For The First Time In History, Black Women Finish 1-2-3 At U.S. Gymnastics Championships

Konnor McClain, Shilese Jones, and Jordan Chiles made history at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Tampa, Florida, last weekend. By sweeping the podium (finishing first, second, and third) this marked the first time in the history of the sport that three Black women claimed the top three spots in the senior all-around competition.

In the history of US nationals there had only been two Black female all-around champions, until McClain made it three. The legendary Dominique Dawes was the first in 1994 and the GOAT Simone Biles, who holds the record with seven all-around titles, was the second.

“It’s so unreal,” said McClain in an interview with NBC Sports. “I’m still in shock a little bit.”

McClain was expected to be a member of the 2020 USA Gymnastics Olympic team but had a rough stretch with injuries, losing her father and grandmother in the span of a week, and switching coaches. It was a lot to handle.

“I wish I could talk to my dad right now,” McClain added.

McClain’s win now vaults her to the top of the list of gymnasts to watch ahead of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France. But before that McClain, Jones, and Chiles have the upcoming 2022 World Championships in Liverpool, England in October.

“Anything can happen,” McClain said, who also estimated she’s only about 75 percent healthy. “So I’m excited for the future.”

Jones, whose father Sylvester died from kidney disease last December, is also competing with a heavy heart and using it as motivation.

“I’m just super excited to be back out here,” Jones said. “You know, to fall twice and still end up in second place, this just really only the beginning for me.”

The world championship roster has not been selected yet and won’t be until mid-October. McClain, Jones, and Chiles are at the top of the list to be selected. Joining them are fourth- and fifth-place finishers Kayla Dicello and Jade Carey as well as Skye Blakely.

Team USA will be without defending Olympic All-Around champion Sunisa Lee and Biles, both of whom are on sabbaticals from competition. Despite not having those two, Chiles is confident the team can regain its title at Worlds.

“I still think we’re going to be able to pull through and have an amazing outcome,” Chiles said.

Lee will likely return to elite competition, as she is only 17. For Biles, now 25, there is nothing left for her to prove in the sport.

Biles is seven-time Olympic medalist (four gold), and 19-time world champion with 25 world medals overall, the most of any man or woman. She has four skills named after her. She is the female gymnast with the most World all-around titles, and the first female gymnast since 1988 to win a medal on every event at a single Olympic Games or World Championships.

If she comes back it will only be for love of the sport, which would be incredible given what she and many of her teammates suffered over the years at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar.  Or because she simply wants to compete again. Once an elite competitor, always an elite competitor.

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