Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles shine at Pac-12 Championships as thoughts turn to Paris 2024

UCLA’s Jordan Chiles, left, and Oregon State’s Jade Carey share the floor event title during the Pac-12 Women's Gymnastics Championship at Maverik Center.
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The 2023 NCAA gymnastics season has been a special one for U.S. Olympians Jordan Chiles, Jade Carey and Grace McCallum, who wrapped their second full season of college competition Saturday at the Pac-12 Women’s Gymnastics Championships.

Carey, a sophomore at Oregon State, earned all-around honors, scoring 39.750, while also tying for event wins in floor (with Chiles at 9.975) and balance beam (with Cal’s Mya Lauzon at 9.975). Utah captured its third straight Pac-12 Championships title, scoring 197.925, with UCLA finishing second at 197.850 and Cal finishing third at 197.825.

“Starting on beam is little bit challenging sometimes, but it was one of my best routines this year,” the 22-year-old Carey told On Her Turf after collecting her second straight all-around title at the Pac-12 Championships. “So that was really exciting. Same with floor … I think I just tried to do my normal gymnastics and that’s always the best for me. And bars weren’t my best but still good. I’m proud of those, but I know where I can go back in the gym and make improvements.”

Chiles, a sophomore at UCLA, also expressed appreciation for her own performance, which earned her her first Pac-12 Championships event title: “As a whole, there’s some bits and pieces that we can work on as a team, but you know, at the end of the day, we can’t control what the judges see, we can only control what we do ourselves. So I’m very proud of my team — we put in everything to go from being at the bottom (of the standings) after our first rotation to finish the second. We definitely brought our game up.

“Individually, I’m very happy. Yes, being a Pac-12 champion on bars is an amazing thing. I’ve been working in and outside the gym, just mentally and physically making sure I will be okay to compete every weekend. It was really cool just to be part of this.”

But with less the 500 days until the start of the 2024 Summer Olympics, making the U.S. squad for Paris means a transition away from collegiate gymnastics after the NCAA championships wrap in April. The current iteration of USA’s national team – which officially qualified for Paris last November by winning gold in the team final of the 2022 World Championships in Liverpool, England — consists of Carey, who won the gold in the floor exercise at the Tokyo Olympics; Chiles, a silver medalist (team event) in Tokyo; Florida’s Leanne Wong, the 2021 world all-around silver medalist; fellow Gator Shilese Jones and Gator-to-be Skye Blakely, who officially signed with Florida in November with the intention of deferring enrollment until after the 2024 Games.

On Her Turf caught up with Carey and Chiles to get their take on their collegiate experience and plans to transition back to elite gymnastics.

Jade Carey secures ‘gym slam’ during standout sophomore season

Carey’s second season at Oregon State was punctuated with an entry in the history books earlier in March when she became one of just 13 women gymnasts to complete a “gym slam” in their college careers. A gym slam is when an athlete earns a perfect 10 on every event at least once during a career. Carey notched the 10th perfect score of her college career – and her first on beam – during a meet at Arizona State to join Florida’s Trinity Thomas as the only active gymnasts to have accomplished the feat.

But for Carey, her two years as a Beaver has been as much about being part of the team as her accomplishments as an athlete.

“It’s meant the world to me,” she said of the last two years. “I’ve always wanted to be part of a college team and to be a part of OSU is incredible. It’s such a loving family environment, and I’m just really lucky to have all of them by my side throughout this.”

With nationals around the corner, Carey says she’s focused on finishing strong and recently told a local news outlet she’s undecided as to whether or not she will be competing with the Beavers next season.

“Next year is definitely a big year and right now, we’re just kind of focused on finishing out this college season and then we’re going to evaluate and take it day by day on what my exact plan is going to be,” said Carey. “I am pretty confident that I’m, at least, going to be around here, but what that looks like will probably be a little different than the past two years, but again we’re probably just going to take it day by day and see what happens.”

As for what life will look like after nationals, Carey told OHT that she’ll head back to Corvallis, where her father – Brian Carey, who serves as her coach — will join her for training periodically.

“After nationals, it will just be getting ready for elite, getting those routines back together,” she said. “I’ve kept up with all the skills and parts, so I’ll just be pushing to get those routines and be really focused on that.”

