NCAA competitors boost international elite comps at Pan Am Champs, Asian Champs — Other gym news — Thoughts from Jade Carey

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, June 3, 2023

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By which I mean, of course, that one of my transfer portal predictions came true. I’m 1 for 6, y’all! 

Sage Thompson is headed to Oregon State. 

This is good news for a team that needs Thompson’s bars, to be sure, but can also benefit from her purportedly strong all-around skills in the wake of Madi Dagen’s departure. Thompson barely competed in anything other than bars (just vault a total of six times in two years, and only once her sophomore season) while at Utah, so I’m eager to see if joining a smaller, less stacked team makes it possible for her to pick up other events. 

Shifting gears a bit, let’s talk about the incredible showing by NCAA gymnasts past, present, and future at last weekend’s Pan American Championships in Medellín, Colombia! College Gym News did a great roundup.

It was a little like that episode of Ted Lasso where all the Richmond players went off to play on their national teams for a week. There was a super strong American team – the U.S. won gold in the team competition, the all-around, and in three out of four event finals to boot (Mexico’s Alexa Moreno won vault). 

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Half of the contingent is committed to compete in NCAA (2023 recruits Zoe Miller, who sustained a concussion in practice and did not compete, to LSU and Addison Fatta to Oklahoma, and Joscelyn Roberson to Arkansas in 2024), with Nola Matthews ’25, Tiana Sumanasekera ’25, and Madray Johnson ’26 coming down the pipe. 

Sydney Barros, a former U.S. National Team member who now competes for Puerto Rico, will begin at UCLA in 2024. She deferred for a year to train for Paris. 

The Canadian team had two NCAA recruits competing: Jenna Lalonde, who will matriculate to Nebraska next year, and Sydney Turner, who has deferred her entry to Iowa this year to make an Olympic run and will start there in 2024. 

Lynnzee Brown, who just completed her sixth and final year at Denver, shone in her elite debut for Haiti and qualified on to Worlds, where she should have a good chance of qualifying an Olympic berth. The highlight of Brown’s meet was a stuck-cold Yurchenko 1.5 that no doubt made all the college coaches weep with joy. 

Fisk’s Kiara Richmon competed for Jamaica, and Alaska’s Paola Ruano Barahona for El Salvador in Medellín. 

We saw 2023 recruits Annelise Newman-Achee, who will compete for Cal, at Pan Ams for Trinidad and Tobago, and Anya Pilgrim, who will attempt to fill some big shoes at Florida, competing for Barbados. 

And Olivia Kelly, who will head to Missouri in 2024, was also competing for Barbados. 

And coming up this month, we will reportedly see Aleah Finnegan, a rock-steady competitor at LSU this year, and UCLA’s Emma Malabuyo both competing at the Asian Championships for the Philippines. I’m pretty sure this is what Finnegan hinted at in my interview with her in April. Malabuyo appears to be waiting for a FIG license to come through, but given the speed with which Brown got hers, I have faith. 

Malabuyo and her Bruin teammate Ana Padarariu, who will compete for Canada, just announced that they will stay at UCLA this season while making their respective Olympic runs. Yay! 

It is so exciting to see this international diversity coming into the NCAA, and the NCAA competition in turn strengthening international elite gymnastics. 

Other gym news

In continuing news of transfers I didn’t predict, Georgia’s Soraya Hawthorne will move to Oklahoma for her senior year. 

Vanessa Deniz and Haley De Jong will both compete at Georgia for their Covid seasons. 

The Balance Beam Situation provided an update on Worlds qualifications

The Weiler full — aka the skill never accidentally performed by Simone Biles in competition, despite her team’s best efforts — has now been named for Australia’s Georgia Godwin. Godwin competed it at the Tel Aviv World Challenge Cup. 

Suni Lee appeared on Top Chef World All-Stars. 

Jordyn Wieber married Chris Brooks, and Aly Raisman carried a Union Jack purse for the reunion with her London Olympic teammates. 

Joscelyn Roberson, who won a silver medal on vault at the Pan American championships last weekend, is training a Cheng! 

Five at The IX: Jade Carey

It’s an Oregon State-heavy week for Gymnastics Saturday (see the Sage Thompson news, above). Jade Carey spoke with KOIN in Portland, Ore., about her decision to stay at OSU next season and compete while also making a run for the 2024 Olympic team. “You don’t have to choose a side,” she says. We say YES. 

Written by Lela Moore