The Core Hydration Classic both gave us hope and made us cry — Other gym news — Thoughts from Texas Woman’s University’s Steelie King

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, May 25, 2024

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The big news this past week was about the Core Hydration Classic meet, the senior competition of which was held on Saturday, May 18. 

The hype before the meet was that it would, for what is likely the first time in history, feature three Olympic all-around champions competing together: Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, and Gabrielle Douglas. 

For Douglas, the meet did not work out as planned. She struggled on bars and scratched the remainder of the competition. She will be unable to petition to compete the all-around at Nationals next week and will only be able to compete on three events there. I don’t know what Douglas’s goals were for her comeback, but I hope it was not Olympics or bust. I’d love to see her stick around another year and make a push for 2025 Worlds. Because Douglas’s struggles in the sport and with its fans have so often marred her competitive accomplishments, I hope she finds what she is looking for this time around. 

Lee’s competition had a more redemptive arc, as she won beam and had a strong floor routine and vault. Though she did not compete bars — her signature event and the one on which she may be able to have a skill named for her should she make the Olympic squad — she will be able to petition to compete all-around at Nationals because she has not yet competed in the all-around at a meet this year. Lee has struggled for the last year, at least, with a duet of kidney illnesses that have compromised her training; to see her back in such good form was a real feel-good moment. 

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And what else is there to say about Simone Biles? In her first competition in 2024, Biles won the all-around, competed her signature Yurchenko double pike vault without the coach spot that had previously cost her a half-tenth of a point, and also brought back her triple-double on floor, so powerful she shot out of bounds on it. She’s back, and she has not lost a beat.

We also saw Shilese Jones in a bravado silver-medal performance that should cement her as a near-lock for the Olympic team. Jones is such a lovely, graceful yet powerful gymnast just waiting for the same name-brand stardom as the Olympic champions with whom she competes. This is her year. 

Jade Carey, too, seemed to be making a mark here. She had a rough season last year, but this year, she seems to be working towards the right peak and had some, but not all, of her difficulty back. I’d be very surprised if she isn’t making a strong push for an Olympic spot based on her performance here, despite a fall on bars. 

Jordan Chiles, too, made a strong comeback, winning bronze in the all-around. She gave an interview suggesting that being counted out makes her angry, and being angry helps her perform. In that case, I say, keep Chiles angry.

And finally, we saw 2022 national champion Konnor McClain make an elite comeback that ended in tears as she suffered an Achilles tear during floor warmups. Before she was injured, she competed a beam routine that won her a bronze, and it was just awful to see that potential hindered. McClain, like Douglas, is an athlete whose misfortunes in the sport sometimes overshadow her skill and the magnificence of her top performances. I had high hopes for her returning to elite after such a successful season in NCAA for LSU, and will root for her to make it to 2028, if that’s what she chooses to do. 

This is traditionally a meet for gymnasts to get out the splats before moving into the serious business of nationals, but that takes on more importance in an Olympic year. It will be interesting to see whose big moves at Classic pay off next month at Trials! 

Other gym news

The Gymternet has liveblogs of Session One and Session Two of the Core Hydration Classic, ICYMI. There’s also a results post

College Gym News has a roundup of the Core Hydration Classic focusing on the NCAA stars, present and future, who competed. 

They also have a roundtable on transfers and predictions for transfers for the 2025 NCAA season. 

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The Asian Championships took place this week in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. UCLA’s Emma Malabuyo, competing for the Philippines, won all-around bronze there and secured her Olympic berth in the process – yay! She joins fellow NCAA’er Aleah Finnegan, a rising senior at LSU, and future Stanford gymnast Levi Jung-Ruivivar as Olympic competitors from the Philippines. 

Unfortunately, Uzbekistan’s own Oksana Chusovitina was injured during podium training at the Asian Championships and will no longer be in the running for her ninth (yes, NINTH) Olympics. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We’re the same age, and I cannot even do it. 

Oceanic Championships are also this weekend, and come with an Olympic spot as well. 

The rosters for U.S. Nationals are set. USA Gymnastics has moved some of the senior women into the junior session. 

Alex Irvine will compete for Auburn next year. Irvine competed at UCLA for her freshman year and entered the transfer portal last month. 

Germany’s Emma Malewski has cartilage damage to her shoulders and can currently compete only on beam. 

Ondine Achampong, who is British and not French, as I erroneously wrote in a recent newsletter (forgive me, Ondine!), had ACL surgery this week. 

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Five at The IX: Steelie King of Texas Woman’s University

A gymnast in a leotard, sash, and mortarboard poses for a graduation photo.
Steelie King graduates! But she’s back for a fifth year at Texas Woman’s. Photo credit: Texas Woman’s University Gymnastics

Steelie King announced recently that she will take her fifth year at Texas Woman’s University. King has been a stalwart for the TWU team over the last four years, and we were happy to chat with her about her decision to pursue a last year of competitive gymnastics along with an MBA (casual!). This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

What made you decide to return to TWU for a fifth year? 

Steelie King: I decided to return to TWU for my fifth year because gymnastics is over for me once my collegiate career is done. I knew I would never get the chance to compete again or train gymnastics truly once that was over. Thanks to COVID, I got the chance to have an extra year, unlike most. When I decided for sure I wanted to take my fifth year, the thought crossed my mind if I wanted to stay at TWU or transfer for my final year. It didn’t take much thinking on that to know I for sure wanted to stay at TWU. There isn’t anything like it, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without this program and the fantastic coaches we were blessed with. The relationships I have made over the past four years at TWU will last a lifetime, and I loved having the opportunity to build more. 

What will you be studying during your fifth year, and what do you plan to do after school? 

SK: During my fifth year, I will work towards my MBA with an emphasis on healthcare administration. I am studying for the Dental Admissions Test and applying this summer, so I will head to dental school following my last season. 

Are you learning any new skills, or making any upgrades, for your final year? 

This year, I plan to make all the last upgrades I can, considering it’s my last season. I plan to upgrade to a Yurchenko 1.5 as well as [to] add a full-in into my floor routine. 

What are your goals for your last year, both for yourself and for the TWU team? 

My goals for the team this upcoming season are to qualify for regionals for the first time in school history, and to win Nationals and MIC Conference. As for myself, my goal is to compete consistently in the all-around, qualify as an individual to Regionals, and win an individual title at Championships. 

If you could design a leotard (can be either a TWU leo or a completely different one), what would the Steelie King leo look like? 

I feel like the Steelie King leo would have a simple crown logo on it, possibly a cowgirl hat and boots. 

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Written by Lela Moore