This week saw the U.S. Women’s National Team gather in Sarasota, Florida at EVO Athletics, the temporary USA Gymnastics national training center, for the U.S. Worlds Team Selection Camp, which included a one-day verification competition.
Reigning Rio 2016 Olympic all-around gold medalist Simone Biles of World Champions Centre won the all-around competition with a 59.700, securing an automatic spot on the U.S. team for the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships later this month in Doha. Riley McCusker of MG Elite finished second with a 57.250, followed by Grace McCallum of Twin City Twisters in third with a 55.400.
On the uneven bars, McCusker won the event with a beautifully clean routine, scoring a 14.950. She has continued to show consistently strong routines throughout the year and put herself in good position to make the team. Biles also looked more confident on bars, scoring a 14.750 and almost sticking her Fabrichinova, a tucked double-double, dismount.
Alyona Shchennikova of 5280 made her argument for being on the team on her speciality event, scoring a 14.600 for a hit routine with only minor issues on her dismount. Defending World all-around champion Morgan Hurd of First State also hit her routine, although there were a few missed handstands, which brought her score to a 14.300. Unfortunately, Grace McCallum and Ragan Smith of Texas Dreams had falls but came back strong for the rest of the competition, keeping themselves in the conversation to make the Worlds team.
Kara Eaker of GAGE posted the highest score on balance beam with a massive 15.150, hitting her connection-heavy routine and making a statement that she could help the team on beam as a possible medal contender on her speciality event. As always, her artistry was beautiful to watch and her beam routine flowed easily. McCusker finished second on beam with a 14.100 despite a few wobbles. Her sharp movements and execution helped offset some of the wobbles, as she normally gives very little away in execution deductions.
Smith continued proving she still belongs on the team, placing third on beam with a solid 13.950. Though Smith started this competition shaky, she continued improving throughout, looking like a different gymnast from nationals, where an ankle injury sustained at last year’s World Championships in Montreal continued to plague her. However, two months later, Smith looked much healthier and a lot like a different athlete.
As expected, Biles posted the highest score on floor exercise, a huge 15.100. Her new routine looked much more controlled than it did at nationals, and her tumbling was as powerful as ever. The 21 year-old will be looking to win the gold on this event at Worlds in Doha, looking to back up her gold medal at her last World Championships in Glasgow in 2015 on top of her Olympic gold in 2016 in Brazil.
McCallum came back strong from her fall on bars with a 14.300, finishing second on the event and showing she can be a well-balanced all-around competitor, particularly helping out the U.S. team on floor. McCusker finished with a 13.850, continuing to hit her routine consistently and cleanly. Hurd also hit her routine, though with a lower difficulty value, only scoring a 12.900. Smith showed her best floor routine this season, looking much stronger than she did at nationals and scoring a much improved 13.650.
In the last rotation, Biles unveiled a new vault that she will potentially compete at Worlds. Rather than performing her Cheng, she added another half twist, doing a half-on front double full. If competed successfully in Doha, this vault will be named the Biles, something no man or woman gymnast has ever competed. Biles scored a 16.000 for the stuck vault, posting the highest score of the competition.
Everyone else competed a Yurchenko double-full with the exception of Kara Eaker, who competed a Yurchenko one-and-a-half. Shilese Jones of Future finished second with a 14.750 for a clean and powerful vault, and Naydenov’s Jordan Chiles finished third with a 14.700. Unfortunately, Chiles did not perform her Amanar vault, the skill that could have helped place her on the Worlds team for her vault prowess.
On Friday afternoon, the official U.S. World Artistic Gymnastics Championships team was named with Simone Biles, Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker, Ragan Smith, Kara Eaker, and Grace McCallum selected to represent the US in Doha, with the alternate to be decided from this team prior to competition in Qatar.
The 2018 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar begin October 25th and run through November 3rd.Tags: Alyona Shchennikova, Grace McCallum, Jordan Chiles, Kara Eaker, Morgan Hurd, Ragan Smith, Riley McCusker, Shilese Jones, Simone Biles, United States, World Championships