Milestone podium at nationals — Other gym news — More thoughts from Ashlee and Brittany Buhler

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Sept. 2, 2023

Happy Gymnastics Saturday! While everyone was talking about Simone Biles’ record eighth national title at last week’s Xfinity U.S. Gymnastics Championships, another milestone went under the radar. The women’s podium at nationals — Biles, Shilese Jones with the silver and Leanne Wong in bronze position — was older than the men’s podium. 

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Biles, 26, is the oldest woman to win a gymnastics national championship. Jones is 21; Wong is 19. Their average age is 22. 

Asher Hong, the gold medalist for the men, is 19, as is Fred Richard, who won bronze; silver medalist Khoi Young was the old man there at 20. Their average age is 19.3.

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This is striking not because female gymnasts are capable of winning medals deep into their 20s (and, internationally, into their 30s and 40s). Everybody knows that they are. 

What is striking is that they are able to win medals long past puberty and make repeat appearances at nationals, worlds and the Olympics, as well as compete in the NCAA every week. That is a testament to women who have bucked a system that worked young teenagers into the ground, threw them out and started over. 

Women have allowed their bodies to change — and become stronger and more powerful in the process. Biles is proof positive that you can become a better gymnast with age; she looked better than ever at nationals. 

Women have said that college, and the experience of college gymnastics, is important to them and forced rule changes that allowed them to pursue NCAA and elite gymnastics simultaneously. 

USA Gymnastics is still very much a work in progress, but cultural changes were plenty and evident at nationals this year, on and off the podium. And the main one was that it is clear that the phrase “gymnastics career” is no longer an oxymoron. 

Other gym news

The University of Utah hired an outside firm to review the Red Rocks gymnastics program after allegations of verbal and emotional abuse by head coach Tom Farden emerged. 

Biles’ post-nationals press conference is great. 

Addison Fatta announced that she will defer her NCAA career at Oklahoma for a year to pursue elite gymnastics into 2024. 

John Court will be Arizona’s new head coach.

Denver promoted Mia Sundstrom to assistant coach.

Joel Shugart will become an assistant coach at Temple.

Yale hired Isabelle Fox as assistant coach.

Recent Golden Bear alum Nevaeh DeSouza will become an assistant coach at Cal. 

Pauline Schaefer-Betz of Germany will return to full training soon, per her Instagram. 

Jessica Gadirova’s Cheng vault from British worlds trials. 

Alice Kinsella’s vault from British worlds trials. 

Ellie Black showed us her bar routine from Canadian worlds trials. 

And here are the results from Canadian trials

Canadian elite Denelle Pedrick injured her knee badly. 

Former elite and UCLA gymnast (and outspoken critic of both) Alyssa Beckerman recapped nationals. 

A tough-to-read story from Defector about allegedly abusive coaches who remain on the elite scene. 

College Gym News takes a look at the most anticipated freshmen in the all-around.

Five at The IX: Ashlee and Brittany Buhler’s hot takes on nationals

Brittany, left, and Ashlee Buhler. (Photo courtesy of Ashlee and Brittany Buhler)

Because Ashlee and Brittany, of the All Things Gymnastics podcast, provided their predictions for nationals last week, I wanted to hear what they thought about the meet once it was over. Which gymnasts’ stars are rising, who still has work to do, and what routines should we not sleep on? 

So, in no particular order other than the one they submitted to me …

This interview has been edited for clarity. 

Ashlee’s hot takes on nationals

1. Leanne Wong staying at Florida was a great decision. Not only does she look the happiest and most relaxed we have ever seen her, but her gymnastics looks better than ever. That floor routine on Day 2 had my jaw on the floor. (By the way, I chatted with her after podium training [Editor’s note: Ashlee works for Inside Gymnastics] and that WAS a Moors we saw her training on Instagram — and she said she would love to compete it!) 

2. Despite all the hardships Shilese Jones has faced, as well as injuries (she told me her foot has been bothering her since Worlds and she is dealing with a torn labrum), Jones is still the second-best all-around gymnast in the United States. I think she looked fabulous in San Jose and will absolutely be vying for an all-around medal in Antwerp. 

3. The plot thickens with Jade Carey versus Joscelyn Roberson. Jade wasn’t at her best in San Jose, and Joscelyn looked just as great as she did at Classic. Jade had one of her best Cheng vaults on Day 2, and it got the same exact score as Joscelyn’s Cheng on Day 2. Jade outscored Joscelyn on floor by a half-tenth on Day 1, and Joscelyn outscored Jade on Day 2 by five-tenths of a point. Jade can certainly close the gap if she’s healthy and feeling confident (she did mention not feeling confident in the weeks leading up to championships). I’ll have my eyes on these two at worlds selection camp for sure.

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Brittany’s hot takes on nationals

1. Simone just keeps getting better and better. Her Yurchenko double pike from Day 1 is the highest score we’ve seen on vault this quad, thanks in large part to a massive 9.8 execution score. The speed off the table, the height and execution in the air, and the landing control on a skill so difficult are like nothing we’ve ever seen before as gymnastics fans. It’s truly remarkable. Also, her floor from Day 2 was arguably one of the best floor routines she’s done in her entire career, in my opinion. We know she’s capable of adding in more difficulty, but she really doesn’t need it. It’s so nice to see Simone doing skills that feel comfortable for her. Because of that, she is able to control her landings better. 

2. Kaliya Lincoln continues to make her case for the Worlds team. Her second-place finish on floor actually has her on the highest-scoring worlds team along with Biles, Skye Blakely, Jones and Roberson. It’s going to be a tough battle considering Leanne Wong looked absolutely amazing between Classics and championships and brings more of a reliable routine on each of the events, even if it’s not the highest scoring, whereas Lincoln is really only in the mix on floor for Team USA. There’s also time for Olympians Carey, Jordan Chiles and Suni Lee to improve and earn a spot. Regardless, I have been super impressed with Kaliya and hope to see her get some international experience this year, either at worlds or Pan Ams. 

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Written by Lela Moore