When it comes to gymnastics, particularly women’s gymnastics, the Olympics get all the glory. The winners take home lifelong memories, valuable medals and incredible fame, at least for the rest of that year.
However, the P&G Gymnastics Championships is about as important as it gets on the sport’s schedule. This year’s version of the USA Gymnastics’ national championships features competitions in both the junior and senior divisions and takes place in the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh from August 21-24 (women on the 21st and 23rd, men on the 22nd and 24th).
Here is a full look at the schedule.
|Thursday, August 21||Junior competition, Day 1||1 p.m.|
|Thursday, August 21||Senior competition, Day 1||7:30 p.m.|
|Saturday, August 23||Junior competition, Day 2||2 p.m.|
|Saturday, August 23||Senior competition, Day 2||7:30 p.m.|
Past all-around champions at this event include Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Carly Patterson and Jordyn Wieber, so the winner could have big things in store as her career unfolds. Last year’s all-around champion was Simone Biles.
Day 2 Results
|Place||Competitor||Day 1 Score||Day 2 Score||Combined Total|
|Place||Competitor||Day 1 Score||Day 2 Score||Combined Score|
Jazmyn Foberg won her maiden U.S. junior title, edging out silver medalist Nia Dennis, who had a magnificent all-around day but fell just short of the top prize.
Jo-Ann Barnas of Dateline Indianapolis had the story, and also added a notable anecdote that contextualized just how far Foberg has come in such a short time:
A year ago, Jazmyn Foberg didn't qualify for the #PGChamps. In a few minutes she will receive a gold medal for winning junior all-around.— Jo-Ann Barnas (@JoAnnBarnas) August 23, 2014
Athletes battling back from adversity is a familiar sports storyline. However, the fact that Foberg was able to dig deep enough, train harder and come back better than ever to beat a world-class lot of competitors makes her victorious story all the more special.
Simone Biles was hoping to cement her status as a gymnastics superstar by winning yet another title in the senior competition. She successfully defended as champion, beating out a tough field with relative ease.
A lot of hard work went into Biles retaining her senior title, but she certainly made it look effortless with her all-around grace. Biles, 17, had an overall score of 122.550, more than four points ahead of runner-up Kyla Ross.
The Associated Press' Will Graves was blown away by Biles' performance to the point of hyperbolizing her score compared to the other worthy athletes:
I just did the math. I believe @Simone_Biles now leads by 1,875,483 points.— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) August 24, 2014
USA Today's Maggie Hendricks thought highly of Biles' floor exercise:
Simone Biles' FX is so good it makes me talk to myself.— Maggie Hendricks (@maggiehendricks) August 24, 2014
Mary Lou Retton, a 1984 Olympic gold-medal winner in all-around gymnastics, gave her thoughts on Biles afterwards, via NBCSports.com's Nick Zaccardi.
"She’s not human," said Retton. "She may be the most talented gymnast I’ve ever seen in my life, honestly. And I don’t even think she’s tapped into what she really can do. I think she’s unbeatable."
Although it's well down the line, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have to be on Biles' mind. She is quickly establishing herself as a legitimate medal contender and has the all-around gymnastic prowess to compete at the highest level.
Biles was able to showcase her skills on NBC for many spectators and TV viewers to see. If she keeps putting on displays this good and at this rate, the rest of the world will likely become well-acquianted with Biles soon enough.
Day 1 Results
|5||Ragan Smith/Alexis Vasquez||55.550|
Thursday was all about Biles as she began her title defense.
She missed 10 months of competition but ironed out any rust at the Secret Classic in Chicago three weeks ago. She was nearly flawless in posting a 61.60 and holds a commanding lead over the rest of the field.
Biles began her evening on the beam and posted an incredible 15.700, which was well clear of Alyssa Baumann’s 15.150. The margin between Biles and the rest of the field only grew as the competition continued, which was critical because the uneven bars—her least favorite event—was the final competition.
She posted a solid 14.550, which was more than enough considering how dominant she was in the other events.
Let Jo-Ann Barnas of Dateline Indianapolis paint the picture:
As if there's any doubt who the world champion is in the building, Biles was huge on vault, 15.90 and 15.50. Building on her lead #PGChamps— Jo-Ann Barnas (@JoAnnBarnas) August 22, 2014
Simone Biles has so much height in her tumbling that I bet she could dunk a basketball #PGChamps. Wow. Loudest ovation of the night so far.— Jo-Ann Barnas (@JoAnnBarnas) August 22, 2014
One balance check, but a solid routine overall for Simone Biles. Stuck landing. #PGChamps Walking away with a confident strut.— Jo-Ann Barnas (@JoAnnBarnas) August 22, 2014
On her least favorite event, Simone Biles scores a 14.55 on uneven bars. Doesn't matter. She's your first-day leader with score of 61.80.— Jo-Ann Barnas (@JoAnnBarnas) August 22, 2014
The other main storyline was Kyla Ross, who won gold at the London Olympics as part of the “Fierce Five.”
Ross struggled though and made errors on the floor and uneven bars. She was seen as the only real threat to Biles, but that no longer appears to be the case. Will Graves of The Associated Press passed along a quote from Ross:
Kyla Ross says this was her toughest day in a long time: "I don't remember ever falling twice in a meet. This is frustrating."— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) August 22, 2014
Ross her usual graceful self on bars ... until the end. Awkward leg bend. And the speck in the distance that is Simone Biles gets smaller.— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) August 22, 2014
As Biles separates herself from the competition, the scariest thing may just be that she has room for improvement. Graves provided some insight from her coach that suggested as much:
Asked @Salto_Coach what she saw from Simone tonight and she didn't say a string of 15s but "lots of errors." Room to improve on Saturday— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) August 22, 2014
Scary part about Simone Biles: she's not the hardest worker. She happily does what she has to, but @Salto_Coach says she's not a gym rat.— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) August 22, 2014
Though that is changing a bit as she matures. But she's setting the bar pretty darn high. Kids will spend 2 years taking aim.— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) August 22, 2014
Biles is only 17 years old and likely has her eyes on Olympic gold one day. If she continues to perform like she did Thursday, that is certainly a realistic goal.