The new NCAA women’s gymnastics season kicks off in earnest this week with some top-flight matchups, including a clash between the last three schools to win national titles and world and Olympic champions Sunia Lee, Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles all ready for action at the Super 16 event in Las Vegas.
With competition starting on Friday (January 6), here’s what to look for ahead of the 2023 Women’s Collegiate Season.
Can OU do it again?
Current NCAA champions University of Oklahoma they will be the main contenders for a second consecutive title in 2023. A win at April’s NCAA Championships would be their fifth national win since 2016.
In the first week of competition, they will take on the final two schools for the NCAA team titles University of Michigan (2021) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)as well as Lee Auburn University in the Saturday (January 7) evening session during the Super 16 competition in Vegas.
The team enters the 2023 season in good form, losing only three melds from two players (Carly Woodard, beam and floor; and Carrie Thomasbars) from the 2022 winning team.
They should easily find replacements among the former elite gymnasts Faith Torrez and Ava Siegfeldt ready for freshman campaign. Torrez finished seventh in the 2019 U.S. Women’s World Championship selection, and Siegfeldt qualified for the team trials for the 2021 U.S. Olympics.
Coach KJ Kindlerwho holds five NCAA team titles, has proven year after year that she knows not only how to overcharge her team, but also how to get them to their peak form when it matters most.
Suni’s last year
Lee announced in November that while she would return for a second campaign with Auburn, it would be her last.
“Today I share a decision that has weighed on me for a very long time,” Lee, 19, said in a video posted on her social media platforms. “This will be my last season at Auburn University. I am very excited to share that I will be returning to elite gymnastics after this season. My focus is on Paris 2024 and I know what I have to do to get there.”
Lee, a surprise all-around Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medalist after teammate and favourite Simone Biles withdrew to focus on her mental health, she led Auburn to an all-time best fourth-place finish at last year’s NCAA Championships.
What can she do in 2023?
Well, if videos of her recent training sessions are any indication, Lee should prepare not only for further NCAA history, but also for a very strong position this summer and beyond to compete for Team USA at World Cup 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium.
Lee, of course, is not the only Tokyo 2020 Olympic medalist competing in the NCAA with Carey, the Olympic floor exercise champion, and Chiles and Grace McCallumUS silver team, also preparing for the second season.
Carey and Chiles helped the United States win a historic sixth consecutive world title in November, while Carey also won the vaulting gold medal and bronze. Chiles was the silver medalist in floor exercise.
Neither has yet declared how they will balance the demands of dreams of Paris 2024 with NCAA gymnastics, though many expect them to spend at least one season preparing for the Games. Meanwhile, McCallum has neither returned to elite competition nor ruled out a desire to compete in a second Olympics.
Until then, look for Carey’s Oregon beaversChiles’ UCLA Bruins and McCallum’s Utah Utes rely on their superstars for solid routines across all four events.
Carey and Oregon State will also kick off their 2023 campaign at the Super 16 event in Vegas, competing in the Friday night session (January 6) against Stanford University, Georgia University and Rutgers University.
Utah will face Louisiana State University in its first season on Friday.
Don’t rule out Florida or Michigan
But an Olympic medalist doesn’t have to fight in the NCAA.
The University of Florida he proved it by finishing second in the 2022 NCAA All-Stars Trinity Thomas and Leanna Wongall-round runner-up from the 2021 world and a U.S. Olympic alternate driving them.
Both Thomas and Wong return for the 2023 season with the 2017 world all-around champion Morgan Hurdalternative olympics in usa 2020 Kayla DiCello and former members of the US national team Sloane Blakely, Riley McCuskerworld championship gold medalist Victoria Nguyen.
Florida will kick off the season with a quad home game against Ball State, Lindenwood and West Virginia.
Another team to look out for in 2023 is Michigan who won an NCAA title in 2021. From the fifth year of star returns Natalia Wojcik and Abby HeiskellThe Wolverines retain almost all of the routines that brought them to the top of the podium two seasons ago.