Catch all Winter Cup 2024 highlights from USA Gymnastics event

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kayla DiCello is starting the Olympic year strong.

DiCello, who last year won the all-around title at the Pan American Games after being an alternate to the world team, won Winter Cup on Saturday. It wasn’t even close, either. DiCello finished with a score of 56.85 points, more than two points ahead of Skye Blakely.

DiCello scored a 14 or higher on every event, and posted the highest score on vault, uneven bars and floor exercise. She also was the only contender who didn’t have to count a fall.

‘I feel a lot better than I did back in 2021. With all the experience, it’s been very helpful and it helps my confidence and really just trusting myself and trusting the skills that I’m showing,’ DiCello said.

Blakely recovered after a fall on bars, her first event, and finished with 54.65. Reigning U.S. junior champ Hezly Rivera, making her senior debut, was third with 54 points. Trinity Thomas was fourth.

‘It was definitely something crazy, falling off the bar and landing on my head. I didn’t see that happening,’ Blakely said. ‘I had to get it out of my head and move on. A fall doesn’t change what’s about to happen on the next three events.

‘Every single time I compete, it’s experience,’ Blakely added.

Here’s a look back at Saturday’s event;

Not Suni Lee’s day at Winter Cup

This wasn’t the comeback Suni Lee wanted.

The reigning Olympic champion fell on what was already a watered down balance beam routine, and scored just 12.9. That follows two falls on uneven bars, including on the release move she’s hoping to be the first-ever to do.

Lee looked disappointed as she came off the podium after beam, and was comforted by both longtime coach Jess Graba and Laurent Landi, who coaches Simone Biles.

Lee had been struggling with her mount series on beam, and she and Graba made the decision to take it out. Her routine was going well until she did an aerial somersault. She was off-center in the air, and her foot slipped off the side of the beam as she landed. 

Simone Biles approves

Simone Biles likes what she’s seeing at Winter Cup.

Biles isn’t competing here – she and her husband are at a wedding, according to her Instagram account – but she’s watching. “The girls are not playing around this year,” Biles said in a post after the third rotation.

She followed it with another post that just had three fire emojis.

One to go at Winter Cup

Kayla DiCello has the Winter Cup title all but wrapped up.

DiCello, who was an alternate for both the Tokyo Olympic and last year’s world teams, has a 2.10-point lead going into the final rotation. In a sport where gymnasts are often separate by tenths, that’s a massive lead.

DiCello has 42.55 points and has gone over 14 on all three events so far.

The race for second is much tighter, with just four-tenths separating the gymnasts in second through fifth places. 

Suni Lee falls on skill

After looking so good in training, Suni Lee fell on the skill she’s hoping to have named for her.

Lee is doing a release move in which she launches herself off the top bar and does a full twisting forward somersault in a laid-out position before catching the bar again. She did it at least twice Friday in podium training and once during warm-ups Saturday. But she hit the upper bar with her hands and couldn’t grasp it, falling to the mat.

She fell once more time in her routine, one of two she’s doing at Winter Cup, and scored an 11.8. 

Kayla DiCello is halfway to title

Pan American Games all-around champion Kayla DiCello is halfway to another title.

DiCello leads Winter Cup after two events with 28.250 points, posting the highest scores so far on both vault (14.2) and floor exercise (14.050). She’s 0.70 points ahead of Skye Blakely, who’s been part of the U.S. team that won the title at the last two world championships.

Trinity Thomas is third with 27.25 points and reigning U.S. junior champion Hezly Rivera, who is making her senior debut here, is fourth with 26.75 points.

Welcome back, Trinity Thomas!

Trinity Thomas sure doesn’t look rusty.

Winter Cup is the first elite-level competition for Thomas since 2019, and she opened with a 14.050 for a gorgeous uneven bars routine. That tied Kayla DiCello’s score on floor exercise for the highest in the first rotation.

