USA Sends Strong Contingent To Pan American Games

Now that U.S. Classic is over, the Pan American Games are next up on the radar for the 2019 elite season. 

Prior to Classics this past weekend, there were eight gymnasts in consideration for the five-woman Pan Am squad: Kara Eaker, Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker, Sloane Blakely, Shilese Jones, Sunisa Lee, and Leanne Wong. (Simone Biles and Grace McCallum opted to not aim for this selection and focus instead on the rest of the season leading up to U.S. Championships and World Championships.)

All but two of the athletes on the short list for Pan Ams finished in the top 10 at Classics, and the five gymnasts selected for the Pan Am team are: Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker, Kara Eaker, Leanne Wong, and Aleah Finnegan. Shilese Jones has been named the team alternate. 

These five athletes will represent Team USA in Lima, Peru, for this year’s Pan American Games. 


Competition Breakdown

Competition in Peru for the women’s team will go from July 27 to 31. 

July 27: Team finals - USA will be in session two. This competition will also serve as the individual event and all-around qualifications. 

July 29: Individual all-around competition

July 30: Vault and uneven bars finals

July 31: Beam and floor exercise finals. 

Only two gymnasts from each federation can qualify and compete in the all-around and event finals. 

What to Look for from the Women

All five gymnasts have international competition experience, but all five have different strengths. It will likely be a close call for the two all-around finals spots. 

Before Classics, most people would probably have said McCusker and Hurd would have the best chance. But if you look at the results, Hurd, Wong, and Eaker were all within three placements of each other. Every competition is different which makes the sport of gymnastics and qualifying meets that more exciting. 

In the individual events, here is what to look out for in each gymnast. 

Riley McCusker

At Classics, McCusker upgraded her beam series and her score reflected it well. She placed second on the event with a 15.1 and also came away with a bronze medal on bars, scoring a 14.55. 



A four-for-four meet at Classics also gave McCusker a silver medal in the all-around behind Biles. When McCusker puts together a good meet on all four events, it could be hard for the other four girls to beat.

Morgan Hurd

Hurd looked just the slightest bit off at Classics this past weekend. She finished sixth all-around, but don’t count her out for the all-around finals at Pan Ams. Bars is where Hurd thrives and by just half a tenth, she took home the gold medal at Classics on the event. 


Kara Eaker

Eaker is the definition of a beam queen. At last year’s Pan American Championships, she won the event, and it would be no surprise if she won it at this year’s Games as well. Eaker scored a huge 15.4 to win the event at Classics with this flawless routine. 


With McCusker’s new upgrade, these two could go head-to-head in the balance beam finals. 

Leanne Wong

Wong is a consistent all-around competitor, but she has a great international style in her floor routine. Her technique shines on this event and you won’t want to miss her piked double Arabian and three-and-a-half twist. Wong finished tied for fifth on the event at Classics. 


Aleah Finnegan 

The Pan American Games will be Finnegan’s biggest international meet so far in her career. Her first international assignment came earlier this year at the Gymnix International meet. At Classics, she finished seventh overall, and her highest scoring event was vault. Finnegan is the only member of this year’s Pan Am Games team with a shot at medaling in vault finals. In order to medal, gymnasts must compete two different styled vaults, and Finnegan showed she can at Classics.



The team has already left for Peru and the girls seem to be enjoying the trip so far. Stay tuned for more coverage of the Games in the following days. 


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