Home U.S Opinion: Young gymnasts trying to capitalize on unexpected chance at Tokyo Olympics

Opinion: Young gymnasts trying to capitalize on unexpected chance at Tokyo Olympics

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INDIANAPOLIS – The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics forced athletes in every sport to revise their plans, with most having to push their timetables back.

For a few athletes, however, it meant speeding them up.

Female gymnasts are required to be 16 during the Olympic year to be eligible for the Games. Skye Blakely and Konnor McClain are among those who, because they were born in 2005, set their sights on the 2024 Olympics in Paris because they were going to be too young for Tokyo. But with the 2020 Games delayed a year because of COVID, they’ve found themselves with an unexpected opportunity.

“It changes the strategy,” said Tom Forster, national team coordinator. “This would not have been a year they’re trying to make an Olympic team, obviously, and world championships would have been an individual worlds and much later. To fast-forward everything would be a really big challenge.

“So the skills they’re trying to plan for 2024, they take years to really perfect and I talked (to their coaches) about not pushing too fast so they stay safe and give them best opportunity to do their best this year.”

Konnor McClain competes on the balance beam during the Senior Women's 2021 Winter Cup on Feb. 27, 2021 in Indianapolis.

The odds of one of the 2005 gymnasts making it to Tokyo would seem long. Earning a spot on a U.S. world or Olympic team is always difficult, and the International Gymnastics Federation, in its usual infinite wisdom, has cut team size from five gymnasts to four for Tokyo. Given that Simone Biles is getting one of those spots, that leaves just three available.

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