By Anna Rose Johnson
With the domination of superstar Simone Biles in the last quadrennium, the gold medals at the past several P&G Championships were all but assured to the talented young gymnast who won five medals at the 2016 Olympics. But in this post-Olympic year, many gymnasts have the potential to take home the all-around gold. And whoever captures the gold in Anaheim is, in all likelihood, going to make the trip to Montreal for Worlds in October. Barring injury, the silver all-around medalist will likely be chosen as well. Let’s take a look at some of the most promising candidates for all-around and apparatus success at P&Gs this weekend!
After winning the American Cup in March, 2016 Olympic alternate Ragan Smith took a break from competition, returning at the recent U.S. Classic in Chicago. She only competed two events, bars and beam, but won gold in both with scores of 14.550 and 15.350, respectively. If she puts together a solid all-around performance on both days of competition, she could easily win the P&Gs title and should be a lock for the Worlds team as well.
Others in the running for the P&Gs all-around title include Riley McCusker and Morgan Hurd, two top prospects for the Worlds team who have had a challenging season thus far. Both gymnasts are recovering from recent injuries and are looking to improve upon their performances at the U.S. Classic (where they enjoyed highlights but had disappointments as well). With the upcoming individual World Championships in mind, it’s especially important that Riley and Morgan compete in the all-around, since they didn’t at Classics. If they can step up their game and perform on each event, they’ll definitely remain in the mix for Montreal. Jordan Chiles, still on the comeback trail after her injury in summer 2016, is in a similar position. She did perform all four events in Chicago, finishing fifth, and her Amanar vault is definitely an asset. But with Jade Carey’s potential to qualify to the World vault final, Jordan will need to prove that she can contribute individually on other events.
Alyona Shchennikova and Abby Paulson are traveling similar trails this week in Anaheim. Both performed well at the Classics, taking home the top two all-around medals, but their scores will need to rise if they’re going to challenge for the gold at P&Gs. While Alyona has a strong uneven bars routine that could land her in the World bars final, she’ll need to contend with 2014 Worlds bar finalist Ashton Locklear, who only performed on beam in Chicago. If Ashton can win gold on bars in Anaheim and hit beam, her Worlds chances will improve, too.
Jade Carey’s focus in Anaheim will likely be to polish her vault and floor to the best of her ability. If she repeats the performances she gave in Chicago, she’ll have a very strong chance to make the Worlds team, and winning both vault and floor could make her a top choice.
Victoria Nguyen skipped Classics but has joined the P&Gs roster. This elegant athlete from Chow’s Gymnastics had a successful spring season this year, competing at Jesolo and finishing second at the London World Cup. If she can maximize her strengths on bars and beam and polish her other events, she’ll also be one of the top challengers.
In the junior division, Emma Malabuyo of Texas Dreams will be looking to win her first national all-around title in a field packed with young talent. Her score from Classics would have won the senior all-around title! But she’ll face tough competition from Maile O’Keefe of Salcianu, the 2016 junior national champion who won the silver in Chicago, 2.050 points behind Emma. Others to watch in the junior field? Twin City Twisters’ Grace McCallum, Texas Dreams’ Annie Beard, Olivia Dunne of ENA Paramus, GAGE’s Leanne Wong, Jaymes Marshall of TIGAR, and Cincinnati’s Lillian Lippeatt. Gabby Perea of Legacy Elite, who only competed bars at Classics and won the gold on that apparatus, will also be one to keep an eye on this weekend.
In conclusion, what we’ll be looking to see in Anaheim is consistency from the stars and special performances from the up-and-comers. We’re excited!
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