2022 U.S. Classic: Leanne Wong is back like she never left in all-around win

By Patricia Duffy | July 30, 2022
2022 U.S. Classic: Leanne Wong is back like she never left in all-around win
Leanne Wong competes on beam at the 2022 U.S. Classic. (© Lloyd Smith)

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – In the midst of a rebuilding year following the Olympics, the veterans ran away with the senior competition of the 2022 U.S. Classic at the Maverik Center on Saturday.

Part-time GAGE and part-time Florida gymnast Leanne Wong finished atop the leaderboard in her return to elite after her freshman season with the Gators.

In addition to securing the all-around title with a 54.400, Wong also snagged the vault and beam titles.

Starting on vault, Wong said she almost missed the table on her first vault – a double-twisting Yurchenko – but the judges clearly couldn’t tell, with the skill earning a 14.400 (9.4 in execution). The second was a clean, laid-out Podkopayeva, which is a round-off 1/2 on, 1/2 off. She stepped over the line, which resulted in a -0.3 neutral deduction, but she still walked away with the title thanks to a 13.900 average. 

Joscelyn Roberson (NE Texas Elite) was the only other athlete to compete two vaults, averaging a 13.700.

Bars saw the biggest hiccup of the day for Wong when she slipped off the apparatus on her upgraded Bhardwaj (Pak full), earning a 12.850.

“I think I just got ahead of myself, so I’ll do it better next time,” Wong said.

The 2020 Olympic team alternate incurred another neutral deduction (-0.1) for going over time on beam, but she still emerged with the win (13.550). Known for her impeccable twisting skills, Wong capped off the set with a two-and-a-half dismount.

“I’m just starting to put in my leg skills again and building up the routine,” Wong said, referring to her transition back to elite sets.

Ending the night on floor, Wong performed her 2021 Olympic season routine, as she hasn’t had the time to choreograph a new set in the whirlwind of the past few months. The skills were slightly different, opting to not compete the whip triple from last year. She did hit a big double-double and piked double Arabian to stag jump before narrowly avoiding disaster on her 2.5 to tucked half, wrapping her night with a 13.600 and plenty of room for improvement.

Despite the hiccup on bars, Wong’s difficulty and clean execution was bolstered by a watered down field that was missing Konnor McClain (concussion) and 2020 Olympic medalists Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles, who are all expected to compete at the U.S. Championships in Tampa, Florida, next month.

Wong will decide after U.S. Championships whether she returns to Florida to train in the fall or stays at GAGE through world championships.

The 18-year-old’s toughest competition was Shilese Jones, who made her domestic return after a challenging year that saw her narrowly miss a spot on the Olympic team in June and the passing of her father from kidney disease in December. 

“It was just hard, mentally, with the stuff I’ve had to overcome the last seven months,” Jones said. “Other than that, it just felt amazing to be back out there.”

Despite being committed to Florida, Jones is deferring her enrollment until 2024 as she goes all in on her Olympic dream once more.

The all-around silver medalist (54.050) showed a clean double-twisting Yurchenko on vault that, like Wong, earned a 14.400. The plan is to upgrade that to an Amanar and then add a Mustafina (half-on, front full off) as her second vault.

The 20-year-old won bars with the only 6.0+ difficulty score of the competition, notching a 14.500 (6.3, 8.2).

The real buzz around her bars is the upgrade she’s planning for nationals: a stalder laid-out Tkatchev that is not yet named in the Code of Points, meaning it would become “The Jones” if competed at an FIG-sanctioned event, like the upcoming world championships in October. Jones executed the skill during podium training and should be able to connect it, paving the way for a massive start value.

Jones had the honor of giving spectators the finale routine of the night on floor, where she tumbled her way to a 13.650, good enough for second on the event. The routine included a double-double, double layout, and punch front through to double back, as well as beautiful choreography that should bode well with an added emphasis on artistry in the COP this quad.

Rounding out the all-around podium with the bronze (52.500) and snagging the floor title was Twin City Twisters gymnast Katelyn Rosen, who topped the field in floor execution score (8.300) en route to a 13.700.

“I saw a lot of good things, and I saw a lot of things that also need improvement – beam being one of them.,” Women’s High-Performance Technical Lead Chellsie Memmel said. “I think we are in a good place. We can keep working and moving forward and be where we want to be, especially for worlds.”

  • Katelyn Rosen - Twin City Twisters
  • Shilese Jones - Ascend
  • Nola Matthews - Airborne
  • Charlotte Booth - Brandy Johnson’s
  • Leanne Wong - GAGE