The 2019 U.S. Championships Senior Guide

A companion piece to our junior guide, below you can find a list of every single senior who will make an appearance at the U.S. Classic in Kansas City this weekend, including who they are, what they’ve done, and what you should know about their best skills and events.

SIMONE BILES
Olympic Preview: Team USA Media Summit Age 22
Hometown Spring, TX
Gym World Champions Centre
Experience Where do I begin? The reigning Olympic all-around, vault, and floor champion and a four-time world all-around champion, Simone has a total of 25 world and Olympic medals in just five years of senior elite competition, making her the most decorated U.S. gymnast of all time and the third-most decorated gymnast internationally. If she wins five medals at worlds this year, she’ll tie Larisa Latynina for most-decorated, and if she takes home six, she’ll go down in history as the biggest gymnastics legend ever…as if she isn’t already.
2019 Scores 60.000 (U.S. Classic)
58.800 (Stuttgart World Cup)
What to Watch Literally everything she does from the second she walks into the arena until the moment she leaves. She’s been working really hard on improving her already great bars and beam, so I’m looking forward to seeing that continued improvement, and we’re also looking at a double double beam dismount as well as a triple double on floor this weekend, which like, no big deal.
SLOANE BLAKELY
455874 Age 16
Hometown Frisco, TX
Gym WOGA
Experience Sloane qualified to elite in 2016, making nationals on her first try.  She missed the 2017 season due to an injury, but returned with some incredible routines last year, finishing 16th at nationals. Sloane was added to the national team earlier this year and made her international debut at Gymnix, winning bronze in the all-around and taking the silver on beam behind Kara Eaker.
2019 Scores 54.032 (Gymnix)
50.050 (WOGA Classic)
What to Watch Sloane is fantastic on beam! She has an awesome front acro series, and I’m absolutely obsessed with her switch half to layout stepout.
JADE CAREY
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.15.01 PM Age 19
Hometown Phoenix, AZ
Gym Arizona Sunrays
Experience Jade had a whirlwind start to her elite career, going from a J.O. gymnast to the 2017 world vault and floor silver medalist in just a few months. Nationally, she’s a four-time event medalist, and she’s a four-time world cup champion as well, taking the gold medals on vault and floor in both Doha and Baku this year. Her success there has her currently leading the Olympic qualification rankings on both events, and she’s likely to qualify to Tokyo as an individual specialist.
2019 Scores 54.950 (U.S. Classic)
15.066 VT (Doha World Cup)
14.933 VT (Baku World Cup)
14.600 FX (Baku World Cup)
14.466 FX (Doha World Cup
What to Watch Vault and floor are where Jade is miles ahead of the rest of the field. She’s competed a variety of high-difficulty vaults over the past couple of years, including an Amanar, tsuk double, and a brand-new Cheng this year, and if she’s at full difficulty, she’s has the highest vault scoring potential in the world outside of Simone Biles. On floor, Jade competes huge difficulty with excellent execution, and though she’s known as a specialist, she also has pretty solid bars and beam sets, with lots of upgrades hitting her routines this year.
JORDAN CHILES
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.17.53 PM Age 18
Hometown Spring, TX
Gym World Champions Centre
Experience An elite since age 12, Jordan made her debut with the U.S. national team at Jesolo in 2014 and has since won nine medals internationally, including the gold on vault and floor at Pac Rims and the bronze all-around at the Stuttgart World Cup last year. Jordan also won the silver medal on vault at nationals last year, and then a few weeks ago, she made a gym switch, moving to Texas to train with Laurent and Cecile Landi alongside Simone Biles. At the U.S. Classic, her first meet with WCC, Jordan looked more confident than ever, finishing 11th all-around in her first meet in almost a year.
2019 Scores 54.650 (U.S. Classic)
What to Watch Jordan’s top scores always come in on vault, where she had an Amanar at one time, though recently she’s been more comfortable with a DTY. Last year, Jordan showed really solid bar work, and even though she’s only been working with Laurent Landi for a short time now, this is already becoming a stronger event for her, especially in terms of her routine construction.
KARA EAKER
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.20.15 PM Age 16
Hometown Grain Valley, MO
Gym GAGE
