American Cup

Morgan Hurd wins American Cup, signals gymnastics rebound

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Morgan Hurd returned from missing the 2019 World Championships to win the American Cup. She will like this history: Every female gymnast to win the American Cup in an Olympic year went on to make the Olympic team.

Sam Mikulak, a two-time U.S. Olympian and six-time national all-around champion, won the men’s competition.

Hurd, the 2017 World all-around champion during Simone Biles‘ break, totaled 55.832 points to prevail by seven tenths over fellow American Kayla DiCello in Milwaukee. The one-day competition lacked Biles and the other all-around medalists from worlds in October.

Hurd had no falls across four routines and few significant errors. The last time a non-U.S. woman won the American Cup was in 2001. Full results are here.

“The message I guess I’m sending myself and the world is just, it’s not over until it’s over,” she told Andrea Joyce on NBC. “I feel at my greatest I’ve ever been.”

In the last 18 months, Hurd went from the best U.S. gymnast outside Biles to being left off the 2019 World team of six. She was fourth at the 2019 U.S. Championships and ninth at a later world team selection camp.

Hurd previously won the American Cup, the U.S.’ most prestigious annual international meet, in 2018. Other winners in Olympic years included Nadia ComaneciMary Lou RettonCarly PattersonNastia Liukin and Gabby Douglas.

“This was a watershed for [Hurd],” said Tom Forster, the U.S. national women’s team coordinator. “This was her opportunity to state who she is as an athlete, not to be ignored. I think she felt ignored for not making the world team.

“You never know how the athletes are going to handle that. Some get really sad and it kind of crumbles their self-confidence. Others get mad and do something about it. That’s what you hope for, and that’s exactly what she did. She made a statement.”

DiCello, a Maryland high school sophomore, was similarly clean to Hurd in her senior debut. DiCello won last year’s U.S. junior title, making her an Olympic team contender. At least one woman who turned 16 or younger in the Olympic year made the last 10 Olympic teams. DiCello, by being selected for American Cup, became likeliest to extend that streak.

The U.S. Olympic team of four, plus two gymnasts in individual events only, will be named after June’s Olympic Trials. Jade Carey has all but wrapped up one of the individual spots.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

WATCH LIVE: American Cup gymnastics meet on NBC Sports

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Morgan Hurd and Sam Mikulak headline the American Cup, the U.S.’ most prestigious annual international gymnastics meet, live on NBC Sports on Saturday.

Hurd, the 2017 World all-around champion, and junior national champion Kayla DiCello look to extend a U.S. streak of American Cup women’s titles that dates to 2002. The biggest threat may be Canadian Ellie Black, the 2017 World all-around silver medalist.

Mikulak, a two-time Olympian, looks to make it four straight U.S. men’s titles at the American Cup. Yul Moldauer took the last three but is not in Saturday’s field. Instead, Mikulak is joined by University of Minnesota junior Shane Wiskus. Olympic all-around silver medalist Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine is the most decorated in the field.

WATCH LIVE: American Cup
Women — NBC, 12:30 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK
Men — NBCSN, 5 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

U.S. gymnasts are preparing for the national championships and Olympic Trials in June, when the Olympic teams will be decided.

Hurd, the world’s top gymnast during Simone Biles‘ break in 2017, eyes a bounce back after missing the 2019 World Championships team. DiCello, 16, looks to become the latest U.S. woman to make an Olympic team in her first year as a senior gymnast, following Kyla Ross in 2012 and Laurie Hernandez in 2016.

Mikulak, a six-time U.S. all-around champion, can this summer become the first American male gymnast to compete in three Olympics since Blaine Wilson in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Wiskus, after a viral moment at last year’s nationals, made his first world championships team.

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MORE: Kayla DiCello, debuting at American Cup, eyes junior-to-Olympics jump

 

Morgan Hurd looks to regain momentum at gymnastics’ American Cup

Morgan Hurd
AP
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Morgan Hurd smiles while talking about her most disappointing moment in gymnastics. It’s the 18-year-old’s way of deflecting the pain — more mental than physical — that was tough to shake after she failed to make the 2019 world championship team.

