What we learned from the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships 2022

The event featured four Olympic medallists including Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey but it was Trinity Thomas who captured the all-around crown while Oklahoma walked away with the team title. Which of the athletes performing in Texas could we see at Paris 2024?

By Scott Bregman
Picture by USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma Sooners produced a remarkable comeback to grab the team title at the 2022 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, concluding a collegiate gymnastics season unlike any other. With Olympic champions Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey making history as the first individual Olympic champions to compete in the NCAA, the exciting season has given us a look at some of the women who could find their way to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in just over two years.

Here's a look at a few takeaways from the season.

Trinity Thomas showcases parity among superstars

NCAA women's gymnastics uses a different set of rules than elite-level, Olympic gymnastics. Where Olympic gymnasts are pushed to include as much difficulty as they can in their eight-counting elements, collegiate gymnastics puts more focus on doing two or three extremely difficult elements as perfectly as possible.

Those rules allow for greater parity among gymnasts, despite Lee and Carey's presence in the field.

Former U.S. national team member Trinity Thomas used those rules to great effect in Thursday's national semifinal where she claimed the all-around title ahead of Lee, who finished second, and Carey (fourth). Thomas closed out her all-around win with a perfect 10.0 on the floor exercise.

"I feel absolutely amazing. I've been working for this ever since I got to school and just having a few setbacks is OK," said Thomas after winning. "I kept fighting and to finally do it this time is literally a blessing. I couldn't be more proud."

Olympians raise level, profile of the sport

Lee and Carey's decision to compete in college gymnastics after winning Olympic gold has raised the profile of a sport already on the rise. The 2021 championships was the first to be broadcast live on ABC in the US, while the 2022 season saw the first-ever regular season broadcast on the network.

"It's magical. It truly is," said Kathy Johnson Clarke, 1984 Olympic medallist and ESPN commentator. "NCAA gymnastics was already climbing to a place we had yet to see in this sport. That you can have the best level 10 gymnasts in the country on the same floor with an Olympic champion, and it's a competition. That is truly magical."

2012 Olympic team gold medallist Jordyn Wieber, now the head coach at the University of Arkansas agreed.

"NCAA gymnastics has just blown up completely with all the Olympians coming from straight from Tokyo to NCAA," she said. "It has elevated the level of this, this part of our sport, which is really exciting. And to be here at the national championship with our many Olympians we have in the room, it's pretty incredible."

Back to elite

Tokyo 2020 floor exercise gold medallist Carey and team silver medallist Jordan Chiles had both stated their intentions to return to elite competition just prior to the NCAAs, with Carey detailing her plans in an exclusive interview with Olympics.com last week.

While in Fort Worth, Chiles provided more details on her plans, including that she will join Carey at her first U.S. national team camp later this month.

"We actually will be attending camp the 25th to the 28th [of April] and then after that, I am finishing the spring quarter out," Chiles explained, "and I'll come back [to Houston] and then train until worlds."

Lee has been less concrete with her plans, but said recently that she could leave Auburn early to pursue a run at a second Olympic Games.

"I know she wants to go back to (elite) but I also know that she's still got a lot on her plate and needs to balance it," said Auburn head coach Jeff Graba earlier this week. "We're going to be here for her, no matter what she decides."

Meanwhile, Grace McCallum hasn't closed the door on a return to elite but wants to enjoy her freshman year after a busy 2021, she told Olympics.com.

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