Li Li Leung Meets with the Media; Mikulak Makes the Case for 6 + Some Mad Skills We Loved!

Photo by Lloyd Smith

News, Notes & Quotes from Day 1 of the Competition!


5-Month Mark – Leung Speaks with the Media

“I am on Mile 1 of the marathon.” – Li Li Leung, President and CEO, USA Gymnastics

Thursday, August 8 began with USA Gymnastics president and chief executive officer Li Li Leung speaking with a small group of media. Leung, in response to Simone Biles’ comments following training on Wednesday, acknowledged the organization had failed Biles, her Olympic teammates and hundreds of others. “I understand that we have let down many athletes, have let down Simone, and she needs time to heal from that,” Leung said. “If voicing her concerns is a way to do that, I am completely supportive of that.” 

“Historically, our organization has silenced our gymnasts, and I am 100 percent supportive of giving our athletes a voice. I think our athletes should be able to say what they feel and be comfortable doing so,” Leung said, also noting she has been (and continues to be) in touch with Biles and many survivors. To date, she said, she has spoken to more than 400 current and former gymnasts, parents, coaches and administrators to better understand the issues abuse victims face and the areas in which USA Gymnastics can do better. 

She also addressed the Deborah Daniels Report. “We have implemented 67% of her recommendations to date. In fact, we will be meeting with her shortly. She is out here in Kansas City and the board and I will be meeting with her to talk about how we have been tracking to date and how we can further implement the intent of all her policies going forward.” 

In addition, Leung provided detail regarding the new selection procedures for Pan Ams, Worlds and Olympic teams, “We are taking away this veil of secrecy around team selections and providing transparency to process and hopefully it will be a much more open process going forward.” And while there is much she cannot publicly address or disclose regarding process and purpose of bankruptcy mediation she did say, “The fact that we are in mediation is a really positive step forward and we hope that we can resolve the claims of the survivors in a relatively efficient and short amount of time.” 

Look for more on Leung’s comments from this conversation and our one-on-one interview with her in the September/October issue of Inside Gymnastics

Notes – Men’s Competition Day 1

The senior men’s competition started off on a bit of a down note as Colin Van Wicklen withdrew due to a concussion. Van Wicklen later took to Twitter to say: “Unfortunately I suffered a concussion during warm up tonight. I am extremely disappointed that I was unable to compete but sometimes you have to be smart and think of your future. I’m looking forward to recovering and getting back into the gym to continue to help team USA.” 

Our best to Van Wicklen – he was on an amazing run, and had a positive and energy-filled disposition after podium training yesterday reflecting on the past and looking ahead. “It was in 2016 at this meet, I hit 12 for 12 for the first time in my career in a major competition and I left the competition thinking I was for sure a lock on the national team. For the first time, it was like I actually did my job and it wasn’t good enough.” Since then, Van Wicklen has called this his “redemption tour,” both for himself and for gymnastics, and plans on, as he stated, “making a statement for the selection committee that skipped me that I’m the real deal.”

Once the competition got rolling it became more than obvious Sam Mikulak’s quest for his sixth national AA title is well within his grasp and totally his for the taking. He ignited the crowd, hitting six for six and posting an 86.750 total for the top spot. His six-event score included the best marks for floor exercise (14.650), parallel bars (15.350) and horizontal bar (14.200), as well as the second highest for pommel horse (14.750). 2019 American Cup champion Yul Moldauer was second at 84.000, followed by a surprised Shane Wiskus and Akash Modi who tied at 83.950 for third. Donnell Whittenburg was also back in force and a clear crowd favorite, placing seventh. Trevor Howard could also factor into the podium, holding second place through several events before settling into fourth after Day 1. When asked if he knew what place he was in during the meet, Howard laughed and said, “I try not to pay attention or look up at the scores or anything, but it’s really hard when they keep announcing it!”

