Last week, gymnast Sunisa Lee considered the possibility of two Minnesota women making the U.S. team for the world championships. It might catch some people by surprise, she said, because the state isn’t known as a major producer of world-class gymnasts.
That could change, thanks to Lee, of St. Paul, and Grace McCallum of Isanti. Both of them were named Monday to the six-woman team that will represent the U.S. at next month’s world championships in Stuttgart, Germany. McCallum is a returnee from last year’s roster, which won team gold, while Lee is a newcomer to the world team and its youngest member at age 16.
Multiple Olympic and world champion Simone Biles earned the lone automatic roster spot by winning the all-around competition Sunday at a three-day team selection camp. The five other members were chosen by committee at the conclusion of the camp in Sarasota, Fla.
Lee finished second in Sunday’s competition, only .35 of a point behind Biles. McCallum, 16, was sixth.
“This has been one of my biggest goals for the longest time,” Lee said. “It’s just so crazy for it to actually come true. I’m so happy, and I’m so excited to be competing with Grace. She’s amazing, and she’s a good friend.”
In addition to Biles, Lee and McCallum, other members of the team are Jade Carey of Phoenix; Kara Eaker of Grain Valley, Mo.; and MyKayla Skinner of Gilbert, Ariz. Morgan Hurd of Middletown, Del., and Leanne Wong of Overland Park, Kan., are the non-traveling alternates.
Gophers junior Shane Wiskus of Spring Park will compete for the U.S. men’s team.
Lee, who trains at Midwest Gymnastics Center in Little Canada, also was runner-up to Biles in the all-around at last month’s U.S. championships. McCallum, who trains at Twin City Twisters in Champlin, was third.
Biles was a heavy favorite to lead the field in the all-around competition at the selection camp. The 20-time world championships medalist finished with a score of 58.550, with Lee at 58.200. Lee finished first on uneven bars, tied Biles for second on balance beam, was second to Biles on floor exercise and placed sixth on vault.
McCallum had an all-around score of 55.550. She was fourth on beam, tied for fourth on vault, sixth on floor exercise and 11th on bars.
The 15 women at the camp competed in two events each Monday. The selection committee used a long list of criteria in making its picks, including the scores from the camp, performances at the U.S. championships and other events, and consistency. At the world championships, which run from Oct. 4-13, only five of the women will compete in the team qualification; one will be designated as an alternate the day before the competition.
The team travels to Germany on Friday, so Lee will not return home until after the championships. Her father, John Lee, remains hospitalized in Minneapolis, paralyzed from the chest down after falling Aug. 4 while trimming tree branches. John Lee was able to watch Sunday via YouTube, and Suni said he texted pep talks to her throughout the weekend.
According to Suni, he wasn’t surprised she made the team. With two Minnesotans going to Germany, she hopes her state might not be overlooked in the future.
“People don’t really recognize Minnesota for gymnastics as much as other states,” she said. “I think it might be a little bit more known now.’’