The United States plans to send gymnasts to each event and almost certainly will use the results to add a spot to its Olympic roster.
“We are taking a proactive stance on that,” Li Li Leung, the president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, said Friday of the upcoming World Cup events. “We are monitoring the situation closely. … We are also pushing [the International Gymnastics Federation] to provide us with additional guidance, so we can make the right decisions for our athletes as to whether or not they should be going to these events.”
Morgan Hurd, the 2017 all-around world champion, is competing here Saturday, as is Kayla DiCello of Boyds, as a wild-card entry. Host nations can add a wild-card spot for an additional gymnast, but those results don’t count toward the country’s points total for Olympic qualification. Sam Mikulak and Shane Wiskus (wild card) will represent the United States in the men’s competition.
During the U.S. women’s campaign to earn this Olympic spot, Simone Biles, the 2016 Olympic champion, is expected to represent the United States at the Tokyo event. Fellow U.S. Olympic hopefuls Sunisa Lee (Stuttgart) and Grace McCallum (Birmingham) are on the rosters for the other two events.
Hurd said the virus has not affected her preparation, apart from keeping hand sanitizer in her bag.
Chinese gymnasts were forced to withdraw from a competition with Olympic qualification implications last month in Melbourne because of the Australian government’s travel restrictions. Some Chinese gymnasts, including Zhang Jin and Hu Xuwei, who will compete Saturday, reportedly had been training in Doha, Qatar, to avoid similar complications with future meets.
Giorgia Villa of Italy, one of the countries with thousands of confirmed cases, will compete Saturday and was at Friday’s training session.
Russian gymnasts Nikita Nagornyy and Lilia Akhaimova will not compete at the American Cup this weekend in Milwaukee. Nagornyy won the men’s all-around at the 2019 world championships and would have been a favorite to win the American Cup.
The 2020 qualification process is far more complex than in previous Olympics. There are many paths to earning Olympic spots, which means the process involves far more competitions that affect qualification, heightening logistical challenges posed by the coronavirus and the uncertainty surrounding it.
“The fast-changing situation related to the covid-19 outbreak is a challenge for the International Gymnastics Federation as well as all sports governing bodies,” the sport’s international organization said in a statement Thursday. “The FIG is continuously monitoring the evolution of the situation closely with the host federations of upcoming events.”
The United States and 11 other countries have qualified four-member teams to the Tokyo Olympics, a change from 2016 when teams had five members. But federations can earn up to two additional individual Olympic spots through a process that involves these World Cup meets.
There are eight meets, beginning in November 2018 and ending this month, in which gymnasts can earn points for how well they finish on each apparatus. The gymnast’s best three results count in the final rankings. The winners for each event earn an Olympic spot for themselves, limited to one athlete per country. The United States has only one gymnast who probably will qualify through this route: Jade Carey is in first on both vault and floor with maximum points on each event, meaning she does not need to attend more events to do so.
The American Cup is the first competition in a different World Cup series through which nations are awarded points for their athletes’ all-around finishes. The top three countries at the end of the series earn an Olympic spot. Because all four meets count toward the federation’s point total, missing a competition would hurt a country’s chances.
The third route for earning Olympic spots is through continental championships. The top two finishers at each earn a spot at the Olympics. If their team already has qualified a team to the Olympics, the spot is rewarded to the country, rather than to the individual.
The International Olympic Committee said in a statement it is working with international sport federations and the Tokyo organizing committee to track how qualifying events could be affected by coronavirus.
Leung said USA Gymnastics has asked FIG for guidance and the organization’s response was about “preventive measures,” such as washing hands.
“But we’re like, ‘Well, we actually need guidance on are you going to change the Olympic qualification procedures that are currently written,’ ” Leung said. “They said they’re reviewing it.”
When asked whether USA Gymnastics would keep athletes away from international meets that aren’t necessary for Olympic qualification, Leung said: “I wouldn’t say that, because it depends on where that competition is being held. And it depends on the current situation at that time. As you all know, this is a very fluid situation.”
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