Meet Grace McCallum, USA gymnast who overcame injuries to qualify for 2021 Olympics

Five months before the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials began, it looked like Grace McCallum’s Olympic dreams were over.

McCallum suffered a boxer’s fracture while working on a balance beam routine. The injury entailed a broken metacarpal, or hand bone, that connected to McCallum’s pinkie finger. It’s known as a “boxer’s fracture” because it often “occurs when people punch something”, per the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.

“I kind of thought my Olympic dreams went down the drain right then,” McCallum said of the injury, per KARE 11.

McCallum needed surgery and had a plate inserted into her hand to help the injury heal. And after the surgery, her primary focus became rehabbing her injury in hopes of making the comeback.

“I had days where I’d go up and then I’d go down and then I’d go up and I’d go down,” McCallum said. “I really had to be patient with myself and trust that everything would work out.”

Ultimately, her hard work paid off, as McCallum was able to return to action for the U.S. Olympic trials.

MORE: Meet the Simone Biles-led U.S. women’s gymnastics team

Why Team USA chose Grace McCallum for 2021 Olympics

McCallum was far from guaranteed a spot on the four-woman squad for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Simone Biles was a shoo-in for the squad while Suni Lee and Jordan Chiles were heavily favored to earn the second and third spots. Jade Carey had mathematically locked up an individual spot as well.

After that, it was wide open. 

The 18-year-old was among the many fighting for the two spots: One on Team USA and one as an individual competitor for the United States. Other gymnasts fighting to represent the U.S. were Mykayla Skinner, Kayla DiCello, Kara Eaker, Shilese Jones and Riley McCusker.

McCallum was able to win the fourth and final spot thanks to her all-around game. USA Gymnastics confirmed as much in a statement about its decision.

“Grace demonstrated consistency and resilience across both days of competition at the Olympic Trials, hitting all eight routines,” the governing body wrote, per Deseret News. “In addition, her past international experience and success as a member of the 2018 and 2019 World Championship gold-medal teams contributed to the committee’s final decision.”

That certainly checks out. McCallum was best on the uneven bars at the trials, but she ranked top-four in every event except the vault (sixth). That helped her stave off competition from Skinner and the specialists and earn the fourth spot.

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McCallum has two gold medals from the World Championships team competition (2018, 2019), four medals from the 2018 Pacific Rim Championships (two gold, two silver), five from the 2018 Pan American Championships (three gold, two bronze) and one from the 2019 FIG World Cup (silver).

How tall is Grace McCallum?

One of the first things people notice about McCallum is that she looks really tall. But relatively speaking, she’s not.

McCallum stands at 5-3. It just so happens that she’s on a team of gymnasts that are all on the smaller side. Simone Biles is 4-8, Jordan Chiles is 4-11 and Suni Lee is 5-0.

So, how does McCallum feel about towering over her teammates?

“All the other girls average about [5-1] so I just look like a giant,” McCallum laughed, per KARE 11. “But tall is beautiful.”

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