The 2024 American Classic, which took place April 27 in Katy, Texas, is where the elite competition season began for some of gymnastics' biggest stars. 

Historically, the American Classic has been a low-key competition without much fanfare. However, with big names like three-time Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas making her return, Tokyo Olympic all-around champion Suni Lee adding her name to the roster as a late addition, and Tokyo Olympic floor champion Jade Carey using the competition to make her debut for the elite season, the meet became a must-watch event. 

While the competition didn't have a direct impact on whether or not an athlete will make the U.S. Olympic team, it offered a little glimpse at the possibilities ahead. 

The Olympic team will be named just two months from now, so expect the road to Paris to intensify as the pressure builds and the stakes rise. The American Classic was only the beginning. 

Here are some key takeaways from the competition. 

Gabby Douglas’ comeback shows potential

The last time the world saw Douglas compete she was donning red, white and blue on the Olympic stage, adding a third gold medal to her collection at the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

That was eight years ago. 

The sheer fact that Douglas was able to return to competition at age 28 is a feat in and of itself. However, Douglas undoubtedly eyes more. 

There’s no denying Douglas had hoped for a stronger outing for her comeback competition, but it’s not the end of the road. With her highly-anticipated debut now behind her, the hope would be that Douglas can channel her inner competitive greatness and make the most out of the opportunities ahead. 

There were plenty of bright spots for Douglas including a clean, sky-high Yurchenko double twist that looked just as great — if not better — than it was eight years ago. It’s a vault the U.S. team wouldn’t mind having in its arsenal, but Douglas will need to bring more to the table than just one event if she wants to make the team for Paris. 

Douglas has always been known for her exquisite uneven bar work, and although she struggled on the event in Katy, the potential is hard to ignore. From the pirouettes, to the height on her release moves, to the form –  lack of talent and potential certainly isn’t a concern. Douglas even debuted a new combination on the event – a Lin to Ling to Jaeger. 

Despite finishing eleventh all-around, Douglas’ score of 50.650 points was not too far from the 51.000 needed to qualify in the all-around for the Xfinity U.S. Championships. In fact, the difference was less than four tenths of a point, which is not too shabby considering Douglas counted three falls (each of which cost her a full point), among other errors such as going out of bounds on the floor exercise. With a little bit of confidence and consistency, Douglas could make up several points quickly. 

However, the biggest question remains whether there is enough time left on the clock.

The Core Hydration Classic will be held May 18, followed by the U.S. Championships (May 30 - June 2) and the U.S. Olympic Team Trials (June 27 - 30). 

Douglas did qualify for the U.S. Championships on three events (vault, uneven bars and beam) and will have one more opportunity to qualify on all four at the Classic. In the event that Douglas does not meet the all-around score requirement, she would be eligible to petition to compete in the all-around since she participated at the November 2023 national team camp. 

Suni Lee continues to make progress

The world last saw Lee in February at the Winter Cup, where she had a shaky start to the season — falling twice on the uneven bars and once on beam.

In Katy, Lee was notably cleaner, showing a Yurchenko full on vault (13.250) and a solid beam routine that brought in the highest score of the competition (14.300), despite opting for a simple layout dismount. Lee was able to pull that off thanks in large part to the level of difficulty in her routine, even without the dismount she's capable of. 

Lee continues to pace herself as she overcomes two kidney-related illnesses that have limited her training over the past year, which may prove to be a smart strategy with two months to go until the Olympic Trials. 

“Right now (my routines are) still a little modified,” Lee said during the Team USA Media Summit. “I think I'm at a good spot, though. I don't want to peak too early. So it feels normal. I feel like I'm going at a good pace. I'm getting all my routines back and working on consistency.” 

Although she only competed on vault and balance beam, Lee showed an impressive new combination on uneven bars in training the day before the competition. 

Lee also has a full-twisting Jaeger – a skill that she hopes to get named after her in the Code of Points if she makes the team for Paris. 

Jade Carey’s stock rising

The Tokyo Olympic floor champion Carey only had three practices before showing up to compete at the American Classic, but it was hard to tell from watching her compete. 

Fresh off wrapping up her junior season at Oregon State University with a second place all-around finish at the NCAA Championships, Carey posted the highest all-around score (55.000) to win the American Classic, in addition to winning vault (14.200) and floor (13.750). 

Carey did not perform her full difficulty in Katy – but that was by design. The goal was locking up her spot at the U.S. Championships, which she accomplished, and now the focus shifts to fine-tuning her upgraded routines. 

“Definitely vault and floor for sure, from what I did today,” Carey said of her potential upgrades. “Beam will pretty much stay the same and bars, we’ll kind of see. I might upgrade my dismount, I have a few skills here and there that I might throw in, but for me the focus is just to do something that I’m really confident with and that’s clean and that I know I can just go up and hit.”

Carey is known for her consistency and dependability, even on events like uneven bars and balance beam where she isn’t considered to be an individual medal contender. When you factor that in with her competitive experience, Carey may just be exactly what Team USA is looking for.