A shaky first day at the selection camp last October left her scrambling. She never caught up. When the six-woman team was announced, and Hurd found herself named as a non-traveling alternate, she couldn’t get home to Delaware fast enough.

“My coach was like, ‘We need to leave,’ and I was like, ‘All right,’” Hurd says, before adding with a laugh, “And then, this was after my breakdown of course.”

She’s kidding. But only a little. A busy summer that included competing three times in less than a month — a massive workload at the sport’s top level — had left her drained. Yet during the selection camp she had recovered, which made missing the cut only more difficult.

“I was coming back into peak shape, and for that to just kind of go down the drain and not used was really heartbreaking for me,” Hurd said.

The 2017 World all-around champion briefly shut down in the aftermath. Her seemingly boundless energy vanished. She wasn’t injured. She was devastated, the symptoms manifesting themselves when she returned to training.

“My whole body just kind of felt like fatigued and it just didn’t want to do anything,” she said. “Like my whole body just felt lethargic and heavy and it was so hard to just like do basic things.”

Not so much anymore. Hurd pulled herself out of the funk by Thanksgiving, pushed by the upgrades coach Slava Glazounov challenged her to incorporate into her routines, routines she’s eager to show off in Milwaukee on Saturday at the American Cup (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

The invitational is the first high-profile event leading to the Olympics, a chance for Hurd to regain some of the swagger she lost during the hectic summer of 2019.

Looking back, Hurd has no regrets. The opportunity to compete at the Pan American Games in Peru — which happened between the U.S. Classic in late July and the U.S. Championships in mid-August — was too good to pass up.

“The experience was one that comes around once every four years,” Hurd said. “I had so much fun even though honestly I didn’t do my greatest, I wish I did better but the whole experience as a whole was great for me.”

Hurd helped the Americans win a team gold medal, but she didn’t compete in an any of the event finals thanks to international rules that only allow the top two qualifiers from a country to advance.

Things didn’t go much better at the U.S. Championships a week later. A miscue on floor during the first day dropped her well off the pace in the all-around, though she did recover to finish fourth, earning a silver on uneven bars in the process.

It was good. Just not quite good enough for Hurd, a perfectionist who admits she’s never quite satisfied even if she’s one of only two active women’s gymnasts on the planet not named Simone Biles with a world all-around gold medal in her trophy case.

Ask Hurd what inspires her on those days when she doesn’t feel like going to the gym, and her answer is remarkably self aware.

“The fear of letting people down,” she said. “Because I’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, I just want to lay in bed right now.’ But then I’m like, ‘I don’t want to disappoint Slava by not coming to practice.’ And then I think, ‘Oh, karma, I missed that one practice, that’s why you’re not on the Olympic team.’ So it’s fear that drives me I guess. That sounds so bad.”

Hurd insists that it’s not. It’s just the way she’s wired. This is the same athlete who used to cut in line during practices at First State Gymnastics in Newark, Del., if her teammates aren’t working at a pace that suited her. That same passion hasn’t dissipated. If anything, it has deepened.

Regardless of whether or not she makes the Olympic team, Hurd has already deferred the start of her college career — she’s committed to Florida — until January 2022 because she wants to make a run at the 2021 World Championships.

It’s something Glazounov brought up last year, dropping occasional hints as a way of stirring the fiery competitor within Hurd, who delights in confounding expectations.

When someone on Twitter pointed out Hurd was tied with 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kyla Ross for the seventh-most world championship medals (five) by an American woman, it was all the motivation she needed.

“I want to climb those ranks,” she said.

A hopefully busy 2020, however, awaits. With her trademark glasses and 4-foot-9 frame, Hurd gets that she doesn’t look like one of the world’s top athletes. She jokes that because of her height she might get into acrobatic gymnastics once her artistic career is over.

That’s for down the road. For now there is the pursuit of an Olympic spot, one being chronicled as part of an intimate documentary series on the difficulty of reaching Tokyo. It can get kind of uncomfortable having cameras around, but Hurd is getting used to it. The last six months have been difficult at times, but in a way, maybe it’s just setting the stage for story of redemption.

“That’s it,” she said with a laugh. “All this is for the show.”

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