SAN JOSE — One day after 19-year-old Stanford sophomore Asher Hong finished Day 1 of the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on the top of the leaderboard, his coach was still thinking about how much better it could’ve been.
Hong had shocked Stanford coach Thom Glielmi when he fell during his floor exercise, earning him a 13.561 score that ranked 21st in the exercise.
Even so, Hong was so dominant in every other exercise that the Texas-born teenager will enter Saturday’s finals at the SAP Center with an 85.615 score while sitting in first place.
“I can’t believe he missed his floor routine,” Glielmi said. “He’s been very consistent with that. He just got a little buckle on the punch going into that second pass. That was a bit of a surprise. But he’s pretty consistent, trains the way he competes. But it could be even better.”
Hong, a three-time NCAA All-American during his freshman season while helping lead Stanford to a national championship, is still looking for his first individual national championship.
“The team aspect is most important,” he said. “Our Stanford identity, that we are comprising most of the national team and setting that standard in USA gymnastics, has been our goal.
“As an individual, since I did make a statement (while finishing sixth) at worlds, I kind of went out there and showed the world what I’m capable of, and I’m showing USA Gymnastics that I am a prospect for the 2024 Olympic team, making a statement in this national competition.”
USA Gymnastics will announce the national teams following the conclusions of this weekend’s competition at the SAP Center, but rosters for the 2024 Olympics in Paris next summer will not be announced until after trials are completed early next year.
Stanford’s Brody Malone, last year’s national champion, is sidelined with a right leg injury and is hoping to return early next year.
In the meantime, Hong has played the lead man while leading a group of 11 Stanford men competing at this weekend’s tournament.
The 5-foot-1 Hong believes his size, which makes him among the smallest competitors this weekend, works to his advantage.
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“For gymnastics, this sport lends itself to being shorter,” Glielmi said. “Here, 5-5, 5-6, 5-7 is average height for a male gymnast. Asher is on the shorter end and it’s just easier to get through on some of the events like parallel bars, and then on rings and high bars, you get a hair more time to finish stuff because you’re shorter. That’s the good part.”
Hong will enter the final day on Saturday with a slight lead over 2017 national champion and 2020 Olympian Yul Moldauer.
In third place is Michigan sophomore Fred Richard, the reigning NCAA all-around champion.