Kara Eaker competes at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 31, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
LIMA, PERU – It’s been a busy first five days of the Pan American Games Lima 2019 for the USA Gymnastics teams. Riley McCusker and Kara Eaker muscled through the grueling schedule and continued their impressive showings at the Villa El Salvador Sports Center.
Eaker’s near-flawless routine on the beam earned a gold medal. Her score of 15.266 was 0.416 points higher than her performance during the team event and 1.7 points higher than Elsabeth Black of Canada’s second-place score. In the floor exercise, she scored 13.800 to win her second medal of the day, silver. She walked away with three medals in total – two of them gold.
“It’s definitely exciting to be here and experience this with other people,” said Eaker of her Pan Am Games experience.
McCusker earned her fourth medal, a bronze, with a score of 13.333 in the women’s beam final. A fall on her dismount caused a significant loss in points.
“This has been a great experience,” McCusker began. “Going out there and competing so many days in a row, doing almost three full all-around competitions, plus another three events in like a week and a half has been a great experience – just go out and compete, and compete, and compete. It’s definitely different and exhausting, but it’s really good.”
McCusker climbed up on the balance beam first for the U.S. The initial elements of her routine were executed without struggle. The more difficult parts of her routine, including two backwards flips, caused her to sway to the left. On her dismount, McCusker fell backwards onto the mat. It was a significant deduction, and her score fell below both Eaker and Black.
“I just felt like my legs weren’t firing right today,” McCusker said of her miscues. “I think I just competed the most I’ve ever competed of my life, and it was a little exhausting.”
McCusker competed the last three days in a row and four of the last five.
“The third day of competing in a row, it’s a whole new experience for me,” she said. “I think that’s what got me.”
In the floor exercise final, the exhaustion caught up to her. On her second and third tumbling passes, she stepped over the boundary line, accruing significant deductions to her final score. She finished in fifth place.
Following McCusker, Eaker sprung up to the beam. She executed one of the more difficult parts of her routine – three successive flips spanning the length of the beam – without an issue. To top it off, she managed to stick her dismount and skyrocketed to the top of the leaderboard.
Kara Eaker and Riley McCusker hug at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 30, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
When the two athletes completed the medal ceremony for the beam final, they had less than five minutes to prepare for the floor exercise event. Eaker discussed how she managed the quick turnaround time.
“Just being up on that stage and feeling that adrenaline rush,” she began. “It just pushes me forward for the next event.”
In the men’s parallel bars final, Cameron Bock scored 14.033 to earn a bronze medal in the penultimate event of the men’s competition.
“It was good,” he said of his routine. “Probably not my best routine compared to day one. Just had a couple steps on the first part, a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes. But, I finished up the second part really well. I was pretty happy with it.”
Bock, an incoming junior at the University of Michigan, says this medal will motivate him for his next event.
“For now, I’m just trying to push towards possibly the [team for World’s], and get some upgrades there,” he said.
In all, the young teams collected 11 medals at the Pan American Games. It’s safe to assume there will be plenty more to come in upcoming competitions, including at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.