Five first-time Olympians will be among six women heading to Tokyo as part of the United States Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team. Leading the charge, as expected, is reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles. She will be joined by newcomers Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum in the tag team competition. Jade Carey and Mykayla Skinner will round out Team USA as individual competitors. Four substitutes will also travel to Japan.
The International Gymnastics Federation reduced the size of the gymnastics team event from five gymnasts to four gymnasts for the Tokyo Games; the 2012 Olympics in London featured teams of five, while the 2008 Games in Beijing featured six gymnasts per team, making this year’s trials in the US even more stressful than usual. But it also created opportunities. Those gymnasts who might not be versatile enough to earn a full spot could rely on their strengths on one of four apparatus: balance beam, uneven bars, floor, or vault.
Biles and Lee earned automatic spots on the list after scoring the two highest scores during the two-day competition, while the others were chosen by a selection committee.
The United States will send two event specialists: Carey, who had already secured a spot for the Olympics in April thanks to her performance on the World Cup circuit, and Skinner.
Here are four things to know about Team USA 2021:
Biles kills despite not living up to his usual standards
Simone Biles, who won five medals, four of them gold, in Rio in 2016, secured her automatic spot for the Tokyo Games after finishing with the best overall score (118,098 overall) in testing. But he didn’t do it in typical Simone Biles fashion.
After a crowd-pleasing, yet confident performance on the first day of testing, Biles made some unusual mistakes on Day 2 – he fell off the beam, went out of bounds during his floor routine, and made a few mistakes on the bars. Her mistakes were enough to knock her down to second place in the overall event that day. It’s the first time anyone has beaten Biles in any part of a complete match since their first senior national championship in 2013.
Although her score on the first day was enough to easily get her the highest overall score of the match, Biles, the most decorated and dominant American gymnast of all time, was not satisfied. “Simone Night One kicked Simone Night Two’s butt,” he told the media after testing, referring to his performance on Friday, when he outscored the rest of the field by nearly three points. “At the end of the day, it is what it is. It was not my best performance. Today I got into my head. “
Biles was understandably frustrated with her performance but didn’t attribute it to injury and knew she had played it safe in terms of difficulty, at least by her standards. But he still managed to get out of the Cheng, a vault, named after China’s Cheng Fe, which consists of a rounding, half-turn on the horse, back design at 1 1/2 and is considered one of the most difficult skills. of the world. “During the first day.”
Restless, Biles, who is trying to become the first woman in more than half a century to repeat as an Olympic champion, vowed after the competition to “go home, work harder” in preparation for her second Olympics, which begin on the 23rd. of July. “This is just the beginning of the journey,” he said.
Suni Lee shines despite her pain
At 18, Sunisa Lee is the youngest gymnast on this year’s Olympic team, but she served as a veteran. Lee, known as Suni, finished second after Biles, with a total score of 115,832, and was first on uneven bars and beams. She also had the highest score in all aspects of Day 2.
Lee, the first Hmong American to qualify as an Olympic gymnast, will be a freshman at Auburn in the fall. Recently, you have faced more adversity than your share. His father, John, fell from a ladder while trimming a tree in 2019 and is now paralyzed from the chest down. His aunt and uncle died last summer from COVID-19. And Lee broke his foot last June, preventing him from training for three months.
All of that made his impressive uneven bar performance even sweeter. It was one of the main factors why Lee, who scored 30.2 points during the two days of competition on the device, took one of the team’s spots. She also showed her strength on the beam.
Beating Biles, her close friend, was a boost for Lee. “That gives me a lot of confidence, especially since I haven’t done all four passes on the floor yet and my bar routine could have been a bit better,” Lee said after testing. But she acknowledged that beating the best gymnast in the world in Tokyo will be a difficult task. “I know it probably won’t happen again because [of] her floor and vault, and she’s usually pretty good at everything else. But I was really excited. “
Jordan Chiles benefits from Biles’s buddy system
After finishing 11th overall in nationals in 2018, Jordan Chiles was ready to quit gymnastics. Instead, at Biles’s urging, he moved from Vancouver, Washington, to Texas to train at the Biles family’s World Champions Center gym in 2019. Chiles hasn’t looked back since.
The 20-year-old won the full, jump and floor exercise and took silver on the beam at the 2021 Winter Cup. In the United States Championship, Chiles took bronze in every way and in jump. He hasn’t dropped in his last 24 events either, so expect his consistency to be a strong point in Tokyo, as it was in testing. Chiles, who is committed to UCLA, a program that has won seven NCAA team championships, was chosen by the selection committee after finishing third with a score of 114,631. She ranked second in uneven bars and third in floor exercise.
And no one was more excited than his sparring partner. “I am very proud of Jordan,” said Biles. Each athlete can bring a coach to Tokyo, which means that the duo that coaches Biles and Chiles, Laurent and Cecil Landi, can attend. “I’m excited that we can have Cecil and Laurent because we are all a team,” Biles said. “For the whole team to go to Tokyo, it means the whole world.”
Mykayla Skinner finally breaks through
In 2012, Skinner did not qualify for the Olympic trials. In 2016, she finished fourth overall, but was not named to the five-women’s Olympic team. Instead, it was chosen as one of the three Rio alternatives. This time, he had to sweat once more.
Skinner finished fifth in all aspects of the testing, scoring 112,264, which was three-tenths of a point behind Grace McCallum, who earned the team’s final spot for Tokyo. That left an individual spot and no guarantee that it would go to Skinner. On Sunday night, the selection committee chose Skinner as the second individual competitor because of her strength in the jump. She finished third in the show jumping competition, but the 24-year-old, who will graduate from Utah in 2022, was the 2018 NCAA champion at the event (and runner-up in overall competition), as well as the medalist for silver jumping at the 2021 United States Championship. So she has a history of success in the apparatus.
She has also added perspective. Last fall, Skinner suffered an Achilles abuse injury that required injections of platelet-rich plasma. In December, he tested positive for the coronavirus and had to pause his training. In a video posted Wednesday about her Youtube Channel, Skinner said he is at peace with qualifying for the Olympics as an individual. “I know I really wanted to be on the four-man team, but taking an individual spot is still amazing,” Skinner said. “I’m so proud of myself that I did the best I could, and that’s really all that matters.”
Kayla Francione is a contributor to Good sport, a media company dedicated to increasing the visibility of women and girls in sport.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.