Experience Kara’s first elite experiences came in 2017, her final year of junior eligibility, where she was one of the biggest surprises of the season with her bronze all-around finish on top of becoming the U.S. junior beam champion with one of the best scores and highest start values in the world. Last year, Kara was the silver medalist on beam at nationals, and she ended up making the worlds team for that event alone, posting some of the highest scores of the meet in qualifications and in the team final. This year, Kara led the team at Gymnix, where she became the all-around and beam champion, and then after finishing a shocking 4th place at the U.S. Classic – where she put up a 15.4 to take the gold on beam – Kara earned a spot on the Pan Ams team, where she again finished fourth all-around while picking up the gold on beam and the silver on floor.
2019 Scores 56.800 (U.S. Classic)
56.700 (Pan Ams QF)
55.298 (Gymnix)
53.750 (Pan Ams AA)
What to Watch Beam. Kara has one of the highest potential start values in the world on this event, going for a 6.8 with a set that includes  front aerial to split ring jump to back handspring, a side aerial into two layout stepouts, a split leap to side somi, and a switch ring to back handspring to switch half to Korbut. She’s absolutely stunning to watch, and her skills on her other events are also generally very clean.
ALEAH FINNEGAN
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.22.08 PM Age 16
Hometown Lee’s Summit, MO
Gym GAGE
Experience Aleah first qualified to elite last year, quickly becoming one of the standout U.S. juniors and placing 14th all-around at nationals. This year, Aleah was named to the national team and earned a spot on the Gymnix team, where she finished 5th all-around in addition to winning the senior vault title, and last month, she finished 7th all-around at the U.S. Classic, earning a spot on the team for the Pan Am Games, where she contributed on vault and floor in the team competition and qualified 4th into the vault final.
2019 Scores 55.500 (U.S. Classic)
52.231 (Gymnix)
14.700 VT (Pan Ams QF)
13.750 FX (Pan Ams QF)
What to Watch Like her sister Sarah, Aleah is a standout on beam and floor, with her floor skills especially gorgeous. She has a super clean arabian double front and double double on floor, and then on vault, Aleah has a new DTY and a handspring front pike, and while this won’t make her a standout in an international elite vault field, the DTY gives her a major edge as an all-arounder, and LSU will be drooling over what she’ll be able to contribute for the team.
MORGAN HURD
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.26.56 PM Age 18
Hometown Middletown, DE
Gym First State Gymnastics
Experience Everyone on earth noticed Morgan for her super clean skills when she appeared at the Nastia Liukin Cup in 2014, and it didn’t take long after that for her to qualify elite. Morgan has five national championships under her belt, always flying under the radar until last year, where she won silver all-around in addition to the bronze medals on beam and floor after a fantastic competition. This turnaround came in the aftermath of her 2017 world championship all-around title, where she also won the silver medal on beam, and then at worlds in 2018, Morgan won bronze in the all-around as well as silver on floor. Morgan has also competed at several world cups, winning the American Cup title in 2018 and then the Tokyo title this year, and though there’s a lot of tight competition at the senior level this year, you should have learned by now to never count Morgan out.
2019 Scores 56.500 (U.S. Classic)
55.099 (Tokyo World Cup)
54.950 (Pan Ams QF)
What to Watch Morgan is the definition of an all-arounder without a single weak apparatus in her repertoire, highlighted by the fact that she’s one of a rare few gymnasts to have made world championships finals on three different events (and in the span of just two years). I love watching Morgan most on floor, however, as she’s incredibly expressive there and she always knows how to sell her routine to the crowd.
SHILESE JONES
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.30.00 PM Age 16
Hometown Westerville, OH
Gym Future Gymnastics Academy
Experience Shilese made her first appearance in elite when she was just 11 years old. Back then, her 1½-twisting double tuck – named for her in J.O. competition – was the talk of the town, so it’s no surprise she made nationals that year and almost every year that followed. In her senior debut season last year, Shilese finished an impressive 5th all-around at nationals, earning a spot on the Pan Ams team where she helped the team take gold, and she also had a strong performance at worlds trials, where she finished 8th. This year, Shilese competed at Jesolo, where her incredible DTY helped her to a 9th-place all-around finish, and she again finished 9th at the U.S. Classic, where she looked fantastic and earned the Pan Am Games alternate spot.
2019 Scores 55.050 (U.S. Classic)
53.133 (Jesolo)
