Chiles Explosive as First-Ever Women’s Winter Cup Champion

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Jordan Chiles

The first-ever women’s competition at the Winter Cup concluded today with a decisive win for Jordan Chiles, who earned her best all-around score under the current code of points by more than a point, solidifying her as one of the top seniors in the United States right now.

Chiles, 19, showed an impressive mix of power, control, and fire in all of her routines, which are equal parts difficult and clean. Once known as more of a vault and floor kid (she took the titles on both this weekend), since switching gyms to World Champions Centre, Chiles has begun to show more balance across all four events, paying special attention to cleaning up her bars skills and getting consistent on beam while upping her difficulty on both.

As excellent as she was this weekend – sticking her Yurchenko double full on vault, doing fantastic work with no major mistakes on bars and beam, and hitting all of her difficult tumbling on floor with just hops and a stumble on her wolf turn – there’s still room to grow and improve. She has the potential for upgrades on both vault, where she’s previously competed an Amanar, and on floor, and she’s absolutely capable of going even higher on her execution with just slight fine-tuning on some of her skills.

With an all-around score of 57.050, Chiles joins an elite list of just nine currently active U.S. gymnasts who have broken a 57 in the all-around this quad. If she can keep up scores like these, it puts her in a pretty competitive spot going into the Olympic season. Since the team for Tokyo will be selected based on all-around scores over two days of competition at the Olympic Trials, all she’d need to do is just hit what she’s capable of hitting, and she’s right up there with those who have been considered serious contenders throughout this entire process.

Shilese Jones also had an excellent performance here, finishing her day with a 55.100 for the silver medal after truly shining with endless power on her Yurchenko double vault, and then doing gorgeous work on bars, getting a personal best 14.4 to win the bronze on this event with her Maloney to Tkachev and Downie to Pak easily the highlights for her.

Though Jones and Chiles actually had identical two-event scores taking only vault and bars into consideration, Jones wasn’t able to keep pace with Chiles due to lower-difficulty beam and floor routines, though she did great work on both here. On beam, she overcame an early wobble to hit a mostly solid and clean set with a double pike dismount, and she had a tremendously elegant floor routine, bringing back her full-in half-out double tuck – named for her in the J.O. code of points – for the first time in years, getting another bronze event medal.

Surprising for bronze was Emily Lee, who fought back from a fall on bars to put up a 53.400 total. Lee showed a solid Yurchenko double on vault, and then had huge skills on beam, where she does both a side aerial to two layout stepouts and a two-foot layout series as well as a double pike dismount, and on floor, where she opened with a double double and also had a 2½ to front full, which she landed completely out of bounds. Had she not incurred the three-tenth penalty for that fault, she actually would have won this event, but she still wound up with the silver, getting a score of 13.35.

Lilly Lippeatt, who competed in the junior session, came incredibly close to reaching the podium, but ultimately fell a tenth and a half short to place fourth with a 53.250. She had a pretty clean competition throughout, showing off solid work on vault and beam, while her most difficult skills happened on bars, where she impressed with a Weiler half to Ricna to Pak. On floor, Lippeatt opened with a piked full-in and then hit her awesome whip full to double tuck, and though she had a few deductions for a couple of short landings, she still scored well enough to share the bronze with Jones.

Rounding out the top eight were Amari Drayton in fifth with a 52.950, Ciena Alipio in sixth with a 52.650, Addison Fatta in seventh with a 52.600, and Zoe Miller in eighth with a 52.500. The Winter Cup was recently added as a qualifier to nationals, where the senior qualifying score is a 52.000, so all gymnasts in the top eight qualified.

Many of the top competitors here didn’t actually compete in the all-around, with Jade Carey and teammate Riley McCusker competing every event but floor, while Sunisa Lee competed bars and beam, Konnor McClain competed vault and beam, and Skye Blakely competed beam and floor.

Carey was solid as always on vault, competing a Cheng, which she hopped out-of-bounds to incur a three-tenth penalty, but her overall execution was pretty good for this point in the season. I honestly expected her to play it safe with a Yurchenko double here, so it was exciting to see her going for something bigger. But I was most impressed with how good she looked on bars, where she had a big Church and Maloney to Bhardwaj, and on beam, where she had a few small form deductions throughout, but not even one minor wobble to throw her off.

In an interview on Thursday night, Carey said that she was actually the one behind getting McCusker to train with her in Arizona. She said she knew McCusker was going through a tough time, and asked her if she wanted to move out to her gym for a bit. McCusker showed up “almost the next day” and never looked back. 

