LSU’s famous for an incredible Olympic legacy. 22 Tigers represented 11 Olympic committees at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics across seven sports: softball, basketball, golf, aquatics, tennis, athletics and soccer. One sport that’s never had an LSU representative is gymnastics, but Aleah Finnegan is on a quest to change that starting at the Asian Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Singapore Friday.
Aleah was a member of Team USA multiple times and won team gold at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. She retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2020 Olympic team to focus on her collegiate career. In 2022, she returned to elite gymnastics to represent the Philippines at the 2021 Southeast Asian Games Hanoi, Vietnam, another competition that stuck with the name that reflected the year in which the competition should have happened if Covid wasn’t an issue. For more on the backstory, watch this story I did in April of 2022 on her return to elite.
Aleah led the Filipina team to a gold medal in Vietnam. She earned a silver medal in the all-around, a gold medal in the vault final with the same Omelianchik she used throughout the 2023 season and a silver medal in the beam final. This was a less-prestigious regional competition, but it was also one of the best performances by a Filipino gymnast in the competition’s history.
How does this impact Olympic qualification?
The Asian Artistic Gymnastics Championships represent the first step toward Olympic qualification. This is a continental championship that qualifies individuals and teams to the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, in the fall. There are several ways to do that, but her best bet will be through the team competition. The top two teams that haven’t already qualified to Worlds will qualify to Worlds. Two Asian teams, China and Japan, qualified to Worlds last year, so their team results will not count against teams trying to qualify. The three teams that will be in the toughest battle for those two spots are the Philippines, Vietnam and South Korea. Aleah isn’t the only NCAA gymnast competing for the Philippines. UCLA’s Emma Malabuyo is the second former American set to power the squad to Belgium. If they come up short, Aleah would have to qualify as an individual to Worlds, and that would make it much harder to qualify for the Olympics.
Singapore is 13 hours ahead of Central time, so you’ll have to be up extremely late (or extremely early) to catch this live. The Philippines will be in the final subdivision alongside Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam and will begin on beam. That subdivision runs from 4:30-6:10 a.m. June 16. Vault and bars finals will be from 3:30-5:15 a.m. June 17, and beam and floor finals will be from 1:00-2:45 a.m. June 18.