U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team will prove sport’s unpredictability

Simone Biles, Aly Raisman
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In 2012, a 15-year-old Simone Biles finished third in the junior all-around at the U.S. Championships.

She was too young to be eligible for the London Olympics, not that she would have been considered for the U.S. team. At the time, Biles wasn’t one of the first two names mentioned in early predictions for the Rio squad.

Biles has gone undefeated in seven U.S. and world championships competitions since and is now one of the biggest favorites for gold across all sports at the Games.

She can clinch her Rio spot by winning the Olympic Trials all-around in San Jose, Calif., this weekend (broadcast schedule here). The all-around winner plus four team members chosen by a committee will be announced shortly after the meet ends Sunday night.

Of the 14 women competing for five Olympic berths, Biles is the only one who finished in the top five of the 2012 U.S. Championships junior all-around.

Junior results are one of the best harbingers for senior, Olympic division success. But this year’s Olympic team will throw that out the window. (So did the 2012 team, as Jordyn Wieber was the only gymnast who made the 2008 U.S. junior all-around top 10 and competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials)

By the end of the weekend, Biles will likely be joined on the Olympic team by Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, who turned senior in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and are set to become the first female gymnasts to make back-to-back Olympic teams since 2000.

The other contenders include Maggie Nichols and Laurie Hernandez, who finished 11th and 21st, respectively, in the 2012 U.S. junior all-around. Nichols was runner-up to Biles at last year’s P&G Championships.

Hernandez went on to finish second in the U.S. junior all-around at age 13 in 2013 and won it in 2015. She was third in her U.S. senior all-around debut two weeks ago, behind Biles and Raisman.

Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear, who count uneven bars as their best event, may be vying for one spot on the Olympic team. Neither competed at the 2012 U.S. Championships.

Kocian actually tied for sixth in the 2009 U.S. Championships junior all-around at age 12 (Kyla Ross won, Raisman was third and McKayla Maroney was 27th). She tied for fifth the following year but missed the 2012 Nationals due to a wrist injury.

Locklear didn’t make her national-level debut until she was already a senior gymnast in 2014. She finished fourth on the uneven bears at the world championships later that year.

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