Senior all-around medalists MyKayla Skinner, Emily Lee, and Audrey Rousseau
This weekend, MyKayla Skinner competed internationally for the first time in four years after taking a break from elite gymnastics to focus on a collegiate career at the University of Utah, where she was a star of the program with a near-perfect hit rate.
As the 2020 Olympics drew year, Skinner had to wrestle with the decision of staying at Utah for her senior year in the 2019-2020 season, or taking the year off to have another run at the Games after earning an alternate spot in 2016. Ultimately, she decided she had to at least try, and so she returned to the domestic stage last summer, finishing a promising eighth all-around at nationals – kind of a big deal considering she had returned to elite-level training just a few months earlier – and then surprising literally everyone with a fourth-place finish at the world championships selection camp, earning an alternate spot for the team in Stuttgart.
After taking a post-worlds break to get married, Skinner went right back to the gym, and planned on making her competitive debut for the year at the Jesolo meet in April, but with the coronavirus outbreak causing the organizers to cancel, Skinner got only a few days’ notice that she’d instead be jumping right back into competition at Gymnix.
Skinner’s competition on Friday started out a bit rough on bars and beam, where nerves seemed to take hold and she ended up missing a few connections on both while also rushing through her bars set and falling on a leap on beam. She came back with a solid floor routine, and hit both her Yurchenko double and Cheng, though despite coming in as the strongest competitor at this meet, she instead ended up second all-around with a 52.631.
It wasn’t what she hoped for as her official return as a member of the U.S. national team, but getting that comeback meet out of the way is half the battle, and by Sunday afternoon, she was ready to take it to the next level, winning gold medals on vault, bars, and floor in the three apparatus finals she competed in.
Her DTY on vault looked even better than it did on Friday, and though she ended up tucking the Cheng a bit, getting it downgraded to a Khorkina, she still easily won the gold there with a 14.367, the second-highest two-vault average so far this year behind teammate Jade Carey. On bars, she got all of her connections, hitting her Weiler half to Maloney to Tkachev, Ray to Pak, van Leeuwen, and blind full to Fabrichnova – a 6.0 routine – with only minor form breaks for a 13.766. And on floor, she nailed her “Whatever Lola Wants” routine with a Moors, double double, tucked full-in, and front tuck through to 2½ for a 14.133.
Even though Skinner was rushed back into competing a month earlier than she expected, how she handled the change in circumstances is just as important as her scores here. There’s still time to work on the little things in her routines that will need cleaning up in time for trials this summer, but you can’t teach mental game, and Skinner showed she has more than enough to spare.
Also competing for the U.S. senior team were Emily Lee, who won all-around gold with a 53.831, Faith Torrez, who finished fourth with a 52.198, and Lilly Lippeatt, who was fifth with a 51.399. This was the international debut for both Lee and Torrez, while it also marked Lippeatt’s senior debut, and while it wasn’t a perfect meet for anyone, it was impressive to see this relatively young and inexperienced group come together to win gold as a team.
Lee continued to prove her strengths as a talented performer on beam and floor, coming away with a silver medal on the latter, and she also made the bars final, though had to withdraw due to a jammed finger. Torrez added some major difficulty to her beam set, taking the gold on that event with a 13.966, and Lippeatt was excellent on floor on Friday, though didn’t make the final due to the two-per-country rule.
While the senior team in Montreal was mostly a B team, the U.S. sent both of the country’s top juniors to Gymnix, and they absolutely didn’t disappoint, with Skye Blakely taking the gold medal with a 56.132 while Konnor McClain won the silver with a 55.098, and newcomer Katelyn Jong – a Hopes competitor last summer – finished third with a 52.498, though she was unable to bring home the bronze again due to two-per-country (Kaliya Lincoln, also relatively new to the junior program, only competed on floor).
The U.S. juniors also dominated event finals, where McClain swept the golds with a 14.267 average on vault, a 14.100 on bars, a 13.466 on beam, and a 13.166 on bars, while Blakely won silvers on vault, bars, and beam, as well as the bronze on floor.
Outside of the United States, the senior competition saw some incredible work from the young Belgian team, with one of the most exciting moments for me being Maellyse Brassart debuting a Yurchenko double on vault. She didn’t have the best day overall, but that vault was a big ‘get’ for the program and if she gets it a little stronger and more consistent, it could be her ticket to Tokyo.
Lisa Vaelen was the top all-arounder for the country, finishing sixth with a 51.132, while individual competitors Jade Vansteenkiste and Stacy Bertrandt finished eighth and ninth, and then team competitors Margaux Daveloose and Fien Enghels were 11th and 13th, with Brassart down in 21st. Everyone had off-moments here, but event finals went a bit better, with Enghels sharing the gold on bars with Skinner, while Brassart won the bronze on beam, and Vansteenkiste took the bronze on floor.
For Canada, Ana Padurariu ended up sitting out due to an illness, but Audrey Rousseau was able to step up in her absence to take bronze in the all-around with a 52.532. The others on each of Canada’s team had a pretty rough time overall on Friday, but like many others here, event finals on Sunday were a bit better, with Sophie Marois and Mia St-Pierre winning silver and bronze on vault, while the team had a few fourth-place finishes on each event, as Victoria-Kayen Woo had a solid bars set for a 12.833, Marois hit beam for a 12.733, and Rose-Kaying Woo and Isabela Onyshko tied for fourth on floor.
The Australians also had a team here, with Kate McDonald the country’s top finisher in seventh all-around with a 50.766, and she also took the silver medal on beam with a 13.100 for a lovely set. Her teammates Breanna Scott, Talia Folino, and Romi Brown also made finals, as did individual competitor Miriana Perkins.
Belgium also had a really strong junior team in Montreal, with Kéziah Langendock winning all-around bronze with a 51.365, while Jutta Verkest was sixth with a 51.098 in addition to winning the bronze on bars.
The Canada 2 team edged out Canada 1 for bronze by under a tenth, thanks to a standout performance from Sydney Turner, who finished fifth all-around while making three finals. Canada 1 was also strong, thanks especially to performances from Gemini gymnasts Ava Stewart and Bailey Inglis, both of whom broke 50 in the all-around to finish seventh and eighth, which was a pretty big improvement compared to Elite Canada. Inglis also won silver on floor and bronze on vault, while Stewart won the bronze on beam, and for the Canada 2 team, Sydney Turner proved to be an excellent all-arounder, finishing fifth while making three finals.
Chloe Saliaris was the top junior for Australia, finishing ninth all-around with a 50.166, while Julia Dumrath was Germany’s best, finishing 18th all-around with a 47.498.
In the challenge division, where gymnasts not part of teams invited to the Senior and Junior Cup can represent either their club or their country, Sloane Blakely of WOGA won gold with a 50.232, while Jordis Eichman of Colorado Aerials – who hasn’t qualified elite yet in the U.S. this year – won the silver with a 50.066, and bronze was shared between Chloe Cho of Waller’s GymJam in the U.S. and Charlotte Shin of Australia, both of whom earned a 49.765.
Article by Lauren Hopkins