From Tampa to Liverpool
Wrapping it up in Tampa, other than maybe the men’s champion, the competition at the US Championships felt as wide open for the top three as we have seen in a while! Let’s start with the men. When all was said and done, Brody Malone left little doubt who’s still the number one male gymnast in the country. He does the most difficulty and he makes the fewest mistakes. At the end of the day, that’s the recipe for success in the sport. After Brody however, it became very interesting. In my opinion, the story of the men’s competition was the rebirth, of sorts, for Donnell Whittenburg. He looked mentally and physically sharper than he ever has. He, of course, did a huge vault (full-twisting double Tsukahara), had strong rings and great tumbling. On the strength of his finish, he locked the second of two potential spots on the men’s world team along with Malone. Together, the two will be the foundation at Worlds for Team USA.
The other big story from the men’s competition was the senior debut for Asher Hong. If the country wasn’t familiar with Asher before the US Championships, they certainly are now. This athlete is the real deal! Physically, he has few weaknesses and mentally, the stage wasn’t too big for him. Sure he had some mistakes, but he was also able to bounce back from those mistakes with some very big gymnastics. He does the same vault as Whittenburg, which by itself may put him on the World team.
So, my prediction for the men at the World Championships is three medals. They will be on the podium as a team, Brody will win an All-Around medal and a high bar medal. And, if Donnell performs a more difficult second vault, he will contend there as well.
The women’s competition hasn’t been this wide open since before Simone Biles made her senior debut. Four Olympians returned to the Elite floor – Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles and alternates Kayla DiCello spirit Leanne Wong. I was impressed with all of them, honestly. Unfortunately, Wong sustained an injury, however it doesn’t sound serious and she looks ready to help team USA at Worlds. But the Olympian that really stood out to me was Jordan Chiles. She looked just like the gymnast we saw impressing the country with the performance that earned her a spot on the Olympic Team last summer. I will be surprised if she’s not an important part of the World Team!
The drama of the meet came down to the battle for first and second. Newcomer Connor McClain good luck veteran Shilese Jones for the All-Around title. Konnor has all the ingredients for greatness – difficulty, and beautiful execution, as well as the consistency it will take to stay on top and certainly contend for All-Around gold at Worlds and in Paris in two years. Jones had some mistakes that could’ve won the meet for her, and I’m sure part of her was disappointed finishing second. However, since the US Classic, I have been blown away by her gymnastics. She may be as complete a gymnast as I have seen put on the red, white and blue. If she hits four for four, she will be very hard to beat.
My prediction for the women in Liverpool is six medals. They will win the team competition and two All-Around medals, and an individual event medal on vault, floor (if Carey makes the team) and beam. What a competition it will be!