Ten gymnasts to watch at P&G Women’s Championships

U.S. women gymnastics
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Simone BilesGabby Douglas and Aly Raisman have proven they belong on the Olympic team. That decorated trio, plus several more Rio hopefuls, get another chance to impress a selection committee at the P&G Championships in St. Louis this weekend.

The five-woman Olympic team will not be announced until after the U.S. Olympic Trials finish in San Jose on July 10. But the P&G Championships mark an important precursor.

The competition format is the same as trials — four events each on two nights under the bright lights in front of the scrutinizing eyes of Martha Karolyi and the rest of the selection committee.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage Friday and Sunday at 9 ET both nights.

Here are 10 gymnasts with Olympic aspirations to watch in St. Louis:

Simone Biles
2013, 2014, 2015 World all-around champion

The world’s best gymnast, perhaps of all time, can become the first woman to win four straight U.S. all-around titles outright in 64 years. It would be absolutely stunning if she doesn’t. The Texan is arguably best in the world on balance beam, floor exercise and vault. Biles captured the 2014 and 2015 U.S. all-around titles in blowout fashion by an average of 4.6 points.

Gabby Douglas
2012 Olympic all-around champion
2015 World all-around silver medalist

Douglas is clearly the world’s second-best gymnast, which is remarkable given she went 31 months between competitions from the 2012 Olympics to her comeback in March 2015. If Douglas has any designs on challenging Biles at this meet, the U.S. Olympic Trials in two weeks or the Rio Games, she must upgrade her vault to the difficult Amanar, which she hasn’t performed in competition since the London Games.

Brenna Dowell
2013, 2015 World Championships team member

Dowell is the only NCAA gymnast on this list, and the Oklahoma Sooner makes it because her best event is the one generally viewed as the U.S.’ weakest — uneven bars. However, Dowell fell off bars at the 2015 World Championships and the Pacific Rim Championships in April, putting her behind younger gymnasts who also specialize on bars.

Laurie Hernandez
2015 U.S. junior all-around champion

Hernandez, born in 2000, is the highest touted of the gymnasts making their senior-level debuts this year. The last nine U.S. Olympic teams have included at least one woman who turned 16 years old or younger in the Olympic year, so Hernandez must be taken seriously. What must also be considered is her injury history, which grew with a knee strain that slowed her this spring.

Madison Kocian
2015 co-World uneven bars champion

If uneven bars is the U.S.’ biggest need, then Kocian’s gold medal from the World Championships is extremely valuable. However, she is coming off a fractured tibia from late winter. Kocian couldn’t walk for six weeks and didn’t vault or perform floor exercise at the Secret Classic three weeks ago.

Ashton Locklear
2014 World Championships fourth place, uneven bars

Locklear and Kocian may be vying for one possible Olympic team spot as the last two U.S. champions on uneven bars. Kocian beat Locklear at the 2015 P&G Championships, but Locklear had the edge at the Secret Classic three weeks ago.

Maggie Nichols
2015 World Championships bronze medalist, floor exercise

Nichols looked like an Olympic shoo-in last year, taking second to Biles in the P&G Championships all-around and being the only American to compete on all four events in the Worlds team final. But arthroscopic knee surgery kept her out of meets in early April and early June. She last competed at the AT&T American Cup on March 5.

Aly Raisman
2012 Olympic floor exercise champion, balance beam bronze medalist

Raisman had to be proud of her effort in winning the Secret Classic, just as she did four years ago. The 2012 Olympic team captain fell in the first 10 seconds of her first routine on uneven bars but recovered on her last three events. She punctuated the night with the meet’s highest vault score by landing the difficult Amanar. If Biles and Douglas are locks, Raisman is next in line.

MyKayla Skinner
2014 World Championships bronze medalist, vault

Skinner is the only active American besides Biles to make multiple World Championships event finals in this Olympic cycle. She was third on vault and fourth on floor in 2014. But Biles, Nichols and Raisman are all World floor medalists, and Biles and Raisman can both throw the difficult Amanar vault. Skinner faces tough competition to make a U.S. team in a three-up, three-count Olympic team final format.

Ragan Smith
2016 Jesolo Trophy second place, all-around

Smith is the least decorated gymnast on this list, but Karolyi has named her as one to watch this year. The 2015 U.S. junior all-around bronze medalist, she was second to Douglas in the Jesolo Trophy all-around in March, beating Hernandez, Skinner and Raisman.

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