© John Cheng

By Paul Logothetis

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, Oct. 5, 2017 – Jade Carey confirmed she belonged from her very first vault at the World Championships.

Three months on from her senior debut, Carey marked her international debut on Wednesday night with standout performances to reach the vault and floor exercise finals at the Olympic Stadium.

“It’s pretty shocking to me,” the 17-year-old Phoenix-native said, “but I’m really excited.”

Carey’s first taste of the world stage was brimming with enthusiasm. The teen’s explosive vault let the competition know from the get-go the Americans have a new generation of talent despite the likes of Simone Biles and Aly Raisman missing.

“It’s always good to hit your routine, when you go out and to hit your best routine when you’re out on the competition floor,” Carey said. “It felt good to me.”

Carey has been in the senior fold for eight months but left no question marks about her ability to handle the global stage by showing enormous poise at her first major event.

“She is very calm, collected, very at ease which is great on this stage. In an environment such as this – it’s just an amazing story in itself,” women’s program director Rhonda Faehn said. “She has improved every day in this process, and I’m really looking forward to seeing her get out there and shine.”

Carey seemed to fly highest under the Olympic Stadium lights to collect an average score of 14.849 on the vault, second only to Olympic silver medalist and defending World vault champion Maria Paseka of Russia’s leading average of 14.933.

Carey then followed teammate Ragan Smith on the floor exercise with an audacious routine which included a huge double-double and full-twisting double layout. Her score of 14.100 trailed Smith’s leading tally of 14.433, with only Japan’s Mai Murakami separating the Americans.

Carey, who is looking to become the first American world vault champion since McKayla Maroney in 2013, credited teammate Ashton Locklear’s leadership for keeping her grounded in Montreal – her fourth elite meet.

The rising star from Oasis Gymnastics in Peoria, Arizona, made a splash at the American Classic in July where she won vault, floor exercise and balance beam. She followed that with vault and floor triumphs at the U.S. Classic before taking the national title at the P&G Championships in August.

The future Oregon State gymnast even has a vault, the tucked Kasamatsu full, named after her in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Code of Points.

Carey’s powerful floor and vault first caught the eye of national vault coach Dan Baker at the Junior Olympic National Team Camp at the USA Gymnastics Training Center. National team coordinator Valeri Liukin held off pushing Carey to make the leap to elite competition, preferring she develop under her father and coach, Brian.

“Her father has a lot to do with that. He’s her coach and just very calm and just very steady, always on plan and always calm,” Faehn said. “It’s quite helpful and that is how they are. She is throwing some of the hardest moves in the world and as a newcomer it’s very exciting.”

Carey’s Worlds debut was perhaps the steadiest of the team with Smith, Locklear and Morgan Hurd all displaying nerves at times. But Smith remains one of the favorites to stretch the U.S. all-around gold streak to five after qualifying second to Murakami, with Hurd in sixth.

Smith also qualified top of floor exercise while Hurd managed to reach Sunday’s balance final and Locklear will compete for a medal in the uneven bars on Saturday.

“There were a few errors and mistakes here and there, but these are the opportunities and experiences they will endure because they are very young,” Faehn said.

“They’ve never competed at this stage before. It’s a tremendous turnover, and its incredibly exciting. It’s very nice to see the new faces and the young talent. It’s very promising.”

Perhaps Hurd summed up the jitters and excitement this new crop of gymnasts is feeling best.

“The energy out there was so great. I wasn’t too shaky as I usually am. I felt really excited. I don’t know how to explain it – it felt like a big glowing orb of excitement inside of me,” the 16-year-old said.