Olympics

Athletes to watch at this week’s U.S. gymnastics championships in KC (plus TV details)

Simone Biles inspires with positivity

Olympic gold medalist and world champion gymnast Simone Biles was the featured guest at the WIN for KC Women’s Sports Awards Celebration at the Kansas City Convention Center on Friday. Holly Rowe of ESPN emceed the event.
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Olympic gold medalist and world champion gymnast Simone Biles was the featured guest at the WIN for KC Women’s Sports Awards Celebration at the Kansas City Convention Center on Friday. Holly Rowe of ESPN emceed the event.

Al Fong wants you to know one thing, and that is when Thursday comes and the U.S. gymnastics national championships begin at the Sprint Center, he’s expecting his three gymnasts — locals Kara Eaker, Aleah Finnegan and Leanne Wong — to perform at the same high level they seemingly always do.

The KC gymnastics coach, though, knows the championship meet — which runs Thursday through Sunday — will feature strong competition at every turn.

Here’s a look at some of the top gymnasts who should be worth keeping an eye on, plus how to find and watch the event on TV and a day-by-day schedule.

KCM_TeengymnastphenomSP0431
Under the watchful eye of coach Al Fong, Leanne Wong perfects her routine on the balance beam during a recent practice at Great American Gymnastics Express in Blue Springs. The 15-year-old gymnast , who attends Blue Valley High School, recently won the American Cup in Greensboro, North Carolina, and has her sights set on making the U.S. Olympic team and earning a trip to Tokyo in 2020. Rich Sugg rsugg@kcstar.com

Men to watch

Sam Mikulak

Mikulak, an Olympian in both 2012 and 2016 (and the only Olympian in the men’s field), is eyeing what would be a record sixth national all-around title.

Yul Moldauer

A three-time American Cup champion, Moldauer will likely challenge Mikulak for the all-around championship.

Donnell Whittenburg

Whittenburg, an alternate for the 2016 Olympic team, also competed in the 2017 World Championships, where he advanced to the floor exercise final.

Donothan Bailey

A 2018 U.S. parallel bars and high bar silver medalist, Bailey also secured the bronze in the high bar at the 2017 Winter Cup.

Adrian De Los Angeles

De Los Angeles, who competed collegiately at Michigan, has stood out in the last two Winter Cups: In 2019, he was the parallel bars champion, and in 2018, he won bronze in the vault.

Women to watch

Simone Biles

Biles, the headliner of the meet and undefeated in all-around competitions for six years, is looking to tie Clara Schroth Lomady‘s record of six women’s titles.

Morgan Hurd

A 2017 world all-around champion, 2018 world team champion and 2019 Pan American Games team champion, Hurd will likely figure into the medal race.

Riley McCusker

McCusker, who cleaned up at the 2019 Pan American Games by becoming the team uneven bars champion, all-around silver medalist and balance beam bronze medalist, should join Hurd in the competition for a medal.

Sloane Blakely

An incoming junior at Wakeland High in Frisco, Texas, Blakely claimed the 2019 Gymnix International team gold medal.

Jade Carey

Carey graduated from high school in 2018, but she’s already beefed up her resume, which includes the 2017 U.S. vault championship, silver medals in the 2017 world vault and floor exercise competitions and a silver medal in the 2018 U.S. floor exercise.

Schedule and TV details

NBC Sports, NBC and the Olympic Channel will all broadcast various portions during each day of the event.

Tickets, starting at $27, are available at Sprintcenter.com.

Here’s how each day of competition will play out (all times Central):

  • Thursday: Men’s gymnastics – 1 p.m., juniors, and 6:30 p.m., seniors. TV live on NBCSN (men) at 7 p.m.
  • Friday: Women’s gymnastics – 1 p.m., juniors, and 6:30 p.m., seniors. TV live on NBCSN (women) at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday: Men’s gymnastics – 1 p.m., juniors, and 6:30 p.m., seniors. TV live on NBCSN (men) at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday: Women’s gymnastics – 1 p.m., juniors, and 6:30 p.m., seniors. TV tape-delayed on NBC at 4 p.m. (men) and live on NBC at 7 p.m. (women).
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