Best of worlds selection camp — Other gym news — Thoughts from Chellsie Memmel, Simone Biles, Shilese Jones, Leanne Wong and Joscelyn Roberson, via GymCastic

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Sept. 23, 2023

Happy gymnastics Saturday! We have a Worlds team! And a Pan Ams squad! And a Jade Carey, who will be going to the Swiss Cup! 

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It’s been an exciting week. I’m going to do an awards show-type rundown here.  

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Best showing by a single gym at selection camp: World Champions Centre (WCC)

With Simone Biles and Joscelyn Roberson punching their tickets to Antwerp and Jordan Chiles, Tiana Sumanasakera and Zoe Miller headed to Santiago, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that WCC is doing something right. Cecile and Laurent Landi appear to be coaching to their athletes’ strengths while also shaping them into reliable all-arounders, even if someone has a single standout event or one that’s a deduction trap.  

Best display of consistency by an NCAA athlete returning to elite: Leanne Wong

Wong has been on fire all summer since ending her sophomore collegiate season at Florida and going straight into elite season. She has hit 18 for 18 since U.S. Classic. She looks — emphasis on “looks”; I obviously have no idea what goes on behind the scenes at the Bowtique — lighter and happier than she ever has, and her gymnastics reflects the shift. She’s been a paragon of consistency even when other gymnasts of her caliber (and even other college vets) struggle. She is rightfully on her way to Worlds. 

Best turner of lemons into lemonade: Jade Carey

Carey is one of the aforementioned NCAA athletes for whom the road back to elite has been a bit bumpier than anticipated. Carey displayed some uncharacteristic cracks in her typically rock-solid composure at nationals and again at selection camp. She was offered a Pan Ams spot but had to turn it down, it’s reported, for a family wedding. But she’ll be the U.S. female delegate to the Swiss Cup, which always looks a little less buttoned-up than most elite meets. Good on Carey for wrapping up this elite season with a bow (even if it’s not a Leanne Wong-type bow). 

Best earner of a Worlds brass ring we weren’t sure she could grab: Joscelyn Roberson

Joscelyn Roberson nailed her floor routine at selection camp, coming within tenths of Kaliya Lincoln’s. Because many had widely assumed that Lincoln, if she performed at the top of her range, would snag a Worlds spot, Roberson on her heels was coming as the underdog. Roberson is someone who can plug a hole on at least three of four events but her strongest are vault and floor, which this team has in spades. Floor was where she needed to show the biggest improvement, cleaning up artistry and other deductions, and she did it while also putting on a good show on the other events. (And she stayed on the bars, her weakest event and the source of a particularly bad fall at nationals, which probably also did not hurt.)

Best beam for a team that needs beam: Skye Blakely

The beam witch from nationals mostly stayed away, but it’s the U.S.’ weakest event internationally by far. And it’s Blakely who can compete with the very best on this event. 

Best recovery from whacking her feet on the mat: Shilese Jones

Jones was pulling ahead of Simone Biles on the first day of camp when, on her final event — bars — she hit her feet on the mat, resulting in a peculiarly low score if you were watching on TV, which cut the mat out of frame. Doesn’t matter, overall — you’re still putting Jones on this team and you’re still expecting her to be a bars star at worlds — but it was a bummer. Still, she rebounded on the second day, nailed the routine and nabbed her spot. Also, can I just say, Jones is READY for worlds. Watch out, world. 

Best Simone-ing: Simone Biles

Biles won this meet despite several uncharacteristic falls, including sitting her Yurchenko double pike. She later said (see: Five at The IX, below) she was nervous, along with many of her fellow athletes. Biles has never been one to shy away from telling us exactly how she feels, which is why it’s great to hear her call out nerves for a shaky performance on which a lot is riding, even if her high performance level is so often taken for granted. 

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Other gym news

Personal plug: I wrote this feature for College Gym News about how NCAA gymnasts spend their offseasons. I loved chatting with all of these athletes! 

CGN also had pieces this week on what balance beam dismounts are getting more popular in college and on potential lineups in the GEC (the first of a two-parter). 

Both The Gymternet and The Balance Beam Situation had liveblogs from the two days of worlds selection camp. Here, here, here and here. BBS also had an updated State of the Worlds Teams post, featuring the newly-selected U.S. team.  

I liked this New York Times article about the difficulties college athletes in Olympic sports like gymnastics will face with conference realignment. It points out how critical NIL money is to make all the travel worthwhile. As usual, I was ahead of the 8-ball here with my pieces on realignment and the importance of NIL for female athletes over the last two weeks, lol. 

Nina Derwael will have shoulder surgery this week. She’s missing worlds due to the injury, huge bummer. 

Emily from FlipFlyTumble (you might recognize her from a recent Five at The IX appearance) has a great video about beam deductions on switch half leaps at nationals. 

Southern Utah’s Flippin’ Birds make a conference move to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF). 

Brown has hired Tim Levandoski as an assistant coach. 

Daniel Barclay will be an assistant coach at Utah State. 

Kent State hired Josie Angeny, the Kentucky grad who did her COVID year at Georgia last season, as an assistant coach. 

Dominique Moceanu was not happy about the Kent State hire, claiming they had ghosted her after she interviewed for the role. 

Penn dropped its schedule

Social post of the week

No pants for you, Kayla DiCello. (™ Claire Billman)

Five at The IX: Chellsie Memmel, Simone Biles, Shilese Jones, Leanne Wong and Joscelyn Roberson at World Team Trials via GymCastic

Instead of five questions, you get five whole interviews this week, courtesy of GymCastic. Jessica O’Beirne, creator and host of GymCastic, attended worlds team trials in Katy, Texas, this week and reported live after both days of the camp. She also got some juicy interviews, which I’m sharing here. 

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Lela Moore