Jade Carey dances on floor.

Jade Carey: Sights Set on 2024

Jade Carey’s journey to the Olympics was unique. It all began with an unexpected invitation to a national training camp from Valeri Liukin, following an impressive performance during a level 10 competition. Fast forward five years, and Carey stood on the podium at the 2021 Tokyo Games, adorned with a gold medal around her neck. This merely scratches the surface of the path that Carey, current Oregon State and elite gymnast, has taken over the past seven years. And she’s still got more chapters to write.

After becoming arguably one of Oregon State’s most decorated gymnasts–she’s achieved a gym slam, won Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year in back-to-back years, and accumulated over 93 event titles in just two years in the NCAA–Carey once again has her sights set on the Olympic Games. 

Leading up to the 2021 Games, Carey’s typical day revolved almost exclusively around gymnastics. Following her participation in Simone Biles’ Gold Over America Tour after the Olympics, Carey’s day-to-day life changed drastically. Rather than training largely alone as she did in the lead-up to Tokyo due to COVID-19, she had to adjust to incorporating school demands, training with a team, and taking on all the other responsibilities that come with being a student-athlete. 

“My first few weeks here were pretty crazy,” said Carey, “ I was [at Oregon State] for five days before school started to get acclimated to everything, but then I went on tour so it was hard to get into a routine at first.” 

Now, three years later, Carey has settled into a more comfortable routine: training daily with her teammates, doing online classes, and still getting to experience all that comes with being a college student. 

Her path was not necessarily a given. Several other elite gymnasts who have been competing in the NCAA for the past couple of seasons, like Florida’s Kayla DiCello and UCLA’s Jordan Chiles, chose to defer for a year to focus solely on training elite and working toward the 2024 Games. However, Carey decided to stay at Oregon State and continue to train with her team. 

I’m really happy here,” said Carey. “My college coaches have really helped me a lot, and having my dad as an assistant coach here now made it an even easier decision to stay. The gym has all the resources I could need … so for me staying here made the most sense.” 

Having Brian Carey, who has coached her throughout her elite career, be her coach during her time at Oregon State has been incredibly beneficial not only for her but for the rest of the Beavers as well. 

“For my first two years he was coming up every once in a while,” Carey recounted, “Then, this year he started coming up more and more to work with me. After a position opened up for an additional assistant coach at Oregon State, he applied, and after talking through the options with the rest of the coaching staff, he was hired as an assistant coach. Having him here has been great,” Carey said. “It’s nice for me and for him, he doesn’t have to travel so much, and it’s really good for my team in general. The girls are really happy with him and are learning a lot from him, so, overall, it’s really nice to have him here.”

Normally in the NCAA, athletes are limited to 20 training hours a week. To be able to work on her elite skills, Carey has figured out how to make the extra training hours that she needs possible. Since the extra hours are her choice and she is there without the rest of the team, she is able to adhere to NCAA regulations while training under the supervision of her coaches as a safety measure.

However, even though Carey does these extra hours of practice on her own, she expresses how much she has loved being a part of a team during her time at Oregon State. Coming from the elite world where training and competing is very individual, having other girls to train with every day has been something Carey has really enjoyed. “I love having a team to train with,” said Carey. “It’s nice to have people who understand it and are with you every single day.” 

Each day the team has practice, Carey trains with them during the four-hour block in the morning, then stays after to do her elite assignments. This new arrangement has changed the way she and her coaches have approached her competitive role on the team. During this NCAA season, Carey has been focusing on bars and beam and training floor and vault strictly for the elite season. She competes her college routines and, specifically on beam, tests out some of her elite skills during the meets to get more practice under pressure with these more difficult skills. So far this year, Carey has recorded a season-high of 9.975 on both bars and beam and has claimed multiple event titles. 

Looking back three years ago when she was going into her first Olympics, Carey was unsure of what to expect. However, now going into training for a second, she feels much more prepared for the process. “Going into the first Olympics, I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I’ve been there and I’ve done it before, I know what I need to be prepared,” said Carey. “Competing in college and having that added pressure every week has definitely helped me.” 

Having this extra practice under pressure has changed the way Carey competes. When asked, ‘What’s harder; NCAA or elite?’ Carey expressed the different types of pressure she has gotten used to over the past three years. “In elite, the pressure would be solely on myself [because] I only have myself to fall back on. … [Now in college, the pressure is different], it’s not for myself, it’s for my team and they are counting on me to hit in my position. [My mindset is] my team needs me to do it, so I’m going to get it done.” 

Having made over 100 appearances for Oregon State leading up to this season, Carey has without a doubt grown in her competition confidence, and this weekly practice under pressure is something that will surely help her mindset moving into this upcoming elite competition season. 

From competing a full NCAA season to a short turn-around from April and followed by the first set of elite competitions in May, 2024 for Carey will be an exciting, jam-packed year. To sum up her mentality heading into the year, Carey is focusing on confidence, strength, and, especially,  joy. “[This year] I want to be confident and just go for everything”, said Carey. “I don’t want to have any regrets. I just want to be confident in the years I have put in and what I know I can do.” 

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Article by Julianna Roland

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