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Stars & Storylines for the 2022 Winter Cup

By Ashlee Buhler

And so it begins. The Road to Paris 2024 officially kicks off this weekend in Frisco, Texas with the 2022 Winter Cup. It’s the first major elite competition of  the new quadrennium and our first look of the year at some of the stars of the next generation for Team USA. 

On the men’s side, 2020 Olympian Yul Moldauer headlines the field and is primed to become the leader for the U.S. men heading into Paris. The last time we saw Moldauer compete was at the 2021 Arthur Gander Memorial when he edged out Russia’s Nikita Nagornyy for the All-Around crown. Just a month prior he fell short of the medal podium in Kitakyushu with a 4th place finish in the All-Around, but can take pride in knowing he notched the highest All-Around finish for a U.S. man in a decade at a World Championships. At the Winter Cup Moldauer will be gunning for the title, which he last won in 2019.

2020 Olympic alternate and 2021 World team member Alex Diab will be in Frisco looking to defend his Winter Cup still rings title for the third consecutive year, while some newer faces will look to make their mark early on in the quad. Asher Hong will make his senior debut after dominating the junior division at the Winter Cup in 2021, taking gold in the All-Around as well as on floor, pommel horse, still rings, and parallel bars. 

Paul Juda finished 6th All-Around at the Winter Cup in 2021 and can certainly improve upon that mark in Frisco. With his second place All-Around finish at the Pan American Games last year, Juda earned the U.S. men an individual berth for Tokyo and put his name in the spotlight as a potential star for the next Olympic cycle. This is where it all begins for Juda. 

Also keep your eyes on 2018 World team member Colin Van Wicklen, who won the high bar title at the Winter Cup in 2020, and Senior National Team member, Riley Loos, who finished 2nd All-Around at the Winter Cup in 2021. 

Tokyo Olympian and 2021 World horizontal bar bronze medalist Brody Malone will not be in Frisco, but will make his first international appearance of 2022 this week at the FIG Apparatus World Cup in Cottbus, Germany. Malone will compete on pommel horse, still rings, parallel bars and horizontal bar starting Thursday.

2020 Olympic team member Shane Wiskus will also not be competing in Frisco after announcing on social media he sustained an injury to his knee. 

At stake for the Senior men are spots on the U.S. National Team (top five All-Around from Day 1 earn automatic berths) as well as selection for upcoming international competitions including several World Cup stops and the 2022 DTB Pokol Mixed Cup and Team Challenge.

On the women’s side, a lot of eyes will be on Konnor McClain as she looks to put an incredibly devastating 2021 behind her. McClain had a respectable senior debut at the Winter Cup last year, finishing 3rd on vault and fourth on beam and landing on the list of favorites early on for the Olympic team. However, just a month later she was left off the senior U.S. national team at the conclusion of a national team camp and had a rough performance at the U.S. Classic. McClain ended up switching gyms (she now trains at WOGA) and pulling out of the U.S. Championships to heal herself physically and spiritually. She went on to achieve her biggest goal of making the World Championship team, but the year still ended with heartbreak as she grieved the loss of her father and grandmother. Paris 2024 has been McClain’s goal for many years and the Winter Cup is the first big step toward it. Of course a medal in Frisco would be incredible, but just seeing McClain back out on the competition floor with a strong performance after such a difficult year could be the biggest win of all.

eMjae Frazier is the second member of the 2021 World Team who will compete in Frisco and is expected to make a run for the medal podium. Frazier is best known for vault and floor, but don’t sleep on her bars and beam which are just as dynamic. 

Skye Blakely will return to competition after withdrawing from the 2020 Olympic Trials due to an elbow injury sustained in warm ups before the competition. Blakely was considered by many to be a darkhorse for Tokyo after the Games were postponed and it was announced gymnasts born in 2005 would be eligible to vie for a spot. Blakely made a strong impression during her senior debut at the Winter Cup last year by winning the beam title and continued to impress with an All-Around win at the American Classic a few months later. Although Tokyo wasn’t in the cards for her, Blakely is already on the radar for Paris 2024. 

Several gymnasts will make their senior debuts at the Winter Cup, including U.S. Junior National All-Around Champion Katelyn Jong and U.S. Junior National Beam Champion, Joscelyn Roberson. Other gymnasts expecting to make a mark early on in the year are Olympic Trials competitors Addison Fatta and Zoe Miller as well as 2021 Arthur Gander Memorial All-Around bronze medalist Ciena Alipio

2020 Olympic alternate and 2021 World All-Around bronze medalist, Kayla DiCello is not on the roster to compete.

The top three All-Around finishers from Winter Cup will automatically qualify for the U.S. team for the DTB Pokol Mixed Cup and Team Challenge.  In the junior division, Ella Kate Parker will look to defend her Winter Cup All-Around title from last year but will be faced with strong competition. 2021 Pan American Championship team and beam gold medalist Madray Johnson, who finished 2nd All-Around in the junior division at the U.S. Championships, will put up a good fight for the title as well as Junior Pan American Games team gold and vault medalist Tiana Sumanasekera.

UPDATED! How to Watch

How to watch the 2022 Winter Cup Presented by OZONE and TURN, Nastia Liukin Cup and Elite Team Cup Presented by TURN. All times Eastern.

Live coverage on the NBC family of networks begins Friday, February 25 on Peacock with the Nastia Liukin Cup from 2:30-5 p.m. ET and the men’s Day 1 competition from 7:30-10 p.m. ET. NBC will broadcast the women’s senior competition on Saturday, February 26 from 1-3 p.m., and CNBC will re-air the men’s Day 1 session from 4-6 p.m. ET on Saturday. Streaming details for the Elite Team Cup Saturday, February 26 from 6:30-10 p.m. ET and Sunday’s Winter Cup junior women’s competition (1-3 p.m. ET) and men’s Day 2 session (6:30-9 p.m. ET) will be shared closer to the competition.

Thursday, Feb. 24

Nastia Liukin Cup Podium Training, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., USA Gymnastics YouTube

Senior Men’s Podium Training, 2:30-5 p.m., USA Gymnastics YouTube

Junior Men’s Podium Training, 5-8 p.m., USA Gymnastics YouTube

Friday, Feb. 25

Women’s Podium Training, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., USA Gymnastics YouTube

Nastia Liukin Cup, 2:30-5 p.m., Peacock

Senior Men’s Day 1, 7:30-10 p.m., Peacock

All individual routines uploaded after competition to FlipNow.tv

Saturday, Feb. 26

Junior Women’s Podium Training, 8:30-11 a.m., USA Gymnastics YouTube

Women’s competition, 1-3 p.m., NBC

Senior Men’s Day 1 (rebroadcast), 4-6 p.m., CNBC

Elite Team Cup, 6:30-10 p.m., FlipNow.tv

All individual routines uploaded after competition to FlipNow.tv

Sunday, Feb. 27

Junior Women’s competition, 1-3:30 p.m., FlipNow.tv

Junior and Senior Men’s Day 2 6:30-9 p.m. FlipNow.tv

All individual routines uploaded after competition to FlipNow.tv

For the complete roster, click here!

Photos by Lloyd Smith and Ricardo Bufolin for Inside Gymnastics

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