JaFree Scott, Jordan Bowers, Tori Tatum, and Leanne Wong
The junior women on Team USA have everything against them this season. With the verification for this meet months earlier, two girls expected to compete — Sunisa Lee and Sydney Barros — ended up withdrawing due to injury, and then the team’s leader, Rhonda Faehn, was unceremoniously fired days into the one national team camp of the year, throwing the team’s preparation — and the entire women’s program — into disarray.
That didn’t stop the U.S. juniors from showing a tremendous performance in the all-around and team competition at the Junior Pan American Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina this afternoon, however. Even with a last-minute ankle injury from JaFree Scott, who was able to compete only two events, the ladies came together for a more than seven-point win in the team final, while Jordan Bowers topped the all-around field with a 54.750, and she, Leanne Wong, and Tori Tatum all qualified into multiple finals apiece.
Bowers, who was added to the national team this spring and made her international debut with an all-around win at Pac Rims in April, was excellent in her performance today, competing a strong DTY on vault in addition to hitting clean bars and beam sets while bringing it home on floor, where she showed great difficulty in both her tumbling and dance to qualify first into the final with a 13.2. Bowers is a bundle of energy, joy, and confidence, and watching her compete is a reminder of what this sport is all about.
Despite putting her hands down on a double pike, Wong managed to win the all-around bronze with a 52.950 thanks to a gorgeous DTY on vault and beautiful, controlled work on beam, where she leads going into qualifications by half a point, earning a 13.7 for her performance today. She also qualified into the vault and bars finals, and even though she wasn’t at her best on floor, she had the makings of some strong skills there, including a double arabian and triple full.
Tatum is also a recent addition to the national team, and came into this meet as the second alternate after Scott. Tatum missed the 2017 elite season due to injury, but traveled with her gym to the City of Jesolo Trophy in April, where she finished seventh all-around in her international debut. Here, she ended up fourth after a solid day (though her ranking technically doesn’t count due to the two-per-country rules). Her DTY on vault was a highlight of the meet, going big and solid with just a tiny bounce on the landing to pick up a 14.8, while her Yurchenko 1.5 also scored well, and she leads going into the vault final by nearly half a point in addition to qualifying third on floor.
Scott could only compete on bars and beam, and she was a bit downgraded on the latter, protecting her heavily-wrapped ankle with tentative landings and just a layout dismount. It was too bad she wasn’t able to contribute in top shape here, but even so, she was able to contribute two scores to the team final in this four-up three-count format, and though she wasn’t able to go big on beam, she still managed to post one of the highest execution scores of the meet.
The Canadian ladies finished with the silver medal, led by the newly-crowned junior national champion Zoé Allaire-Bourgie, who won the silver in the all-around as well, and by last year’s national champion Emma Spence, Canada’s likely candidate for the Youth Olympic Games who finished just off the podium in the fourth-place spot.
Allaire-Bourgie was impressively clean, as usual, posting a 53.450 with a mistake in her difficult beam set, though she still managed to qualify in third there and with a hit routine in finals, she could be the favorite for the title. She also made the finals on bars, where she was absolutely lovely, and on floor, where she performed beautifully as always.
With Allaire-Bourgie born in 2004, she’s not eligible for the Youth Olympic Games spot that the ladies earned today, but Spence, who has consistently been the strongest 2003-born Canadian over the past year, once again showed why she will almost certainly end up returning to Buenos Aires this fall. Spence hit all four events, and she continues to improve with her work on beam, once a weakness for her, but she was fantastic there today, and qualified fourth into the final.
Also representing Canada were Imogen Paterson, who finished just behind Spence in the all-around with a pretty solid day everywhere but vault, where her Yurchenko 1.5 was a little weak (though she had a fantastic set on floor!) and Mia St. Pierre, who finished 15th after a rough performance on bars and beam, though she did reach the vault and floor finals, qualifying fifth and sixth, respectively.
The host team, Argentina, surprised to upset Brazil by nearly four points, their second bronze in a matter of months after also finishing on the podium at Pac Rims in April. The Argentinian program is a super strong one right now, led by one of its strongest senior squads in years, though the juniors also provide tons of depth, showing tons of potential with Olivia Araujo and Luna Fernandez placing seventh and eighth here after excellent days, especially on floor, where Fernandez’s performance was especially lovely, earning one of the top execution scores of the meet to help her qualify fifth into the final.
Fernandez also qualified into the vault final, while Brisa Carraro joins her in the floor final, Araujo qualified on bars, and Abigail Magistrati, who finished ninth all-around, qualified on bars and beam. Carraro had a weak performance with multiple falls on bars, so she was only able to wind up 24th all-around with her score there bringing her overall total down considerably, but as the baby of the team — this was the first time I’ve ever seen the 2005-born gymnast compete! — I think she showed great promise on beam and floor.
Rounding out the team competition, we saw Brazil in fourth, Mexico in fifth, Colombia in sixth, Panama in seventh, Costa Rica in eighth, Guatemala in ninth, and Chile — which sadly had a meltdown day on beam, with two or more falls from every gymnast — in tenth.
The Brazilians had some struggles on bars, though on an individual level, Luisa Silva and Christal Bezerra still managed to rank high in the all-around, finishing 10th and 11th while Silva made the vault and beam finals, Bezerra got in on bars, and Ana Luiza Santos reached the final on beam.
Other finalists here included Hillary Heron of Panama and Sabrina Cortes of Colombia on vault, Paulina Vargas of Mexico on bars and floor, Louise Lopez of Mexico on beam, and Daniela Briceño of Mexico on floor.
In addition to the competition today and tomorrow, this meet also served as the qualifier for the Youth Olympic Games, with spots ending up going to the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Panama.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
This post was made possible thanks to our amazing patrons who help us fund things like travel and video production as we work to grow the site. This month’s patrons: April, Daniel Bertolina, Emily Bischoff, Dodi Blumstein, Wendy Bruce, Katie Burrows, Kelly Byrd, Melissa Carwin, Jillian Cohen, Brittany Cook, Kat Cornetta, Kristyn Cozier, Anita Gjerde Davidsen, Holly Glymour, Hydrick Harden, Lauren Haslett, Inaya, Lauren Jade, Alexis Johnston, Katrina, Sarah Keegan, Ishita Kent, Alyssa King, Jenny Kreiss, Maria Layton, Rae Lemke Sprung, Leigh Linden, Annabelle McCombe, Stephanie McNemar, Bridget McNulty, Cindy McWilliams, M. Melcher, Alison Melko, Emily Minehart, Eyleen Mund, Rachel Myers, Melanie Oechsner, Jessica Olaiya, David F. Pendrys, Lauren Pickens, Cordelia Price, Abbey Richards, Christine Robins, Kaitlyn Schaefer, Lisa Schmidt, Brian Schwegman, Sam Smart, Stephanie, Karen Steward, Lucia Tang, Tipse_ee, Rachel Walsh, Laura Williams, and Jenny Zaidi. THANK YOU!
Want to help out and qualify for super fun rewards for as little as $1/month? Check us out on Patreon!