Riley McCusker just celebrated her eighteenth birthday, and while most other girls her age are focusing all of their energy on making college decisions and preparing for freshman year, McCusker is gearing up for the final push in her fight to achieve a lifelong dream. With just one year to go before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, McCusker already has an impressive resume- including a World Championships gold medal from last season- but she dreams of even bigger accomplishments.
When asked about the Olympics, McCusker called it her “biggest dream” and said it was “what [she] has been working for [her] whole life.” Before Tokyo comes around, however, this 2019 season brings goals of its own. McCusker’s goals for this pre-Olympic season are to “have a strong Classics and Championships, with the end goal being Worlds in Stuttgart.” Talking about her standout 2018 season, the 17-year old noted that it gave her “a lot more confidence,” and called the World Championships “a great experience,” but emphasized that she is excited to “go out and do even better this year.”
Gymnastics fans all around the world know Riley for her clean execution and beautiful lines, as the athlete is one of the most elegant and graceful on the competition scene right now. McCusker revealed she did “strict ballet for a long time,” and it is evident in her movements and extension on all four events.
Riley’s standout event, the uneven bars, is also her favorite. McCusker states the event has a “cool flow to it,” and that it is “the most fun [event] to train.” Heading into the main portion of the 2019 season, Riley revealed she plans to show upgraded routines on both bars and beam, two events where she will likely be used by Team USA in a team final at a World Championship or Olympic Games.
McCusker kicked off her 2019 season at the Birmingham World Cup earlier this year, and had a self-proclaimed “okay” competition. She mentioned she was “rusty on a few events” after “coming off of an injury after worlds.” A highlight of the competition was the reveal of Riley’s beautiful new floor routine, which be competed in the United States for the first time very soon at the GK US Classic in Louisville, Kentucky this week. The routine highlights the elegance McCusker is known for, but also has difficult tumbling that make the routine very competitive.
Riley’s career has not always been easy, as the young athlete has already had to work through many injuries in her career, including one that forced her to pull out of the selection process for the 2017 World Championship team. When asked about how she deals with injuries, McCusker admitted it was “very hard sitting around and watching everyone else train,” but says she gets through it by “thinking of why [she] started this journey in the first place and how far [she’s] come since she started.”
This positive attitude has translated into admirable perseverance, and it should help McCusker in any endeavour she undertakes, even after she is done with gymnastics. Riley has also learned from some of the more experienced members of the US team such as five-time Olympic medalist Simone Biles. McCusker says Simone is “so helpful” and “gives [her] so much advice because she has been around the block so many times, helps ([her] learn the rope of things and what to expect for each competition.”
Although the goal on the forefront of Riley’s mind right now is the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, she also has an exciting future ahead in the NCAA Gymnastics world. Riley committed to the University of Florida, and says she “knew that it was where [she] wanted to be for four years,” adding that she “loves the coaches and felt at home.”
McCusker is currently deferring a year to train for Tokyo, having just recently graduated high school, but says she is “really excited to experience the different vibe of college gymnastics.” Riley’s gymnastics inspiration, Kyla Ross, is currently an NCAA gymnast. Riley looks to follow in the footsteps of Ross’s success, saying that she admires Kyla’s “clean lines and how perfect she is,” calling that perfection her “goal in gymnastics.”
McCusker is poised to be a very legitimate contender for the 2019 World Championships team this fall and the 2020 Olympics next year, but the seventeen year-old has a life outside of gymnastics as well. Her hobbies include “bike riding and swimming to the ocean” and “hanging out with friends,” and says she enjoys “getting her mind off of gymnastics.” Riley is sure to be one to watch out for this season and the rest of her career, with her future looking extremely bright.Tags: 2018 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, 2019 GK US Classic, elite gymnastics, Florida, Florida Gators, GK US Classic, Gymnastics, Kyla Ross, MG Elite, NCAA Gymnastics, Riley McCusker, SEC, Simone Biles, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, US, women's gymnastics, World Championships