Trinity Thomas, Shilese Jones, Kara Eaker, Grace McCallum, and Jade Carey
This year’s Pan American Championships, which serve as the qualifier for the 2019 Pan American Games, kick off this Friday with both the women’s and men’s programs across countries located on the American continents expected to contend for all-around, team, and apparatus medals in Lima, Peru.
The U.S. is historically dominant at the Pan Am Championships, with the women winning the team title by nearly seven points ahead of Brazil and the men defeating Colombia by nearly six points back in 2014. Both programs are also the reigning Pan Am Games team champions, with a U.S. women’s B-team taking the gold in 2015 seven points ahead of host team Canada while the men sent a strong team that topped Brazil by nearly four points.
National team coordinator Tom Forster selected the women’s team the day following the conclusion of this year’s U.S. Championships, the first team selection in his tenure, though he followed Martha Karolyi’s 2014 example by leaving off the girls who were strongest at nationals — Simone Biles, Morgan Hurd, and Riley McCusker, all of whom are front runners for the world championships team — and taking those who were ranked fourth through eighth in Boston this August in an effort to further test them as potential contributors to the worlds team.
Led by 2017 world silver medalist Jade Carey, the U.S. team also includes first-year seniors Kara Eaker and Shilese Jones in their first international assignments, as well as Grace McCallum, who won the Pac Rims all-around title in Colombia this spring, and Trinity Thomas, a member of several Jesolo teams and the silver medalist at this year’s Tokyo World Cup who is currently a freshman at the University of Florida.
The biggest challenge for the U.S. women will be Brazil, which will send the majority of its 2016 Olympic team — including Rebeca Andrade, Jade Barbosa, Lorrane Oliveira, and Flavia Saraiva — along with Thais Fidelis, who made her major international debut with a stunning performance at world championships last year, where she finished fourth on floor.
With a team this strong for Brazil, and with so many members of the U.S. team relatively new to the international level, I could see the Brazilian women really using their experience to their advantage, especially if all are in top shape. The U.S. still has an edge thanks to a generally more solid level of difficulty and execution, but I think the Brazilians will surprise with how close they get.
The Canadians are typically also a threat here, but this year they’re leaving off most of their veterans in favor of some up-and-comers who looked strong at the national team camp this summer, including Laurie Denommee, Haley de Jong, and Sophie Marois, all of whom are expected to put up strong work on vault.
Gemini gymnasts Jade Chrobok, a member of this year’s Commonwealth Games team, and Ana Padurariu, the first-year senior who dominated internationally as a junior, will also compete here, with Chrobok hoping to lead the team in the all-around while Padurariu will focus on bars and beam, as she’s still returning from a foot injury suffered in her senior debut at Elite Canada.
For Mexico, 2018 national champion Frida Esparza — a former U.S. elite who still trains at Head Over Heels in Northern California — will lead the team as the country’s top all-arounder alongside 2016 Olympian Alexa Moreno, who is looking to challenge for a vault medal in Lima. The team also includes 2018 Pac Rims beam silver medalist Paulina Campos, 2018 Pac Rims bars silver medalist Jimena Moreno, and first-year senior Natalia Escalera, who finished sixth all-around at nationals this year.
I’m also really excited about Argentina’s team, which is probably one of the country’s best women’s teams of all time, featuring the phenomenal first-year senior Martina Dominici alongside Ayelen Tarabini, Camila Klesa, Agustina Pisos, and Mayra Vaquie, which is also the team expected to compete at world championships. Dominici has major medal potential in Lima, and is coming off of the South American Games all-around title and a third-place all-around finish behind McCallum and Hurd at Pac Rims, while Pisos, Vaquie, and Tarabini all finished in the top ten at the South American Games.
Additionally, look out for all four of Puerto Rico’s gymnasts — Nicole Diaz, Karelys Diaz, Andrea Maldonado, and Paula Mejias — to shine here after an incredible showing at the Central American & Caribbean Games, while individually, keep an eye on Ana Palacios of Guatemala with her beautiful work on all four events, Marcia Vidiaux of Cuba in the all-around with a special attention to her vault and floor, the Dominican Republic’s Yamilet Peña on vault, Danusia Francis of Jamaica, who will compete at a major international competition for the first time since worlds in 2015, her teammate Toni-Ann Williams, back in elite competition for the first time since Rio, and fellow 2016 Olympian Ariana Orrego, who is taking some time away from training at Iowa State to represent the host country here in Lima.
On the men’s side, the U.S., Canada, and Brazil aren’t sending the country’s best, which could leave some room for the men from countries like Colombia and Cuba to step up and contend for the podium. I’m most excited for Manrique Larduet of Cuba and Jossimar Calvo of Colombia, both of whom had incredible performances at the Central American & Caribbean Games this summer, and Audrys Nin Reyes of the Dominican Republic, Jorge Vega of Guatemala, Reiss Beckford of Jamaica, Randy Leru of Cuba, and Tomas Gonzalez of Chile should also be on your radar.
You will be able to stream the competition on Facebook when it begins this Friday, September 14, with the men’s all-around competition and team qualifier starting at 8 am local time. The women’s all-around final and team qualifier begins Saturday at 8 am, and both team finals will be held Sunday, with the men beginning at 9 am and the women at 2 pm. A full list of subdivisions for the first day of competition can be found here, and below is the full list of competitors.
|No MAG||Anna Francoeur
|Gustavo Cumali||Maria Arauz
Haley de Jong
|No MAG||Raegan Rutty|
Maria del Mar Perez
Maria del Sol Perez
José David Toro
Ana Maria Lopez
Heika del Sol Salas
|Alejandro de la Cruz
|Mary Adny Morffi
|Fabio Chicas||Alexa Grande
|Fabian de Luna
|No MAG||Victoria Castro
Ana Laura Wong
Arian Leon Prado
Ana Karina Mendez
Jaime Da Silva
|TRINIDAD & TOBAGO|