We like to kick off every new year with these weekly gymternet recaps and then completely forget about them after two months once the competition season gets underway. Taking bets on how long we’ll last in 2023!
In the News
Agnes Keleti turns 102! Happy birthday to five-time Olympic champion Agnes Keleti, the star of the Melbourne Games who essentially defined gymnastics for Hungary in the 1950s, who reached the age of 102 on January 9! The oldest living Olympic champion, Keleti is also a Holocaust survivor, and later coached Israel’s national team before returning to Budapest in 2015. The legend celebrated this milestone birthday with a toast from the Hungarian Olympic Committee.
Cambodia gatekeeping golds? According to PhilStar Global, as hosts of this year’s Southeastern Asian Games, Cambodia wants to limit the number of gold medals to just two per athlete. With world champion Carlos Yulo expected to potentially sweep the Games after winning five golds in the 2021 edition, even if he wins all seven individual medals, this rule means he will only be eligible to receive two of them. Cambodia has also opted to not include WAG or rhythmic in 2023, and it has restricted other sports from being included entirely.
Leave Livvy alone. NCAA gymnast and social media star Livvy Dunne has been in the news this week after an army of wannabe Andrew Tates followed LSU to Utah, where they were loud and rude during the meet, and then somehow managed to behave like a real-life anonymous TikTok comment section at the “stage door” (I’m a theater person so help me god I don’t know the sports arena term for this). Dunne very respectfully asked her fans to behave should they attend meets going forward, and their replies are unsurprisingly pretty gross.
This incident naturally sparked a discourse about whether this behavior should be acceptable at competitions (spoiler alert: it shouldn’t!) and whether Dunne “deserves it” because of how she dresses and the content she posts on social media (spoiler alert: she doesn’t!). I personally found their behavior terrifying in addition to being straight-up disrespectful, as did many coaches and athletes – including LSU head coach Jay Clark, who thanked Utah for upping its security to keep everyone safe, and said that in addition to being scary, the fans’ behavior also took away from the gymnastics and his ability to coach during the meet as his priorities shifted to managing the chaos. He also had a lot of bad takes, including comparing these boys’ behavior to the teen girls who screamed for the Beatles, and calling it a “consequence of fame” along with some southern fried “boys will be boys” BS, but I’m glad he at least is pushing for more safety for his athletes?
Look at all of these new seniors! As always, we put together a list of every gymnast who has aged into the senior level of elite competition in 2023. This list includes athletes born in 2007 who have competed at the national and/or international elite level over the past few years, with a couple hundred names across more than 70 countries. Over the coming weeks, we’ll provide more in-depth breakdowns of the new seniors you should be paying attention to going forward.
Sadly, one of the top first-year seniors is already out of commission, as Amalia Puflea – the 2022 EYOF beam and floor champion and junior Euros floor champion – was not named to the national team. After struggling with her club coaches last fall, Puflea has been unable to train at a high level for months and is unfortunately no longer capable of competing at the level required to receive funding. Why is it that every year I can’t give up hopes that things will be different for Romania?!
Houston National Invitational. The first elite meet of the season is coming up this weekend, with the Houston National Invitational taking place from January 13–15 in – where else? – Houston, Texas. This year, the Open Team Cup competition on Friday will serve as a Winter Cup qualifying event for MAG competitors, and we’ll see additional senior MAG elites on the floor on Saturday night. While I don’t believe we’ll be expected to see any WAG elites here, the Level 10 competition will serve as a qualifier for this year’s Nastia Liukin Cup. If you’re in town, don’t miss the Oklahoma men’s team signing autographs on Saturday morning! Following along from home? Live scores will be on MeetScoresOnline.
Looking ahead. Next week, Elite Canada will be held in Saskatoon, and in the final week of January, we’ll see the first opportunity for U.S. gymnasts to attempt to earn elite scores at the Vegas Cup qualifier, while the 2023 Top 12 series will continue for the men and kick off for the women across France. Check out the complete 2023 elite calendar to make sure you don’t miss a meet!
WGYM rankings. The national champions from Oklahoma did not disappoint in their season debut, coming within less than a tenth from breaking a 198 in neutral territory at the Super 16 competition in Las Vegas! They and many other teams looked ready for nationals, but it’s a long season, and we’re excited to see who rises and falls along the way.
