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Minnesota gymnasts and Tokyo Olympic hopefuls Suni Lee and Grace McCallum are training again

Rachel Blount, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Olympics

MINNEAPOLIS -- The date was once engraved on their memories. For nearly a year, Suni Lee and Grace McCallum knew exactly where they would be on June 5, 2020: opening the two-day women's competition at the U.S. gymnastics championships, with a chance to take a major step toward the Tokyo Olympics.

When the day finally arrived, the world had changed so much they didn't even notice. McCallum, of Isanti, said she "honestly kind of forgot" the dates for a meet that was canceled weeks ago. Lee, of St. Paul, still had an Olympics countdown set up on her phone, but the significance of June 5 didn't immediately register with her.

"I was at practice, and my coach was telling me," Lee said. "I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, that's so crazy.' I would have been training for Olympic trials (in mid-June). It's a little sad."

McCallum and Lee both had their spring and summer schedules wiped clean by the coronavirus. As members of the U.S. national team, they were expected to be among the favorites at the national championships in Fort Worth, Texas. And at last weekend's Olympic trials in St. Louis, where the team for Tokyo would have been named. And, perhaps, at the Olympics, now rescheduled for next summer.

The pandemic didn't even spare their practices. In mid-March, Lee and McCallum went from high-intensity Olympic-year preparations to makeshift home workouts when Minne­sota's stay-at-home order shuttered their gyms.

After 11 weeks off the equipment, they finally got another date to remember. On June 1, McCallum's Twin City Twisters and Lee's Midwest Gymnastics reopened their facilities, allowing them to return to training. Things aren't exactly back to normal, though, with meets and national team camps still on hold.

 

"It felt really nice to be back in the gym, to be home," said McCallum, 17. "It felt like part of me was missing.

"But it's weird. Normally this time of year, we're ramping up for meets and competing. And I really miss that, because competing is my favorite thing ever. I'm so excited for next year."

Lee and McCallum won team gold at last fall's world championships, with Lee also taking silver on floor exercise and bronze on uneven bars. Neither has competed since.

Only two World Cup meets were completed before the worldwide spread of COVID-19 halted the season. The disappointments kept coming; Minnesota gyms were closed by executive order March 16 and the Olympics were postponed March 24.

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