Isanti gymnast Grace McCallum ready to go all out

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Grace McCallum has gotten used to being patient. When the pandemic forced the cancellation of gymnastics meets around the world — and delayed the Olympics by a year — she kept plugging away, training at her Champlin gym to be ready when things resumed.

Then she broke her hand in January, and a long wait grew a little longer.

"I was like, 'Are you kidding?' " McCallum said. "Everything was going so well. It was really tough."

No wonder the Isanti resident is so eager for Saturday's U.S. Classic in Indianapolis. McCallum expects to perform in all four events for the first time in 19 months, among a star-studded field of more than 40 senior elite gymnasts.

The last time McCallum competed in the all-around was at the 2019 world championships, where she helped boost the U.S. to the team gold medal. The U.S. Classic field includes all four of her teammates from the 2019 worlds — Simone Biles, Jade Carey, Kara Eaker and St. Paul's Suni Lee — as well as Morgan Hurd and Riley McCusker, who won team gold with McCallum at the 2018 world championships.

McCallum made her season debut at the American Classic in April but performed only on balance beam. She was still healing from surgery to repair the boxer's fracture she sustained while practicing a beam routine. After doctors inserted a plate and seven screws to stabilize her broken left pinkie finger, McCallum endured an infection and a pulled muscle.

The U.S. Classic begins a high-stakes month for American gymnasts, with the national championships June 3-6 in Texas and the Olympic trials June 24-27 in St. Louis. It's a daunting timetable for someone coming off an injury, but McCallum is ready to see where she stands.

"The recovery time was supposed to be eight to 10 weeks, but everything that could go wrong did go wrong," said McCallum, 18. "That added a couple extra weeks, but it's good now.

"It was hard, because I was really in a good place going into this year. But I think it taught me that things aren't always going to go your way. Sometimes, you have to find your way through."

As a member of the past two world championship teams, McCallum is a top contender for the four-woman Olympic roster. While training last winter at her club, Twin City Twisters, she hit her hand on the beam and thought she had simply jammed her fingers.

Instead, she faced a difficult choice: have surgery with the Olympic trials less than six months away, or spend six weeks in a cast. Though McCallum was hesitant to undergo surgery, that option ensured her hand would be sturdy and allowed her to begin rehabilitation more quickly.

She didn't resume training on uneven bars, vault or floor exercise until less than two weeks before the American Classic on April 24. After waiting so long to compete, she didn't want to skip the meet. McCallum placed fourth on beam, her lone event, propelling her into a strong training block before the U.S. Classic.

"The amount of progress she's made in the last two weeks is amazing," coach Sarah Jantzi said. "We're pushing really, really hard in training now, and she's able to do it. The injury is healed. Her body feels good. I'm very happy with where she's at."

McCallum said she hasn't put all her upgraded skills back into her routines for the U.S. Classic. She will concentrate on clean, consistent performances to build confidence going into the national championships and Olympic trials.

While she anticipates some nervousness at her first all-around competition in a year and a half, McCallum expects a different emotion to fuel her.

"I'm going to be so excited," she said. "I really, really love competing. And it feels like it's been forever."

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