Konnor McClain

Konnor McClain, U.S. all-around champion, to miss world gymnastics championships

Konnor McClain
Allison and John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
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U.S. all-around champion Konnor McClain posted that she will miss the world gymnastics championships that start in three weeks due to a back injury, writing that her season is “officially over.”

McClain, 17, was due to vie for a spot on the five-woman world team at a selection camp in two weeks.

“Although this is very upsetting after such a successful year,” she posted. “I’m ready to come back next year stronger and healthier!”

At the U.S. Championships in August, McClain edged Shilese Jones by .75 of a point after Jones fell on the last skill of her last routine of the competition.

McClain became the sixth woman to win the all-around in her senior nationals debut since 2000. The other five later won Olympic and/or world all-around titles, the most recent Simone Biles.

McClain, the 2019 U.S. junior all-around silver medalist, was originally too young for the Tokyo Olympics but became age-eligible when the Games were postponed one year to 2021. She skipped last year’s nationals (and a shot at Olympic Trials) to focus on 2024 after moving from West Virginia to Texas to train under Anna and Valeri Liukin, the parents of 2008 Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin.

A committee will choose the five-woman world team after the selection camp. The top all-around scorer on the first day of the two-day camp is guaranteed to be on the six-woman traveling team, with one of those six being designated an alternate.

McClain and Jones were followed in the U.S. Championships all-around standings by Tokyo Olympic team silver medalist Jordan Chiles, University of Florida freshman Kayla DiCello (who said at nationals that she did not plan to go for the world team) and Tokyo Olympic floor exercise champion Jade Carey.

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Konnor McClain rallies to win U.S. all-around gymnastics title, fulfill promise

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TAMPA — For years, Konnor McClain seemed destined to become the best gymnast in the country: medals and acclaim starting in elementary school, and that TV segment with Steve Harvey at age 11 where she set her sights on the 2024 Olympic all-around title.

McClain fulfilled promise on Sunday, winning the U.S. all-around title at age 17 after first-day leader Shilese Jones fell on her very last skill, her uneven bars dismount. McClain became the sixth woman since 2000 to prevail in her senior nationals debut. The other five all became the best gymnast in the world, most recently Simone Biles.

McClain’s first senior nationals was supposed to be last year, but after a cross-country move and coaching change she was not ready to compete. She watched last year’s competition inside the arena, feeling down. She had no belief that a year later, she would be on top of the podium.

“It’s so unreal,” McClain, who came back this summer from a stress fracture in each shin, a concussion and the flu two weeks ago, said Sunday night. “I’m still in shock a little bit.”

U.S. GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS: Results

In a two-day competition, McClain trailed Jones by eight tenths going into Sunday’s final day.

Jones fell on her opening balance beam and trailed a consistent McClain by five tenths going into the last rotation. But if Jones repeated her bars score from Friday’s opening night (which was best in the field by six tenths), she would comfortably join Biles as the only non-teens to win the U.S. all-around title in the last 50 years. She appeared on her way until landing off balance, falling back and sitting down, a one-point deduction.

Soon after, Anna Liukin, the mother of 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin who coaches McClain with husband Valeri, whispered in McClain’s ear.

Guess what, you won, Liukin told her.

“She was a little surprised, but she smiled,” Liukin said.

McClain, the 2019 U.S. junior all-around silver medalist, was originally too young for the Tokyo Olympics but became age-eligible when the Games were postponed one year to 2021. Before last year’s meets to determine the Olympic team, the Liukins got a call from team McClain, which ultimately led to McClain moving from West Virginia to their Texas gym. She skipped nationals (and a shot at Olympic Trials) to focus on 2024.

”She wasn’t in a shape to compete,” said Liukin, adding that a mutual decision was made in McClain’s best interest to sit out.

Then last winter, McClain’s father, Marc, died from COVID-19. Her grandmother died in the same week. She competed on Friday and Sunday wearing a leotard patch with his initials.

Asked the thoughts going through her head after she won, McClain replied, “I wish I could talk to my dad right now.”

Jones was 10th at the Olympic Trials, the top finisher who didn’t go to Tokyo (either on the team or as an alternate) and initially planned to quit elite gymnastics. She was motivated to continue after talks with loved ones, including her father. Sylvester Jones Jr. died in December after a long kidney disease battle.

Jones called Friday’s all-around the best performance of her career. On Sunday, she fell on her first and last routines. On the latter, she rushed her bars dismount, piked too soon and opened up a little too early.

“Two falls and second place is just really only the beginning for me,” she said.

Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey finished third and fifth, respectively. The Tokyo medalists became the first U.S. Olympic female gymnasts to return to elite competition following an NCAA season.

“There wasn’t really any stress level,” said Chiles, who during a break between routines Sunday tried to get on the jumbotron by having Jones lift her up during the Lion King Cam bit. “But the ramp up for this was definitely I think the hardest thing I could have ever done because I did have an injury [micro tears in a shoulder labrum and bicep], and that injury kind of held me back.”

Like McClain and Jones, Chiles and Carey eye the 2024 Paris Games. As does Tokyo all-around gold medalist Suni Lee, who plans to return to elite competition next year. And perhaps Biles, who hasn’t competed since Tokyo but also hasn’t ruled out a return for another Olympic run.

First up is the world championships this fall. That five-woman team will be named after an October selection camp and will be favored for gold given the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine.

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Konnor McClain wins Winter Cup as U.S. gymnasts ramp up for new Olympic cycle

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Konnor McClain opened the first full year of an abbreviated, three-year Olympic cycle by winning the Winter Cup, an early season meet for U.S. gymnasts preparing for nationals and worlds later this year.

McClain, a 17-year-old who trains in the Dallas area, prevailed with an all-around score of 54.3 points, highlighted by a 14.6 on balance beam, in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday.

Nobody from the six-woman Tokyo Olympic team competed, but many 2024 Olympic hopefuls were in the field.

Skye Blakely, who was born three days after McClain and like McClain trains at WOGA Gymnastics (but at a different facility), took second, six tenths behind. eMjae Frazier was third.

Full results are here.

McClain and Blakely were too young for the Olympics in 2020. When the Games were postponed to 2021, they became age eligible.

McClain, the 2019 U.S. junior all-around silver medalist, did not compete at senior nationals or the Olympic Trials last year. Her mom cited physical and mental health, focusing on the future beyond the Tokyo Games, which was their initial plan before the Olympic postponement.

Blakely, fourth at the 2019 junior nationals, was seventh at the 2021 senior nationals, then suffered an elbow injury at trials and later underwent surgery.

McClain and Frazier competed at the world championships last October and did not make any individual finals. McClain was eighth in balance beam qualifying but did not make the eight-woman final because two Americans had higher scores on the event.

On Friday night, University of Oklahoma senior Vitaliy Guimaraes won the men’s all-around. Yul Moldauer, the lone Olympian in the men’s or women’s field, was fourth.

Sam Mikulak, a three-time Olympian, retired after the Tokyo Games. Brody Malone, the reigning U.S. all-around champion, is competing at a World Cup in Germany this weekend.

Gymnasts are preparing for the national championships in August in Tampa, after which the teams will be named for the world championships in Liverpool, Great Britain, in October and November.

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