Jordan Chiles competes on the balance beam at the 2021 Winter Cup on Feb. 27, 2021 in Indianapolis.
Although the Winter Cup won’t have any bearing on Olympic gymnastics team selections, this weekend’s competition in Indianapolis is significant.
For starters, it’s the first competition in nearly a year, if not longer, for many of the country’s top gymnasts.
And on Saturday, fans were treated not only to the return of 2016 Olympic gold and silver medalist Laurie Hernandez, competing for the first time since Rio, but also an outstanding performance by 2017 national all-around silver medalist Jordan Chiles, who won the all-around title with a total score of 57.050.
Chiles posted the top score of the day both on vault (14.900) and floor (13.600), and moved into the lead after a standout performance on uneven bars — historically not her strongest event — where she scored 14.050. She wrapped things up on balance beam, landing a full twisting, double-somersault dismount for a score of 14.500 that tied for highest on the day.
“The message today was just to go out and have fun,” Chiles said in a post-meet press conference. “I know we haven’t competed for over a year and a half, and having that ability to take that into so much consideration, I put what I know and how I am as a person, my hard work, my mental and physical health throughout the whole thing, and went out there and did what I did and showed people what they needed to see.”
Hernandez, now 20, said she was excited and a little nervous, especially because people might be expecting to see the 16-year-old version of herself.
“It definitely has been a really long time since I competed, so today we went out there with super watered-down routines to dip my toe in the water and get the feeling of what it’s like to compete again at such a high level,” she said in an interview with NBC. “And it went really well.”
Hernandez competed only in floor exercise (12.050, good for 11th on the day) and balance beam (13.950, the day’s fifth-best score), the event in which she won the silver medal in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Her next goal, she said, will be to compete in all four events and work on upgrades, either by sharpening old skills or adding new ones. She has been training all four, she said, and only recently made the decision to compete in just two events on Saturday.
Shilese Jones, 18, finished second in the all-around, almost two full points behind Chiles. Jones ended with a powerful floor routine that included a double-back with 1.5 twists that hasn’t been performed yet in international competition. Her score of 12.950 was third on the day, as was her score of 14.400 on uneven bars.
Emily Lee finished third in the all-around; her top finish was second on the floor with a score of 13.350.
Other notable performances:
- Suni Lee, 17, posted the highest score of the day on uneven bars with a 15.050.
- Jade Carey, who through qualifying competitions has already secured a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, had the second-highest score on vault with a 14.800. She is a two-time world silver medalist in the event.
- One of the gymnasts who impressed commentator Nastia Liukin most was 16-year-old Konnor McClain, who would not have been old enough for the Olympics had they happened in 2020 but could now compete in Tokyo. She had the third-highest score on vault with a 14.700 and the fourth-highest score on balance beam with a 14.00 on a difficult and artistic routine.