience, as these men have been around longer and traditionally peak later and are older in age. Olympians Sam Mikulak and Alex Naddour lead the way with an incredible amount of World experience, as well as Olympic alternates Donnell Whittenburg and Akash Modi. With multiple years on the national team, Donothan Bailey (10 years on the national scene), Yul Moldauer (international competitor since 2010), Sean Melton, Eddie Penev (five years of international competition) and up-and-coming Robert Neff. Many athletes, including these and more, understand the rigor of balance that comes from being NCAA student athletes—many have podium accomplishments.

Quick hits:

  • Worlds will be held in Montreal, Canada, October 2-8, 2017
  • Seniors only—must be 16 for women and 18 for men by December 31, 2017
  • Countries that qualify include the top eight countries from the Rio Olympics
  • There are awards given for individual events (eight finalists for each event, no more than two per country) as well as an individual all-around champion (one day competition)—24 total World competitors

Women’s program:

  • Four athletes will be chosen with an alternate named that will not travel.
  • Selection camp will take place Sep 18-21, with at least eight athletes (selected from P&Gs, petitioned athletes)
  • The selection committee will make final recommendations for the team at the conclusion of the camp. These committee members are: Valeri Liukin (National Team Coordinator), Steve Rybacki (Chairman of the International Elite Committee) and Terin Humphrey (Athlete Representative).

Men’s program:

  • The team will be announced within 24 hours of the end of P&Gs.
  • Up to six members will be selected as well as up to three replacement athletes.
  • The selection committee includes: Coach Kip Simons, Coach Russ Fystrom, Jonathan Horton (Athlete Representative), Yochi Tomita (At-Large Representative), Brett McClure (High Performance Director) and Dennis McIntyre (no vote).

Fun facts:

  • The first Worlds took place in Antwerp, Belgium in 1903 for Men and 1934 for Women
  • The United States is fifth in line with 123 overall total medals earned, including gold, silver or bronze, for team, all-around and individual events.
  • Ahead of the USA is the Soviet Union (256), China (163) and Japan (153), and Romania (135)
  • The two-per-country rule limits the total dominance of any one country by limiting each event and the AA competition to only two athletes.
  • Total medals up for grab for the United States:
    • 6 events for Men x 2 max = 12
    • AA for Men =2
    • 4 events for Women x 2 = 8
    • AA for Women = 2
    • 24 total!
  • Simone Biles sits in third place overall with 14 total World medals, with Alicia Sacramone in 14th with 10 medals, Shannon Miller right behind in 17th with 9, and Nastia Liukin in 20th with 9 total medals.
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