Gymnastics News Network
By Terri Laymon
Now that the 2016 Rio Olympics is over, with great success from Team USA, you might be wondering and thinking ahead about the 2020 Japan Olympics and who might be strong enough to return or fill the rather large shoes of Olympians vacating their positions.
While many gymnasts from the Olympic team taking time off to rest and regroup, (Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas) it might be hard to judge who exactly has plans to return for another shot at making the 2020 team. Some Olympians simply have taken another path, choosing to pursue a collegiate career (Madison Kocian, MyKayla Skinner, and Maggie Nichols). However, this doesn’t mean that they would not be a contender of the next Olympics. Many gymnasts in the past who have entered the collegiate field have elected to come back during the Olympic year and make the team, competing for their country.
This is a critical time when many junior elite gymnasts can step up and show what they are made of. This is the time Valerie Liukin will be watching those younger gymnastics to see who has the toughness and mental stamina to make it as a senior elite.
With many juniors turning 16 this year, the field is growing and there will be many who we’ll be keeping our eyes on throughout the next few years. Here are just a few that we will be watching:
Deanne Soza is one tough gymnast never letting anything get her down. Illness may have kept her from practicing a few months, but she has come back determined to get back on top. Competing in both U.S. and International meets, Soza has made her junior international debut last year in Montreal where she was part of the gold medal winning team. Her personal best was taking silver in the All-Around and on vault while still grabbing a bronze on bars. She will certainly be one to watch as she keeps upgrading her routines with difficulty. Soza is currently training at Texas Dreams.
Alyona Shchennikova shows particular prowess for uneven bars, showing a 6.4 D-score which is why this is one of her best events. Last year at the Secret Classic, Shchennikova placed third on this event. She needs a little more cleaning in her technique, but she will certainly be a strong opponent as she matures into the senior division. She trains under at 5280 Gymnastics.
Elena Arenas is a particularly strong All-Around contender with her high difficulty on each event. Arenas also is currently competing a layout double full Yurchenko and already has a 5.8 D-score on bars. This strength earned her a silver medal at the 2016 Secret Classic. She currently trains at Georgia Elite Gymnastics.
Victoria Nguyen was a member of the junior national team in 2015. During that time, she placed second on balance beam and tenth all-around at Jesolo. She sustained a few injuries and was temporarily out of competition for a while. She has returned to camp at the ranch this past fall and was showing off her new skills. Nguyen trains at Chow’s.
Jordan Chiles has already made a name for herself as a member of the junior national team since 2013. She has competed multiple times internationally, including at the 2016 City of Jesolo Trophy where helped the team win gold and personal grabbed the gold in the all-around, vault, and tied for silver on bars. She also placed first on vault at the 2016 Secret Classic. Chiles performs the powerful Amanar vault (layout 2 1/2 twisting Yurchenko), the same vault as Simone Biles. Chiles trains at Naydenov Gymnastics Inc.
Riley McCusker joined the junior national team last year. Hitting right off the blocks she placed second in the all-around, bars, beam, and floor. Her best events is bars as she boosts a 5.9 D-score. She trains at MG Elite Gymanstics.
Morgan Hurd also joined the junior national team last year. Competing at the 2016 Secret Classic, she secured first on floor and second on bars. She made a great showing during the P&Gs placing third on bars with a 6.0 D-score. Hurd is making a statement as a strong all-around gymnast. She trains at First State Gymnastics.
Trinity Thomas joined the junior national team early last year and competed in Jesolo helping her team win gold. She made a name for herself placing first on floor in the individual competition. Thomas has intense tumbling and shows incredible strength and grace. Looking a lot like a younger Gabby Douglas, she is currently training the Biles on floor. Thomas trains at Prestige Gymnastics.
Shania Adams is getting stronger as her years as a junior elite. Placing fourth in the all-around, third on beam, and eight on the bars at the 2016 P&G Championships, she was given a spot on the junior national team. Adams trains at Buckeye Gymnastics.
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