As U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team members from Tokyo deliberate returns to elite competition, this Saturday is an opportunity for the next generation to springboard toward August’s national championships and this fall’s world championships.
Leanne Wong, an Olympic alternate who won last October’s world championships all-around silver medal, headlines the U.S. Classic, the primary lead-up meet for the Aug. 18-21 national championships, live on CNBC and streaming on NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.
Women compete Saturday just outside Salt Lake City. The men, including Olympians Brody Malone, Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus, plus world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik, compete Sunday.
Top gymnasts often use the Classic to fine-tune routines ahead of the national championships, after which teams are named for worlds.
None of last year’s Olympic women’s team members are entered in Classic, though Suni Lee, Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles (who all compete collegiately now) said this year that they plan to return to elite, Olympic-level competition at some point before the 2024 Paris Games.
So the spotlight Saturday will be on Wong after fellow 2021 World Championships team members Kayla DiCello and Konnor McClain withdrew earlier this week. Wong, eighth in the all-around at Olympic Trials, was one of four alternates to the six-woman team in Tokyo.
Wong spent most of her Olympic experience in quarantine after roommate Kara Eaker tested positive for COVID-19. Three months later, she earned all-around silver at worlds with a score that would have placed fifth in Tokyo.
Comparing scores between those two meets isn’t quite apples to apples, but consider that Wong finished between the Olympic bronze medalist (Angelina Melnikova) and Olympic fourth-place finisher (Vladislava Urazova). The Olympic gold and silver medalists Lee and Rebeca Andrade didn’t compete in the all-around at worlds.
Wong, 18, then matriculated at the University of Florida, where she shared second in the all-around at the SEC Championships and placed fifth at the NCAA Championships as a freshman.
Later this summer, Wong will be one of the primary contenders for a spot on the five-woman world team, likely along with DiCello and McClain. So may Katelyn Jong, the 2021 U.S. junior all-around champion who moved up to senior this year, and Shilese Jones, who was 10th at Olympic Trials. Both are entered at Classic.
Classic has been a turning or launching point for star gymnasts in the past. In 2013, Simone Biles was pulled from Classic by her coach after two falls, then went on an eight-year all-around win streak surrounding a two-year break from competition from 2016-18. Her comeback meet in 2018? U.S. Classic.
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2022 U.S. Classic Broadcast Schedule
|Saturday||Junior Women||2:30-4:30 p.m.||CNBC | STREAM LINK | Peacock|
|Senior Women||7-9 p.m.||CNBC | STREAM LINK | Peacock|
|Sunday||Men||3-5 p.m.||CNBC | STREAM LINK | Peacock|
|Sat., Aug. 6||Highlights*||4-5 p.m.||NBC | STREAM LINK|