Thomas hasn’t exactly been sitting on her couch these last five years. She was a standout at Florida, winning the Honda Award winner as the country’s best collegiate gymnast in both 2022 and 2023. She also shares the NCAA record for perfect 10.0s, with 28. 

Rough start for Skye Blakely

Skye Blakely, a favorite for the all-around title after being part of the U.S. teams that won gold at the last two world championships, has some ground to make up after a fall on her first event, uneven bars. Blakely was doing a backward release from the low bar to the high bar and couldn’t grasp the bar. The crowd gasped as she hit the mat.

Blakely scored a 13.050 – her routine has a 5.8 start value – but she’s likely going to need to be outstanding on her remaining four events and get some help from some other gymnasts. 

Warm welcome for Suni Lee at Winter Cup

No surprise, reigning Olympic champion Suni Lee got the loudest cheers during introductions.

Lee was always going to be one of the main attractions at Winter Cup and now, after Gabby Douglas withdrew, she’s the center of attention. It’s her first meet since she had to pull out of the world team selection camp in September because of a kidney ailment that limited her training.

The second-loudest cheers might have been for Trinity Thomas, who is returning to elite-level competition for the first time since 2019. Thomas was a college standout at Florida. There also was loud applause for Kayla DiCello, who won the all-around title along with a team gold at the Pan American Games last fall. 

When does Suni Lee compete?

Suni Lee is doing two events at Winter Cup, uneven bars and balance beam. Because of the way the draw happened, she won’t be in either of the first two rotations, which should take about an hour.

Her first event will be bars, and she’s the last competitor in the group of eight gymnasts. That means you should expect to see her around 2:45 p.m. Eastern. On beam, she’s the second gymnast in the second half of the rotation. Or around 3:15 p.m.

Is Simone Biles competing at the Winter Cup? 

Simone Biles won’t be competing at Winter Cup. 

She’s already qualified for the national championships as a member of last year’s world team — Winter Cup is a qualifier for nationals — and she doesn’t usually begin her competitive season this early. Look for her at the U.S. Classic, which is May 18 in Hartford, Connecticut. 

What happened to Gabby Douglas?  

Gabby Douglas, the 2012 Olympic champion, was to return to competition for the first time in almost eight years at Winter Cup. But she announced Thursday afternoon that she’s tested positive for COVID and won’t be able to compete.  

‘I was so excited to get back out on the competition floor, but unfortunately, I just tested positive for COVID :(,’ Douglas wrote in part in an Instagram post. ‘… I’m crushed but I’ll see you guys soon!’ 

What’s this new skill Suni Lee is doing?

It’s a release move on uneven bars called a full-twisting Jaeger. Lee launches herself off the top bar and does a full twisting forward somersault in a laid-out position before catching the bar again. She’s hoping to go to the World Cup in Baku next month. If Lee would do the skill there, it would be named for her.

Are the men competing in gymnastics Winter Cup? 

Yes. Shane Wiskus leads fellow Tokyo Olympian Yul Moldauer by 0.4 points after Day 1 of the two-day competition. Wiskus scored 84.450 and was in the top three in three of the six events. His 14.550 was the highest score of the day on floor exercise.  

‘I had a really fun time today and I’m just hoping to have some more fun on Sunday. And then have some more fun at (U.S.) championships and just keep that momentum going,’ Wiskus said. ‘I think too much of my career I got focused on and locked into performance and outcome goals and all that stuff. These last couple of meets are for me and for me only.’  

Moldauer also was in the top three in three of the six events but was hurt by a fall near the end of his pommel horse routine.  

Day 2 is Sunday. 

Two-time U.S. champion Brody Malone, who is coming back from a serious knee injury last year, did three events: pommel horse, still rings and parallel bars. He had the third-highest score of the day on p-bars and was fifth on pommel horse.  

When is the USA Gymnastics Winter Cup?  

The women’s meet is from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.  

How to watch the USA Gymnastics Winter Cup

You’re going to need your computer. Or your phone. Winter Cup is only available on USA Gymnastics’ YouTube channel. 

This post appeared first on USA TODAY