Jordan Chiles embraces opportunity to showcase her fun side

“Honestly, I think it just brings a different perspective of who I am as a person and also as an athlete,” Chiles told On Her Turf regarding what she loves about her last two years as a Bruin.  “You know, how I can do both the elite world and collegiate world but at the same time, I just like to have fun. So being able to do both lets me put a statement out there kind of saying that, you know, I am who I am for a reason, and I can do both and show the world who I am.”

After nationals, Chiles says she’ll return to UCLA to finish out the quarter, which ends in June, and then will head to Texas for training.

“I’ll be training in Texas all of 2024 for the Olympics,” she said recently. “I’ll just be training. I’ll be deferring (UCLA studies) another year and then I’ll finish schooling afterwards. I haven’t fully decided, but as of right now, I am coming back (to UCLA after Paris), but we’ll see how everything turns out.”

Chiles came into the Pac-12s ranked second in the country in the all-around with a 39.810 NQS and also arrived in Salt Lake City off a record 39.900 score in an all-around competition in UCLA’s final regular season meet vs. Iowa State. The sophomore broke her own record for top all-around score in the country this season, beating a 39.875 from the week prior vs. Stanford. Chiles is the only gymnast to score a 39.900 since Florida’s Thomas accomplished the same score last year.

Post-season on pause for Utah’s Grace McCallum

The 20-year-old McCallum, who hails from Minnesota and also won team silver in Tokyo, has been an integral part of Utah’s lineup the past two seasons, but she’s been out since mid-February after suffering a “hyper extension of the right knee” while competing at the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.

The sophomore reportedly was attempting to land a Yurchenko 1.5, a 10.0-valued vault that she debuted earlier this season, when she was injured at the four-team meet against Georgia, Illinois and Illinois State, a competition that Utah easily won.

Last month, McCallum didn’t completely rule out competing at the 2024 Olympics while talking with Inside Gymnastics, saying: “Right now I’m just kind of enjoying college, but I have thought about going back to elite,” McCallum said. “I really love watching them (Chiles, Carey and Wong) and they are doing amazing. Kudos to them for doing both (NCAA gymnastics and elite).

“For me personally, right now, I just want to make sure I make the right decision. I don’t want to go back for the wrong reasons. I don’t want to go back just because I feel like I have to. I want to go back because I truly want to, and I want to see what I can achieve there. So it is not out of the question, that’s for sure. And I’d love to go back, but we’ll see.”

Utah did not provide a timeline for McCallum’s return to competition (she was with the team during the competition Saturday), but it’s possible that she could return in time for Utah’s run at the national title. McCallum won eight individual events this season prior to her injury.

Next up: The road to the NCAA Championships

Post-season action continues Monday, March 20, when the field of 36 teams, 12 all-around competitors and 64 individual event specialists who’ll be competing in regional meets will be announced during the Selection Show, set for noon ET and streaming on NCAA.com.

Regional competition runs March 29 through April 2 at campus sites, with eight teams, four all-around competitors and 16 event specialists advancing to the 2023 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships, April 13-15 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Li Li Leung talks USA Gymnastics’ cultural transformation, challenges still to come and embracing her AAPI heritage

Head of USA Gymnastics Li Li Leung.
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Li Li Leung joined USA Gymnastics as president and CEO in March 2019, when the organization was reeling from the fallout of Larry Nassar’s widespread sexual abuse and the subsequent revelations of larger cultural issues within the sport. Since then, Leung has seen USAG through an ongoing transformation, one that hinges on the work of the survivors and staff around her, whom she is quick to credit. That evolution, as she calls it, has included instituting new norms and standards at all levels of the sport, particularly in matters related to athlete safety.

Among the notable USAG initiatives that Leung has brought to fruition is the Athlete Bill of Rights, established in December 2020 as a tool “to unite the full gymnastics community around a shared vision of behavioral expectations.” At the same time, USAG instituted a protest policy for national team members aimed at supporting athletes who choose to use their voice on public platforms. Both initiatives were among the first of their kind in sport.

Prior to joining USAG, Leung served as a vice president at the National Basketball Association (NBA), where she was responsible for building and managing key partner relationships around the world. She continues to use that experience in her roles as vice chair of the National Governing Bodies Council of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and a member of the International Gymnastics Federation’s Executive Committee.

Leung, who began competing in gymnastics at age 7, was a member of the U.S. junior national training team and represented the U.S. at the 1988 Junior Pan American Games. She was a four-year member of the four-time Big 10 champion University of Michigan gymnastics team and was an NCAA Championships participant.