In the junior men’s competition, Colt Walker is first in the mid-point all-around rankings for the junior 17-18 division at 80.100 while Nicolas Kuebler had the highest tally for the 15-16 junior division at 79.600. We were impressed with the junior men’s field and have our eye on some future stars and leaders for Team USA!

Mad Skills We Loved:

Junior Men:

  • Frederick Richard (Massachusetts Elite, JR) – Arabian Half Out on floor
  • Taylor Burkhart (5280 Gymnastics, JR) – Nice PH flare travel sequence which perhaps was inspired by the previous days of Sasha Artemev!
  • Isaiah Drake (Gym Olympica, JR) – Great foundation and technique to his gymnastics, and cool and collected competition demeanor. A true joy in his performance!
  • Donte McKinney (University of Minnesota, JR) – Super high triple full and a full twisting double layout mount on Floor – Stunning!

Senior Men:

  • Gage Dyer (University of Oklahoma) – Double, double laid out, on floor. 
  • Sam Mikulak (USOPTC) – Scissor elements on pommel horse- clean and high execution. And… his entire p-bar routine, packed with difficulty. 
  • Donnell Whittenburg (USOPTC) – Double front vault
  • Allan Bower (University of Oklahoma) – Pike Double front of floor. 


Quotes: The Junior Women Take the Floor on Day 2! – In preparation for the women’s junior competition, here are a few of our favorite quotes from podium training: 

Stars for Sydney!

Sydney Barros (Texas Dreams) on competing at Junior Worlds:Competing at Junior Worlds was literally one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, especially competing with my friends. It was really eye-opening, too, just seeing what everyone else was doing outside of the U.S.” 

On her floor routine: The story behind it was I doing a choreographed dance routine with my dance teacher back in the gym, and my coach Kim saw me dancing really well to this music… and, knew this was the one. It’s been so fun to compete all the way through and I’m so excited to compete it here. It shows me off as a person.Rumor has it Barros is up first on floor on Day 1, kicking off the competition, so stay tuned!

Coach Kim Zmeskal-Burdette on Sydney’s floor routine: “Nobody else can pull this off! This is you. Now we have to top it!”

Look out for Lilly!

Lilly Lippeatt (Cincinnati Gymnastics) on her tumbling pass and performance factor: “It’s a big wow factor for me in my routine. It was hard to learn but once I got it down it was really fun. It’s my favorite floor music – my floor music is actually Batman. I grew up watching the cartoon Batman, so I really know it and I know all the parts in the music. It makes me feel at home. I really love performing. I’m really looking forward to all of it. I’ve been dealing with a lot of nerves and now I’m just excited to come out and show what I can do.”

On her nerves and how she will handle the competition: “I’ve really been working on breathing. When I get nervous I just stop and take a deep breath. I’ve been doing a lot of visualization. But the biggest thing is that I just feel more prepared this year.”

Coach Mary Lee Tracy on how Lilly’s new and creative floor second floor pass – a roundoff whip full into a double tuck – came about: “The pass came about from one of my friends – Liz Kincaid in Great Britain – we do exchanges all the time where we send videos. She showed me one of her gymnasts doing a full twisting whip to 2 ½ and I thought, ‘That is so cool.’ And then I said to Lilly, ‘Let’s try to be a little different.’ So she was like, ‘Ok.” She would rather flip than twist. It was just fun because she’s little and it’s hard to stay competitive with these kids that can do double doubles and so on. It’s original, it’s two tenths in bonus so that’s how it came about!”

Kayla Staying Calm

Kayla Di Cello (Hill’s) on her experience at Junior Worlds:Competing at Junior Worlds was really fun. I had the best time there and competing with my Skye, Sydney and Konnor. Team is so fun because you have everyone together.”

On her goals in this competition: “I just want to have a good meet and hit all my skills. I’m excited to get going and compete.” 

The Junior Women compete at 1 p.m. and the Senior Women at 6:30 p.m. All times are central.


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