Jade Carey mathematically clinches first U.S. Olympic gymnastics berth

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While sports are halted, Jade Carey sewed up her spot on the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.

Carey was 99 percent of the way there before the coronavirus pandemic. It became a mathematical certainty following an International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) decision last week.

Last Thursday, the FIG announced that an Olympic qualifier in March in Baku, Azerbaijan, that was halted between qualifying and finals due to the global virus concerns would still count in the standings. The qualifying round results will count as final results.

Carey didn’t compete in Baku, but the results combined with her already substantial standings lead meant she mathematically clinched her own Olympic spot with one qualifying competition left.

FIG officials confirmed Tuesday that this qualification process — one of multiple ways gymnasts can qualify — will otherwise remain the same. No more qualifying competitions will be added outside of the one left to be rescheduled.

In earlier Olympic qualifying competitions, Carey earned the maximum points on floor exercise, where one Olympic spot was available. Now, nobody can catch her.

She was surprised the FIG decided to count Baku qualifying results as final results, given top gymnasts often perform easier routines in qualifying. This avoids the risk of a major error to rule them out of finals, but also means they may not place as high in qualifying, where scores don’t carry over to finals.

“I’ve done a lot of these meets, and I’ve worked really hard to get my points,” said Carey, who since 2018 competed in Germany, Azerbaijan, Qatar and Australia in qualifying. “But I don’t know. I guess it just won’t feel totally real until it’s all over and I know for sure.”

That end date is unknown. The last World Cup, originally scheduled for Doha, Qatar, in late March and rescheduled for early June is now postponed indefinitely.

Nonetheless, Carey mathematically clinched a chance to compete in all of the individual events at the Olympics — all-around, balance beam, floor exercise, uneven bars and vault. She did so via the only route where a U.S. gymnast can qualify without needing to be chosen by a USA Gymnastics selection committee.

The one downside to accepting an Olympic spot this way: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four U.S. Olympic team spots are expected to be determined at and after an Olympic Trials in 2021, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

Carey’s father and coach, Brian, said she still plans to compete at trials “to show that she’s ready if need be” for the team event. If Carey declines the Olympic spot earned individually in pursuit of a team spot, the U.S. could lose the individual spot altogether and be limited to one individual gymnast at the Olympics rather than two. This all depends on how overall Olympic qualification — and their remaining competitions — are amended for 2021.

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but nobody other than Biles can feel safe trying to make the Olympic team-event roster of four. Carey made a late move to the elite level — at age 17 in 2017 — and is committed to compete for Oregon State after the Tokyo Games.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

NBC Olympic researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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MORE: Who is qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes, beach volleyball’s new sensation, win World Tour Finals

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In just a few months since reuniting, Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes have become not just the best women’s beach volleyball team in the U.S., but also, arguably, the world.

Cheng and Hughes, former partners who got back together for a 2024 Olympic run, won the World Tour Finals for the biggest title for a U.S. pair since April Ross and Alix Klineman took gold in Tokyo.

The 27-year-old Californians swept reigning world champions Duda and Ana Patricia of Brazil 21-18, 21-16 in Sunday’s final in Doha.

Cheng and Hughes have entered four tournaments since reuniting last fall and won all of them — once on the domestic AVP tour and now three international events.

They are rolling into the start of the 2024 Olympic qualifying window next week. It’s likely that the top two U.S. women’s pairs across international events over the course of the next 18 months qualify for the Paris Games.

Cheng and Hughes were previously NCAA champion teammates at USC, then the most promising, young U.S. pro team before splitting in 2018. Cheng made the Tokyo Olympics with Sarah Sponcil (lost in the round of 16), while Hughes’ Tokyo bid flamed out when partner Summer Ross suffered a back injury in 2019.

“It was a lot of the unknown and being young and kind of immature and listening to maybe outside forces and not really knowing how to deal with things as well,” Hughes said in October of their past breakup. “We’ve pretty much moved past that in our relationship. Moving forward with one another, we’re completely different players, and we’re a lot more mature. It feels like the right time. The past is past. We’re just moving forward.”

Cheng and Hughes have taken over from April Ross and Klineman as the top U.S. team. After winning Olympic gold, Klineman underwent shoulder surgery in January 2022 and last week announced she is pregnant and may return from childbirth for a “last-second” 2024 Olympic qualifying bid.

April Ross, a 40-year-old with an Olympic medal of every color, last competed in March, then withdrew before June’s world championships, where she was entered with Emily Day, with an unspecified injury. She has not announced if or when she plans to return to competition.

The U.S. earned at least one beach volleyball medal at every Olympics that the sport has been on the program (since 1996), and a men’s or women’s gold at all but one Olympics. Eighteen months out from the Paris Games, Cheng and Hughes are the best hope to keep the podium streak going.

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Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

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Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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