Tiana Sumansekera competes during the women's floor exercise at the 2022 U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Aug. 19, 2022 in Tampa, Fla.
TAMPA, Fla. – One year ago Tiana Sumanasekera watched the national gymnastics championships from her living room in northern California. Dulcy Caylor made it to the arena, though like most attendees, she was there strictly as a fan.
This weekend both are back, but this time as top contenders in the women’s junior division at the OOFOS U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Tampa, Florida. And in a condensed three-year Olympic quad following the postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, they represent some of the brightest stars from the next generation that’s sure to crowd the already strong U.S. senior field in the years leading into the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
Both got off to solid starts Friday in the opening day of competition at Amalie Arena. Caylor ranked fifth in the all-around standings with 51.400 points, while Sumanasekera was two spots back with 51.250. Competition wraps up Sunday, with scores from both days combined to determine the junior national champions.
Coming off strong showings at last month’s Pan American Championships in Rio, Caylor and Sumanasekera, who are both 14, were riding a wave of momentum coming into nationals.
Caylor, of Spring, Texas, won the all-around while finishing second on vault and third on balance beam in Rio. The Pleasanton, California, native Sumanasekera took second in the all-around while topping the standings in vault, balance beam and floor exercise. Both were part of the winning U.S. team.
“Even going in I didn’t know I was going to make the team,” Caylor said. “So going into that I was wanting to have fun with my first international experience, and I was so happy I did the best I could and won.”
In elite women’s gymnastics, athletes graduate to the senior level during the calendar year when they turn 16. Gymnasts aged 13 to 15 are eligible to compete at the junior level.
Even still, Caylor and Sumanasekera weren’t yet among the country’s top juniors last year. That’s how they found themselves watching, rather than competing in, the 2021 national championships.
Caylor, who lives and trains in a Houston suburb, made the trip north to Fort Worth to watch the competition, which was one of two key selection events ahead of Tokyo. Among those in the senior field were six from Caylor’s gym, World Champions Centre, including Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles, who both went on to make the Olympic team. The trip marked Caylor’s first time attending an event of that magnitude.
“I learned just the whole atmosphere, how fast it moves, what is good to know,” she said. “And I was just so excited to watch.”
Sumanasekera was similarly enthralled watching from thousands of miles away.
“I wanted to watch just to see how it was,” she said. “I knew I was going to work hard in the gym and come back stronger next year, so I was really looking forward to this year.”