USA Gymnastics had a lot riding on the 2017 P&G Gymnastics Championships, the organization’s signature event. Typically, in the year after the Olympic Summer Games, the championships are something of a reboot, a sneak peek at the next four years, and this year’s event at Honda Center in Anaheim was no exception. For the first time since 1985, no female Olympian from the previous year competed in the championships. USA Gymnastics was also eager to move forward from the sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the organization in the past year.
Ron Galimore, the former national team gymnast who replaced Steve Penny at the helm of USA Gymnastics in the wake of the scandal, admitted as much. “We’re starting the journey for Tokyo,” he said of the site of the 2020 Olympic Summer Games. “It’s a long journey.” He insisted that the organization and sport were taking the opportunity to refocus on their values. “The health and well-being of our athletes is our No. 1 priority,” he said.
According to organizers, the event had solid attendance of about 28,000 over the four-day run. That is short of the record 33,000 crowd at the 2015 event in Indianapolis, the last time the men’s and women’s competition were held together. Galimore said it is typical to see a slight dip in the first year after the Olympics.
This year’s P&G Championships were all about introducing new athletes, Galimore said: “It’s always exciting to see the new faces and ask ‘Where did that kid come from?’ ” Ragan Smith, 17, won the senior women’s event, but it was two juniors, Maile O’Keefe, 15, and Emma Malabuyo, 14, who provided the most intriguing glimpses of the future. They had the second- and third-best scores, respectively, despite being in the younger age bracket. “The sky’s the limit on those athletes,” Galimore said.
Despite the focus on the future, there was a notable nod to the past when the members of the U.S. team from the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Brazil were reunited for their induction into the sport’s Hall of Fame.
The P&G Championships counted as a big win for Sports Anaheim, a division of Visit Anaheim formed in 2015. “We’re all very happy,” said Roy Edmondson, vice-president of Sports Anaheim. “We’ve positioned ourselves as a leader in the sports tourism industry.”
Anaheim has increased its amateur sports portfolio with the Yonex U.S. Open Badminton Championships, held in July, as well as the upcoming IWF World Weightlifting Championships set for November and December.
In addition to the competition, Anaheim was also home to the sport’s National Congress convention and trade show at the recently renovated Anaheim Convention Center. Given the event’s success, Galimore said it’s not too early to think about Anaheim attracting other USA Gymnastics and international events in the run-up to the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. “It would be a good place to have an international meet,” Galimore said.