GREENSBORO, N.C. – So much for nerves. Or the adrenaline of making her senior international debut.
Leanne Wong tuned it all out. Solid at the start and confident at the finish, the 15-year-old who trains at GAGE in Blue Springs made a splash at the American Cup on Saturday. Wong topped a field that included Grace McCallum, Canada's Elsabeth Black and Japan's Mai Murakami – all with world championship medals at home – to send a message that she expects to be in the mix leading to the 2020 Summer Olympics.
"It's definitely a stepping stone," said Wong, who won the junior national title last summer.
One that should resonate with coordinator Tom Forster. He gave the high-profile assignment to Wong to see how she would handle the stage. Wong didn't just handle it, she thrived. Her total of 56.765 was 0.3 ahead of McCallum and more than a point clear of Murakami and Black, who tied for third in the nine-woman invitational field.
Wong, who lives in Overland Park, tried to treat the first major competition in the U.S. of 2019 like any other meet. It was in one respect: she won. She posted the top scores on both vault and balance beam, undaunted by the stakes. Her elegant beam set – where she is a study in precision on the 4-inch slab of wood 4 feet off the ground – pushed her past McCallum and into first heading into floor exercise.
Needing a 13.633, she put up a 13.933 thanks in part to an aggressive first tumbling pass she finished with 3.5 twists, which she called the highlight of her day.
McCallum, a member of the U.S. team that rolled to gold at the 2018 world championships, was steady throughout the afternoon. She finished second or third in all four events and the Americans' 1-2 finish offered proof the U.S. dominance in the sport extends beyond superstar Simone Biles. The reigning Olympic and world champion will make her 2019 debut at a World Cup meet in Germany this month.
"I'm really proud of what I did," McCallum said. "I had a few things that didn't go really well, but I'm happy."
Yul Moldauer edged friend and five-time national champion Sam Mikulak by 0.001 to win his third straight American Cup title. Moldauer finished with a score of 85.932 while Mikulak, who made a major mistake on high bar in the final rotation, finished at 85.931.