By Anna Rose Johnson
It’s shaping up to be a fantastic summer for U.S. gymnastics, with Olympic queen Simone Biles returning to the competition scene, a noteworthy group of veterans chasing gold and a slew of up-and-comers ready to rise!
Feature Photo by Grace Chiu
The Queen Returns
The return of Simone Biles will certainly give a boost to the U.S. program, and she will be tough to beat on the domestic stage this summer. Biles will perform in the all-around at this weekend’s GK U.S. Classic. We’re especially eager to see Biles’ reworked routines for the new Code of Points—front tumbling, an increased fluidity on bars and an epic triple-twisting Yurchenko are just a few of the things we saw from Biles in recent sneak peeks. A contender for U.S. all-around gold? For sure!
Hurd’s the Word
Reigning World All-Around Champion Morgan Hurd had a bit of a rough meet at the Pacific Rim Championships in April. Hurd chose to withdraw from the apparatus finals after a fall on her double pike dismount off beam and did not participate in the May National Team Training Camp. She’ll compete at Classics this weekend and look to start the latter half of the season on a positive note. We’re excited to see what she has in store!
Fresh Faces to Watch
First-year senior Grace McCallum impressed at PacRims, capturing the all-around gold in decisive fashion and performing two vaults. Other sixteen-year-olds to watch this summer include Maile O’Keefe, who placed third at the 2018 American Cup, Emma Malabuyo of Texas Dreams, whose artistry has delighted us for years, and GAGE’s Kara Eaker, who has a beautiful, world-class beam routine.
Carey Enters the All-Around Mix
After Jade Carey won two silver medals on vault and floor at 2017 Worlds, she moved from Oasis Gymnastics to Arizona Sunrays, but she is still coached by her dad, Brian Carey. While she hasn’t competed since her memorable (first!) World Championships, we did get a look at Carey’s training in February National Team Training Camp videos. In this video, she verifies an incredible floor routine that included a double-twisting double layout. Adding to the excitement for Carey’s competition return? This talented three-event specialist will add uneven bars to her repertoire at Classics!
Battle for the Uneven Bars
With Ashton Locklear recovering from recent knee surgery, it doesn’t seem as though we’ll see the decorated uneven bars specialist in competition for the remainder of the season. This could potentially provide a slot for an up-and-coming bars worker to make the trip to Doha as a member of the 2018 Worlds team. Riley McCusker is a likely candidate, as she is the reigning U.S. Uneven Bars Champion and has recovered from injuries sustained last fall. Also on the comeback trail is Ragan Smith, who won the 2017 U.S. all-around title and was primed to win Worlds, but an untimely injury in warmups forced her to withdraw at the last moment. Smith has already made a comeback from her injury, placing second at the 2018 Jesolo Trophy behind Emma Malabuyo with a 55.166. We’re hopeful that both McCusker and Smith will continue to make remarkable comebacks in the lead-up to Doha.
Another athlete in the all-around mix is Jordan Chiles, who finished third at the 2018 Stuttgart World Cup and won three gold medals at the recent Pacific Rim Championships. Chiles, who excels on vault and floor, could definitely challenge for another all-around medal at Championships (she was second to Smith last year!). After serving as an alternate for the 2017 Worlds team, there’s no doubt Chiles is a contender for the team this year.
College Bound… but Not Out
Two other athletes who performed well on the World Cup circuit this spring were Margzetta Frazier (second at Birmingham) and Trinity Thomas (second at Tokyo). Both Frazier (UCLA) and Thomas (Florida) are heading to college this fall and won’t be competing at Classics, but they’ve both hinted at sticking around the elite scene a little longer.
Frazier’s celebratory fist pump following her successful final pass in Birmingham went viral among the gymnastics community, and we love her energetic, artistic floor routine. Thomas, an exceptionally balanced all-arounder, definitely has the potential to challenge for gold at the U.S. Championships (yes, she’ll be there!) if she incorporates some upgrades into her well-executed routines.
Speaking of Fraziers… be on the lookout for another up-and-coming elite who just so happens to be Margzetta’s little sister, eMjae Frazier! eMjae qualified international elite in May, and we are so excited to see her compete in the junior division at Classics this weekend!
Which gymnasts are you excited to watch this summer? Tweet us your thoughts @insidegym!
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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