Kayla DiCello competes on the balance beam during women's qualification on day one of the 50th FIG Artistic Gymnastics Championships on Oct. 18, 2021 in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan.
With Suni Lee, Simone Biles and the rest of the 2020 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team having moved on to other things, two of the 2020 Olympic alternates are stepping up.
Leanne Wong and Kayla DiCello finished with the second and third best all-around scores as women’s qualifying wrapped up Tuesday at the gymnastics world championships in Kitakyushu, Japan. Both now move on to Thursday’s all-around final, where they’ll attempt to extend a U.S. winning streak in the event dating back to 2011.
Talk about World class! ⭐— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) October 18, 2021
The 🇺🇸 women brought the 🔥 at Qualifications! With seven more subdivisions to go, we now play the waiting game and see who advances to Finals. pic.twitter.com/odXxuBmfi7
The duo also both advanced to Sunday’s balance beam and floor exercise finals.
The world championships mark an opportunity for redemption for Wong. Earlier this summer, she was named one of four traveling alternates to the U.S. Olympic Team, but instead of cheering on her teammates from inside Tokyo’s Ariake Gymnastics Centre she was quarantined for 11 days in a hotel after her roommate, fellow U.S. alternate Kara Eaker, tested positive for Covid-19.
Wong, an 18-year-old from Overland Park, Kansas, led all U.S. women in Kitakyushu with an all-around score of 55.749 during the first day of women’s qualifying on Monday. That included the competition’s third best score on floor exercise of 14.000, and she was fourth on beam with a score of 13.700. The top eight gymnasts in each event move on to the apparatus final.
Like Wong, DiCello came into the summer of 2021 seen as a strong contender to make the Olympic team. Though her fate was sealed with some mistakes at the U.S. championships and trials, the 17-year-old from Boyds, Maryland, came back strong this fall. The 2019 junior world champion on vault, DiCello posted the third best all-around score in qualifying at 55.700 and advanced to event finals with the fourth best floor score (13.800) and the seventh best beam score (13.500).
Angelina Melnikova of Russia, the 2020 Olympic bronze medalist, had the top all-around score in qualifying at 57.065. Brazil's Rebeca Andrade, the Olympic silver medalist, elected to not do the all-around this week but posted the top qualifying scores in vault (14.800) and uneven bars (15.100), and also advanced on beam.
None of the six women who represented Team USA at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are in Kitakyushu. Lee, the defending Olympic gold medalist, is competing on “Dancing With the Stars” before beginning her freshman season at Auburn, while five-time world all-around champ Biles and the other 2020 U.S. Olympians are taking part in a national tour.
The other two U.S. gymnasts in Kitakyushu, up-and-comers eMjae Frazier and Konnor McClain, showed well in their events during qualifying but fell short of any finals.
McClain was seen as a contender to make the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team, then saw her plans turned upside down when the minimum age requirement for the postponed Tokyo Games was pushed back one year, suddenly making her eligible. After initially refocusing to make a run at Tokyo, the native of Cross Lanes, West Virginia, pulled back to again aim for 2024.
In Kitakyushu, the 16-year-old competed only on balance beam during the qualification round, scoring 13.466. That proved to be the eighth best score of the competition, but behind Wong and DiCello. Because only two gymnasts per country can move on to an event final, McClain was left out.
Frazier, a 17-year-old from Erial, New Jersey, competed on bars and floor in qualifying, and her floor score of 13.166 ranked ninth, which if not for the two-per-country rule would have made her the first alternate.
The competition continues with the conclusion of men’s qualifying on Wednesday, which includes the U.S. men. Following the women’s all-around Thursday and the men’s all-around Friday, the world championships wrap up with individual event finals on Saturday and Sunday. There is no team competition in the world championships immediately after an Olympic Games.