What to Watch Definitely vault and floor. Shilese has a super powerful and and dependable DTY, and on floor, she has an amazing double double, which she pairs with an equally good arabian double front. Last year, Shilese told me that she hopes to one day bring back her signature tumbling pass, so fingers crossed we’ll get to see it again soon!
EMILY LEE
Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 5.07.08 PM Age 16
Hometown Los Gatos, CA
Gym West Valley Gymnastics
Experience Emily made her elite debut in 2016, and she was one of the more promising juniors that year, finishing 20th all-around, but then an injury forced her to miss the 2017 season. She’s battled a series of injuries ever since, making her one of the unluckiest elites of this quad. Last year, she looked incredible at qualifiers, but then a scary fall on bars at the American Classic took her out of competition for the rest of the season, and this year she had a hard fall on beam at the same meet, but thankfully is okay. Despite the fall, Emily got her nationals score in Salt Lake City, and then she went on to have an excellent U.S. Classic meet, finishing 12th all-around.
2019 Scores 54.400 (U.S. Classic)
53.450 (Gliders Qualifier)
52.550 (American Classic)
51.350 (Gymnix)
What to Watch Emily’s beam is insanely good. She’s confident and lovely there, performing a punch front to jump series, a floaty layout, a side aerial to layout stepout, and a strong double pike dismount. I also love seeing her big double layouts on both bars and floor.
SUNISA LEE
53323369_10157145050134579_5822680351369068544_o Age 16
Hometown St. Paul, MN
Gym Midwest Gymnastics
Experience Sunisa got everyone’s attention with some great beam and floor choreo during her 2016 debut, but she didn’t stop there — she was added to the national team early in 2017 and traveled to Montreal where she won the silver on bars at Gymnix. Last year, Sunisa was consistently one of the top U.S. juniors, winning three silver medals at Pac Rims before taking the bars title as well as the all-around bronze and beam silver at nationals, and she had a glorious senior debut this season, winning the all-around, bars, and floor titles at Jesolo. She’s been limited to just bars and beam at her last couple of meets, but her bars were great enough to take the silver at the U.S. Classic, and hopefully we’ll see her healthy enough to compete all four this weekend.
2019 Scores 56.466 (Jesolo)
14.650 UB (U.S. Classic)
13.900 BB (U.S. Classic)
What to Watch Sunisa is all-around fantastic, with big skills and unique combinations on every event. She’s consistently pushing the boundaries on bars, where she’ll be hoping to hit her Nabieva to Bhardwaj this weekend in addition to also going for a Maloney to Gienger. On beam, she has an awesome layout series as well as a lovely side aerial into two layout stepouts, and she has a big double double and double layout on floor, though some recent ankle pain might hold her back a little on that event right now.
GRACE McCALLUM
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.38.42 PM Age 16
Hometown Isanti, MN
Gym Twin City Twisters
Experience Grace was late coming into the elite world, not attempting to qualify until her final year of junior eligibility, but she made a major impression pretty much immediately winning the all-around bronze at the 2017 U.S. Classic. Last year, she defeated world champ Morgan Hurd at the verification camp in April to earn a spot on the Pac Rims team, and then she was able to take advantage of Morgan’s falls on beam to get the all-around title there as well, in addition to winning silver medals on vault and floor. Though she came up a little short at nationals in 2018, she was back in top form at Pan Ams to take the all-around title as well as three event medals, helping confirm her as a top choice for the worlds team, where she helped the team to gold thanks to excellent routines on vault and floor. This year, Grace looked fantastic at the American Cup, winning the silver medal behind Leanne Wong, and she then won the bronze behind Simone Biles and Riley McCusker at last month’s U.S. Classic, so it’s possible we can expect even bigger and better things from her coming up.
2019 Scores 57.700 (U.S. Classic)
56.465 (American Cup)
What to Watch Floor is Grace’s secret weapon. It’s always been a strong event for her, but I think she’s capable of so much more difficulty than we’ve seen her competing, and while the top floor workers (aside from Simone Biles) at worlds last year seemed to get stuck in that 13.8-13.9 bubble, I think Grace will be the one to blow past that benchmark going forward. She’s clean, she can tumble, she can twist…this is definitely where she stands out and I just know she’s going to bust out some surprises here eventually.
RILEY McCUSKER
392351.jpg Age 18
Hometown Brielle, NJ
Gym MG Elite