1. Oklahoma 197.925
2. Florida 197.750
3. California 197.475
4. Michigan 197.400
5. Auburn 197.350
6. UCLA 197.275
– Utah 197.275
8. Alabama 196.975
9. Denver 196.925
10. LSU 196.775
– Ohio State 196.775
MGYM rankings. Only a handful of teams competed in week one, with most of the bigger programs yet to come, but Penn State ahead of Michigan was a fun little surprise to kick off the season!
1. Penn State 402.900
2. Michigan 400.600
3. Army 378.300
4. Greenville 373.100
5. Simpson 341.350
Elite moments. Several members of the gold medal-winning 2022 worlds team went back to school this weekend, including Jordan Chiles helping lead UCLA to its top season-opening score in 18 years with a second-place all-around finish behind 2020 Olympic champion Suni Lee, who posted a 39.75 to take the title in her sophomore debut performance for Auburn (and said she’ll likely make her elite return at the U.S. Classic this summer). 2022 world vault champ Jade Carey also had a strong start to her season to help Oregon State to third place in a quad meet, as did Leanne Wong, who finished first on bars for Florida, which won a quad meet of its own.
About 40 elite gymnasts from 10 countries joined NCAA programs as freshmen for the 2023 season, and we tried to catch what we could from most of them. Particularly impressive was 2021 world medalist Kayla DiCello competing all four events very well in her Florida debut. She’s currently ranked 9th in the nation, the second-best among freshmen behind former U.S. junior elite Selena Harris (ranked 7th), who was stunning in her first time out for UCLA. Oklahoma saw brilliant work from Ava Siegfeldt and Faith Torrez, LIU had an incredible debut from Syd Morris on three events, I loved what we saw from Trista Goodman on bars for Southern Utah, and Pittsburgh showed some great promise from former Polish junior Euros competitor Natalia Pawlak on bars as well as from former Canadian junior standout Lucia Jakab on beam.
Love it or LOVE IT?! BYU senior Rebekah Bean Ripley debuted a “Barbie Girl” routine at the Super 16 meet over the weekend. I’m sure you have lots of thoughts, but whether you love it or hate it, her set is so fun and campy, something BYU has become known for over the years thanks to Shannon Evans with her shark attack and Super Mario performances, both of which are simply ridiculous, and yet – I’m a fan.
But we do hate this. Sadly overshadowing the debut of the first HBCU gymnastics team in history this week was former student-athlete Leeiah Davis coming forward with allegations of bullying and hazing in her first few months at Fisk University. Davis, who has since left the program, reported her experiences to the administration, but her issues were not addressed. It’s an incredibly sad way for the team to get its start, and we hope Davis can find a gymnastics home with another program this season.
Chio retires from elite. 16-year-old Kailin Chio, once a top U.S. junior who won the national title on vault and the Junior Pan Ams title on floor in 2021, announced her retirement from elite this week, taking a step back due to injuries that have limited her over the past year, causing to miss the entirety of her first senior season. Chio, who trains at Gymcats under Cassie Rice and is set to compete at LSU beginning in the 2024-25 season, will compete Level 10 for the remainder of her club career. “I am very excited to continue doing at I love, just at a different pace,” she said on Instagram.
Wevers moves to Oslo. Lieke Wevers, a two-time Olympian for the Netherlands, announced that she has moved to Norway, where she is now working as a coach at Oslo Turn, Norway’s top gym that has produced some of the country’s best WAG elites including 2022 national champion Julie Madsø and last year’s Euros and World Championships standout Maria Tronrud. Wevers said that she wants to pass on the expertise she’s gained in her own career and “hopes to take Norwegian gymnastics to the next level.” But don’t worry – this isn’t a retirement announcement! Wevers added that while in Oslo, she will also continue to follow her own training program with the hopes of returning to elite competition for her country.
New bars for Becky. We’ll leave you with this routine from world medalist Becky Downie, who is greeting 2023 with a brand-new and stunning uneven bars set after returning from an injury that kept her out of international competition last year.
Article by Lauren Hopkins