While training, McCusker looked like she had grown leaps and bounds in her strength and confidence, and my favorite thing about seeing her in training and in competition over the weekend was finally seeing her look relaxed and happy to be doing gymnastics. Normally, I don’t judge a gymnast’s attitude on the floor – whether she looks stoic or bubbly or terrified or pissed off, each gymnast has the right to her own feelings and emotions when she competes, and there’s no one “correct” way to feel in a situation like this. But knowing now how utterly miserable she was in years past, knowing that it was a fear of her coach keeping her serious and scared, it just made me happy to know she no longer has to feel that way anymore.

I didn’t have super high expectations for McCusker here, and was essentially just hoping that she’d get through with routines she could be proud of. In the end, I think given all the time she’s had off, the emotional turmoil she’s been through, and then changing gyms just a year ago, she should be more than proud for the work she managed. She had a noticeably improved block on her Yurchenko double, her bars were just as good as ever, and though she had a fall onto the beam on her double wolf turn and then put her hand down on her double tuck dismount on beam, the rest was so gorgeous and technically solid, I don’t think the issues she had there are reflective of anything other than first-meet-back nerves.

Lee told us that she’d only do bars and beam here, as she’s still coming back from the ankle injury she suffered last summer, and she’s also dealing with a little bit of Achilles pain (though she’s training vault and floor on the tumble track and said we’ll see her there soon). Her bars were out of this world, easily getting the title ahead of McCusker with a 15.05, and with her “back-up routine” at that. 

During podium training, Lee showed off a Nabieva to Bhardwaj to Maloney to Gienger, and while the Nabieva to Bhardwaj is incredibly impressive on its own, it was the Bhardwaj to Maloney that floored me. I truly didn’t think anyone would be able to do it, at least not in a competitive routine, yet Lee makes it look easy. This is the routine she wants to compete at the Olympic Games, but this weekend, she “played it safe” with her 6.5 set, which included a Nabieva to Bhardwaj, van Leeuwen, piked Jaeger to Pak to Maloney to Gienger, and a full-in with a hop. It was excellent, and I love that we’re seeing her grow so much in her confidence with this routine.

Lee also competed beam, getting a 14.25 for third place with a 6.0 start value despite only dismounting with a layout. The rest looked great, with just little adjustments and minor form deductions throughout.

In podium training, both McClain and Blakely – first-year seniors who suddenly became eligible for Tokyo when the Olympic Games were postponed – looked excellent, so I was surprised to see neither end up competing in the all-around. McClain stuck to vault, showing a beautiful Yurchenko double, and beam, earning a 14.0 set with the floatiest layout series ever and a big double pike, though she showed off a fantastic 2½ through to double pike on floor in training, so I can’t wait to see her return there.

Blakely, meanwhile, looked so clean and controlled on everything in podium training. She didn’t disappoint in the competition, winning beam with a 14.5 thanks to her combination of gorgeous leaps, big acro skills, and elegant, fluid movement throughout, and though she has a lower-difficulty floor set and wasn’t at a hundred percent there with a few iffy landings, her opening double layout looked great, and I’m confident that once we see her back with her Yurchenko double on vault on top of her crisp bars set, she’ll easily be in the mix with all of this quad’s top seniors.

Finally, Laurie Hernandez. I had pretty much no expectations for Hernandez here, not because I don’t trust her, but because I wanted her to pleasantly surprise me in her first competition back after nearly five years away. She later told us that while she was planning on doing a little more difficulty, her coach, Jenny Liang, told her to just have fun and “dance her butt off” to take the pressure off. 

This meant a pretty simplified floor routine, where her most difficult pass – an arabian double front – had just a step forward, while the rest of her simplified passes – a double tuck, double pike, and layout – were clean, though caused her to lose out on a credit requirement with no full-twisting minimum pass, something she’d normally get on her full-in double tuck. Obviously there’s still a lot of work there to become competitive, but as a plus, she had fantastic leaps, she put on a great show with her Hamilton-themed performance, and she walked away thrilled with pulling off a hit, which I’d much rather see at this stage than her struggling through difficulty she isn’t physically or mentally ready for just yet.

That performance on floor gave her the momentum she needed to kill it on beam, where she was solid on absolutely everything, from her opening punch front pike, to her back handspring layout stepout series, into her front aerial to jump series, and then concluding with a double pike. At a 5.5 D-score, it’s obviously not everything she’s capable of, but she showed everything a good beam routine should have, and had such fire and attack to top it off, earning a 13.95 to finish fifth.

