by Anna Rose Johnson

On March 4th, 2017, gymnastics fans will gather in Newark for the first major stop on the road to Tokyo 2020. Four years ago, the 2013 American Cup marked the international debut of future superstar Simone Biles. A competition noted as a stepping-stone to Olympic greatness, the American Cup always draws considerable attention as the largest international competition held in the United States.

This year, there’s so much to look forward to, and many factors to analyze. Let’s take a look at seven athletes to watch at this year’s #AmCup:

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The return of Ragan Smith: Ragan Smith hasn’t competed since the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, where she finished 5th in the all-around and was named an alternate to the U.S. team. Noted for her charismatic choreography and ability to captivate a crowd, Smith could likely be on her way to success at 2017 Worlds in Montreal. Will we see any upgrades from Smith in Newark?

Stepping into the spotlight: Yul Moldauer and Akash Modi will represent Team USA in the men’s competition. Modi, a hugely successful NCAA gymnast at Stanford, was named an alternate to the 2016 Olympic team, and will look to secure his first major elite all-around victory. The American Cup will mark the first senior international meet for Oklahoma’s Moldauer, who placed fifth in the all-around at the 2016 Olympic Trials. He also replaces 2016 Olympian Sam Mikulak, who recently injured his Achilles and withdrew from the American Cup.

Tunney’s comeback: Rebecca Tunney’s career has been sporadic, punctuated by thrilling highs and unfortunate lows. A member of the successful 2012 British Olympic team, she placed 13th in the London all-around and subsequently helped her team to a silver medal at 2014 Europeans. She was unable to compete consistently after a string of injuries in the middle of the quadrennium, but she rebounded to place second in the all-around at the 2016 British Championships. We can’t wait to see what’s next for this incredible bars worker, whose first American Cup appearance was in 2012!

Champions ready to dominate: Few gymnasts have come close to challenging Kohei Uchimura’s reign in the last several years, but Japan’s Ryohei Kato and Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev are two of those few. Now a veteran who has graced the stage at three World Championships and captured Olympic gold, Kato actually won last year’s American Cup and could definitely defend his title. Verniaiev finished just a tenth shy of Uchimura in the Rio all-around final and will certainly challenge for the title in Newark.

Waiting in the wings: Asuka Teramoto of Japan has been in this position before. Four years ago, she competed at the 2013 American Cup but finished a disappointing seventh. One quadrennium later, she’s back—and better than ever after enjoying an amazing showing in Rio (she placed eighth in the all-around and helped Japan to an fourth-place finish in the team final). Can this elegant artist topple a field of young talent and veterans to claim a medal?

Stay tuned!

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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: