2021 Olympic team alternates Leanne Wong and Kayla DiCello are set to headline the field at this weekend’s world team selection camp for the U.S. women’s artistic gymnastics program.
Six athletes will train and compete for a spot on the four-woman team at selection camp from October 7-10 in Indianapolis ahead of the 2021 Artistic World Championships, which are slated for October 18-24 at the Kitakyushu General Gymnasium in Kitakyushu, Japan.
As is tradition with the world championships following an Olympic Games, these are an individual worlds. Only individual apparatus and all-around competitions will take place. No team competition will be contested.
The four other athletes who will vie for a spot on the team include: Ciena Alipio, eMjae Frazier, Olivia Greaves, and Konnor McClain.
Attendees will take part in a streamed competition on Friday, October 8. The competition will be available live on FloGymnastics starting at 5:40 p.m. ET.
The competition setting will be replicated once again on Saturday, October 9 ahead of the official team announcement later that day.
The U.S. women are coming off a six-medal performance at the Tokyo Olympic Games in August, but as is typical for the worlds following an Olympics, you won’t find any of those medalists in attendance.
Stars like Simone Biles, Suni Lee, and the rest of the women’s team from Tokyo are taking a much-deserved break and pursuing ventures outside of the elite gymnastics world, opening the door for the next-generation of athletes to make a statement and cement themselves as early contenders on the road to the Paris 2024 Games.
Without further ado, let’s meet the six gymnasts in contention for USA Gymnastics’ 2021 women’s artistic world team!
A 2021 Olympic team alternate, Wong was a serious contender for the Tokyo Olympic team and on many fan’s short list for the main team, ultimately finishing eighth at Olympic Trials and second on floor exercise. After training (and quarantining) in Japan, Wong returned to the states and enrolled at the University of Florida, where she will begin competing for the Gators during the 2022 NCAA season.
A strong all-arounder, Wong has been a member of the U.S. senior national team since 2019.
The 2018 U.S. junior all-around champion, Wong has seen consistent success since joining the senior rankings, including winning the 2019 American Cup, placing first in the team competition and winning silver on uneven bars at the 2019 Pan American Games, and placing fifth in the all-around at the past two U.S. Championships (2019, 2021).
Prediction: Wong is expected to lead the team in Kitakyushu. In addition to being a favorite to qualify to the all-around final, her emotional floor routine should score well with international judges, who typically favor more artistically-choreographed sets.
After placing sixth in the all-around at Olympic Trials and being named to the Olympic Team as an alternate, DiCello is primed for her breakout meet in Kitakyushu.
Since joining the senior ranks in 2020, the 17 year old’s star has been on the rise, placing second at the 2020 American Cup – her senior elite debut – before hunkering down and taking advantage of the extra year of training leading up to the Tokyo Games.
With increased routine difficulty and an accompanying confidence boost, the future Florida Gator has already seen success in 2021: first on uneven bars and third in the all-around and on floor exercise at the GK U.S. Classic, second on floor behind Biles at the U.S. Championships, and fifth on floor and sixth on balance beam in addition to her all-around finish at trials.
Prediction: DiCello, along with fellow Olympic team alternate Wong, is expected to lead the U.S. in the all-around and should qualify to at least one event final, with her powerful floor and difficult bars making her a strong contender for an individual medal.
First-year senior McClain arguably has the most potential of the entire U.S. women’s field for worlds. Whether she is ready to capitalize on that potential is another thing.
A longtime junior standout, McClain was instantly added to the list of Olympic contenders after the postponement of the Tokyo Games made her eligible three years earlier than expected, but following a poor showing at the GK Classic – where she fell on two apparatus and showed visible distress throughout the meet – the 16-year-old went straight home, packed up her locker at her gym, and moved from West Virginia to Texas to train with Valeri Liukin at WOGA, tabling her accelerated Olympic dream in favor of pacing herself to peak for Paris.
While McClain has yet to compete floor at a meet this year, she is known for her outstanding beam sets, clean vaults, and as exhibited by her performance at the pre-pandemic Gymnix International in 2020, is capable of being an all-around powerhouse for the U.S.
Prediction: Similar to Hurd’s clutch performance at worlds in 2017, McClain has the potential to be Team USA’s biggest success story at this worlds, setting her up for a promising quad to come, but that’s assuming she’s ready to assume the mantel. Beyond her all-around potential, McClain is a solid beam contender whenever she hits her routine.
A wrist injury has kept Greaves from competing for much of the 2021 season. Instead of pursuing championships and a berth to trials, the World Champions Centre gymnast opted to rest and recuperate while exploring alternative options to compete at the NCAA level starting in the 2022-2023 academic year.
Previously committed to Florida, Greaves uncommitted to the school over the summer and instead opted to join the Auburn Tigers, becoming Jeff Graba’s second 5-star recruit after current freshman Sunisa Lee.
With her future plans sorted, the 17-year-old is looking to make her first world team after last representing the U.S. internationally at the 2019 Gymnix International. At that meet, she earned four medals, including first in the team competition and second on vault, floor, and in the all-around.
Prediction: Greaves is known for her stunning lines and difficulty on bars, which most recently clocked in at a 5.9 at the 2021 Winter Cup. Her and DiCello are easily the best bars workers of the field, making her a favorite for the fourth spot on the team.
eMjae Frazier, the younger sister of UCLA’s Margzetta, has flown under the radar this year after showing glimpses of her budding potential when she made her senior international debut as part of the U.S. contingent for the 2020 Friendship and Solidarity Friendly Competition.
Since that meet last November, Frazier has been picking up steam through the 2021 season. In the winter, she competed beam at Winter Cup before a nasty fall on bars caused her to scratch the rest of the meet. She made her return to competition at the GK U.S. Classic in May, competing all four routines and tying for 12th in the all-around. At the U.S. Championships in June, the Cal commit had her best showing of the season, posting strong sets on vault and floor, in particular.
Over the past few months, the younger Frazier has shown glimpses of competitive routines across all four apparatus via her Instagram, including a double-twisting Yurchenko on vault, Nabieva release on bars, standing full on beam, and a clean double-double on floor.
Prediction: Frazier is the wild card at this selection camp. She has the potential to challenge the top contenders in the all-around and on events like beam and floor if she hits, but the biggest question mark is her consistency. The 17-year-old has been on an upward trend all season. Is she about to hit her stride?
At Winter Cup in early 2021, women’s high performance team coordinator Tom Forster mentioned Alipio by name when talking about up-and-coming seniors to watch on the road to the 2024 Paris Games.
At that meet, Alipio finished sixth with a 52.650 in the all-around, highlighted by a 12.700 on floor that placed her sixth on that event as well. Since then, Alipio had a downturn at the GK U.S. Classic, where she scratched vault, before returning at the U.S. Championships to place 22nd.
Based off her U.S. Championship scores, the UCLA commit has the lowest overall difficulty of the six athletes attending camp, but she showed promise on beam at championships with a 5.8 D-score.
Prediction: Alipio might not have the highest difficulty of the field, but her consistent presence on the elite scene over the past few years, combined with Forster’s admiration for her dedication and leadership qualities, make her one to watch at camp and in the coming year.
Gymnastics Now will be live-blogging the world team selection competition on Friday, October 8 starting at 5:40 p.m. ET. Make sure to follow our social channels and bookmark gymnastics-now.com for the latest updates, including Saturday’s official team announcement, Sunday interviews with the world team, and more features in the lead-up to Kitakyushu!