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The United States Announces World Championships Team

Ragan Smith headlines the USA's World championships team. Photograph: Ginnastica Artistica Italiana The number-one gymnastics cou...

Ragan Smith headlines the USA's World championships team. Photograph: Ginnastica Artistica Italiana

The number-one gymnastics country in the world has finally announced its World championships team. The United States will send Olympic alternates Ragan Smith and Ashton Locklear, and first-year seniors Jade Carey and Morgan Hurd.

Ragan Smith was no surprise. Smith, 17, has dominated the all around stage this year, winning the American Cup in March and the national title at the P&G Championships last August. She will have some international competition in Montreal for the all around crown (read: Larisa Iordache has looked insanely good lately), but a medal, of whichever colour, is certainly within her grasp. Same goes for her two best apparatuses, beam and floor. She is not as dominant as Simone Biles was last quad, especially on floor, but she could win medals on both events. Smith has recently improved so much on bars that she could even make the event finals on the latter apparatus. She is likely to come home from Canada as the United States’ most decorated gymnast.

First-year senior Jade Carey, 16, was also hardly a surprise, because she is the only American to compete two vaults at the moment and she has incredible difficulty on floor. On vault, she competes a Rudi and an Amanar, which propels her in the Olympus of vaulters with the highest combined difficulty in the world, along with China’s Wang Yan. Carey’s Amanar has been up-and-down this season, but there is not high level competition on vault this year, and Carey has a strong chance of a medal. Despite not being as clean in execution, she reminds me of 2009 vault World champion Kayla Williams, who came out of nowhere to win the vault World title in London (and then went on to become a star at Alabama).

Ashton Locklear, 19, was more of a question mark. The Olympic alternate looks as polished as ever on the uneven bars, but her difficulty is quite low (5.5), because she has not regained all her inbar work yet (which is a pity, because it is the epitome of beauty-on-the-uneven-bars, and also of beauty in general really). The international uneven bars field this year is strong, but no one compares with Locklear’s execution, who could then earn a spot in the final. Once there, anything can happen. Many gymnasts bring more difficulty to the table, but Locklear has experience, execution and a reputation on her side, which may win her a medal.

The fourth spot could go to almost anybody, after Riley McCusker withdrew from the Selection Camp last week due to a stress fracture. After what we can assume was a tough decision, it was decided that first-year senior Morgan Hurd, 16, will have the honour to represent the U.S. at Worlds. Surprising? Yes and no. When we saw Hurd at the P&G Championships last month, she was coming back from an elbow injury, and she did not look particularly polished. Since then, however, she has kept improving, and in the video USA Gymnastics posted about her at the Selection Camp, she looked on fire: great DTY, beautiful double-double on floor, extraordinary lines on bars.

Other gymnasts had the potential to make the team. Jordan Chiles, who was named the alternate, has an Amanar and stuck everything we were allowed to see at the Camp, Alyona Shchennikova looked great on bars (and has a 6.3 D-score), my darling Trinity Thomas is a raw diamond with incredible potential. None of these gymnasts, however, who would have been perfect for a team competition, fit this year’s team, which is an individual championships only, as none of them seem to have the potential to medal on any event. The same could be said for Locklear, but Locklear. Has. The. Execution. (and the reputation, and she is a pro gymnast).

Overall, this is an excellent team, which shows plenty of potential for Montreal and for the years to come too. Ragan Smith and Jade Carey seem likely to come home with at least a medal. Morgan Hurd has potential to medal in the all around, and could possibly have a shot also on bars and beam. Ashton Locklear is still a big question mark, but her uneven bars work is exquisite, and if anything, we will have the pleasure to enjoy her routine once more this year.

Article by Talitha Ilacqua

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