By Tim Nash
Leanne Wong had some modest goals for the American Cup. It was, after all, her first event as a senior after a successful career as a junior gymnast.
Wong, a 15-year-old high school sophomore and former Junior Olympic champion and Junior Pan-Am Championships team gold medalist, wanted to get more experience and hit all of her routines. That was it. So she might have been shocked when she narrowly defeated fellow American Grace McCallum to win the all-around title in Greensboro.
“Kind of, but not really,” she said with a smile.
Wong, you see, has confidence in her abilities. She expects a lot of herself and works hard to get it done.
“I think it went better than I expected,” she said. “My goal was to hit all my routines, and I hit all four. I was a little nervous at first, but as soon as I got started, I felt the same as I always do.”
Wong, who hails from Overland Park, Kansas, was competing at the senior level for the first time, and her scores didn’t reflect any nervousness. She said she was a bit shaky before her floor exercise, though. New passes had been added to the routine, and she was trying them in a competition for the first time.
When she hit the last pass, her coach Armine Barutyan Fong raised her arms and cheered nearly as much as the Greensboro Coliseum crowd.
“I was happy for her because she hit the new passes well,” said Barutyan-Fong. “I also knew that if she hit the last pass, she had won the meet.”
Second-place Grace McCallum, a 16-year-old from Isanti, Minn., scored a 56.465 in the four rotations.
“Her performance today was just okay,” said her coach Sarah Jantzi. “She would probably say the same thing. She just came up a few tenths short today.”
While McCallum did not have the showing of which she is capable, she did accomplish one of her goals. She introduced a new floor routine and performed it well.
“I really liked my last routine, but I think this one fits me a little better. I started doing my last one when I was 13. It was a little more cutesy. This one is a little more serious and upbeat and has the crowd going.”
McCallum and her coaches designed a routine more befitting of the senior level.
“We were just looking for a more mature routine,” said Jantzi. “She still wanted a part where the crowd could get into it, keep them upbeat.”
Following the two Americans, Ellie Black of Canada was third with a score of 55.732. Nine elite gymnasts in all competed in the event, representing Germany, Canada, Japan, China, France, the Netherlands, South Korea and the United States.