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, On Her Turf sat down with Leung to talk about her journey with USAG, the challenges still to come and how being a member of the AAPI community has shaped the person she is today.

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This Q+A has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

On Her Turf: Let’s start by talking about your journey since joining USA Gymnastics in 2019. What have the last four years been like for you?

Li Li Leung: This was just an incredible opportunity to give back to the sport that has given so much to me. And I really mean that because I started in the sport when I was 7 years old and did it for 15 years. It’s taught me all of these different skills that I apply to my daily life, both professional and personal. It feels a little bit like I’ve come full circle, and honestly, never in a million years did I think I would find myself in this role. … I joined at a time when it was a tumultuous time for the organization. It’s been just a little a little over four years now, and it has been an incredible journey — and believe it or not, I have enjoyed it. While it hasn’t been easy, I actually have enjoyed it, because I’ve been able to make it not just me. One thing that’s important to note is that — I had even said on my first interview with the board — it will take a village to accomplish what we need to accomplish. This is not a one-person job. And I was lucky enough to be able to bring on a leadership team that has been incredible, and also retain the staff that we have retained, as well as hire other new staff members. And it’s because of them and some really key volunteers that we’ve been able to accomplish what we’ve been able to do.

OHT: Can you talk a little more about this cultural transformation that the organization has experienced and your approach to tackling this all-encompassing change?

Leung: When I was interviewing for the position, I actually met every single board member. It was really critical to both sides that they felt that I matched the role and their needs and also I had to be confident in the board believing in the ultimate mission of the organization and what we wanted to achieve. So that the culture really does stem from the well – from the top down and everything in between as well. And when I was looking for leadership team, … one of the characteristics I was really looking for was they couldn’t have an ego. The job couldn’t be about themselves or about what they would personally get out of the role. It had to be about them believing in the bigger picture and believing in what we collectively wanted to achieve. I knew that we would only be able to accomplish what we need to accomplish if people were willing to roll up their sleeves and just do whatever needed to be done, so that was one of the key things in terms of having no ego.

Since 2018, we’ve turned over more than 70 percent of our staff. We’ve been able to retain the really key members of our staff, who have been critical to our success, but also have been able to really bring in new thinking, new blood, new perspectives. Because the other thing I was looking for when I was hiring for the leadership team was diversity in perspectives. That was critical because I did not want to be surrounded by “yes people.” I wanted to be surrounded by people who would be willing to have really robust conversations and engage in difficult conversations, because ultimately, you end up in a better place because of that.

In 2020, we reset our mission to be about building a community and culture of health, safety and excellence, with athletes who thrive in sport and in life. So we were no longer about developing technically superior gymnasts who perform well in gym. We reset our focus to be about helping set our athletes up for success with the skill sets that you learn in gymnastics, and when we come to the office each day, that’s what we’re thinking about. …

The other piece is we also know from a community standpoint that our national team coaches are the most visible representation (of USAG), and a lot of coaches model them. So we’ve been working really hard in terms of working on educating our national team coaches. We work with Positive Coaching Alliance to do educational training with them as well. And we also have introduced training specifically for young coaches coming in, because we know when they come in and they’re new, that they’re eager to learn, and that’s when you can start training and moving them in a way. So our thinking is with this top-down and bottom-up strategy, eventually the middle will meet.

OHT: You noted how the coaches can be some of the most visible representatives of USAG. Regarding the addition of 2008 Olympic silver medalists Chellsie Memmel (USAG technical lead) and Alicia Sacramone Quinn (USAG strategic lead), how have those women impacted the program?

Leung: The addition of Chellsie and Alicia has been fantastic. They have been phenomenal to work with, and the fact that they have firsthand experience of having gone through it themselves – that also gives them a very good idea of what they would change and what they wouldn’t change, at the same time. It has been a phenomenal addition to be able to have this perspective of firsthand, high-level, high-performing athletes to be able to lead our high-performance team. And the athletes are saying it as well. They’re saying, “We trust them; we feel confident in their decisions; we can relate to them” — all of those things that historically haven’t really happened before.

