Grace McCallum couldn’t believe what she had just heard while sitting in a conference room at the America’s Dome in St. Louis a few weeks ago. Her heart was racing. The gymnast from Isanti, Minn., had to turn to her fellow gymnast Jade Carey to confirm it.
McCallum had been named to the U.S. four-woman gymnastics team headed to Tokyo. All the years of work had paid off.
She had put herself in this position by taking fourth in the all-around at the Olympic Trials. But for a step out of bounds in the floor exercise on her the second day of competition, McCallum hit every program. Her calm presence on the balance beam showed what an asset she can be for Team USA as it tries to win a third straight team gold.
But she almost didn’t even make it to the series of competitions where the Olympic team is chosen.
“Earlier this year, I had a hand injury where I had to get surgery, and they put in a plate and screws. So I was kind of devastated," said McCallum, who she jammed her hand while trying to catch the beam while performing in a virtual team camp. "I thought my Olympic dreams were gone because the recovery is going to be long.
"So it's been a long process, but I'm really happy with where I've come. And I can't wait to keep working really hard these next couple of weeks to hopefully up my difficulty in everything a little bit before Tokyo.”
In the time between the trials and leaving for Tokyo, McCallum is working on upgrading her routines. In the team competition, three members of each team will perform, and all three scores will count toward the team total. She is a versatile gymnast, so she knows the opportunity is there for her to contribute in several events.
“I would really love to be able to do at least three events. That's my goal," she said. "I think when I hit a good floor team that I know I can do, I can help the team out there. If I upgrade my bar routine, I think I can help them out there too. And then beam, I'm just going to fix a few things, so then I can know I'm solid and I hope I can help the team out there too. And then for vault, I'm going to just keep working as hard as I can to get that vault back and strong.”
When McCallum returns home from Tokyo, she will still have plenty of gymnastics in front of her. She will compete for the University of Utah, the school of her Olympic teammate MyKayla Skinner. With these Olympics not having any fans, McCallum won’t have any of the people who have cheered her on throughout her gymnastics career with her. Having Skinner helps that.
“It's really nice to have MyKayla as a part of the team just because she makes you feel not so homesick," McCallum said. "She's always so friendly and caring, and she just makes sure you feel comfortable. She's just kind of like the mom of the group; she makes you feel safe. I'm really excited that she's on the team, and we already know each other so well just from traveling together in the past. So I think that makes it even better.”