Experience Like many of MG Elite’s girls, Riley went from zero to 60 in no time at all, debuting at the American Classic in May of 2016 and then winning four silver medals at nationals – all-around, bars, beam, and floor – six weeks later. No big deal. She made her senior and her international debut at the 2017 American Cup, where she struggled a bit, but then she went on to win the all-around and beam titles at Jesolo before snagging all-around bronze in addition to the bars title and the silver medal on beam at her first senior nationals. In 2018, Riley repeated as the all-around bronze medalist in addition to taking home medals on bars and beam, and she earned a spot on the worlds team after an incredible showing at trials, where she finished second behind Simone. This year, Riley competed at the Birmingham World Cup, finishing with the silver medal in the all-around despite falls on both vault and beam, and then she had a phenomenal performance at the U.S. Classic to take the all-around silver as well as silver on beam and bronze on bars, earning a spot at Pan Ams, where she won all-around silver in addition to gold on bars and bronze on beam (with a fall, mind you).
2019 Scores 57.900 (U.S. Classic)
57.050 (Pan Ams QF)
55.125 (Pan Ams AA)
53.065 (Birmingham World Cup)
What to Watch Bars and beam, for sure. Her form is textbook on the majority of her skills, and if she can get over the nerves that have held her back on several occasions, she’s capable of execution scores beyond our wildest dreams.
GABBY PEREA
389145 (1) Age 17
Hometown Geneva, IL
Gym Legacy Elite Gymnastics
Experience Gabby had a super quick rise from level 9 to junior elite back in 2013, when she was just 11 years old, and within a couple of years, she became one of the must-watch U.S. gymnasts. In her final year as a junior in 2017, Gabby won eight international medals, including all-around silver at Gymnix followed up by all-around gold at Jesolo, though an unfortunately-timed injury held her back to just bars at nationals that year, and she has since found it difficult to return as a strong all-arounder. Last year, she competed just once at camp, and this year she made the Jesolo team, but she struggled there in her senior debut and also had some issues at the U.S. Classic, where she finished 13th all-around.
2019 Scores 52.167 (Jesolo)
52.050 (U.S. Classic)
What to Watch Gabby is known for her difficult skills and textbook execution on bars. Once one of the top juniors in the world on this event, we should still expect to see her at a high level there this weekend, though I think the nerves that come with being out of competition for so long are what affected her at Jesolo and in Louisville, so hopefully she’ll be able to work through them at nationals this weekend.
MYKAYLA SKINNER
oie_8NsdZXuHzjp0 Age 22
Hometown Gilbert, AZ
Gym Desert Lights Gymnastics
Experience Perhaps one of the most divisive gymnasts in recent history, MyKayla has been on the elite scene for nearly a decade, making her debut as a junior in 2010. She became a senior in 2012, though she wasn’t part of the Olympic selection process that year and didn’t really begin to stand out until a year later when she debuted a double-twisting double layout on floor. Though she didn’t make worlds that year, her strong performances in 2014 – including vault and floor titles at Jesolo and Pan Ams – led to a team spot at worlds, where she won the bronze on vault. MyKayla was an alternate for the 2015 worlds team and for the 2016 Olympic team, and then she began her freshman season at the University of Utah the following spring, where she developed consistency, strong execution, and incredible leadership, all of which should help her now that she’s back for another run at the Olympic Games. After three seasons at Utah, MyKayla is now taking the time to fight for a spot in Tokyo, and as always, we’re sure she’s going to shake things up the way only she knows how.
2019 Scores 14.900 VT (U.S. Classic)
13.750 BB (U.S. Classic)
12.900 FX (U.S. Classic)
What to Watch Vault and floor were traditionally MyKayla’s strongest events in elite, and in NCAA, she kept up with a solid amount of difficulty, keeping a DTY on vault as well as a double double on floor, competing one of the most difficult NCAA all-around programs in history. She brought an excellent Amanar back at the U.S. Classic last month, nailed one of her most confident elite beam sets I’ve seen, and she looked great on floor, aside from balking her final pass due to a lack of endurance. Her bars, which we have yet to see her compete, are also jam-packed, and with a bit more time at this level, she’ll give some of her younger competition a run for their money.
TRINITY THOMAS
oie_zC4t0NcOBkwq Age 18
Hometown York, PA
Gym University of Florida
