Butler Wins Second Straight HNI Title

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Sophia Butler

Sophia Butler, a 15-year-old who trains at Discover Gymnastics in Houston, won her second straight Houston National Invitational all-around title this weekend after first taking the gold as a junior in 2019.

Butler managed to put together a pretty strong competition here, coming back from a rough meet on beam at last weekend’s WOGA Classic. She was able to earn gold nearly four points ahead of the rest of the field, with a 53.750 that included a 13.950 on bars and a 13.300 on beam, the top scores on both events, as well as a 13.450 for her Yurchenko full on vault and a 13.050 for her beam routine, both the second-best scores of the meet.

It was a great overall improvement from her first outing of the season, and Butler continues to prove herself as a “true all-arounder” without a single weak event. She has great qualities on all four, and while she may still be a little too “green” to factor into this summer’s Olympic team, she’s one I fully see as a huge threat next quad, following in the footsteps of Alicia Sacramone after 2004 or MyKayla Skinner after 2016.

The Wakayama club from Japan sent a few gymnasts to compete here, with Sakura Nakaguchi winning the silver with a 50.050, while her teammate Chihiro Okuma won the bronze with a 49.850. Nakaguchi was pretty solid on every event, and both she and Okuma had lovely work on beam, with Okuma taking the gold with a 13.100 and Nakaguchi taking the bronze with a 13.000.

Rounding out the top eight were Clara Navarro of Spain in fourth with a 48.650; Isabel Sikon, a U.S.-based gymnast who represents Poland internationally, in fifth with a 47.500; Kristina Undheim of Sweden and Yuri Kahata of Japan tied in sixth with scores of 47.200, and Helena Lucas of Spain in eighth with a 46.800.

Navarro also tied for the second-best floor score with a 12.300, while Undheim got the bronze on bars with a 12.500. Eva Volpe, who trains at Pearland Elite, had a rough competition on bars and beam, finishing 15th overall, though she had the third-best score on vault with a 13.400.

Most notably competing here was the legendary Oksana Chusovitina, who often trains in the Houston area and takes advantage of this meet on a regular basis. When she is in town for the HNI competition, she consistently puts up the top score of the meet on vault, and it was no different this weekend, with her 13.700 for a downgraded set outscoring everyone else in the competition for gold.

The men’s competition saw a few of the top U.S. Olympic contenders on the roster, and they ended up sweeping the top five all-around spots, with Yul Moldauer in first with an 83.900, Trevor Howard in second with an 83.200, Allan Bower in third with an 81.700, Colin Van Wicklen in fourth with an 80.800, and Genki Suzuki in fifth with an 80.600.

Some of the scores were a bit out-of-whack in the men’s meet, especially on rings and on high bar, but overall there was a lot for the guys to be proud of. Bower had the top score on pommel horse with a 14.300, Van Wicklen was at the top on rings with a 15.200, and Moldauer had the top scores on vault with a 14.500, parallel bars with a 14.200, and high bar with a 14.200. Alex Diab, another U.S. man, competed a few events here, putting up the second-best floor score in addition to tying Van Wicklen with a 15.200 on rings, while Nicolas Kuebler, a junior at the Metropolitan club, had the top floor score with a 14.000, placing sixth overall with a 79.600.

Outside of the U.S. men, Colombian gymnasts Javier Sandoval and Carlos Calvo, both of whom coach at Discover Gymnastics, also competed here, with Sandoval in seventh with a 76.600 and Calvo in eighth with a 76.500. Other internationally recognizable names here included Michael Torres of Puerto Rico, who trains at the Houston Gymnastics Academy, competing on every event but p-bars, and Michael Reid of Jamaica, who trains at Texas Dreams, competing only on pommel horse, where he got the silver medal with a 13.700.

Full results for the men’s and women’s competitions are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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