Consistency won the team medals at Worlds — Other gym news — Thoughts from Sunisa Lee via SELF Magazine
The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Oct. 7, 2023
The U.S. women’s team won their seventh straight gold medal at the world championships Wednesday.
Watching the team final should have given you a solid appreciation for the enormous changes underway on the women’s high-performance side of things over at USA Gymnastics.
It was a mere two years ago that Simone Biles got the twisties at the Tokyo Olympics and withdrew from the team final there, and her teammates — notably Jordan Chiles, but Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallum stepped up as well — carried on into silver medal position. Biles would later say that part of the reason she developed the twisties and struggled with her mental health during that competition was because she was considered the linchpin of the U.S. team there — pull her, and the whole thing comes tumbling down. When it did not, it was obvious the U.S. needed to rethink they way we build gymnastics teams. Consistency across events, grace under pressure, and good sportswomanship were what mattered with a team medal on the line, not a single person with standout difficulty to serve as a cushion for everyone else to punch at.
Enter Leanne Wong. Wong’s inclusion on this year’s worlds team was questioned by some who pointed out — rightly — that a team with bars standout Zoe Miller or one with floor whiz Kaliya Lincoln in Wong’s spot had the potential to reach a higher team-final score. But Wong has been a paragon of consistency since elite season began this year, hitting all her routines on all four apparatuses and showing off boosted difficulty and improved artistry. If someone gets hurt, Wong is who you want, the team selectors appeared to say, even if she doesn’t earn an individual medal or even make an event final.
And that’s exactly what happened. In what appears to be a curse against the United States at major international events, Joscelyn Roberson (like commentator Samantha Peszek, women’s team strategist Chellsie Memmel, and former Olympic alternate and Oklahoma standout Ragan Smith before her) was injured in warmups just before the team final began. She spent the meet looking teary, unable to put weight on her left foot. Wong, initially slated to compete only on beam in the team final, reportedly “tore off” her warmups to get ready for vault, and also performed on floor in Roberson’s spot. She was steady as they go on the two events she subbed in on, with a majestic double-twisting Yurchenko vault and her gorgeous, melodic floor. Her only blip was on the event she was always supposed to do, beam — go figure. No one seemed to mind, though; the U.S. looked delighted to find itself in the top spot at the end of the competition. Wong helped Roberson stand atop the podium.
And while the U.S. team certainly brought the drama at Worlds, the real highlight of the competition was seeing Brazil slowly pick off the competition until they were sitting in silver-medal position, and then having France say “hold my biere” as they fought their way into third after Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos’ near-pristine beam routine. De Jesus Dos Santos trains at World Champions Centre with Biles and her coaches, former French gymnasts Cecile and Laurent Landi. Cecile Landi was clearly thrilled for her and their hug on the floor was a fantastic moment.
This was Brazil’s first-ever women’s team medal, and France’s first in 75 years. The looks on the faces of these gymnasts who have brought their programs such success over the last decade were pure joy. And it was consistency that got them there. These teams, after so many struggles in major competitions over the last several years, put it all together in this one.
Other gym news
The Balance Beam Situation also liveblogged the women’s team final.
Which NCAA gymnasts are currently competing at Worlds? College Gym News has the rundown.
CGN also brings us potential Big 12 lineups, potential Mountain West lineups, 4 Head Coaches in Need of a Raise, an inside look at a day in the life of an NCAA gymnast (by Temple gymnast Julianna Roland), and a roundtable on themed floor routines in the NCAA.
Lots of big schedule drops this week!
The NCAA’s D1 Council made changes to the transfer portal, including reducing the notification windows from 60 to 45 days.
Clemson gave us a preview of their new gym.
Five at The IX: Sunisa Lee, via SELF
Reigning Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee did an interview with SELF that ran this week. In it, she discusses the kidney issue that cut short her final season at Auburn University (and which goes unnamed here) and the pressure she feels to live up to her gold medal from the Tokyo Olympics, particularly as she did not vie for a spot on this year’s worlds squad. Read the whole thing, then read it again. It’s great.
Here’s a TikTok that Lee did alongside the interview, where she gives us hot takes on some self-care practices.