At this point, is it likely Hernandez will pull off an Olympic spot with just under four months to go before trials? It’s obviously not super likely unless she brings out all of her upgrades and proves that she can match the all-arounders who are getting 14s on multiple apparatuses. But beyond Tokyo, like McCusker, it’s just great to see her having fun and enjoying the sport again.

I think many people are forgetting that elite gymnastics doesn’t have to be “Olympics or bust.” It would be one thing if she wasn’t coming close to the bare minimum in terms of her skill level, in which case she wouldn’t be given the go-ahead to compete at elite-level meets. But Hernandez has the elite-level skills, and her two-event score proves it (it was just half a point back from the senior elite qualifying score of 26.500, which is something she could easily make up essentially just by adding a layout full in place of her layout on floor).

It’s clear she’s just focusing on competing what she feels like makes sense for her right now, and if that’s not full difficulty for the time being, that’s okay. Hernandez can be serious about the sport and her comeback, but still have fun with the process and take it easy when that’s what she needs. Personally, I’m happy she’s back, and I’m happy she’s doing gymnastics on her terms. Anything that happens beyond that will just be a bonus.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

 

19 thoughts on “Chiles Explosive as First-Ever Women’s Winter Cup Champion

  1. It will be interesting to see if Jordan can bring back her Amanar. Vault was always a go-to great event for her. She has obviously taken some time to polish other events. But with Wong, Skinner, and McCallum working on competing with either Cheng or Amanar, you’d think she would want to bring it back. A 14.9 with a DTY in international competition seems unlikely. As good as it was, that seems like a generous score. An Amanar would greatly increase her Olympic chance imo.

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    • Yeah, she’d definitely have one of the higher-scoring DTYs internationally, and I can see her getting around a 9.3-9.4 E score because she has everything that most DTYs don’t and isn’t getting deducted for things like lack of amplitude or distance, so I don’t think it was SO far off. If she’s landing her Amanar well and it looks as good in the air as the double, she’d definitely be in 15.0 territory, so it would be great to see her do that.

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    • Considering how inconsistent she is with the Amanar she shouldn’t bring it back. The .4 is not worth the risk in case she sits it down (which has happened several times before) or takes a few steps forward (which has happened several times before). I have only seen her nail an Amanar once on competition at 2018 Nationals, and even then she took a hop forward. She should stick with cleaning up the DTY and seeing if she can stick it everytime, which she has done many times in the past. While over scored, she went 14.9 here. Amanars aren’t worth it anymore because the scoring advantage just isn’t there after it was devalued by .5 this is why we rarely see them anymore.

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      • Maybe Chiles is a (totally) different gymnast than in 2018/2019, with a different environment ?? Comparing scores from 2/3 years apart makes little sense – if you see what I mean – but the same applies to gymnasts abilities. We are very early in the season and if she is that ready on her DTY, Laurent shoud make her try the Amanar again. 4 tenths could make THE difference. Does she have a competitive second vault ?
        Anyway she is part of the big story right now, and she prooved wrong those who failed to see her in a top 3 on any event.

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        • I disagree. Her Amanar has never been consistent and even last yer she brought it back for World Trials and she fell on it.
          Additionally, she should focus on completely sticking the DTY. She will never be able to stick an Amanar. If the Amanar were 7 tenths more than a DTY it would make perfect sense.
          Amanars are no longer worth doing, which is why we have seen gymnasts stick to DTY instead of upgrade to the Amanar. The .4 aren’t worth the risk.
          She used to do a Tsuk 1/1 layout in 2018. A second vault is pointless though with Carey and Biles locks for VT finals.

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  2. I’d rather see Riley work out the first-competition-back jitters here than later on when it counts! Everything she has looks solid, it’s just working out the kinks now. And her DTY didn’t make me afraid she was gonna die! And ugh, I can’t wait to see her debut her floor!! God, I hope she can stay healthy this summer – I honestly don’t care about anything else as long as she makes the Olympic team. She deserves it on the merits of her gymnastics but she deserves it even more because of the shit she’s been through.

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    • Same! She clearly had some nerves, and I also blame Tim D for her wolf turn fall…she had a LONG wait, and the entire time she was waiting in a mostly dead-silent arena, we kept hearing Tim SCREAMING on the broadcast about something, everyone was laughing including Riley, but what a thing to pull you from your focus hahaha. I’m like…60% kidding so don’t yell at Tim and I don’t think he realized how loud he was, but obviously that could have been a distraction that pulled her focus right before she went up. Still, regardless of how she hit, she just LOOKED healthy and happy and like once the little things are ironed out, she’s going to be a big threat.

