Quotes & Training Updates! – U.S. Women Prep for Winter Cup and Beyond

By Anna Rose Johnson

It’s an exciting time for U.S. gymnastics fans! For the first time since 2019, the U.S. women will be performing at an Elite domestic competition—the 2021 Winter Cup. Formerly a meet for the U.S. men, the women have also been invited to compete this year, giving them a chance to get back into the competition groove ahead of spring and summer meets—which may include the 2021 Olympics. With COVID-19 and all of the challenges that come along with it, this will mark a major comeback and stepping stone for the athletes.

“Training has been going really well,” says Jordan Chiles, who has been a member of the national team for over seven years. “I am sure, like [for] everyone, it has been a little difficult over the past several months to feel motivated when you don’t exactly know what is going to happen.” Busily readying new skills on every apparatus, Chiles plans to compete at the Winter Cup “as long as everything goes as planned.” She says it “feels good to be working towards something.”

2008 Olympic silver medalist Chellsie Memmel—who has documented her comeback extensively through videos shared on social media and was featured in the November issue of Inside Gymnastics magazine —says that training is going well. “[I’m] finally able to do more again after giving my ankle time to heal,” she told us. “I am happy with where each event is at!”

Memmel hasn’t yet made a final decision on whether or not she’ll compete at the Winter Cup. “We have been talking about Winter Cup and what [is] the best thing to do for me and where I am at,” she explains. “We will see how the month progresses and possibly go and do a few simpler routines just to get back out there again.” Right now, she’s happy to be working on some favorite skills, including her double layout. “The double layout will always be my favorite skill,” she says. “I love and am still so proud that I learned a double-double. Even if I never would compete it, it’s such a huge win for me.” She also likes the dos Santos II and her piked Arabian, adding, “[I] really want to get it up on the beam.”

For 2016 Olympic alternate and former Utah standout MyKayla Skinner, the road to her current comeback has been a bit rocky. “This past year has hit me pretty hard,” she told us recently. “Back in September my foot was inflamed, and [I] found out I have a huge bone spur that rubs on my Achilles and causes pain. Instead of surgery we decided to do a PRP shot, Shockwave treatment, and therapy, hoping we could calm the inflammation and strengthen the areas that were weak.” Unfortunately, her troubles didn’t end there. “Right as my foot was starting to get better and I was able to push myself a little harder to get things back, I got sick,” she recounts. “I haven’t been in the gym for a month because I had COVID and then a couple weeks later [I] got diagnosed with pneumonia.”

Originally, Skinner had planned to compete at least a couple of events at the Winter Cup. “But with having a setback due to COVID and pneumonia, [I’m] not sure if I will be ready.” Her current plan is to “see how things go in the gym and decide from there.”

Setbacks aside, she’s eager to return to competition. “Competing is one of my favorite things to do!” says Skinner. “It’s been a year since I last competed, which is so crazy to say, but I can’t wait to be back in an arena.” She was training “a lot of upgrades” previously, but due to her injuries and illness, “it has set me back a little.” However, a quick list of the upgraded skills she’s been working on include “the Ray connected to Bhardwaj, triple-double on floor and [as a] bar dismount, clear hip blind full, tuck jump-half connected into back handspring full into flick full back handspring swing down.”

2017 World All-Around Champion Morgan Hurd says that her training is going well in the lead-up to the Winter Cup. “I am working my way back up to routine shape,” she says, noting that she is not working any new skills at the moment. “I am extremely excited to get back out on the competition field.”

2019 World team champion Jade Carey is in the unique position of having already mathematically qualified for the Olympics, and her next goal is to compete at the Winter Cup. “Training has been going very well,” she told us. “Routines are starting to come together nicely and I am having fun working on a few upgrades. A few of my favorite skills I am working on right now are my Amanar, double-double dismount off of bars, and my full-twisting (full-in) double layout on floor.”

Training is also going well for two-time World team champion Grace McCallum, who was slated to compete at the Birmingham World Cup in March 2020 before it was cancelled due to the pandemic. “I’ve been playing around with some new skills and a couple different options for a bar routine,” she told us. “Overall, I feel really good about my routines going into this season. I’m planning on adding a few new things on each event to help improve my difficulty scores.”

For all of the gymnasts competing at the Winter Cup next month or who are planning to target meets further down the road, the idea of returning to competition is an exciting one. “I miss the energy and adrenaline and being out there with my friends,” says Hurd.

“I normally wouldn’t say this, but I can’t wait to feel butterflies in my stomach and have an adrenaline rush, it’s been way too long!” Skinner says.

Carey agrees. “I am so excited to return to competition. It feels like it has been forever since I have competed so I’m ready to get back out there again.”

Memmel says that she’s “excited and nervous” to return to competition for the first time since 2012. “It’s been a while.”

“I can’t wait to get back out there and compete again,” Chiles told us. “I am very excited. I am the type of gymnast that loves competing so getting back to it will feel good. Although I understand the cancellations last year were good for our world, I hope we can all see things improve so we can get back out there.”  

McCallum is also excited to “get back out there” on the competition floor. “Competing is one of my favorite things to do,” she says. “I love the adrenaline rush you get. It has felt like forever since we have been able to get out there and compete.”

Winter Cup Schedule

Men’s competition
On February 26, senior elite gymnasts will return to the national stage for the first time in more than a year with Day 1 of the men’s competition. All-around champions in the senior division will be crowned at the end of Day 1, while individual event champions will be determined by a combined two-day score following Day 2 on February 28. Performances at the 2021 Winter Cup will help determine the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team through the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Championships scheduled to take place June 3-6 in Fort Worth, Texas.

All current Senior National Team members, all current Junior National Team athletes that will be senior division age-eligible in 2021 and all senior division athletes who qualified to Day 2 of the 2020 Winter Cup are pre-qualified to compete in the 2021 event. Based on their performances, gymnasts may qualify for a spot at the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

Women’s competition
Many of the country’s top elite gymnasts will return to action for the first time since early 2020, as women’s gymnastics makes its Winter Cup debut. Senior athletes will face off on Saturday, February 27, with junior-division gymnasts slated to compete on Sunday, February 28. All-around and individual event champions will be crowned in both divisions. Competing athletes may qualify to the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Championships based on their Winter Cup performances.

Results from the event will also help determine the composition of the Women’s Junior and Senior National Teams, which were last named following the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

To compete at the 2021 Winter Cup, senior athletes must have recorded an all-around score of 51.00, and junior athletes 50.50, at the 2019 U.S. Championships, a 2020/21 national qualifier or a 2021 National Team Training Camp. Gymnasts may also qualify based on combined two- or three-event scores.

How to Watch:

NBC will broadcast the women’s competition live on Saturday, February 27 beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET. The men’s all-around will air on NBCSN Friday, February 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET preceded earlier in the day by the Nastia Liukin Cup, which will be broadcast live on NBCSN from 2:30-5 p.m. ET.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the events will not be open for public attendance. More information is available at WinterCup.com.

Photo credits for Inside Gymnastics: Grace Chiu and Lloyd Smith

Photo of Chellise Memmel by Scott Curty for Inside Gymnastics

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