North Carolina gymnast Ashton Locklear’s Olympics ended before it ever really began Sunday.
When the U.S. women’s gymnastics team began competition in team qualifying, by rule that meant that no alternates could be substituted in for the rest of the Olympic Games.
Locklear, 18, had been in limbo throughout these Olympics ever since she narrowly missed making the five-woman U.S. team. USA Gymnastics paid for her and two other women’s alternates to come to Rio on a “just in case” basis, but then they weren't allowed to train alongside the team.
Instead, Locklear trained at another Brazilian facility. The USA men’s basketball team trained there, too, so it was a nice place, and Locklear got to meet and take pictures with a number of the players, including Kevin Durant.
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Despite not being chosen to compete, Locklear called her time in Rio “the experience of a lifetime” in an Instagram post.
When and if her five teammates win a team gold medal in these Olympics – they are expected to do so Tuesday – Locklear will not receive one. She praised her five starting teammates in the same post in Brazil, saying she was “more than ready to watch the girls kill it here in Rio.”
So what’s next for Locklear?
She isn’t going to college to compete in gymnastics but she will compete at the elite level for at least another year or two. No decision has been made on whether she would try to go all the way through another Olympic cycle – by the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, she would be 22, which is considered old for a gymnast.
Locklear also will get to join the USA women’s gymnastics “champions” tour for at least some of its stops throughout America (the tour includes dates in Greensboro on Oct. 27 and Charlotte on Oct. 28).
Originally from Hamlet, Locklear expects to continue to split time there and in Huntersville, where she trains at Everest Gymnastics.