© John Cheng

By Paul Logothetis

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, Oct. 8, 2017 – Ashton Locklear couldn’t contribute to the United States medal haul at the World Championships in Montreal. Instead, the women’s team veteran contributed to her teammates success.

Locklear missed the podium in her lone event final, the uneven bars, finishing eighth. That was an emotional letdown for Locklear has endured heartache over the years with injuries and a near miss in 2016, serving as the one of three Olympic replacement athletes.

Coming into Montreal, Locklear was the lone women’s gymnast on the team with Worlds experience. That proved vital to rookie teammates Morgan Hurd and Jade Carey. Hurd won women’s all-around gold and silver on the balance beam, while Carey vaulted to a pair of silver medals on vault and floor exercise.

“I came back to this worlds as a veteran, and I just wanted to guide them because I know how it is when you’re young and on this stage, it is pretty overwhelming. So, I just tried to guide them the right way and keep them very positive and I guess it turned out,” said Locklear, who was a Worlds team champion in 2014, when she finished fourth on the uneven bars.

Carey’s improbable rise from Junior Olympic competitor to Worlds medalist within one year has been staggering. She credited Locklear with playing an important role in helping her ease into her first major international event.

“We were roommates, and we were together all the time and she would ask me questions,” Locklear said before touching on Carey’s vault routine.

“She didn’t know we had to warmup in the back and just go. So I had to tell her to take longer in the warmup, take your time and when you go out there its all on the floor, just gotta do what you gotta do.”

Helping her teammates may have also helped ease the sting of disappointment. It certainly helped with the accomplishments.

“Definitely having Ashton as the most experienced and role model, it’s helped a lot because she knows what to expect and she’s done all this before,” Carey said.

Rhonda Faehn, senior vice president of women’s program, said Locklear’s contributions behind the scenes were critical.

“This group was just awesome and Ashton was so caring and really helpful, especially with Jade in the warm-ups, telling her where to be, even helping pick out leotards,” Faehn said. “She was instrumental in helping the team rally around each other, especially after Ragan (Smith) went down to injury.”

Locklear came to Montreal with one mission, to secure a medal on the uneven bars. A clean routine in qualifying gave her a berth to the final, but it didn’t take long into the final to see it was not going to be.

Troubled from the start of her routine, Locklear later came up short on her toe-half and hopped off the bar. The tears came immediately and while she remounted to finish, her energy was drained.

“I’ve had a little bit of a sore shoulder so I feel like that’s probably some of it but whatever happens happens for a reason and sometimes you just have to accept it.”

Locklear may have rushed back into the fold after having spent last year on the bubble and missing out on the Olympics.

“I feel like I came back a little quick after taking some time off and that was probably some of my problem,” she said. “Not exactly being in the best shape I could possibly be, so going home getting healthy means getting back to where I was in 2016.”

Long term, the Charlotte-native wasn’t looking beyond the immediate future to next year’s Worlds in Doha, Qatar, or even the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“I’m just going to get home and get healthy.”