By Anna Rose Johnson
With gymnastics at the Pan American Games coming to a close yesterday in Lima, Peru, we’re comparing the results of the U.S. team from this week’s competition to the results of the 2015 Pan American Games!
In 2015, the U.S. men won the team title ahead of Brazil, but in this year’s edition, they finished second to Brazil. However, the all-star 2015 team was comprised of seasoned veterans, while the 2019 team consisted of up-and-comers who don’t yet have a great deal of international experience so far—but they’re full of potential.
Olympian Sam Mikulak won the 2015 all-around title ahead of Cuba’s Manrique Larduet, while in 2019, Brody Malone finished fifth in the all-around, while his teammate Robert Neff finished seventh. Both Malone—who won four gold medals at the 2019 NCAA Championships—and Neff, the 2018 NCAA high bar champion—should continue to challenge for top all-around spots in the next year.
In 2015, the U.S. men won a hefty haul of individual medals: Sam Mikulak won bronze medals on floor and parallel bars in addition to his all-around gold; Paul Ruggeri won the bronze on high bar; and Donnell Whittenburg won an amazing three silver medals on floor, still rings, and vault.
The 2019 team had great success in the apparatus finals as well, with Robert Neff winning double silvers on floor and pommel horse, while Cameron Bock won the bronze on parallel bars.
This week in Lima, the U.S. women defended the team title they’ve won in every edition of the Pan American Games since 2003. Four years ago at Pan Ams, the U.S. team won the gold ahead of Canada by a total of 7.3, whereas in 2019 they sailed to gold by an even more significant margin of 10.4!
Canada’s Ellie Black has won the all-around title at the past two Pan American Games, whereas U.S. women—Madison Desch in 2015 and Riley McCusker in 2019—took home the silver for their country. (Fun fact: Brazil’s Flavia Saraiva won the all-around bronze in both 2015 and 2019!) Amelia Hundley finished fourth in the 2015 Pan Ams all-around, while Kara Eaker matched this placement in Lima.
In the apparatus finals, Riley McCusker won the gold on uneven bars, just as Rachel Gowey did four years ago. 2019 American Cup Champion Leanne Wong finished second in the bars final, improving on Amelia Hundley’s bars bronze from 2015.
In 2015, Megan Skaggs captured the balance beam silver, while Riley McCusker won the beam bronze this week. But it was Kara Eaker who stole the show in apparatus finals yesterday, performing a stunning set that scored 15.266. Eaker’s gold marks the highest finish for a U.S. woman on beam at Pan Ams since 2007, when Shawn Johnson won the title ahead of Nastia Liukin! Eaker also added a silver on floor to her medal tally, just as Amelia Hundley did in 2015.
The U.S. women—consistently noted for their strong vaults—did not attempt to qualify to the vault final at 2015 Pan Ams, but they did qualify a gymnast (Aleah Finnegan) to the final in 2019. Unfortunately, Finnegan had to withdraw from the final due to an injury. (Side note: Brandie Jay won the vault gold for the U.S. in 2011.)
All in all, the last two inceptions of this prestigious quadrennial competition have been a success for both U.S. teams, and they look to be in an ideal position to perform strongly at Worlds this fall!
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: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com