[Images: 1) courtesy GK Elite Sportswear; 2) courtesy fotosportif.com/me] Anyone who has followed USA elite gymnastics in the past several years knows the tough story of Ashton Locklear of Everest, who was on a trajectory toward the summit of American elite all-around gymnasts before a serious back injury in 2013 derailed her. Ever since, she has been limited to just bars and beam, with her extraordinary UB skills earning her a place on the US National Team and an alternate spot on the 2016 US Olympic team, though her beam has never been strong, with low difficulty compounded by inconsistent execution. I recall there was even talk in the past year or two of Locklear retiring, based on her decommit to Florida, for what had promised to be an stellar NCAA career as a specialist, when it looked like her career as an international elite had likely already peaked.
Now, it seems, putting off college and failing to make the 2016 Olympic team means something very different from retirement for Ashton. Word comes from Inside Gymnastics magazine, in their August 2017 issue just out (page 15, Inside Buzz by Anna Rose Johnson), that Locklear is not only upgrading her bars routine for upcoming Nationals, but is back out on floor exercise for the first time in four years, and eyeing a bid to go to Tokyo in 2020 as a member of the US team. I have publicly speculated at times about Ashton’s future, wondering whether she would ever be able to compete on floor or vault, or if bars was going to remain her sole weapon (beam has just not been strong enough to make her more than a one event specialist). I took this picture myself at Parkettes in January, 2013 (where she won UB, BB and AA), only a few months before the back injury that forever altered her career. I wish the very best of luck to Ashton, and I look forward to again seeing a floor routine as energetic as the one I saw in Allentown in 2013. I so admire that courage and determination.