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Young U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Squad, Led By Ragan Smith, Named For World Championships

By Chrös McDougall | Sept. 20, 2017, 8:17 p.m. (ET)


Ragan Smith, the new U.S. all-around champion, joins Jade Carey, Morgan Hurd and Ashton Locklear on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team that will compete at the world championships Oct. 2-8 in Montreal.

The announcement came Wednesday, following a selection camp in Texas.

The team ranges in age from 16 to 19, with Locklear as the only one with past world championship experience.

Smith, who ran away with the U.S. title last month in Anaheim, California, is a favorite to win the all-around title in Montreal. The 17-year-old Texan also won U.S. titles on balance beam and floor exercise, while finishing tied for third on uneven bars. She was an alternate on last year’s U.S. Olympic Team that won a gold medal in Rio.

With no team competition at the world championships following an Olympic Games, gymnasts will be competing only for individual medals in the all-around and the four apparatuses. Each country can enter three gymnasts per apparatus into the qualifying round, and as many as two gymnasts per country can advance to each final.

Without the team competition, the U.S. will be looking only to maximize on individual medals in Montreal, which could lead to a mix-and-match approach with Smith as the country’s only all-around entrant. Hurd, despite finishing sixth at nationals, would be the other likely all-arounder.

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The emphasis on individual events likely worked against Jordan Chiles, who was selected as the non-traveling alternate. Chiles placed second in the all-around at nationals but her medal potential was greatest in just one event, vault, and only then if she was able to add a second vault, which is required to compete in the individual vault competition.

Carey, meanwhile, finished 16th in the all-around at nationals, but the 17-year-old was a close second in floor exercise and was the only U.S. gymnast to perform two vaults.

Missing from the roster is Riley McCusker. The 16-year-old, who finished third in the all-around and among the top two on bars and beam at the nationals championships, withdrew from the selection camp last week due to injury.

Her withdrawal likely opened the door for Locklear. The 2016 Olympic alternate finished second to McCusker on uneven bars at nationals, and if she’s able to up her difficulty as planned she could be the country’s top medal hope in that event. Locklear, 19, also competes on balance beam, and was part of the 2014 U.S. team that won a world title.

Hurd, meanwhile, made the team after a disappointing showing at nationals that saw her finish fifth on balance beam and eighth on uneven bars while ending up 10th in her signature event, floor exercise. However, if she's able to hit her difficult floor routine, the 16-year-old could contend for a spot in the event final. She also earned bronze at the Stuttgart all-around world cup in March at her international debut, where she was second on bars and third on floor.

The U.S. women have dominated international competition over the past several years, having won every Olympic all-around title since 2004 and all but one world all-around title since 2007. Team USA women also won a record nine medals last year at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

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.