NCAA women’s gymnastics is currently in the middle of one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory, and with household names like Olympians Suni Lee, Jade Carey, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles competing for some of the country’s more notable teams, interest has arguably never been higher.
Over the years, it has been a challenge — if not impossible — for Olympic-caliber gymnasts such as those four (or international elites like Leanne Wong, Riley McCusker, Kara Eaker and Emma Malabuyo) to have Elite and NCAA careers simultaneously if they desired, but there is now a clearly delineated path for gymnasts to compete both in college and internationally.
Over the course of two meetings of the Women’s International Elite Committee, on Jan. 16 and again on Feb. 14, a motion to explain exactly how gymnasts can compete both at the NCAA and elite levels was presented and seconded.
Here’s how it will work:
- Gymnasts must submit a letter of intent to the vice president of women’s program — currently Annie Heffernon. In it, they must state that they would like to compete in the elite program. The deadline is January 31 of the year gymnasts wish to compete in (this year only, the deadline is March 15).
- The letter must then be approved by the International Elite Committee (IEC). Once that is done, U.S. National Team athletes competing in the NCAA will be excused from all national team camps that are scheduled between the conclusion of world championships in October and the conclusion of NCAA championships the following April.
- In order to maintain their U.S. National Team status, the gymnasts must attend scheduled national team camps after the conclusion of NCAA season through world championships.
Select gymnasts have tried to pull off competing simultaneously as NCAA and elite gymnasts before.
Trinity Thomas, a fifth-year senior at Florida, competed for the Gators in 2021 while also attending national team camps in an attempt to make it to the Tokyo Olympics. An injury during the college gymnastics season forced her to end her attempt to make the U.S. Olympic team, however.
Other notable NCAA gymnasts have withdrawn from college altogether in an attempt to qualify for the Olympics, former Utah great MyKayla Skinner being a prime example.
Never before has the process been laid out as clearly, though, nor the practice as well accepted by USA gymnastics. With the 2024 Paris Olympics just over two years away the path has been laid out for any number of NCAA stars to compete on the world stage again.