Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas ease into Olympic selection meets at Secret Classic

Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas
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HARTFORD, Conn. — Simone Biles will not win the Secret Classic. Neither will Gabby Douglas.

And that’s OK.

The world’s two best gymnasts are competing on half of the events at the Secret Classic rather than the all-around. U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi calls this meet the first step in the Olympic selection process but also a “warm-up” for stars.

Biles and Douglas have Karolyi’s blessing to take it easy at the XL Center on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Live Extra).

The more important meets are the P&G Championships in St. Louis from June 23-26 and the Olympic Trials in San Jose from July 8-10, after which the five-woman Rio team will be named.

“You don’t want to get extremely early into full competition shape, so maybe I would say this competition you have maybe 80 percent, and the [P&G] championships you go to 90 and for trials you have to reach 100 percent routine readiness and best shape and take that all the way through the Olympic Games,” Karolyi said Friday afternoon. “For the more established girls, more like a warm-up to get ready for championships. For certain other gymnasts, they really have to prove themselves, and this will give them an opportunity to do that.”

The “more established girls” definitely include the three-time reigning World all-around champion Biles and Olympic all-around champion Douglas, Karolyi said. Karolyi also said co-World uneven bars champion Madison Kocian could maybe be considered on that list, too.

Kocian, like Biles and Douglas, will compete only on uneven bars and balance beam Saturday. Kocian is still working her way back from a fracturing her left tibia in February. Biles and Douglas are holding back in Hartford.

“No need to do the all-around,” said Douglas, who won her first all-around title since the London Games at the AT&T American Cup on March 5. “It’s like a tune-up meet.”

Biles won’t try for a third straight Secret Classic title. She is undefeated in all-around competitions since after the 2013 Secret Classic, when she fell on uneven bars and floor exercise, barely stayed on the balance beam and didn’t attempt a vault.

Why are Biles and Douglas doing bars and beam and not floor exercise and vault Saturday?

“Those are the more stressful events,” Biles said of bars and beam. “You get out there, and you see how you react to the crowd.”

The all-around favorite on Saturday appears to be Aly Raisman, the Olympic floor exercise champion looking with Douglas to become the first women to make back-to-back Olympic teams since 2000.

“[My coach] doesn’t want my first meet all-around [in Olympic selection season] to be at [P&G] championships,” said Raisman, who did do the all-around at the Pacific Rim Championships in April. “He just wants me to get everything and make sure everything feels good.”

The top gymnast not in Hartford is Maggie Nichols, the only American to compete on all four events in the 2015 World Championships team final. Nichols is working her way back from arthroscopic knee surgery several weeks ago.

“She will be in the [P&G] championship,” Karolyi said. “She’s gradually adding the gymnastics skills. She did her rehab, and then she’s already on the level where she can do full bar routines. She can do the beam, almost, with exceptional skill. She is adding more and more tumbling passes to her [floor exercise] routine. She is on the right track. Hopefully everything goes fine and she just will be ready to compete again in time to prove herself that she will be an asset for U.S. gymnastics.”

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