The first day of women’s competition was an exciting show of returning veterans full of poise matched up against rising stars biting at their heels, and an incredible field of juniors showed amazing potential! Twenty-one seniors and 24 juniors took the floor today with grit and determination. Among the highlights:
Feature Photo by Lloyd Smith
The level of difficulty and the sheer brilliance of Simone Biles’ gymnastics is nothing short of astonishing. She literally soars through the air, in a league of her own. Her floor exercise set is better than ever, something that we never imagined we’d say two years ago! Her vault nearly hits the rafters and her releases on bars contain major air time. Just sit back and enjoy–what a treat!
Biles leads the all-around with a 60.1–the highest score recorded by anyone this quad! Not only did Biles have a solid all-around showing, but she also came out on top of each event (yes, even bars!). Biles posted a 58.7 just weeks ago at the GK U.S. Classic and continues to rise. Where to on Sunday!?
Putting the Artistry Back in Artistic Gymnastics
Riley McCusker’s elegance and attention to detail (the finger tips, the head position, the toe point, oh my!) remind us of the European style and sophistication that was a hallmark of the sport for many years. Morgan Hurd (First State) also captured the audience with her theatrical performance and showmanship combined with amazing tumbling. The crowd responded with roars of approval for both women!
A Refreshing Journey
Trinity Thomas (Prestige Gymnastics) is simply a pleasure to watch. Her floor exercise set opened with a beeeeeautiful double layout and her two-and-a-half through to double back WOWed the crowd. Watching her journey from the junior ranks–and her development in charisma, performance and execution–has been wonderful.
Drilling in on Difficulty
When Biles, the G.O.A.T. hits her sets, catching her in competition is virtually impossible. At Classics, Biles posted a 25.4 D-score while Hurd posted a 22.8 and McCusker a 22.5.
Walk it Out!
Women’s program high performance team coordinator Tom Forster was on the floor all evening–instead of sitting on the panel observing from afar–Forster was seen interacting with the athletes, talking to the coaches and showing genuine care for their performances and experience.
“That’s just how I am,” Forster commented earlier in the week. “I heard that they like it. I never envisioned being in this role, so I never really thought about sitting at that big table and just watching. My connection to these athletes has been at the developmental level, so 90% of them I’ve worked with when they weren’t on the national team yet… when they were struggling and learning new techniques. I at least have a relationship with them. I can still see some qualities or little glitches that they have now that they had then, and I can go up to them and say, ‘Do you remember we talked about this?’ So that’s really why I do it. The benefit of that is that they feel comfortable with the coordinator.
Women’s preliminary competition marked Ragan Smith’s (Texas Dreams) first all-around meet on U.S. soil since earning the all-around title at Nationals in 2017. A devastating ankle injury at the 2017 World Championships in Montreal sidelined her from training for a long stretch, and she’s fought hard to be back. Competing here on three broken toes and continued soreness in her ankle, Smith showed determination and looks to build momentum in finals on Sunday!
The Junior/Senior Mix
Leanne Wong (GAGE) leads the junior women with an all-around score of 56.4. If the age groups combined, she would be sitting in third overall. Sunisa Lee (Midwest) would tie for the fifth-highest score. Both Wong and Lee bump to the senior ranks next year and could give the current veterans a run for their money!
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