Leanne Wong competes in the floor exercise during the women's all-around final at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics Championships on Oct. 21, 2021 in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan.
Even without some of gymnastics’ most familiar names, this weekend’s U.S. Classic, the last major event before August’s U.S. Championships in Tampa, Florida, promises to be illuminating.
The overall picture of U.S. teams is far different than it was last summer, when the U.S. women stormed to team silver in unexpected circumstances at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. A year on, Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee and team members Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum are in college. Four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles is planning her wedding to Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens. Tokyo silver medalist MyKayla Skinner is settling down in Utah.
Most have left the possibility of a return on the table, with Lee and Carey openly announcing their intentions and attending a national team camp earlier this month.
But neither will be competing at this weekend’s Classic in Salt Lake City, one reason the overall picture of the U.S. women’s team is presently hazy. Top prospects Kayla DiCello, the all-around bronze medalist at the world championships last fall, and Konnor McClain, who did supremely well on the team’s European tour this spring, were originally scheduled to compete but withdrew earlier this week.
What the Classic will do is provide a snapshot of where other top prospects are, and allow newer talent to come to the forefront ahead of both the U.S. Championships and October’s world championships in Liverpool, England, where the top three teams will lock in Olympic berths to the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
The Classic runs July 29-31, with the women’s competition Saturday night and the men’s on Sunday. With that in mind, here are a few things to look out for.
Leanne Wong’s Return
Many of the gymnasts expected to contend for the U.S. title in Tampa are not on the roster for Salt Lake City, but Leanne Wong is showing up, just as she has since her breakout win at the American Cup in 2019.
Still just 18, Wong has accomplished a lot, including being named a traveling alternate to the Tokyo Olympic team and winning all-around silver and floor exercise bronze at last year’s world championships in Kitakyushu, Japan. Even as a star freshman on the University of Florida team last season, competing for Team USA has never been far from Wong’s mind.
“I wasn’t really planning on stopping my elite career,” Wong said at the world championships last year, and she’s keeping to that.