Leanne Wong competes in the beam routine during the women's senior division at the 2022 U.S. Classic on July 30, 2022 in West Valley City, Utah.
Leanne Wong was down by 1.65 points at the halfway point of the U.S. Classic Saturday in Salt Lake City, trailing a surging Shilese Jones after a fall from the uneven bars on a complex new skill.
But Wong, back after a whirlwind 12 months that included a trip to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as an alternate, two medals at the world championships and her freshman season at the University of Florida, long ago learned the lesson about it not being over until everyone has completed all four events.
The 18-year-old floated through an excellent routine on the balance beam and then executed two stellar tumbling passes — and a catlike landing to save herself a fall on a third — to amass 54.4 points and collect her first major all-around title since her breakout win at the American Cup three years ago.
Following the well-trodden path of heading to the NCAA after a very successful elite career, Wong never closed the door on a return to elite competition, nor a run at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
That said, even victory in Salt Lake doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to give herself over to elite training either.
“I don’t think I’m definite about anything yet,” Wong said earlier this week. “I’m just taking it one meet at a time, seeing how it’s going and taking things from there.”
Limiting errors proved key to winning medals at this Classic, which was characterized by reversals of fortune from Wong and Jones, both pre-meet favorites.
The two were tied after identical 14.4s for their double-twisting Yurchenko vaults, but Jones pulled away on uneven bars with a thrilling sequence that included a stalder pike Tkatchev to Pak salto transition, an easier version of what she plans to unveil at next month’s U.S. Championships. Wong, meanwhile, slipped off on a Bhadwaj, a full twisting backward salto from the high bar to the low bar, that has been giving her trouble all week.
Hence Jones’s 1.65 point lead. But inconsistency that sometimes seems to follow Jones around popped up again: no sooner had she mounted the balance beam than she was off again, and fell a second time seconds later. And Wong, who performed with cool elegance on beam for a competition high 13.55 on the apparatus, saw the stakes slide back in her favor; in the space of a single apparatus, from being down 1.65, she now led by 0.4.
There was redemption of a sort for Jones on floor exercise, who lived up to her “Shi Can Fly” Instagram handle with a lovely new routine that featured a sizzling double-twisting double tuck opening tumbling pass and eye-catching artistry. She ended with 13.65 on floor for 54.05 and silver, just three and a half tenths shy of Wong.
Katelyn Rosen, who trained with 2020 Olympic team member Grace McCallum in Minnesota, kicked off a belated 17th birthday with the bronze after a night that included the highest score of the competition on floor exercise where she showed an excellent full-twisting double layout and a sharp double layout for 13.7. Newcomers Marisa Neal and Brooke Pierson rounded out the top five.