Four reasons to watch a Winter Cup without Gabby Douglas — Behind the scenes at national team camp

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Feb. 23, 2024

Happy Gymnastics Saturday! It happens before most major meets, and it happens before and during NCAA season, too. A favorite gymnast suddenly withdraws, citing injury or illness, and you’re left wondering, why should I watch this at all? 

Continue reading with a subscription to The IX

Get unlimited access to our exclusive coverage of a varitety of women’s sports, including our premium newsletter by subscribing today!

Join today

That was the sentiment heard ’round the gymternet Thursday, when Gabby Douglas announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and would have to withdraw from this weekend’s Winter Cup.

Winter Cup is always a bit of a mixed bag. It’s the first meet of the elite season, so there’s some excitement around seeing favorites return to the podium and new seniors debut. But it’s also the first meet of the elite season, so it’s sometimes a bit messy because no one peaks for Winter Cup.

This year, though, the meet was hyped as Douglas’ return to competition for the first time since the 2016 Olympics. We’ve seen the training videos and heard Douglas talk about her reasons for returning to elite gymnastics (“I’m still a competitor at heart”), but we hadn’t seen it all come together. Now it will be another month or two before we do.

But there are other compelling reasons to watch Winter Cup. Here are a few, in no particular order. 

  1. Suni Lee! The Tokyo all-around gold medalist begins her second Olympic run-up here, after a year of uncertainty about her future in the sport due to an unspecified kidney disorder. She’s now in remission, back to training, and hoping to nab a trip to Baku to get her full-twisting laid-out Jaeger (NBD) named after her. In case you forgot what it looks like …
  1. New seniors! The big names to watch in their senior debuts at Winter Cup are Reese Esponda, Simone Rose and Jayla Hang. Esponda won floor at last year’s junior national championship, and she’s a powerhouse on the event. Rose won bronze on vault at junior nationals last year and was fifth in the all-around, and her artistry is chef’s kiss. Both Esponda and Rose made the junior national team last year. Hang was the silver medalist in the 2022 junior national championship but has been injured for most of the last season. Still, the potential is there for her to make a big splash here. 
  1. Trinity Thomas! This is Thomas’ return to elite gymnastics after five spectacular years as a Florida Gator, where she tied the NCAA record for career perfect 10s. Since Thomas’s name is practically synonymous with college perfection, it’s easy to forget that she was a stellar elite gymnast, too. Excited to see what’s she bringing to the table this year. 
  1. It’s not on NBC! All sessions of Winter Cup will be streamed via USAG’s YouTube. Samantha Peszek and John Roethlisberger will be on the call for all senior sessions. 

There’s also the Nastia Liukin Cup! This meet, for the country’s top level 10 gymnasts, streams live on Sunday. If you want to catch future NCAA stars on the come-up, watch the Nastia Liukin Cup.

Want women’s hockey content? Subscribe to The Ice Garden!

Here at The IX, we’re collaborating with The Ice Garden to bring you Hockey Friday. And if you want the women’s hockey goodness 24/7? Well, you should subscribe to The Ice Garden now!

Other gym news

The Balance Beam Situation gives you the Week 7 wrap-up and NQS standings, the Week 8 schedule and links, and, of course, the GIFs.

College Gym News delivers Week 7’s questions, comments and concerns; the Week 8 preview; the beam connections that judging columnist Rhiannon Franck would not have credited; and the leotard rankings.

The FIG released the Olympic draw for team qualifications

Jordan Chiles did a great interview with The Athletic this week (paywall). 

Kaylia Nemour posted the quad’s highest bars score at the Cottbus World Cup this week. Suni Lee’s response? “Wow, wow, wow.” 

The AAI Award nominees were announced this week. This is frequently referred to as the “Heisman Trophy of gymnastics”; we prefer to call the Heisman the “AAI Award of Football.” (Either way, the award honors the nation’s best college gymnasts.)

Selena Harris did a great interview with the Los Angeles Times after her 10 on vault last week (paywall). 

A third HBCU is starting a women’s gymnastics program! Wilberforce University in Ohio will debut its team next season. 

24/7 women’s soccer coverage with The Equalizer

The IX is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribers to The IX receive 50% off their subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.

Five at The IX: Behind the scenes at national team camp

In advance of Winter Cup, USAG posted this six-minute video with some behind-the-scenes footage from this month’s national team camp.

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