Jordan Chiles competes during the women's floor exercise at the 2022 U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Aug. 19, 2022 in Tampa, Fla.
TAMPA, Fla. – Talk about extracurriculars. As college freshmen this past year, Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles and Leanne Wong balanced a full slate of coursework with competing for their schools’ gymnastics teams just about every weekend throughout the winter.
Amidst all that, the three accomplished American gymnasts managed to squeeze in the extra training to maintain some of their more difficult elite skills.
Following a tiny break — if even that — at the end of the NCAA season, each reverted full-on to elite-level training.
Those efforts shone as the trio returned to the OOFOS U.S. Gymnastics Championships this week in Tampa, Florida. Following the first of two days of competition Friday at Amalie Arena, Chiles and Carey rank solidly among the top five, both within striking distance of the all-around title. Wong appeared headed for a similar position before being injured in the second rotation and withdrawing.
It's unclear whether Wong will continue in the competition, but Carey and Chiles, at least, will go for those national titles on Sunday night. Scores from both nights are combined to determine the winners.
Carey, Chiles and Wong arrived in Tampa as the field’s most decorated gymnasts.
Carey and Chiles were members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, with Carey winning a floor exercise gold medal and Chiles coming home from Tokyo with a silver medal from the team competition (Carey only competed individually). Carey also has four medals from the world championships, while Wong, a traveling alternate on the Olympic team, returned to Japan for the world championships last fall and won the all-around silver medal and floor exercise bronze.
Instead of taking a break after that, the women packed their bags and moved thousands of miles from home to start college.
Carey, who is originally from the Phoenix area, headed northwest to Oregon State. Wong left her home in Overland Park, Kansas, for Florida. Chiles, meanwhile, left her Houston-area gym to make her way to UCLA.
“I’m a city girl,” Chiles said. “L.A. is literally my home forever.”
Women’s college gymnastics has long been antithetical to other sports.
Whereas the NCAA serves as a stepping-stone for athletes in other sports to reach the elite level, a female gymnast’s elite career typically starts, and ends, while they’re teenagers. As a result, college gymnastics has long been an avenue for elites to go when they’re ready to “retire.”
The quality of gymnastics is still high in the NCAA, but it’s not at the elite level. It’s also just different.