By Anna Rose Johnson and Christy Sandmaier
Who will capture the men’s and women’s crowns in Kansas City?
Photos by Grace Chiu
In the women’s competition, Simone Biles looks undeniably unstoppable! She’s calm and confident and has all but captured her sixth national all-around title. But there are stars looking to break out and make their case for Stuttgart in the fall and join the conversation for Tokyo 2020! Riley McCusker, Grace McCallum, Kara Eaker, Leanne Wong and Morgan Hurd placed second-sixth at the GK U.S. Classic—where they finished within 1.25 points of each other—so it’s really anyone’s game. With McCusker, Eaker, Wong and Hurd just coming off their success at the Pan Am Games, will they be up for competing all four events at Championships? Or is it smarter for them to rest, pace themselves, and only do a couple of events in order to gear back up for Worlds in October? And how does MyKayla Skinner fit into the mix? Skinner skipped bars at Classics and struggled on floor, but she hit a great vault and beam set. If she competes and hits four events, she could be a factor. Sunisa Lee also has the potential to shake things up at the top if she competes in the all-around, and Jordan Chiles—with a few more weeks under her belt since Louisville—can’t be counted out, either.
In the men’s field, will we see Sam Mikulak and Yul Moldauer go 1-2? A healthy Moldauer is a threat for the top spot in any competition, and Mikulak looks better than ever, so we could see quite a battle for first. The question remains: Who will provide the additional competitive fire and leadership for the men’s team? Now is the time for the men marking the middle of the rankings to make their moves up and compete.
We’ve assembled our list of who’s who (and who might be #trending) at Championships:
Biles scored a 60.000 at the recent GK U.S. Classic (and captured her 19th straight AA title in the process), debuting a spicy floor routine with epic new tumbling passes that took the gymternet by storm. Her bars and beam are better than ever and vault remains in its own stratosphere. It’s not a question of whether she’ll win, but by how much and with what skills! Will we see the competitive debut of her triple-double?
Hurd is a two-time World champion who always brings vivacious artistry and personality to the floor for each performance. She won the Tokyo World Cup earlier this year and captured gold with her team at Pan Ams, becoming a leader along the way and cheering on her teammates at every turn. Even so, Hurd seems to be flying under the radar just a bit—will she challenge for gold in Kansas City and solidify her case for Stuttgart?
The 2019 American Cup champion and Pan Am bars silver medalist has been #trending as of late. She’s been throwing quads on the rod floor in training and looks to be a force in Kansas City with her fabulous skills (that triple twist off beam!) and graceful elegance. We can’t wait to see how this new senior steps up to be center stage. Will Wong be the breakout star who surges to the top?
Pan American beam champion Eaker has a habit of stunning everyone with phenomenal routines, reminding us all of an earlier generation of gymnastics that combined perfect technique, artistry and difficult skills. We’re eager to see if she debuts upgrades in her routine this summer—especially in front of a home crowd that’s sure to be going crazy each time she steps on the floor!
Working on upgrades and ready for more, fan-favorite Chiles looks to stamp her ticket to Worlds via solid and steady routines at Championships after an inconsistent meet at Classics. Will her recent gym switch (World Champions Centre) and new training partner (Simone Biles!) inspire Chiles to new levels?
Producing some of her best performances last fall when it mattered most at the World Championships, McCallum has proven herself an invaluable competitor and super-solid all-arounder. McCallum opted out of Pan Ams so she’ll be fresh, and with her recent upgrades and increasing confidence, we could definitely see her vie for an all-around medal at Championships!
Back for more! One of the best vaulters in the U.S. in the lead-up to Rio, Skinner was an alternate to the 2016 Olympic team and has since been dazzling NCAA audiences with her highly difficult routines at Utah. Now Skinner is returning to elite, and we can’t wait to see her back in action!
A brilliant bars and floor worker, 2018 World gold medalist and four-time Pan Am medalist (including all-around silver and bars gold) McCusker shines brightest when she’s demonstrating her exquisite artistry. Can she hit, showcase confidence, and capture the U.S. uneven bars title this summer and stamp her ticket for Stuttgart?
Powerful and polished, Carey enjoyed a successful run on the World Cup circuit this winter, proving once again that she’s one of the best vaulters and floor workers in the world. Could she vault to another gold medal in Kansas City?
