No USA team announcement is ever without drama, and the 2019 worlds team announcement certainly had its fair share of controversy.
The current 2019 worlds lineup includes Simone Biles, Jade Carey, Kara Eaker, Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum, and MyKayla Skinner. One of these gymnasts will end up being an alternate, which will be decided at least 24 hours prior to the competition. Morgan Hurd and Leanne Wong are non-traveling alternates, which basically means nothing unless someone gets hurt before they leave for the trip.
Although USAG said its selection would be based on “results from the 2019 American Classic, GK U.S. Classic, U.S. Championships, international competitions and the World Team Selection Camp; D and E scores earned at any official international assignment or national event; consistency; the composite strength of all World team members, with consideration given for potential team, all-around, and individual event medals; world-class presentation; and readiness to compete,” fans were quick to notice that the lineup is quite literally just the top six from World Selection Camp. First place at camp was guaranteed a spot on the worlds team, but if the entire team was being picked based only on standings from one singular event, USAG ought to have shared that as the only criteria.
This isn’t the first time this year that USAG has picked a team solely off of rank order. For the Pan American games, the same strategy was used, which caused a similar uproar. After that incident, where the team selected was not the strongest possible team, it seems like this is becoming a trend.
Other critiques have been pointed out with this lineup, including lots of uproar around Hurd being left off the roster. Hurd is a fan favorite, 2017 world champion, and third-place world champion in 2018. Some have said that not including a world all-around champion is crazy, but others believe that since the U.S. has such a deep vault of talent coming up right now, they are correct in giving other gymnasts a chance to prove themselves on the world stage.
Hurd has also not had as incredible of a season as she has in past years, but it seems like her one fall on bars at camp affected her more than the selection committee claimed it would. Hurd, despite her fall at camp, is a consistent gymnast.
Another issue fans have is what lineup USAG will end up with for team finals and who will compete in all-around. For example, many have pointed out that McCallum, Skinner, and Carey all have similar strengths and weaknesses, making it difficult to pick orders, as well as fill in the weak spots.
Admittedly, USAG suffered a tough loss when Riley McCusker announced she was withdrawing from selection camp due to an injury. McCusker would be a perfect fit on this team due to her strengths being bars and beam, and likely, the selection committee figured she would be a lock, especially after she won gold on bars at the Pan American Games this July and bronze on beam. When she withdrew, this likely left the question open as to who would fill the weak spots in their lineup. Regardless, this still leaves a hole that many feel could be solved by switching out some gymnasts in the lineup for others, now that McCusker competing is out of the question.
Vault and floor are two events where this team has a lot of power, but there are not a lot of strong bar workers in the lineup. Leanne Wong took second on bars at World Selection Camp, and many are shocked she isn’t going due to her strength on that event, which Team USA so often needs, especially with this lineup. For example, though Eaker can execute a beautiful routine with good form and no falls, her score at camp was still below a 14, and she placed behind Wong. Lee definitely is a good bar worker, but you need more than one on a team, as she can’t carry it by herself. Lee also does a lot of risky moves on this event, meaning that if she falls on it, Team USA is out of luck.
Skinner going is a big upset in the eyes of many as well, mainly based on her execution. Her leaps are arguably not up to par, and many other aspects of her form as well. Although her scores have been high and she has held her own against other USA gymnasts, when the scoring goes international, her routines may take a hit. The main argument against Skinner going to worlds is not that she isn’t a good gymnast, but that she isn’t needed on a team where only two can go to event finals, and she isn’t likely to be in the top two for any event, at least on a team with Biles, Eaker, and Carey present.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the team announcement was Faith Torrez being skipped over and not being named a non-traveling alternate. Torrez finished seventh at Worlds Selection Camp with an all-around score of 54.850, outperforming both Wong and Hurd, but USAG bucked the trend it had set of sticking to the selection camp results and did not select her. You can find the full standings from the all-around competition at World Selection Camp here.
USAG is supposed to release a selection report detailing how it picked the team, but no information has been released yet. If the report is released, maybe it will clear up some confusion on why certain gymnasts are going and others are left out, and maybe it won’t. Until then, gym fans will likely continue to share their opinions and ideal worlds teams with each other and with the world on social media.
Tell us what you think of the USA World Team lineup in the comments!