Jordan Chiles wins Winter Cup; Laurie Hernandez comes back

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Jordan Chiles won the Winter Cup, while Laurie Hernandez competed for the first time since the Rio Olympics in the first significant elite gymnastics meet in the U.S. in nearly one year.

Chiles, a 19-year-old who trains with Simone Biles, totaled 57.05 points at the Indianapolis Convention Center largely without spectators. She prevailed by 1.95 over Shilese Jones.

Full results are here.

“You can kind of tell that everybody had nerves here and there,” said Chiles, who considered ending her elite career during the pandemic but ultimately deferred enrollment at UCLA for a second year. “I did what I was supposed to do when I needed to.”

Most of the U.S.’ top gymnasts either weren’t at the meet — which U.S. high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster equated to a preseason football game — or chose to perform on fewer than four apparatuses.

Biles passed. She’s expected to return for a World Cup in Tokyo in May, her first competition since the October 2019 World Championships.

Hernandez, in her first meet in four and a half years, had the fifth-highest score on balance beam (13.95) and was 11th on floor exercise (12.05), taking out some difficulty ahead of the more important spring and summer events.

“It was terrifying to initially go back out there,” she said. “Super watered-down routines so we could dip my toe back in the water and get the feeling of what it feels like to compete again at such a high level. … I’m really excited about how today went, and I think it foreshadows a really good meet season.”

ON HER TURF: Takeaways from Winter Cup

Chiles, the 2017 U.S. all-around silver medalist, had the highest scores on vault (14.9) and floor (13.6) and tied for the best beam score (14.5). She won in her first competition since September 2019.

“The last year and a half, I honestly put in so much work to prove to myself that I can do it,” said Chiles, who moved from her native Washington to train at Biles’ gym in Texas in 2019. “I went out here and did the same thing.”

That Olympic roster, named after June’s trials, will be four women, plus two more for individual events only. Jade Carey clinched one of the individual spots last spring.

Sunisa Lee, the 2019 U.S. all-around silver medalist behind Biles, had Saturday’s highest score on uneven bars (15.05), her best event. She was also third on beam and didn’t perform on floor or vault as she builds back from injuries.

Lee, 17, was largely shut out of her Minnesota gym from March 18 until the start of June. Two weeks after it reopened, she suffered an avulsion fracture in her left foot and missed two months. She then had Achilles tendinitis that curtailed training another two months during a year in which both parents and her sister had Covid, and an aunt and uncle died from Covid.

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