Donnell Whittenburg finishes his routine on the men's rings at the 2022 U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Aug. 19, 2022 in Tampa, Fla.
TAMPA, Fla. – The year following an Olympic Games often serves as a reset of sorts in gymnastics. With just three years between the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and Olympic Games Paris 2024, this weekend’s OOFOS U.S. Gymnastics Championships was anything but a soft launch.
Olympian Brody Malone continued his ascent as the new face of the men’s program in defending his national all-around title on Saturday, while Konnor McClain overcame personal hardship and a strong women’s field to claim her first U.S. title one night later.
Malone and Donnell Whittenburg, the men’s runner-up, earned automatic berths to the world championships that begin in late October in Liverpool, England. The rest of the five-member U.S. teams will be named following upcoming selection camps.
Here are six key takeaways from over the weekend at Amalie Arena.
Konnor Is A Star, And So Is Shilese
Konnor McClain’s star has been in the making since she was an 11-year-old appearing with Steve Harvey on a national TV talent show. After a tumultuous year in which she switched gyms and mourned the loss of her father, the 17-year-old rebuilt her confidence and lived up to her long-discussed potential by winning the all-around and balance beam titles. Most remarkable? She says she competed at only 70 to 75 percent of her ability this weekend as she comes back from a concussion and nursing stress fractures in her ankles.
Shilese Jones never had those lofty expectations, but she took a star turn this weekend and, if not for a fall on her final dismount on the competition, she very well would have won the U.S. title. After a disappointing end to the last Olympic quad, and then also losing her father in 2021, Jones rededicated herself to elite gymnastics. With a commanding presence every time she performed, her 14.850 score on uneven bars Friday held up as the top score of the weekend. Jones topped the standings on floor and bars, and even with falls on beam and bars Sunday the 20-year-old ended within a point of the all-around title.
Brody Is The Best Man Right Now
After opening the competition Thursday with a rocky performance on the still rings, Brody Malone cruised to victory in the men’s competition with relative ease. His final winning margin was more than five points over runner-up Donnell Whittenburg, and Malone earned U.S. titles on floor and high bar as well. A world bronze medalist in high bar last year, Malone could be climbing toward the world all-around podium as soon as this year. The low-key guy from Georgia is also learning into his new standing as the face of the U.S. men’s program.
The American Women Remain Top Heavy
After losing their stranglehold on the Olympic team title last year, and then losing all-timer Simone Biles to retirement, the U.S. women’s program found itself it in a rare state of uncertainty going into 2022. Could they possibly remain as dominant as they had been for the previous decade? This group sure looks like they can. With just two years until the 2024 Olympics in Paris, and a new three-person U.S. leadership group installed, the top crop of American women shined all weekend. Konnor McClain and Shilese Jones headlined the show, but Jordan Chiles, Kayla DiCello, Jade Carey, Skye Blakely and Leanne Wong each made a strong case for the world championships team as well. Instead of a potential rebuild after Tokyo, this U.S. team looks ready to compete for world titles right away.