What to watch for at the 2021 USA Gymnastics Championships
By Jasmine Kerber
This week’s USA Gymnastics Championships at the connected America’s Center Convention Complex and The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis will showcase the nation’s best athletes in each gymnastics discipline. Not only is the event the national championships for acrobatic, rhythmic, and trampoline and tumbling across multiple developmental levels and the elite ranks, but it’s also the final Olympic selection event for rhythmic gymnastics and women’s trampoline. The men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics Olympic Team Trials will also be held at The Dome in St. Louis, while the 2021 USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show will take place in conjunction with both competitions. Here’s what to watch for in each of the disciplines that will compete from June 21-27.
Trampoline and Tumbling
In addition to determining who will vie for the national championship later in the week, scores from the preliminary rounds will help decide the who will earn the U.S. women’s trampoline spot for the Tokyo Olympics. (Trampoline entered the Olympics in 2000, but tumbling, double mini, and synchronized trampoline are not currently recognized Olympic disciplines.) This competition will be the final of three Olympic selection events for the women, after which the Olympic representative and alternate will be named – and it’s possible that scores will be close.
“We have more athletes in contention for the spot than in recent history,” said Jacqui Godfrey, USA Gymnastics’ director of trampoline and tumbling. “There’s a handful who could all take the spot.”
Men’s trampoline will not be competing for a country spot, but make sure to look out for World team silver medalist Aliaksei Shostak during the elite competition. The International Gymnastics Federation confirmed that Shostak has secured a spot to compete in Tokyo by name based on his performance at the 2019 World Championships.
In addition, the national teams for Trampoline and Tumbling will be named after finals, and Level 8, 9 and 10 national championships will take place throughout the week, featuring the nation’s best athletes in those divisions.
2021 is a historic year for the U.S. rhythmic gymnastics program. Two individual American rhythmic gymnasts and a group—the maximum number of rhythmic athletes per country—have qualified to the Olympics, reflecting the growing strength of the U.S. rhythmic program.
The elite senior competition on June 26-27 will determine which two individual rhythmic gymnasts earn the opportunity to represent the United States in Tokyo this summer. Look out for 2016 Olympian Laura Zeng and 2019 Pan American Games all-around champion Evita Griskenas—they’re the athletes who secured two places for the U.S. through their performances at the 2019 World Championships. This week’s competition will determine who gets to go to Tokyo for certain.
In addition, the country’s top Level 9 and 10 rhythmic gymnasts will vie for their respective national championships this week, and junior and senior national teams will be named after the elite competitions conclude.
“It’s a new format that reflects the growing numbers of Level 9-10 rhythmic gymnasts in the country,” said Caroline Hunt, USA Gymnastics’ director of rhythmic gymnastics.
While many of the United States’ best acro athletes will be competing at the 2021 World Age Group and World Championships in Geneva, Switzerland, which overlap this year’s USA Gymnastics Championships, others will be onsite in St. Louis to compete for national awards and national team spots.
Participating senior division athletes have the potential to earn national team berths. Shelby Salmon, USA Gymnastics’ director of the acrobatics program, noted that acro’s national team selection process will be slightly different this year due to the timing of the World Championships. Still, the national championship remains a key event and will help determine national team placements. Salmon also suggested watching for “up-and-coming elites” who may rise to the top of the junior and senior divisions over the next few years.
Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics
Although artistic gymnastics held its national championships from June 3-6 in Fort Worth, Texas, fans will have another chance to watch the country’s top gymnasts in St. Louis. Simone Biles, Suni Lee, Sam Mikulak, Yul Moldauer, and many more national and World championship medalists will compete for up to six women’s spots (four team and two individual) and five men’s spots (four team and one individual). The Olympic Team Trials, while a separate event from USA Gymnastics Championships, will take also take place in The Dome at America’s Center during the same time period. The men will compete on June 24 and 26 and the women will compete June 25 and 27, with both Olympic teams being named at the event’s conclusion.
Tickets for all of the USA Gymnastics Championship events and disciplines can be purchased here.