By John Powers
Irina Alexeeva isn’t yet an American citizen so she’s ineligible to compete at the P&G Gymnastics Championships in St. Louis later this month. So Saturday afternoon’s junior women’s competition at the Secret U.S. Classic in Hartford, Conn., essentially was her national meet, and she created a golden memory here, winning the all-around crown by five hundredths of a point (57.550) ahead of Emma Malabuyo (57.500) at the XL Center.
“I wasn’t thinking about winning at all,” said the 14-year-old resident of Plano, Texas, who competes for WOGA. But once she nailed her balance beam routine with a 15.100, she found herself atop a field that included bronze medalist Gabby Perea (57.050), who won on uneven bars (14.750), and former champion Jordan Chiles (56.350). “I was watching people, especially in my rotation,” said Alexeeva, who finished with a 14.150 on floor exercise that was good for silver in the event behind Morgan Hurd (14.250).
The woman to watch was Chiles, who led midway through after leading off with a monster vault that earned her 15.650 points. “I wasn’t really thinking about the winning part,” said Chiles. “I was just thinking about how my competition was going and having fun.” But a backward stumble on her beam dismount and out-of-bounds penalties on two tumbling passes on floor dropped her to fourth place.
Alexeeva, who was born in Moscow and lived there until she was seven, has a green card and hopes eventually to compete for the U.S. This year, though, her season stops here. “I’m done for the summer,” she said.