Conor McClain advances to the All-American Gymnastics title

Tampa – for years, Conor McClain He seemed destined to become the best gymnast in the country: medals and cheerleading starting in elementary school, and That TV interview Steve Harvey At the age of eleven she set her sights on the overall Olympic title for 2024.

McClain lived up to his promise on Sunday, winning the United States all-around title at the age of 17 after the day one leader Chili’s Jones Falling on her last skill, she let go of her uneven bars. McClain became the sixth woman since 2000 to excel in her senior debut. The other five became the best gymnast in the world, lately Simone Biles.

She was supposed to be McLean’s first senior national last year, but after moving across the country and changing training, she wasn’t ready to compete. I watched last year’s competitions inside the arena in frustration. You didn’t think that after a year, you’d be on top of the podium.

“It’s unrealistic,” said McClain, who returned this summer from a stress fracture in both her tibia, concussion and the flu two weeks ago. “I’m still a little in shock.”

US Gymnastics Championships: consequences

In a two-day competition, McClain fell behind Jones by eight tenths on the final day on Sunday.

Jones fell on her opening balance beam and followed McClain by five tenths in the final turn. But if Jones repeats her bar score from Friday night’s opening night (which was the best on the field by six tenths), she’ll comfortably join Biles as the only non-teenager to have won the U.S. overall in the past 50 years. She appeared on her way until she fell off her balance, then backed away and sat down, decisively by one point.

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almost, Anna Liukinmother of the 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin Who coaches McClain with husband ValerieHe whispered in McClain’s ear.

Liukin told her, “Guess what, I won.”

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

McClain, the 2019 U.S. junior overall silver medalist, was originally too young for the Tokyo Olympics but became age-eligible when the Games were postponed to 2021. Prior to last year’s Olympic team selection meetings, Leeukins received a call from McClain’s team, resulting in Ultimately, McClain moved from West Virginia to the gym in Texas. She skipped the Nationals (and snapshot at the Olympic Trials) to focus on 2024.

“She wasn’t in a position to compete,” Liukin said, adding that the mutual decision had been made in McLean’s best interest to sit.

Then last winter, Maclean’s father, Mark, died of COVID-19. Her grandmother passed away the same week. She competed on Friday and Sunday wearing a leotard patch with his initials.

When asked what thoughts were running through her head after her win, McClain replied, “I wish I could talk to my dad now.”

Jones was 10th in the Olympic Trials, the best player who did not go to Tokyo (either on the team or as a substitute) and initially planned to give up on elite gymnastics. She was excited to continue after conversations with her loved ones, including her father. Sylvester Jones Jr. He died in December after a long battle with kidney disease.

Jones called Friday the best performance of her career. On Sunday, she signed off on her first and last routine. In the latter, she rushed to cut her bars, went too early and opened too early.

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

Jordan Chili’s And the jade curry It ranked third and fifth, respectively. The Tokyo medalists became the first US Olympic gymnast to return to elite competition after the NCAA season.

“There wasn’t any level of tension,” said Chils, who, during a break between routines on Sunday, tried to ride a jumbotron by getting Jones to lift it during a Lion King Cam bit. “But ramping up this was definitely I think the hardest thing I could ever do because I had an injury [micro tears in a shoulder labrum and bicep]And that kind of injury crippled me.”

Like MacLean and Jones, Chils and Carey named the 2024 Paris Games. As does the overall gold medalist Tokyo Sony Lee, who plans to return to the elite competition next year. And perhaps Biles, who has not competed since Tokyo but has not ruled out a return for another Olympic tournament.

The first is the world championships this fall. This five-women team will be named after a selection camp in October and will be preferred for the gold medal in the absence of Russia, whose athletes are indefinitely banned due to the war in Ukraine.

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