Impressing everyone during a standout NCAA freshman season as a Florida Gator, Thomas is stepping out on the elite floor once again, and her versatility, virtuosity and sheer power promise great things this summer. She showcased stellar tumbling in training for Classics, but opted out of competing on floor to perform only bars and beam. We’d love a surprise on the Worlds team, and Thomas could easily shine on any event on the world stage!
Known for her artistry and brilliant combos on bars, Lee has an incredible new bar routine that nearly shut down the internet—can you say Nabieva + Bhardwaj?! She’s been busy upgrading beam as well (rumor has it the routine has a 6.7 start value) and definitely looking ahead to creating a few more buzzworthy moments in Kansas City and beyond!
Finnegan may have surprised everyone but herself when she placed seventh at Classics and earned a spot on the Pan Ams team, where she took home the gold with her team. A concussion kept her out of vault finals, but we’re excited to see this powerful, beautiful gymnast back on the scene at Championships!
Capping off the 2018 World Championships with a bronze medal on high bar, Mikulak closed out a solid season of competition and is ready for more—as evidenced by his incredible six medals at the 2019 Winter Cup and his Tokyo World Cup victory! Can the five-time U.S. national all-around champion (2013-2016, 2018) make it six?
Three-time American Cup champ and 2017 U.S. national all-around champion Moldauer should definitely be in the mix for the all-around gold in Kansas City. Will his clean execution and trademark stuck landings be enough for the win and mark his return to the top step of the podium?
Modi is a former Stanford standout who competed at 2018 Worlds and served as a 2016 Olympic alternate. He could certainly be one of the top all-around challengers in Kansas City, and we’re excited to see him compete! Modi finished sixth in 2018 and will be looking to move up.
Selected as an alternate the 2018 World team, Bower will be looking to up his game even further in 2019. And with his talent on pommel horse and reliability in the all-around, he may do just that!
The 2017 men’s junior national all-around champion and 2019 NCAA team, all-around, floor exercise, and high bar champion was a major standout for Stanford this season and could easily make a major impact on the senior national stage in 2019.
Update: Suzuki has chosen to forego competing in U.S. Championships and focus on continuing to upgrade his difficulty, according to Coach Mark Williams.
Capping off his career at Oklahoma with three medals at NCAAs, Suzuki will be shifting his attention to elite this summer in anticipation of Worlds. With his excellent execution, Suzuki is proving himself as “one to watch” in the lead-up to Tokyo.
Colin Van Wicklen
Continuing to gain experience as he pursues his elite dreams, Van Wicklen is on a roll. After competing at his first Worlds in Doha last fall, he also won the vault gold at the Winter Cup!
2018 World team member and 2019 NCAA pommel horse champ Yoder just keeps getting better and better! Will he be in the mix for an all-around medal this summer?
A veteran of international meets, Bailey’s career accelerated in 2018 as he captured two silver medals at the U.S. Championships and a gold on pommels at the national qualifier. We’re eager to see what he will bring to the podium in Kansas City!
Stanford alum Neff continues to demonstrate his all-around ability, finishing fifth in a competitive field at the Winter Cup. The 2019 Pan Am silver medalist on floor and pommel horse is known for his high bar skills (he won the 2018 NCAA title on the event), and Neff could prove a valuable asset to the World team this fall.
5 Junior Women to Watch!
A sensation out of Texas Dreams, Barros turned heads by being named to the Junior Worlds team and captured our attention with her vault and floor. She placed second at Classics and is definitely the latest in a long line of Texas Dreams gymnasts looking to rise to amazing heights.
A member of the silver medal-winning team at the 2019 Jesolo Trophy, 15-year-old Butler is one of the top juniors to watch this season.
One of the latest elites to emerge from Hill’s Gymnastics, DiCello is a star on uneven bars, where she excels with beautiful releases. After her success at Junior Worlds—where she captured three medals—will she win the junior title on bars in Kansas City and challenge for the AA title?
Hailing from MG Elite—the gym that produced Laurie Hernandez and Riley McCusker—Greaves is immensely accomplished on uneven bars and floor exercise. She placed third in the all-around at Classics and could challenge for some major medals this summer!
Amazing everyone with her five medals at the 2019 Jesolo Trophy, GK U.S. Classic junior all-around champ McClain is poised for an incredible year! She’s also one of the youngest members of the current junior national team, which makes her accolades even more impressive.