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Riley McCusker Leads The Way As U.S Women's Gymnastics Team Secures Gold

By Ryan Gregory | July 28, 2019, 1:38 a.m. (ET)

Riley McCusker competes on the balance beam at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 27, 2019 in Lima, Peru


The deafening cheers of the hometown crowd could not drown out the U.S. women’s gymnastics team’s roar to the podium. It secured a team gold Saturday night at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 behind a dazzling performance from Riley McCusker, who finished first in both the uneven bars and the floor performance.

Team USA was competing in the same subdivision as host Peru, which led to untimely and unexpected outbursts from the crowd. Instead of letting this distract them, the ladies used it as motivation to propel them to a final team score of 171.000, almost 11 points more than second place Canada (160.600). The gold is Team USA’s fifth straight and 11th overall at the Games.

“It was definitely more fun this way,” McCusker said of the crowd’s participation. “There was a lot of energy. It was cool, they were actually doing the wave. It kept the mood pretty light. They were a great crowd.”

Before McCusker could unleash her dominant performance, it took some momentum from the team’s first apparatus, the balance beam. There, teammate Kara Eaker started Team USA off on the right foot, scoring highest on the apparatus with a 14.850. McCusker was right on her heels, however, with a 14.250. Team USA teammates Leanne Wong (13.650) and Morgan Hurd (13.100) rounded out the remainder of the top four.

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“It was really important for us to hit those routines,” Wong said. “It’s how we get started strong. Doing all of that was a really good start for us.” 

That electric start carried over into the floor performance. McCusker continued to shine, scoring a 14.050, the best of the day. She eked out the first-place finish over Team USA teammate Eaker, who was right on her heels with 13.850. Aleah Finnegan scored a 13.750 to claim fourth and add to Team USA’s point total.

“I’ve been training every day in the gym,” McCusker said. “I’ve been working on hitting it when it counts and just building up my consistency.”

This strong start put the podium in sight. The ladies continued their surge for glory with another eloquent performance, this time on the vault. Finnegan led the way for Team USA with a 14.700, utilizing an Yurchenko double for her approach. Both Riley McCusker (13.850) and Morgan Hurd (14.300) utilized the approach as well. Eaker instead opted for the Yurchenko 1 ½, which landed her a score of 14.200, elevating her team’s point total to 138.

Trailing leader Canada by just 33 points going into the uneven bars, victory was well within Team USA’s grasp. Instead of coasting to the finish line, Team USA exploded through it. McCusker dazzled with a 14.900, the highest score of the evening for the uneven bars. Leanne Wong and Morgan Hurd both finished with scores of 14.250 to secure the convincing victory for Team USA. 

“All I feel is pride,” Hurd said. “Not only for myself but for the whole team. It’s a lot of pressure to keep the USA’s (gymnastics) win streak going, and these girls worked so extremely hard and earned it. I’m so proud of them for how they handled themselves.”

Team USA isn’t done yet. Monday, July 29, McCusker, Eaker, Finnegan and Wong will compete in the individual all-around final. McCusker will compete in the uneven bars, balance beam and floor performance in addition to being in contention for the all-around podium. Eaker is also up for all-around contention, as well as the balance beam and floor performance. Finnegan will participate in the vault, and Wong will shoot for glory on the uneven bars.