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Konnor McClain won an all-around gymnastics title He demonstrated his ability to follow through with a promise, which resulted in him winning the National Championship

Konnor McClain won the U.S. title after Shilese Jones fell on her very last skill, her uneven bars dismount.

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TAMPA — For a long time, Konnor McClain appeared destined to become the top gymnast in the nation. She began winning medals and praise in elementary school, and at age 11, in a TV interview with Steve Harvey, she declared her intention to win the 2024 Olympic all-around competition.

On Sunday, McClain made good on her promise by defeating Shilese Jones, the day’s early leader, to win the U.S. all-around title at the age of 17, after Jones failed on her final maneuver, an uneven bars dismount. McClain won her first senior nationals and became the sixth woman to do so since 2000. All five of the other competitors, most recently Simone Biles, rose to the top of the gymnastics world.

McClain was slated to compete in her first senior nationals last year, but a cross-country transfer and coaching change prevented her from being prepared. She watched the event from the previous year inside the arena, feeling depressed. She had no idea that she would be standing at the top of the podium a year from now.

McClain, who recovered last summer from stress fractures in both shins, a concussion, and the flu two weeks ago, said on Sunday night, “It’s so surreal.” “I’m still a little bit stunned,”

Results from the U.S. Gymnastics Championships

On the final day of a two-day tournament, McClain was eight tenths behind Jones.

Jones stumbled on her first balance beam and lagged McClain, who had been consistent, by five tenths going into the last rotation. However, Jones would easily join Biles as the only non-teens to win the U.S. all-around championship in the last 50 years if she replicated her bars score from Friday’s opening night (which was best in the competition by six tenths). She seemed to be headed in the right direction until she lost her balance, fell back, and sat down, losing one point.

Soon after, McClain heard a whisper in her ear from Anna Liukin, who trains McClain along with her husband Valeri and is the mother of 2008 Olympic all-around winner Nastia Liukin.

Guess what, Liukin informed her, “you won.”

She smiled despite being a little astonished, according to Liukin.

McClain, the 2019 U.S. junior all-around silver winner, was too young to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, but once the Games were moved up to 2021, she was able to compete. The Liukins received a call from team McClain prior to the competitions that determined the Olympic squad, which ultimately resulted in McClain relocating from West Virginia to their Texas gym. To concentrate on 2024, she skipped nationals (and a chance at Olympic Trials).

Liukin stated that McClain “wasn’t in a shape to compete,” and it was mutually agreed that McClain should sit out.

Then, McClain’s father, Marc, passed away from COVID-19 past winter. In the same week, her grandmother passed away. She wore a leotard patch with his initials while competing on Friday and Sunday.

When asked what she was thinking after winning, McClain responded, “I wish I could talk to my dad right now.”

The top finisher who did not travel to Tokyo (either on the squad or as an alternate) was Jones, who placed 10th at the Olympic Trials and initially intended to give up competitive gymnastics. Conversations with family members, notably her father, gave her the inspiration to carry on. After a protracted struggle with kidney disease, Sylvester Jones Jr. passed away in December.

Jones referred to her performance on Friday as the greatest of her career overall. She slipped on her first and last routines on Sunday. On the latter, she opened up a little too soon, piked too soon, and hurried her bars dismount.

She declared, “Two falls and second place is actually only the beginning for me.”

Jade Carey came in fifth, followed by Jordan Chiles in third. The Tokyo medalists made history by becoming the first American female gymnasts to compete at the highest level again after an NCAA season.

“There wasn’t really any tension level,” said Chiles, who attempted to appear on the jumbotron by having Jones raise her up during the Lion King Cam segment on Sunday during a break between routines. But I did have an injury [micro rips in a shoulder labrum and bicep], and that ailment kind of held me back. I think the ramp up for this was the hardest thing I could have ever done.

Chiles and Carey are aiming for the 2024 Paris Games, just like McClain and Jones. The Tokyo all-around gold champion Suni Lee also intends to compete at the highest level again the following year. And possibly Biles, who hasn’t participated in any competitions since Tokyo but hasn’t ruled out making another Olympic run.

This fall’s global championships come first. The five-woman team will be announced following a selection camp in October, and given the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are prohibited due to the conflict in Ukraine, they will be favorites to win gold.

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The article Konnor McClain fights back to win the U.S. all-around gymnastics title and keep his vow first appeared on NBCSports.com.