The world gymnastics championships open Oct. 2 in Montreal with no returning Olympians on the U.S. women’s team for the first time since 2007.
One of the 2016 Olympic alternates, Ragan Smith, is ready to make sure you don’t miss them.
The Texan had a breakout 2016 season as a first-year senior, and now she’s the top American all-arounder and a world championships medal contender on multiple events. She’ll be joined on the U.S. team by fellow Olympic alternate Ashton Locklear, as well as world championship debutants Jade Carey and Morgan Hurd.
With no team competition in the world championships following the Olympics, the U.S. women will be out for individual medals in the all-around and on the four apparatuses. New national team coordinator Valeri Liukin can select three gymnasts per event in the qualifying round, and as many as two per country can advance to the finals.
Although not as accomplished as some of the star-studded U.S. teams of recent years, this year’s young squad carries medal potential in every event.
Here’s a look at the four U.S. gymnasts who will be competing in Montreal.
Events to Watch: Floor exercise and vault
What to Expect: A newcomer on the elite gymnastics scene, Carey made her senior debut this season and has competed in just three meets. But with wins on the vault in all three meets — including at last month’s national championships — Carey made herself a relatively easy choice for the world championships team. She’s shown she can hit the difficult Amanar vault, and at worlds she should be a medal contender both in that event and on floor exercise. An Oregon State commit, Carey could follow the in the path of Kayla Williams, who came seemingly out of nowhere to win the 2009 world vault title in her only season as an elite gymnast.
Hometown: Middletown, Delaware
Events to Watch: All-around and floor exercise
What to Expect: The surprise pick for the worlds team, Hurd struggled at nationals and finished sixth in the all-around. With the makeup of this world championships team, however, she’s almost certain to compete on all four apparatuses in Montreal. Known for her trademark glasses, the China-born gymnast could surprise at the world championships, particularly if she can hit her difficult floor exercise routine. Hurd didn’t hit that routine both nights at nationals, but she did score top-eight finishes on balance beam and uneven bars.
Hometown: Hamlet, North Carolina
Event to Watch: Uneven bars
What to Expect: The veteran of the U.S. team, Locklear has always been an uneven bars specialist, and that’s no different this year. She finished second in the event at the national championships, and now she’ll have an opportunity to get that elusive world medal. Locklear finished fourth on bars at the 2014 world championships, and though she showed Olympic medal potential last summer, the U.S. team ultimately went with Madison Kocian, who won a silver medal in Rio. Hardware is hardly guaranteed for Team USA’s only world championships veteran, though. She’ll need to add another difficult element to her routine before worlds in order to get back to her 2016 potential. Locklear also competes on balance beam, and she is likely to do that event in Montreal, too.
Hometown: Dacula, Georgia (but trains in Texas)
Events to Watch: All-around, balance beam and floor exercise
What to Expect: An alternate on the 2016 Olympic team, Smith is now a favorite to win the world all-around title. Fans got to know Smith last year as the first-year senior performing to an Addams Family-themed floor exercise. She’s still diminutive at 4-foot-6, but now she’s quickly grown into a confident veteran, and she thrived in her role as the prohibitive favorite at nationals. Not only did she win the two-day all-around title by 3.4 points, but she also won national titles on beam and floor while finishing in a tie for third on bars. Americans have dominated the all-around competition at recent Olympics or world championships — winning six of the last six titles — and if all goes to plan, Smith could come home with more than just one medal.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009, including the gymnastics national championships and Olympic trials every year since 2011, on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.