Emma Malabuyo prioritizes UCLA over Doha, she says — Thoughts from Kayla DiCello via GymCastic

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, March 9, 2024

Happy gymnastics Saturday! The big rumble heard ’round the gymternet this week concerned UCLA gymnast Emma Malabuyo and whether NCAA nationals (assuming UCLA makes nationals) would or wouldn’t, should or shouldn’t, could or couldn’t, take priority over her attempts to qualify to the Olympics for the Philippines via the apparatus World Cup series. 

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The Doha World Cup is the same weekend as NCAA nationals. Malabuyo finished second on floor at the Cairo World Cup, giving her a large share of the points she would need to secure her Olympic berth. But at Cottbus the following week, Malabuyo finished 13th in qualifications and did not make the floor final. She can turn it around with a top finish at Baku this weekend, but other athletes who head to Doha, the final event in the World Cup series, could pass her; even if she secures all possible points in Baku, her difficulty score is lower than that of several of her rivals for the floor spot. And if she leaves Baku without a top floor final finish, she might be saying goodbye to that Olympic spot because she is a key contributor this season to UCLA’s lineups and would certainly be needed at nationals should the team make it (or should Malabuyo make it as an individual, in the event UCLA as a team falls short). The only remaining path to the Olympics for her would be competing at the Asian Games and winning the all-around competition there. 

Malabuyo told UCLA’s student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, this week that her priority is UCLA. And her performance at UCLA’s meet last weekend against Stanford, where she was rested on floor and fell on bars but scored a 9.925 on beam, certainly showed her usual joy in competing with her squad. 

Because we have not seen many gymnasts simultaneously compete elite, especially in an Olympic year, and a full NCAA season, Malabuyo’s situation remains a bit of an outlier. Leanne Wong and Jade Carey are doing it, but both are competing for the U.S. and are not eligible for spots attained through World Cups because the U.S. has qualified a team to Paris. Malabuyo’s UCLA teammate Ana Padarariu deferred a year to try for the Canadian Olympic team; Jordan Chiles did the same to pursue a spot on Team USA. Malabuyo began her quest for the Olympics a bit later than LSU’s Aleah Finnegan, who also competes for the Philippines; Finnegan earned an Olympic spot at last year’s World Championships, to which she qualified through Asian Championships. 

Malabuyo has had a solid elite and college career, and it is interesting to hear her take on which she prioritizes as the NCAA postseason draws near. I hope she is genuinely at peace with her choice, and wish her the best. 

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Other gym news

Balance Beam Situation has the Week 9 rankings and NQS update, the Week 10 links and streams, and, of course, the GIFs

College Gym News has the Week 9 review, the Bubble Watch for regionals, the Week 10 preview, and, of course, the leotards. They also asked gymnasts across the MAC conference how they really feel about their leotards

Speaking of World Cups, here’s the website, live scoring, livestreaming (finals only), and nominative roster for the Baku World Cup this weekend. 

And speaking of Ana Padarariu, she spoke with Inside Gymastics about her pursuit of a Canadian Olympic team spot. 

Becky and Ellie Downie received their MBEs (that’s the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire to you) Wednesday. 

This is a great article about Alaska’s gymnastics team, the most remote team in the NCAA. 

Jordan Chiles gave an interview to People about overcoming disordered eating. (CW: Discussion of restrictive eating.) 

Nebraska’s Lucy Stanhope, who suffered a season-ending injury in her first Huskers meet this year, will take a fifth year. 

Makie Sedlacek of Arkansas has medically retired. 

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Five at The IX: Kayla DiCello via GymCastic

Kayla DiCello won Winter Cup, and GymCastic snagged an interview with her afterward. It’s been a couple of weeks, but this interview is still a good insight into the pacing that goes into an Olympic run-up, and a fun look at DiCello’s joy with her victory.

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Written by Lela Moore