Joscelyn Roberson bonded with gymnastics legends. Now she competes with them.
Joscelyn Roberson threw a fit when she was told she was too little to play T-ball. She was 2 years old at the time, maybe 3, and wanted to join her older brother and sister.
Her mom, Ashley, stepped in. She found another outlet to appease her daughter who was already tightroping across the back of the couch and climbing on the kitchen table.
Roberson began gymnastics and cheerleading classes.
“I just wanted her to make cheerleader as a middle schooler,” Ashley said. “Never did I imagine that we would be vying for a spot on the world championship team.”
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As Simone Biles and Suni Lee lead a host of Olympic and world medalists at this week’s Xfinity U.S. Gymnastics Championships, a new generation also descends on San Jose, California, for competition Friday and Sunday.
At least eight women (not necessarily from all-around standings) will advance to a September selection camp. After that, the five-woman team for October’s world championships will be announced.
Roberson, a 17-year-old in her second senior season, is a new name worth watching.
Three weeks ago, she placed third in the all-around at the U.S. Classic. She was second to Biles on floor exercise and vault and third behind Biles and Lee on balance beam.
Add those podium photos to her history of interactions and connections with gold medalists.
Like Lee’s dad, Roberson’s dad made a balance beam out of wood to use at home when Roberson was a few years old. (It’s gone, likely now part of a fence.)
Starting in 2025, Roberson’s coach when she matriculates at Arkansas will be 2011 World all-around champion Jordyn Wieber.
At age 6, Roberson twirled when she watched Wieber compete on TV. When Wieber didn’t qualify for the 2012 Olympic all-around final due to the two-per-country rule, Roberson cried with her.
“It just broke her little heart,” Ashley said.
A decade later, Roberson had her first phone call with Wieber during recruiting. It was such a moment that Roberson’s dad, Jeff, captured it on video.
“The conversation was really just them falling in love with each other,” he said. “Like two best friends that hadn’t seen each other in a long time.”
Roberson shares the most with Biles.
In second or third grade, Roberson made Biles the subject of a school research poster project.
Around the same time, Biles reposted a Vine video of a young gymnast who awed her. “Help me find this cutie,” she wrote. It was Roberson, who was 9 at the time.
Soon after, Roberson went to get Biles’ and Aly Raisman’s autographs at an event, her parents said. When Roberson reached their table, Biles made the connection to the Vine and told Raisman about it.
Fast forward to 2022. Roberson made her senior nationals debut, placing 18th in the all-around and second on vault.
As she competed, she already knew that she was moving from Texarkana, where one can stand in Texas and Arkansas at the same time. Roberson was the only elite at her gym.
Mom got a job in Houston, 275 miles south. Roberson moved to Biles’ gym, World Champions Centre, in nearby Spring.
Over the last 11 months, Roberson bonded with Biles over “the twisties,” a term for getting lost in the air and making it dangerous to perform high-level skills.
Roberson recognized immediately that Biles had the twisties when she looked off on her opening vault in the Tokyo Olympic team final, her parents said. That’s because Roberson dealt on and off with them since she was 8 years old.
Talking to Biles about it “made me feel like I wasn’t the only one that got the twisties,” she said.
Roberson has flourished at WCC, training regularly with other elites for the first time under coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi.
“Having people I could relate to every single day, it worked wonders for me,” said Roberson, who is also comforted at home by Rocky and Apollo, her two Pomeranians.
At February’s Winter Cup, Roberson won vault and placed second on balance beam and floor exercise. She earned spring international assignments and won vault and/or floor titles on three different continents.
“Especially since how not well last year went for me, I wanted to get out there and prove myself as many times as I could,” she said.
Among Americans, only Biles has outscored Roberson on floor and vault this year, according to the Gymternet. If the selection committee is looking for a floor/vault specialist for the five-woman world team, it may come down to Roberson and Jade Carey, who is the reigning Olympic floor champion and reigning world vault champ.
On Friday night, Roberson will rotate in the same group as Biles, plus five other World Champions Centre gymnasts.
She summed everything up at Classic when asked about last year’s move to WCC.
“This is where I’m meant to be,” she said.