2019 Pan American Games Promises Excitement

The 2019 Pan American Games kicks off in Lima, Peru, on Saturday with 60 gymnasts from 20 countries vying for team and individual titles. While not a qualifying meet for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Pan Ams provides invaluable international competition experience for both team and individual athletes (particularly for those from smaller programs). 

Following Saturday’s GK U.S. Classic, USA Gymnastics announced its women’s team selections: Florida ’21 recruits Riley McCusker and Morgan Hurd will compete alongside Aleah Finnegan (LSU ’22), Kara Eaker (Utah ’22) and Leanne Wong (uncommitted ’22) while Shilese Jones (Florida ’22) will serve as the alternate. McCusker, Hurd and Eaker won team gold at the 2018 world championships in Doha, Qatar, while first-year senior Wong won the all around at this year’s American Cup. Wong’s GAGE teammate Finnegan finished fifth all around earlier this year at Gymnix International. Though the U.S. women are heavily favored to win the team event, they will be facing formidable competition. 

The Brazilian team—comprised of veterans Flavia Sariava, Jade Barbosa, Lorrane Oliveira and Carolyne Pedro—is nearly identical to the roster that earned second at last year’s competition, with Pedro replacing an injured Rebeca Andrade who is out for the year. In addition to team silver, Sariava finished third all around while Oliveira and Barbosa finished sixth and seventh, respectively. 

Team Canada looks to improve on last year’s surprising fifth place finish and is sending an impressive lineup that includes 2015 Pan Ams all around champion Ellie Black, Victoria Woo, 2018 worlds vault silver medalist Shallon Olsen (Alabama ’19), Brooklyn Moors (UCLA ‘21) and Isabelle Onyshko. Ana Padarariou was originally slated to compete but withdrew due to a minor injury. 

Even without star Alexa Moreno, Mexico’s team of Paulina Campos, Nicolle Castro, Elsa García, Anapaula Gutierrez and Ahtziri Sandoval should challenge for a team medal. Campos and Castro were members of last year’s bronze-winning team, and Colorado-based Gutierrez is the reigning Mexican all around and floor champion (she also won a vault title at the J.O. national championships earlier this year).

Squads from Argentina, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Chile (featuring Denver alumna Simona Castro and future Ball State gymnast Marimar Pérez-Banús) and host nation Peru (whose team includes Iowa State junior Ariana Orrego and Boise State graduate Sandra Collantes) will round out the team competition.

Federations from Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Jamaica will be sending two athletes each while Bolivia, Cayman islands, El Salvador, Guatamala, Panama, Uraguay and Venezuela will all be sending an individual gymnast. These athletes will compete for all around and individual event titles. 

NCAA fan favorites Danusia Francis (UCLA ‘16) and recent California graduate Toni-Ann Williams will be representing Jamaica. Williams is still recovering from an Achilles injury she suffered earlier this year but states she is ready to compete and is planning to unveil upgrades on bars and floor. 

The Olympic Channel will be streaming the competition while live results will be available here.

Article by Claire Billman 

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