When Ragan Smith won the U.S. all-around title last August, her margin of victory was greater than Simone Biles‘ average the previous four years.
At the world championships in October, Smith fell off the balance beam in qualifying and still posted the second-highest all-around score, just .001 off the lead. If Smith hit all four routines in the final, she would be crowned the world’s greatest gymnast of 2017 (during Biles’ break from the sport).
But as the all-around final began at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Smith crutched out of the training gym. She suffered three torn left ankle ligaments on a warm-up vault, according to the Dallas Morning News, that needed four to five months to heal.
Smith is expected to compete in the all-around at the U.S. Championships on Friday and Sunday (broadcast schedule here), looking to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.
The ankle still hurts sometimes. So do her three or four broken toes. Smith doesn’t know the exact number because she doesn’t like to get medical check-ups before meets. She would think too much about the diagnosis.
In fact, Smith said she felt pain in practice every day for the last year.
“Everything starts hurting worse because we’re getting older,” said Smith, who turned 18 last week. Smith added that a coach joked to her recently, “You already have a 100-year-old body.”
“Everybody I feel like has injuries here and there,” she said. “Everybody’s like banged up right now. We [gymnasts] are so strong mentally and physically that I feel like we push through it.”
Back home in the Dallas area, Smith marks her goals on a dry-erase board. The chief one for her two summer meets is this: Be the best Ragan I can be.
Meet gymnast Ragan Smith as we follow her along to practice, physical therapy, and finally her home in Lewisville.
“That’s all I’m really striving for this competition,” she said Wednesday. Smith did not do the all-around at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago, skipping floor exercise because she wants to debut it as a surprise this week. She called Classic “a practice run,” where her best result was third on beam.
Ragan Smith - Floor - 2018 World Team Selection Camp
The world championships are the first international meet for Biles since the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The 21-yeara-old took time off after winning five medals — including gold in the all-around, vault, floor exercise and team final — in Brazil. She returned to competition in July and captured a fourth US championship in August.
Ragan Smith - Beam - 2018 World Team Selection Camp
Biles will be joined by 2017 world all-around champion Morgan Hurd, 2017 US champion and 2016 Olympic alternate Ragan Smith, Riley McCusker, Grace McCallum and Kara Eaker.
The world championships serve as a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The teams that finish in the top three in the team final will earn an automatic berth to the games. The U.S. has won every major international team competition since the 2011 world championships.
Ragan Smith - Vault - 2018 World Team Selection Camp
Score: 14.600 (5.4, 9.200) Oct. 11, 2018 - EVO
USA Gymnastics must designate one of the six gymnasts as its alternate before world competition begins in Doha. The Americans are clear favorites to earn the team title, which they have done at the last two Olympics and last three world championships.
Four women can compete per apparatus in qualifying. In the team final, it’s the same three-up, three-count format as at the Olympics. No more than two gymnasts per nation qualify for individual finals.
If the U.S. team final roster went straight off best scores from Thursday’s selection camp all-around, it would look like this:
Morgan Hurd (2017 World all-around champ), Ragan Smith (2017 U.S. all-around champ), Riley McCusker, Grace McCallum and Kara Eaker were named to the worlds team on Friday by USA Gymnastics. Biles clinched a spot by winning the all-around at a selection camp in Sarasota, Fla., on Thursday.
If it went off best average scores from the U.S. Championships and Thursday’s camp, it would be: