The U.S. generally has a higher number of elite gymnasts compared to other countries, making it more difficult for American gymnasts to make Olympic and World Championship teams. This also makes it harder for gymnasts to simply stand out and be memorable. Though she's in only her first year as a senior elite, Kara Eaker has achieved just that.
At this year's senior competition at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, 21 gymnasts competed. That means Eaker was indirectly competing with 20 other athletes for the audience and national team committee's attention. And when there is a gymnast competing on every apparatus throughout the entire two-day meet, it doesn't get any easier.
But even though she had yet to compete in an international competition and was competing alongside the legendary Simone Biles and reigning world champion Morgan Hurd, Eaker was able to shine and make a mark among the competitive field.
She doesn't have an Amanar or a world medal, but Eaker does have lovely lines, beautiful form, excellent presentation, and a beam routine that is unlike any other. And it's come to no surprise since she trains at GAGE, a gym known for producing gymnasts with those qualities in their gymnastics.
Eaker's vault may not be the most difficult ― she vaults only a Yurchenko 1.5 ― but she makes up for the lack of difficulty with the great execution. Her legs stay together, from the block off the table to her flight in the air, and are straight for the most part. She does have a tendency to bend her knees near the end when she's about to land, but otherwise it's a clean vault that minimizes deductions.
Uneven bars isn't her best event either, but it shows off Eaker's lines and form well. With her toes pointed throughout the entire routine and her legs not separating during her Shaposhnikova and Pak salto transitions ― a common deduction ― she's still able to put together a solid and polished bar routine that highlights one of her strengths.
Beam and floor are where she really excels and stands out. Her beam routine is composed so it flows really well. The acrobatic skills seamlessly transition into the choreography and vice versa. She's almost always moving on the four-inch apparatus, which makes the routine pleasing to watch, and it doesn't feel like there are any breaks or moments where she does choreography just to do something.
In addition, Eaker has a plethora of connections in her routine, achieving a nice balance of difficulty and execution. This year she was rewarded for her superb beam work at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, earning a silver medal, and at the Senior Pan American Championships, winning the event.
Last but not least is floor. Eaker may not have the highest difficulty ― Simone Biles likely has that covered ― but floor is still an event to watch the Missouri native on. Her floor routine combines all the best qualities of her gymnastics: the execution and great twisting form from her vault, the lines and form from her bars and the presentation, performance, and choreography from her beam.
She knows what she does best and takes advantage of it. (There's a reason she twists in three of her four passes.) Her routine is not just a routine ― it's a performance. Like with beam, it doesn't feel like she is ever doing choreography just to fill in the time between tumbling passes and dance elements. It's purposeful and presented well. Domestic and international judges have both recognized this, as Eaker finished fifth on floor at the 2018 U.S. Gymnastics Championships and won a bronze medal on floor at the 2018 Senior Pan American Championships.
Now Eaker has been named to Team USA's World Championships team and has completed official podium training in Doha. The alternate has yet to be named, but regardless of whether Eaker officially competes in Doha, she has had a great first senior season. She won a silver medal at Championships, won three medals (team gold and two event medals) at Senior Pan Ams, made the World Championships team and made herself known in a talented American field of gymnasts.