Next step, Antwerp! Aleah Finnegan readies for World Championship debut

Oct. 2 just may be the biggest moment of Finnegan’s year – and maybe even her career to date. With a ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympics on the line in Antwerp, four hit routines during the Qualification round could mean a lifelong dream is finally realized.

Next step, Antwerp! Aleah Finnegan readies for World Championship debut
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Next step, Antwerp! Aleah Finnegan readies for World Championship debut

By Ashlee Buhler 

It’s been one heck of a year for Aleah Finnegan. 

From countless weekends filled with stuck landings and perfect 10s – which culminated in a top four finish at the NCAA Championships with her LSU team – to a historic performance at the Asian Championships where she won two bronze medals (vault and beam) and punched her ticket to Antwerp for the 2023 World Championships, Finnegan has a lot to smile about. 

But the story isn’t quite over yet. 

Oct. 2 just may be the biggest moment of Finnegan’s year – and maybe even her career to date. With a ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympics on the line in Antwerp, four hit routines during the Qualification round could mean a lifelong dream is finally realized. 

Two years ago that dream abruptly ended. After a few major mistakes at the 2021 U.S. Championships, Finnegan was not selected to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials. “It all happened so fast,” Finnegan told us in 2022 when reflecting back on that moment in. “[It felt] like it was ripped from me. I felt so lost in that moment.” Heartbroken, Finnegan packed her bags and was ready to start a new journey in Baton Rouge. 

But when one door closes, another opens. 

When the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines called and asked if Finnegan wanted to represent them at the 2022 Southeast Asian Games, the opportunity was hard to pass up.  

“My eldest sister [Hannah] actually had competed in the Southeast Asian Games in 2011, so we already had some sort of connection with the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines,” Finnegan said. “Obviously, they didn’t make their way towards me until a few years later, but they gave my mom a call and were just like, ‘Hey, any chance your daughter would be interested?’ So I just kind of went for it!” 

The opportunity means more than just extra competitions and medal opportunities. It means honoring her family’s heritage on some of the sport’s biggest stages. 

Finnegan’s mother was born and raised in the Philippines, but relocated to the United States in pursuit of a masters degree at Northeastern Illinois University after earning her undergrad degree at the age of 18. Through representing the Philippines on the international stage, Finnegan has been able to visit the country twice and spend time with her family – something she hadn’t been able to do since she was five years old. 

“Most of my family is actually still in the Philippines,” Finnegan said. “I was able to actually go see some of my relatives this past summer after the Asian Championship, so it’s really good to see them and spend some time with my family there.”