Experience Trinity qualified to elite as a junior in 2015, and while she was good then, it wasn’t until the following year that she began to stand out as a potential high-level gymnast, starting her final junior season with the floor gold at Jesolo before going on to finish 6th all-around at nationals. As a senior, Trinity has earned a few international assignments, winning silver all-around medals at the Tokyo World Cup and then at Pan Ams last year before moving on to her freshman season at the University of Florida, where she was an instant standout, qualifying to nationals as an individual after the Gators missed out on a team spot. While competing at Florida, Trinity – who was also a competitive diver in high school – has kept up with her elite training, attending some camps throughout the year with this summer’s elite season always on her mind.
2019 Scores 14.200 UB (U.S. Classic)
14.000 BB (U.S. Classic)
What to Watch I can actually never pick my favorite event for Trinity. One time I said I liked her beam the least – meaning that I still loved it, but just preferred her other three events if I had to pick – and everyone yelled at me and said beam was her best. I don’t think so, and would personally still go with her super clean bars or powerful floor as my top choices, but she’s great everywhere and has value everywhere, so her “best event” really comes down to opinion because she honestly doesn’t have a real weakness.
FAITH TORREZ
391458 Age 15
Hometown Pleasant Prairie, WI
Gym Legacy Elite Gymnastics
Experience Faith is this season’s big dark horse surprise. A level 10 since 2015, Faith has four J.O. nationals under her belt, winning the all-around titles in both 2018 and 2019, and she’s also won two titles on beam as well as one title on bars while qualifying for back-to-back Nastia Liukin Cups. Though it can be difficult for a gymnast to qualify elite for the first time as a senior, for the experienced Faith, it was no problem, and she easily got her score on her first try with a sweep at the Buckeye qualifier in February. Since then, the J.O. season has been Faith’s focus, but once that concluded, Faith returned to her elite dreams, making her national-level debut at the American Classic, where she won the senior all-around title while finishing in the top three on all four events, and in a stacked field at last month’s U.S. Classic, she finished a fantastic 8th all-around.
2019 Scores 55.250 (U.S. Classic)
54.850 (American Classic)
53.500 (Buckeye Qualifier)
What to Watch Faith has a huge DTY on vault, a clean and difficult bars set, and big tumbling – including a double layout, which she’s attempting to upgrade to a Chusovitina – on floor, but I think beam is where I love watching Faith the most. She has a fabulous triple flight series, a big punch front tuck, and a solid double tuck dismount, all of which she executes beautifully, though for Faith – who is a little behind the top seniors overall in terms of her difficulty – it’ll be all about putting together the same kind of brilliant all-around performance she had at the American Classic if she wants to stay in the mix among the best of the best.
LEANNE WONG
screen-shot-2019-03-04-at-11.31.10-pm Age 15
Hometown Overland Park, KS
Gym GAGE
Experience Leanne made her elite debut alongside club teammate Kara Eaker in 2017, winning the American Classic in her national-level debut before going on to win the vault title and bronze on floor at nationals. A year later, Leanne was consistently one of the best juniors in the country, winning bronze in the all-around at junior Pan Ams before winning the all-around titles at both the U.S. Classic and U.S. Championships, and she made a huge statement with her senior debut at the American Cup this year, winning the all-around title with one of the top scores in the world so far in 2019. She finished 5th all-around at last month’s U.S. Classic, and then contributed bars and beam routines at the Pan Am Games, where she took the silver medal on bars behind teammate Riley McCusker.
2019 Scores 56.765 (American Cup)
56.650 (U.S. Classic)
14.300 UB (Pan Ams EF)
13.650 BB (Pan Ams QF)
What to Watch Like many other top seniors in the U.S. right now, Leanne fits into that “she’s great on every event and doesn’t have a weakness” mold. If I had to pick a weakness, it would be beam, but more due to the nerves she’s shown in some of her competitions than any real technical faults. Otherwise, she’s textbook, and it shows on all four of her events. Look out for her beautiful DTY on vault, her inbar to Komova II to Pak to Chow half series on bars, and her insane tumbling on floor, where she has a Dos Santos into a stag jump as well as a 3½, 2½ to front layout, and triple full, because what, like twisting is hard? Oh yeah, she’s also casually training a quad on floor, and she’ll probably compete an Amanar any day now.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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17 thoughts on “The 2019 U.S. Championships Senior Guide