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  3. Was the judging relatively consistent from one session to the next? (If Lilly Lippeatt had competed with the rest of the seniors, would her scores and placements have differed?)

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    • It’s hard to say…and I think it varied by event? There were some day two routines that I thought would have been higher on day one, and some I thought would have been lower, and since the difference between her and Emily’s AA scores was so slight, it’s hard to say if she would have made up that tenth-and-a-half if she was in the first session. That’s like, a step on a dismount. I think maybe Lilly’s bars and/or beam would have gone a little bit higher on day one, and that could have been the thing to push her over, but I don’t think her vault would have scored as high, so it’s hard to say!

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  4. ‘I think many people are forgetting that elite gymnastics doesn’t have to be “Olympics or bust.”

    Yet almost everyone announces their comeback 1 year or sooner before the actual Olympic games! The Olympics are the motivating force clearly to come back! These girls arent coming back for “No city championships” or to comeback for just the joy of competing at Winter Cup, or just Nationals, etc.

    If its just for fun, then lets see if she sticks around for ‘fun’ after the Olympics and continues competing. Otherwise, come on. Clearly it was for Olympics or bust. And nothing is wrong with that.

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    • I was’t talking about her motive for coming back, I was talking about how she looks currently. Obviously the Olympics are a motivating force for many reasons, and obviously the Olympics are why Laurie is back. That doesn’t change the fact that if she is not Olympic caliber and doesn’t end up ever getting there again, she can still enjoy being back in the competition and she very clearly is enjoying doing her comeback her way, on her terms, regardless of the outcome. She clearly came back because she wanted to make another team and because the financial opportunities involved just with being part of the process are probably great for her. Who cares? Do we really need to judge her for her motives? She’s in the gym and working incredibly hard and she has routines back on all four events that are on par with most other elites out there, if not the top current U.S. elites. She has a beam routine that, if she sticks around for worlds, could probably make the final or even medal. But if she doesn’t stick around for worlds, again, who cares? It’s her body, her life, her decision. She doesn’t deserve people calling her comeback “fake” just because she’s not doing the same skills at 21 that she was doing at 16.

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  5. There are so many good gymnasts I’m losing track. We have Biles and Carey already confirmed. The A team candidates would be S Lee, Hurd, Wong, McCusker, Eaker, Skinner, McCallum, Chiles, McClain, Blakely
    Am I missing anyone?
    I’d have Hernandez on the B team for now.

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    • IF McClain goes full-tilt for Tokyo she’s def A-team, but I’m not 100% sure she will – she might have more of an eye on Worlds this year and Paris ’24 as she originally planned. It would be a real shame for her to burn herself out by going all-out for an Olympics she wasn’t even supposed to compete in. My personal pet favorite scenario is that she goes in the individual spot this year (that beam is absolutely event-medal worthy) and then for the team in ’24.

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  6. I’ll add DiCello to my A team. Also for those on my A team who do you think could go for the individual spot.
    For example I think S. Lee is almost a given to go because if she does not make the team she could go as an individual for her medal worthy bars. Thoughts?

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    • I’d say Sunisa is basically a lock for the team IF her floor is what it was back in 2019 and she can stay healthy. I’m not even sure her floor needs to be that good because her bars has improved. I’d say each of the 4 members of the US team needs to be able to score at least 14.0 on each event. With so many built in deductions, beam and floor are where this is the hardest to achieve. The strategy should be: stack vault, floor, and bars due to the unpredictability of beam. We have Simone who’s capable of high 14’s to 15.0ish on beam. Then pick 3 gymnasts who are capable of a reliable mid to low 14ish beam score. Beams falls with only a 4 person team could be devastating! Not sure we want multiple risky, high difficulty beam routines on the team tbh.

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      • Mid 14’s on beam is crazy high in this code, with E scores often being in the 7’s, even in event finals. Scores like that happen at domestic meets but almost never internationally. Liu Tingting got a worlds gold with a 14.5 in 2018.

        Also, there are very few who could get a 14 on all 4 events. Simone and Suni are the only two I can see doing that, maybe Morgan and Riley on their best days.

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        • McCallum can get 14s or as close to 14 as possible on all 4 events, with a potential Cheng on VT to lift the AA up. BB was a 12.933 at Worlds with a fall so without the fall, judges were close to 14 for her. 13.766 was her FX score with the missing tucked front out of the front double twist would bring it up to 13.866 and she took three uncontrolled steps forward. I thought she went out of bounds but she did not get the .1 ND

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