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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

Biles claims all-around victory at 2024 Core Hydration Classic

Biles and Jones shine, Douglas withdraws.

Core Hydration Classic

Evey Lowe is pictured competing on the uneven bars at the Core Hydration Classic on May 18.

For the first time ever, three American Olympic all-around gold medalists, Sunisa Lee (2020), Simone Biles (2016) and Gabby Douglas (2012), faced off in one gymnastics competition. The trio competed in front of thousands of fans at the Core Hydration Classic in Hartford, Conn., last weekend alongside other top American gymnasts leading up to this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

Simone Biles came out on top in the all-around with a score of 59.5, which put her 1.85 points ahead of the next-best score in a sport typically decided by just tenths of a point. The biggest victory of the night was Biles’ successful completion of her Yurchenko double pike vault without the presence of her coach Laurent Landi on the podium. Before this point, Biles had opted for Landi to remain on the podium for extra assurance despite incurring a 0.5 neutral deduction. The gymnast finished first on floor and vault as well.

Biles opted to defer all comments until after the U.S. National Championship in Fort Worth, Texas two weeks later.

After returning to competition for the first time in eight years during the American Classic in April, 2012 Olympic all-around Champion Gabby Douglas had a disappointing second competition, as she struggled on uneven bars and subsequently withdrew from the remainder of competition. Severe storms in Texas interrupted Douglas’ travel to Hartford, and it was unclear whether she would make it to the meet on time. Luckily, she was able to catch a flight on a private jet and arrive in Hartford at 6 a.m. on Friday, reporting that she only got two hours of sleep.

“It was a whole thing. My flight got canceled, … and we go up to the desk and she’s like, ‘There’s nothing until Saturday, like noon.’ … I’m going to miss the podium [training]. I want to do podium to get used to the equipment,” Douglas told the media. “And so, my mom called up my agent, and he was like, ‘Hey, I know someone with a private jet.’”

Douglas demonstrated strong readiness the day before the meet at podium training, where athletes are given a chance to adjust to the unfamiliar equipment. Following a strong podium training, where she demonstrated a complete bar set, a standing back full-on beam, and a double layout on floor, Douglas was looking forward to Saturday’s competition.

“I’m very anxious and nervous, but honestly, I am so fortunate to have everything, the body I have, the work ethic,” Douglas said.

On Saturday, however, Douglas faltered on her second pirouette on uneven bars, then fell from the loss of rhythm later on in the routine. She attempted to continue the routine but fell again. After completing only a release move in between the bars and her dismount, Douglas’ routine garnered a score of 10.100. Following uneven bars, she scratched from the rest of the competition.

Douglas had hoped to achieve a qualifying all-around score for the U.S. National Championships next week. She was qualified to compete on vault, uneven bars and beam already. However, Douglas is ineligible to petition to compete on the floor because she earned an all-around score at the American Classic in April. This result means she will fail to qualify for  all-around competition at the U.S. National Championship.

“I missed gymnastics, and I love it, and it ended rough for me in 2016, so I didn’t want to end on that note,” Douglas said of her return prior to competition. “Regardless of the outcome, I want to make sure that I end on love and joy. … It was great to be back out there with the girls and the atmosphere.”

At age 28, Douglas is more than a decade older than the age historically deemed best for an elite gymnast. However, along with Simone Biles at age 27, Leanne Wong at age 20, and Shilese Jones at age 21, more and more gymnasts are finding success beyond their teenage years. This has been facilitated in part by new name, image and likeness policies in the NCAA, which allow gymnasts to compete in college without sacrificing sponsorship potential.

“I love this generation for pushing the boundaries and saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have to be 16, you can be in your 20s [and still be successful],’” Douglas said to the media following podium training.

Shilese Jones also addressed the benefits of having gymnasts stay in the sport longer.

“The experience is great. I say all the time, the older you get, the stronger you get,” Jones told the Daily. “We have so many athletes on our team nowadays that are 20 and older, so it takes more time to make sure your body is healthy, your mind is healthy. You just have to be smart with your training.”

Jones finished second in the all-around competition with a score of 57.65, hitting a stunning bar set that garnered first place in uneven bars with a score of 15.25. The bar set included Jones’ new layout Jaeger release move. Extremely difficult for any gymnast, this move is especially impressive given Jones’s relatively tall stature at 5-foot-6 (ten inches taller than Biles, who stands 4-foot-8). After Biles, it seems that Jones is the strongest contender to make the Olympic team this summer.

“I have some big goals, [my family] is there to help me and my coach is here to support me,” Jones told the media. “I’m in this for a reason, and I’m pushing hard.”

The 2020 all-around Olympic gold medalist Sunisa Lee finished first on the balance beam with a score of 14.60. After struggling in podium training on uneven bars, Lee opted to compete only on the vault, beam and floor in order to leave open the option to petition to the U.S. National Championships.

Leanne Wong finished seventh in the all-around with a score of 53.45 after falling on the balance beam. Wong is currently a pre-med student at the University of Florida and taking organic chemistry concurrently with training for the Olympic Trials.

“[My goal is] to go out there and hit four for four,” Wong said to the media before the start of competition in Hartford. “This is my first elite meet back, so I’m kind of getting my feet wet and getting ready for the season.”

Qualified gymnasts will compete in the U.S. National Championships from May 30 to June 2, with the goal of being invited to the Olympic Trials in Minneapolis at the end of June.