Remember our Meet the Freshmen post where we said this was going to be the most decorated class of Gators ever? Well, those numbers just went up again, as incoming freshman Leanne Wong just added a World AA silver and FX bronze to her medal collection! The 2023 class will be no slouch either, as her teammate Kayla DiCello earned bronze in the all-around as well.
It was a difficult World Championships for the U.S., as none of the Olympic team continued on to compete at Worlds, so the hopes were left to alternates Wong and DiCello, as well as Konnor McClain and eMjae Frazier, against a pretty experienced field of previous World and Olympic medalists. Competition was especially tough from the Russians, with both Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova returning to compete from the gold-winning team in Tokyo.
Qualifications had its hiccups, with some difficulties on bars from both future Gators, but both qualified to the all-around, beam, and floor finals nonetheless. The all-around final showed Wong in peak form, as she was credited with her full difficulty on all events and competed an exceptionally clean meet, scoring 56.340. She placed second behind Melnikova by a mere 0.292, a far closer margin than their separation in qualifications and an outstanding effort against the reigning Olympic AA bronze medalist. DiCello was far further off that pace with a 54.566, but that was including a fall on bars, indicating just how strong her program as a whole can be when she hits everything. Here’s a peek at Wong’s incredibly clean bars set from the AA competition that Gator fans should look forward to seeing this coming season.
Both future Gators had falls in the beam final, so they were out of medal contention, and floor was their last chance to fight for a medal. DiCello unfortunately had an uncharacteristic mistake and did not connect her dance elements, so she ended up placing fifth. However, Wong had a mostly hit routine, with just some small form things here and there, and though she went third, her score held up through the remaining five competitors to be good for the bronze medal, eking out third over Urazova by 0.133. Downgrading a little will do her a lot of good once she arrives in Gainesville, as with less difficult passes, she’ll be able to focus on her form more, which is normally impeccable. Keep your eyes peeled for a preview of her NCAA floor routine – we can only imagine what magic Jeremy James Miranda will work with her. In the meantime, here’s Wong’s floor from qualifications to tide you over.
Despite finishing behind Wong in all three finals they qualified to, DiCello is no slouch. Gator fans should look forward to seeing her in the O-Dome starting in 2023. Her power and form should make for a strong combination in NCAA, particularly on vault and floor, and she’ll be a welcome addition considering how many athletes the team stands to lose after graduation this year. Here’s her FX routine from podium training, including some changes she made since Olympic Trials to improve her execution and artistic expression.
Press releases from Gator Gymnastics indicate that Wong enrolled in classes in the fall, so expect to see her practicing back on campus very soon! DiCello will finish her senior year, and potentially contend for 2022 World Championships, before coming to Gainesville for the 2023 season. With additions like these, Florida has an enormous opportunity in the next two years to finally climb back to the top. Can they do it? Tune with us every Friday night starting January 7th for our meet liveblogs to find out!
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