Then in terms of the athletes who are going to college and coming back to compete with USA Gymnastics – there are so many aspects that I think are great about this. One: It’s showing a lengthened career in a sport that historically has not been very long because it’s so demanding on the body. So that means that our athletes are physically healthier, as well, that they can train and compete at a high level for a longer period of time. It also means that they’re enjoying it more because they’re staying in the sport. From an emotional standpoint, they’re finding a lot more joy in the sport, and they’re talking about it, too. And we love the fact that they’re talking about it. We want them to talk about it, and we want them to have voices and feel open and free about sharing what they’re thinking about. I have to say I’ve been really enjoying seeing almost like — I’m not sure if I can go as far as a new era in the sport maybe — but just this evolution of the sport and the athletes changing in front of my eyes.

OHT: What do you consider now to still be the biggest challenge or obstacle for USAG?

Leung: There are a couple of big initiatives on the list. One is we want to build a training and wellness center where all of our disciplines will train under one roof. This is a long-term project, obviously, but my vision around it is that it will be the heart and hub of gymnastics in America. And while this is where national team athletes will ultimately train to some extent, it is going to be a welcoming place for athletes of all different disciplines and all different levels. We want it to be a place where young athletes can come through and see their role models training. We want this to be a place of education for our community and judges. We want to be able to run clinics there for all different levels. We just want this to be a gathering place of gymnastics and to be able to celebrate the sport there at the same time.

We’re also going to reset our foundation. There’s been the National Gymnastics Foundation, but we are going to reset it and basically be much more proactive on fundraising and development to grow the sport and also to raise more money for athletes in their training.

OHT: Turning to AAPI Heritage Month and being named to the 2023 Gold House A100 List (the A100 is named each May honoring 100 Asian Pacific leaders who made the greatest impact on culture and society over the past year). What did that honor mean to you?

Leung: It was such an incredible honor to be recognized by them, and my fellow honorees — when I read the list, I thought to myself, “I don’t belong.” There are some incredible names on that list. But again, I go back to what I said earlier: I owe this honor to a lot of the other people who work [at USAG]. I think the really important thing to recognize is that this was not done by just me. It was done by a lot of other people who are on staff and who aren’t getting the accolades or the recognition. But it was an incredible experience to be, and I’m very, very touched and honored to be on that list.

OHT: How do you identify within the Asian American Pacific Islander community? Did you embrace your heritage growing up and how has that shaped who you are today?

Leung: So I’ll tell you a story that I’ve mentioned to other people recently. I grew up in a town called Ridgewood in Bergen County, New Jersey, and most of my friends had blond hair and blue eyes. When I was growing up, I wanted the name “Nancy Smith,” and I wanted blue eyes. I wanted to fit in. As a kid, you always want to fit in. Then when you get older and wizen up a little bit, you realize that it’s okay and it’s good to be different, that you can use that to your advantage. And so upon growing up, I realized that it’s pretty special to be Asian American and there are benefits to being Asian American, and you should embrace the fact that you are different. In fact, I recently lectured to a women-in-sports-business class, and one of the questions they asked me was about impostor syndrome. I said the same thing that I’m saying to you now, which is absolutely embrace who you are. Absolutely embrace your differences, because those ultimately are embedded advantages to who you are and make you stand out from the rest of the crowd. So that’s my philosophy now.

OHT: Do you or your family have any traditions that are especially important to you?

Leung: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a tradition, but in the Chinese culture, food is really important. Food is what brings people together. It’s a sign of respect, and that is the ultimate unifying language in a way. So when we do get together as a family, it’s really important for us to get together around a meal, because that’s when we share our stories. That’s when we connect with one another.

OHT: You might have just answered my next question, but I want to ask: What brings you joy about your heritage and culture?

Leung: It’s funny, I was actually at a conference last week and you were supposed to find someone you didn’t know in the conference and share a secret talent that you have. I shared that I can eat a lot more than most people think. Food is a really important part of our culture and in my upbringing and family.

OHT: Lastly, I wanted to ask, as we’ve seen an increase in hate-filled actions toward the AAPI community, what does supporting the AAPI community look like for you?

Leung: Well, I think kind of going back to my other answer, it’s just about embracing who you are and embracing your differences. I think part of it is being unafraid of it at the same time, which I know is really difficult. But if you’re going to truly embrace it, and then you can’t be afraid about embracing it at the same time.

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2023 Mizuho Americas Open: How to watch, who’s playing in inaugural LPGA event at Liberty National GC

Pajaree Anannarukarn of Thailand tees off on the eleventh hole during Day One of the HSBC Women's World Championship.
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The Statue of Liberty is the backdrop for this week’s inaugural Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey. The tournament boasts a theme of mentorship and education, and includes a girls’ 72-hole, modified Stableford tournament featuring 24 juniors to go along with the 72-hole stroke-play event for 120 LPGA professionals.

