Brody Malone competes on the pommel horse during the men’s all-around final at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 28, 2021 in Tokyo.
An Open Women’s Competition
Fourteen women will contend for the Classic title, with Wong and veteran Shilese Jones father and away the most experienced gymnasts in the field. That leaves plenty of room for someone new to emerge in the top three, and there is no shortage of candidates.
Reigning US junior champion Katelyn Jong, who turns 16 this week, will be making her senior debut, as will 2021 junior silver medalist Madray Johnson. Top prospects Nola Matthews, a standout on uneven bars, and Charlotte Booth, who is coached by 1988 Olympian Brandy Johnson, will also be leaping into the senior division for the first time.
For a few women, the Classic represents the last chance to qualify for the US Championships in Tampa. Those looking to do so will need to score 50.5 or above in the all-around, or 38.35 over three apparatus, or 26.25 over two events.
The Olympians Are Back In Town
For years, the US Classic was a women’s competition only, but this year for the first time the men are included, too, and they have turned out in force. Exactly 50 of them, most affiliated with an NCAA team, will compete for podium places.
The field is highlighted by 2020 Olympians Brody Malone, Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus, three gymnasts who may form the backbone of this year’s world team, while Stanford standouts Taylor Burkhart, Khoi Young and Riley Loos will jostle for position.
Others to keep an eye on include University of Michigan’s Paul Juda, who captured the NCAA all-around title this spring in an upset over Malone, the reigning US champion, and 18-year-old Fred Richard of Massachusetts, who announced himself by winning four gold medals, including the all-around title, in the junior division at last month’s Pan American Championships in Brazil.
Seeing so many gymnasts vying for position raises the overall level.
“Everywhere you look, you see someone improving,” Young remarked in a recent interview with USA Gymnastics. “Everywhere you look, you see someone who could be better than you in a year or someone who is better than you right now.”
The World Pommel Horse Champion Rides Again
Travel issues meant Stephen Nedoroscik barely made it to Japan for the world championships last fall, but once there, the 23-year-old made every second count.
Despite missing his scheduled training session, the pommel horse specialist from Penn State had a fantastic competition, claiming the only gold at the world championships for the US with a showstopping routine in the final to become the first American man since Danell Leyva in 2011 to win a world title — all while dealing with a broken bone in his hand.
The Classic will be Nedoroscik’s first competition since the world championships. Nedoroscik described 2021 as “a rollercoaster that went down, up, up, down, up, up, down, down,” on his Instagram. “Which isn’t necessarily the most fun roller coaster, but I’d ride it again if I were given the chance.”
That chance comes again on Sunday.