Asher Hong – remember that name, because you’ll be hearing the 2021 Winter Cup junior all-around champion’s name a lot in the coming years.
The 16-year-old – who turns 17 on March 23 – won the junior title during the 2021 Elite Team Cup on Saturday, Feb. 27 in Indianapolis, with a massive 80.700 across six events – 3.25 points ahead of silver medalist Kai Uemura (77.450) and 3.45 ahead of bronze medalist Vahe Petrosyan (77.250).
The highlight of Hong’s individual performance was his incredible Kas 2.5 (3.5 twists) on vault, tallying the highest score of the junior meet: a 15.000. He also led the juniors on night one on still rings (13.950) and parallel bars (13.700).
When asked about his vault, which can be seen as a bit ambitious for a junior, Hong said after 10 weeks off due to the pandemic last spring, he returned to the gym refreshed and, soon after, decided to attempt it.
“I was really explosive on vault [after that break],” Hong said. “I kept working it for a week, and by the end of the week, I had landed it… It was really exciting.”
Hong’s dominance combined with Dallas Hale, Dave Wolma, Cameron Lee, Caden Clinton, and Vishal Mandava’s strong showings across events helped Region 3 win its sixth-straight Elite Team Cup title with a 306.950. Region 1 took second with a 303.750, and Region 8 rounded out the podium with a 300.300.
Region 3 topped the team rankings on every event except high bar, where Region 1 posted the top score with a 49.300.
Just 24 hours later, a portion of the junior men joined the senior men for event finals, with lone scores from the second night’s meet counting toward the final event standings.
Hong won floor (13.450), pommel (14.150), rings (13.600), and parallel bars (13.450) but couldn’t duplicate the success he had on vault from night one, earning a 13.500 after some trouble with the same vault, ultimately placing him sixth out of seven.
Hong’s Region 3 teammate, Wolma, took the vault title with a 14.200, and Region 7’s Caden Spencer earned high bar gold with a 12.800.
When asked about who, among the junior and senior men, impressed him this weekend after the conclusion of competition, Hong was the first athlete mentioned by men’s high-performance director Brett McClure.
The high school junior plans to explore his options for competing in college this spring, and although he’s still exploring his options, he’ll announce his final decision later this year.
Relive the 2021 Winter Cup – Elite Team Cup and junior-senior men’s event finals competition with Gymnastics Now’s live blogs from the meets here and here. Click here for the full results from Elite Team Cup. Click here for the full junior all-around results.
All of the junior men’s routines from the 2021 Winter Cup can be watched on-demand at FloGymnastics.com.