The field is led by seven of the top 10 players on the Rolex Rankings including world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, No. 3 Lydia Ko, No. 4 Lilia Vu and No. 5 Minjee Lee. Also teeing it up this week are the finalists from Sunday’s Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play, where Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn captured her second LPGA title with a 3-and-1 victory over Japan’s Ayaka Furue.

Michelle Wie West is serving as the tournament host, and she’ll be on hand to welcome fellow Stanford alum Rose Zhang, who’s fresh off her second straight NCAA individual title and turned professional just last week. Zhang will have her first go at an LPGA prize purse, which tops out at $2.75 million this week with the winner taking home $412,500.

How to watch the 2023 Mizuho Americas Open

You can watch the 2023 Mizuho Americas Open on Golf Channel, Peacock, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Check out the complete TV and streaming schedule:

  • Thursday, June 1: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. ET, Golf Channel and Peacock
  • Friday, June 2: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. ET, Golf Channel and Peacock
  • Saturday, June 3: 5-8 p.m. ET, Golf Channel and Peacock
  • Sunday, June 4: 4:30-5 p.m. ET (streaming only on Peacock); 5-7:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel and Peacock

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Who’s playing in the 2023 Mizuho Americas Open?

The 120-player field features seven of the top 10 players (and 16 of the top 25 player) on the Rolex Rankings:

  • No. 1 Jin Young Ko
  • No. 3 Lydia Ko
  • No. 4 Lilia Vu
  • No. 5 Minjee Lee
  • No. 6 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 8 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 9 Georgia Hall

Also in the field are 2023 winners Celine Boutier (LPGA Drive On Championship), Ruoning Yin (DIO Implant LA Open) and Grace Kim (LOTTE Championship), plus several sponsor exemptions including reigning NCAA individual champion Rose Zhang and her Stanford teammate Megha Ganne. Ganne, a native of Holmdel, N.J., finished T-21 at the recent NCAAs and is playing as an amateur. Joining them as an exemption is fellow Cardinal Mariah Stackhouse, who has conditional status on tour in 2023. Monday qualifiers include tour rookie Alexa Pano and Australia’s Sarah Jane Smith.

Among the notable juniors expected to play are 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur winner Anna Davis, 2022 U.S. Girls’ Junior winner Yana Wilson and 2022 U.S. Junior Girls’ runnerup Gianna Clemente. The 24 junior players were invited through their standings in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.

What’s the format for the Mizuho Americas Open?

The professionals will play a 72-hole stroke-play competition, with a cut to the top 50 and ties after 36 holes. The 24 juniors will play a 72-hole, no-cut competition using the modified Stableford scoring format and a different yardage than the pros.

During the first two rounds, the AJGA players will all be paired together. During the final two rounds, one junior player will play with two LPGA pros with groupings based on scores. This unique format marks the first time the AJGA and LPGA have partnered to showcase junior and professional competitors playing together.

Stableford scoring refresher: “Stableford” is a scoring system that awards points for the number of strokes taken on each hole in relation to par, rather than simply counting strokes like in stroke play. Unlike in stroke play, where players want the lowest score, the goal in Stableford scoring is to have the highest score. Standard Stableford points values are:

  • 0 Points – Double bogey or worse (two strokes or more over par)
  • 1 Point – Bogey (one stroke over par)
  • 2 Points – Par
  • 3 Points – Birdie (one stroke under par)
  • 4 Points – Eagle (two strokes under par)
  • 5 Points – Albatross or double eagle (three strokes under par)
  • 6 Points – Condor (four strokes under par)

More about Liberty National Golf Club

Located on the shore of the Upper Bay of New York Harbor, Liberty National Golf Club was designed by Bob Cupp and Tom Kite and officially opened on July 4, 2006. After the course received mixed reviews following the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust in 2009, the course underwent a renovation led by Steve Wenzloff of PGA Tour Design Services. Of note, the course hosted an event during the PGA Tour Playoffs four times (2009, 2013, 2019 and 2021) as well as the 2017 Presidents Cup, where the U.S. defeated the Internationals 19-11 for the Americans’ seventh consecutive victory in the competition and its 10th straight win overall. For this week’s event, the course will play to a par of 72 with an unofficial scorecard yardage of 6,671 yards.

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