  1. I am so looking toward the triple double and double double on beam! I hope they will get new level of skill at worlds… Hopefully they wont cap the beam dismount

    Kara just need to do her dty….lol…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can anyone tell me why the full-twisting DLO is called a Chusovitina when Tuzhikova submitted and performed it in ’87? Also, a Chow 1/2 is a Mustafina, right?

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    • I don’t know the technicality with the FTDLO’s naming, but with the Chow half, both Aliya Mustafina and Yao Jinnan competed it at the same world championships, and so it wasn’t named for either of them. If it had been competed this quad by both, it would’ve been called the Mustafina-Yao (like the Derwael-Fenton)…unfortunately a couple of skills competed by two gymnasts last quad went unnamed.

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    • Well, Chusovitina did a double layout full-out, while Tuzhikova, like Bontas, did a full-twisting double layout (twist on the first flip). Or maybe Tuzhikova did a 1/2 in 1/2 out (I can’t tell for sure). The full-in and full-out on bars used to named for 2 different gymnasts as well. Then the FIG decided skills were the same regardless of when the full twist happened. So one guess is that when they changed that, they dropped Tuzhikova’s and kept Chusovitina. Which doesn’t make sense since Tuzhikova did it first, but it’s about as much sense as a lot of the of the Code’s named skills.

      The other day I read different quick hits describing the Chow 1/2 in different ways, but both were accurate. You could call the same skill a Stalder-Khorkina II, or a Stalder-Shaposhnikova 1/2, or a Chow 1/2 and be correct all 3 times. This happens on other events (the Double Twisting Yurchenko or the Baitova, for example), but bars seems to have the least consistent way of describing skills among fans, maybe because they’re all connected, there’s so many different ways to think of them.

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    • I think I’ve read that they named the DLO 1/1 back when the skill was classified differently based on which flip the twist occurred, and Tuzhikova did a full-out and Chuso did a full-in. What I’ve heard is watch got her variation named after her, but then when they stopped doing it that way, for some reason they decided to credit the skill to Chuso even though Tuzhikova did it first. Not sure how reliable that information is though.

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  3. it will be very interesting to see what the US judges give the beam double double and the triple double. So anyone knows how the US judges will decide this? will they consult FIG for recommendations or just go with whatever they think it should be? i figure there must be some consistency on this issue since it’s very iimportant esp if there is any sort of inquiry?

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  4. Is it just me or does it seem like Hurd is competing slightly watered down routines a lot lately (esp beam and floor) compared to those that she had at the 2017 Worlds and at Classics last year? Do we know if there is a reason (eg injury) for this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah…I would imagine they’re just trying to pace her for worlds? I think she’ll bring it when she needs to and they just want to keep her healthy by not doing too much difficulty at once, so it makes people count her out at nationals but then by worlds she’s at 100% and looking great. Hoping the case will be the same this year, but people counted her out in both 2017 and 2018, and in those two years she became the 8th most decorated US gymnast at worlds so I think she still has it in her to surprise!

      Liked by 2 people

    • It’s tomorrow. I think juniors are a 1 and seniors are at 6:30 EST??? I’ve been in the different time zones within the past three days, though, so the times might be incorrect

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