Gymnastics Preview
The top artistic gymnasts from the U.S. are gearing up for the XVIIIth edition of the Pan American Games taking place in Lima, Peru. 

On the men’s side, Cameron Bock, Grant Breckenridge, Brody Malone, Robert Neff and Genki Suzuki, five ambitious young men all hailing from the country’s top NCAA programs, will attempt to harness the “University of America” enthusiasm that has fueled 2015 Pan American Games champion Sam Mikulak and others.

Breckenridge, in his senior year at Stanford University, helped the Cardinal capture the coveted NCAA men’s team title, while Stanford teammate Malone won the all-around, floor exercise and horizontal bar titles. Neff, a Stanford alum, captured two NCAA team titles on high bar, while Suzuki earned a share of three NCAA team rings with the University of Oklahoma. 

Bock and Suzuki helped the U.S. men take the title at the 2018 Senior Pan American Championships to qualify the United States for the Pan American Games in Lima.

The five women who will compete in Lima will be selected from among eight athletes – including 2018 world team gold-medalists Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker and Kara Eaker, as well as rising stars Sloane Blakely, Aleah Finnegan, Shilese Jones, Sunisa Lee and Leanne Wong – at the conclusion of the 2019 GK U.S. Classic, July 20. 

All have proven themselves capable of big things on the international stage. In addition to 2017 world all-around champion Hurd and 2018 world beam finalist Eaker, McCusker’s wide range of experience most recently includes a second-place finish at the Birmingham World Cup earlier in the 2018-19 season. 

Wong, the 2018 U.S. junior champion, captured the all-around title in her senior international debut at the American Cup in March 2019. Blakely, Finnegan and Eaker were part of the women’s team that captured the team title at the prestigious Gymnix International tournament in Montreal in the spring of 2018. Jones and Lee, first-year seniors, helped the U.S. women to team gold at the City of Jesolo Trophy in Italy in March 2019, where Lee also took top honors in the all-around and on vault and floor. 

The final five will be a balanced group of highly accomplished veterans and talented newcomers, all of whom are Olympic hopefuls hungry for experience on the international stage.

In rhythmic gymnastics, an exciting new crop of gymnasts is leaping into action led by three-time U.S. all-around silver-medalist Evita Griskenas, 2019 U.S. all-around bronze-medalist Camilla Feeley, and two members of the 2018 group that represented the U.S. at the 2018 world championships.

Griskenas and Feeley will be looking to build on the results of Laura Zeng, who four years ago in Toronto became only the second American gymnast to complete a clean sweep of the six rhythmic gold medals at a Pan American Games. Griskenas and Feeley, both two-time world team members, are primed to bring the house down with their elegance and mastery of the apparatus. 

Meanwhile, the rhythmic group comprised of 2019 world team members Isabelle Connor and Elizaveta Pletneva, as well as Yelyzaveta Merenzon, Nicole Sladkov and Kristina Sobolevskaya, will be in the hunt along with accomplished groups from Brazil, Mexico, Canada and Cuba. The Pan American Games will provide the new group with valuable experience before they tackle the challenge of Olympic qualification at September’s world championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Trampoline, a discipline that has been part of the Pan American Games program since 2007, has historically stood at least one American on the podium, a trend Jeffrey Gluckstein, Ruben Padilla, Nicole Ahsinger and Jessica Stevens will aim to maintain in Lima, bouncing in the footsteps of Steven Gluckstein’s silver from Toronto.

The trampoline competition is bound to be full of interesting storylines, as 2016 Olympian Ahsinger attempts to take a step toward her ultimate goal of competing at the 2020 Tokyo Games. The Americans will be put to the test by tough and talented trampoline teams from Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

While Lima 2019 is not part of the Olympic selection process for USA Gymnastics, the event does provide elite-level competition for hopefuls to compare themselves against fellow gymnasts from across the western hemisphere.