“This will just give me that much more time to work on and perfect all of my skills.” Grace McCallum
Inside Gymnastics spoke with Grace McCallum on her new normal, 2019 season and the new road to Tokyo.
By Christy Sandmaier
2019 U.S. Championships and 2019 American Cup Photos by Lloyd Smith, 2019 World Championships Photos by Grace Chiu
In early 2018, fan-favorite Grace McCallum told Inside Gymnastics she “would love to make a Worlds team and my ultimate goal would, obviously, be the Olympic team.” Since then, she’s made two World teams and taken home gold alongside her teammates, stamping herself more than qualified as a solid, steady competitor for Team USA.
McCallum, the 2019 American Cup runner-up to USA teammate Leanne Wong, 2019 U.S. all-around bronze medalist, and 2021-22 University of Utah commit who trains at Twin City Twisters, had been working hard this winter and spring with her trademark tenacity. She was upping her difficulty, enjoying the process and preparing for potentially the most challenging, but most exciting summer of her life.
Now, with the postponement of the 2020 Games to 2021, her normal daily training situation stalled, and the FIG’s announcement that 2005-born gymnasts will now be age-eligible to compete for Olympic spots, McCallum’s focus (like that of so many athletes) has run a gamut of emotions. Ever the seasoned and driven competitor, she’s steeled her resolve and determination for the year ahead. Afterall, Tokyo was always the goal, the road is just a little bit longer now.
Where were you when you first found out the 2020 Olympics would be postponed?
I was in my car on the way to the gym when I found out the Olympics was going to be postponed. Earlier that week, I found out that the World Cup I was supposed to do in Birmingham, England was cancelled, so that was kind of an emotional week for me.
Was the news at all a surprise, or had you and your coaches started to prepare mentally if that were the case?
It wasn’t much of a surprise that the Olympics was going to be postponed because Birmingham had been cancelled earlier that week, and the World Cups were just cancelled for the rest of the year.
What is your current training status? How are you staying in shape mentally and physically, and staying in touch with your coaches?
Our gym is closed right now, so our coach has been sending assignments and workouts for us to do every day at home.
Tell us about the upgrades you had been working on before everything got crazy and then came to a halt…
I was working on my Cheng on vault, and I was playing around with a couple of different new bar routines. I also have one or two new passes on floor that I’ve been working on.
Let’s go back to your 2019 season. Can you tell us about the highlights and the challenges?
2019 was a really good year! Some of my highlights were being able to compete at the American Cup – it was an honor to compete at such a prestigious meet! Then, placing third at both Classics and Championships, and making the Worlds team again. A challenge for me was I grew a lot in between the 2018 and 2019 season, so I had to adjust a lot in my gymnastics overall. It changes your timing and center of gravity when you grow.
Do you believe in any way that the Olympics being postponed could be a blessing in disguise?
At first, I was really bummed, and I still am. But, I believe that everything happens for a reason. This will just give me that much more time to work on and perfect all of my skills.
What are your thoughts on the new age-eligibility statement recently released by the FIG noting gymnasts born in 2005 will now be able to try for Tokyo spots?
I have a hard time wrapping my head around the age-eligibility issue. We already have an amazingly talented group of girls in this quad, so adding more to the group makes me know that I’m just going to have to work that much harder to make one of the four team spots next year. But, I’m not afraid of hard work, and to give it all I’ve got!
Have you had any thoughts about going ahead with your NCAA season early instead of trying for Tokyo?
Well, I’m just finishing up my junior year, so that wasn’t even a thought that came to my head. I can’t wait to go to Utah for the 2021-2022 season!
What was it about Utah that really made you feel it was the right place for you?
I loved everything about the school. Right when I walked on the campus it felt like home. They have an amazing gymnastics and academic program, the environment is amazing, and they have the best coaching staff!
Do you miss going to camp and seeing the girls? Are you staying in touch?
Yes, I really miss going to camp and seeing all of the girls. We are staying in touch, and we’ve actually had online Zoom dance classes together with our amazing dance teacher, Charity Baroni.
What’s something fun or interesting that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m the second of six kids. I’m also known to have a pretty quiet and shy personality, but once you get to know me, I have a pretty outgoing, goofy personality!
Finally, who have some of your role models been over the years?
I’ve always looked up to Nastia and Shawn because Nastia is so elegant and graceful, and Shawn is very powerful and strong. I love how they complimented one another.
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