Olympic medalist Jade Carey prepares for NCAA championships

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After winning a gold medal in floor exercise at the 2020 Olympics, Jade Carey has dominated collegiate gymnastics.

Long before the world saw Jade Carey take to the podium in Tokyo to receive an Olympic gold medal in floor exercise, Tanya Chaplin knew she had something special.

After watching a pre-teen Carey practice ‘dizzying’ somersault passes, the Oregon State coach got a verbal commitment from the future Beavers star when she was just 14 .

“She made improvements after improvements every year. It was phenomenal to see, and it was before she even thought about doing the elite track,” Chaplin says.

Since the start of her freshman season in January, Carey has been nothing short of dominant at every event. (And that’s without any preseason training. She spent September through November performing 32 shows on Simone Biles’ Gold Over America Tour). Although referred to as a jump and floor specialist early in her elite career due to her ability to hit extremely difficult skills in power events, Carey denied that notion when she finished eighth in the final of the all-around at the 2020 Olympics, even after the balance beam fell.

Soon she will be back in elite competition after announcing her intention to return to that side of the sport in a Instagram Video April 6. But first, a stop in Fort Worth for this week’s NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships, where Carey enters as the top all-rounder with the potential to bring home some serious gear.

Carey burst onto the international scene in 2017, when she won silver medals on vault and floor at her first world championships, and her instant success cemented her status as an Olympic hopeful. In the years leading up to the 2020 Games, she added more challenging skills to her bars and beam routines, refining those elements so she would be more competitive in all-around.

It paid off in Tokyo, when she was propelled into the individual all-around final after Simone Biles withdrew, and, while the top 10 may have come as a shock to viewers who had ranked Carey as a one-trick pony, Chaplin was not at all surprised.

“If you tell Jade you’re not sure she can do something, she’ll make sure to prove you wrong. She’s going to break down all those barriers,” Chaplin says. “She definitely has that drive and tenacity to pursue whatever she has in mind.”

While competing for the Beavers, Carey broke every record she encountered, including setting a new all-around high program with a score of 39.850. She says the “form and execution” of all her skills has “improved so much” because she focused on perfecting her routines rather than “trying to make them as difficult as possible” , which is the approach taken by many elite athletes. sporty side.

“I also became a lot more consistent, just because we competed every weekend,” adds Carey. “I’m more comfortable with the competition and I’m having a lot of fun.”

It’s hard to say how well Carey has excelled throughout this season, but perhaps the best way to tell is to simply state the scores she’s had over the past four months.

Across 11 competitions, Carey competed in 44 routines and only scored below 9.900 twice. She hit all sets in all four events and she earned three 10.0s. This constant calm coupled with Carey’s tendency to be a bit more reserved may lead some to believe the 21-year-old lacks intensity. But Chaplin and Carey’s father Brian, who guided her to Tokyo and will continue to work with her on her elite return, says that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Although she’s quiet, she has this quiet ferocity in some ways,” Chaplin says, while Brian pointed out that his daughter isn’t one to be underestimated.

“Don’t let that quiet or shy behavior fool you,” he says. “She’s a competitor, and she comes out to compete every time.”

While on a trip to Melbourne for a World Cup, the father-daughter duo stumbled upon an Elton John concert. Although Jade had to compete on floor the next day – with a chance of getting her ticket to Tokyo on the line – they made a split decision to have fun outside of the gym.

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“At the time, I was thinking, ‘Well, she better hit tomorrow or it’s gonna look bad,'” Brian laughs. she hit that routine on the floor. It’s a balance. I think you need a balance. Even though there was a lot of pressure and stress on that particular encounter because I knew she could l take it away, you can’t live it 24 hours a day. You need a little release.

Jade Carey smiles after completing a routine at a gymnastics competition at Oregon State.

In his first season at Oregon State, Carey hit 44 straight routines without a fall.

After competing as an individual at the NCAA Championships, Carey will turn her attention to a United States National Gymnastics Team camp scheduled for later this month. She made the decision to return to the elite world ‘about a month ago’ and says her time in Tokyo has left her wanting more, especially after a lucky stutter during her run towards the springboard of the jump brought her to finish on the podium. for this event.

“Finishing eighth in the all-around final at the Olympics with a fall on the balance beam made me realize what a good all-rounder I was,” she says. “I think I have the merit in me to be even better than that.

“After the vault finals, I was like, ‘Hmmm. I will want to do this again. So those are my two main motivations, but I really like to challenge myself and do all the big elite skills.

Carey retained some of those “big elite skills” in her college routines, like her double backbend on the floor and her twisting transitions between uneven bars, but eagle-eyed Instagram users spotted a certain skill in his announcement video which sparked quite a bit of excitement.

Ever since Carey showed off a double triple twist layout during a practice session at the 2021 U.S. National Championship, gymnastics fans have wondered if she would ever do the extremely difficult skill in competition. Because no other gymnast has ever attempted it in competition, if Carey managed to compete it in an international event, it would carry her name and become the hardest skill in the Code of Points for artistic gymnastics. masculine and feminine.

Neither Carey nor her father are sure if the laid-out triple-double will make an appearance in her future elite routines, but she practices the skill on soft landing surfaces because “it makes her [double-twisting double back layout] much easier,” says Brian.

“We’ll have to see what she thinks about it, where she is,” he says. “We have a whole process that we go through to get it into a routine, if it has to get into a routine. We’ll see where the process is at, and if it gets in, it gets in. If not, of course, fine.

In addition to the triple-double, Carey says she can still make “almost all” of her tumbling passes that she participated in at the Olympics. She “looks pretty good for the bars,” has retained all of her beam skills and plans to work with Chaplin to piece together new skill connections for an elite new routine.

Despite falling off the balance beam in the Olympic all-around final, Carey still placed eighth.  She says that finish motivated her to return to elite gymnastics.

Despite falling off the balance beam in the Olympic all-around final, Carey still placed eighth. She says that finish motivated her to return to elite gymnastics.

The jump is the only event where Carey had to overcome a few obstacles mentally.

“I just wanted to have this image in my head of me messing up right before I got to the (spring) council, so it was just me trying to figure out how to work through this and not thinking about it, because it was only once,” she says, adding that her coaches and teammates at Oregon State have helped her through the tough times involved in training the Cheng in the jump, the specific skill which got him in trouble at the Olympics.

“I was really devastated after the jump [in Tokyo]. I honestly didn’t even want to do the floor the next day at first because I felt so defeated and down on myself,” she says. “But I knew one, I would regret it in the end, and two, I still had one more opportunity to get what I really wanted. So I had to kind of put it aside and focus. on the floor. I’m really proud of myself for bouncing back from that moment and getting a gold medal on the floor.

As Carey begins a potential race towards a second Olympic appearance, the plan is to use the US Classic in late July as a tune-up meet before the US Gymnastics Championships in August. Carey and her coaches don’t yet know if she’ll compete for a spot at the 2022 World Championships, but she’s ready for what’s next at Oregon State and beyond.

“I proved to myself that I could overcome anything. I certainly had a difficult experience, like the Olympics on vault, but I proved to myself that I was strong enough to turn things around,” she said. “I just fell in love with gymnastics again.”

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