Who makes the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team?

2021 GK U.S. Classic
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The U.S. Olympic Trials for women’s gymnastics will finally answer a question on that has been on the minds of most Olympic fans for the past few years: Who will join Simone Biles in Tokyo?

The Opening Ceremony is in exactly one month, and the women competing for the U.S. this summer will be announced by the end of the weekend. Biles is the only 2016 Olympian competing at Trials and one of only two of this week’s competitors with Trials experience, so this Olympic team is sure to look different than in the past.

Competition starts Thursday in St. Louis, Missouri, with the first day of men’s action. A field of 18 women will compete all four events on both Friday and Sunday.

St. Louis marks the next stop of the Simone Show, as she has continued to dominate the sport since returning to competition in 2018 – amassing 11 more world championship medals, but there are several factors in play in determining the remainder of the team.

GYMNASTICS TRIALS: TV Schedule | Men’s Preview

The top two all-around finishers, based on the total scores from both days, will automatically be named to the Olympic team. A selection committee will choose two more women to join them for the Tokyo team event, in which the U.S. is seeking a third consecutive gold following the success of the Fierce Five and Final Five teams in 2012 and 2016.

One additional athlete will be chosen to compete in individual events only.

Jade Carey is the only American artistic gymnast who is guaranteed a spot in Tokyo, which she earned by name through performances at the 2018-2020 World Cup series. Carey is competing at Trials and, if she finishes top-two in the all-around, would have the option of accepting her individual quota or being part of the team. The U.S. loses Carey’s individual spot if she does not fill it herself and would send five women total, instead of six.

A look at 10 contenders…

Simone Biles
Five-time Olympic medalist
25-time World medalist

Has won every public all-around competition she entered since 2013, and there is no reason to believe she will start faltering now. Biles won her seventh U.S. all-around title earlier this month – more than any woman in the nation’s history – by 4.7 points, and her fifth World all-around title in 2019 – two more than any woman in history. She did, however, have two falls on the first day of U.S. Championships, so the questions for Trials surround how clean she will be and what her routines will include. The 24-year-old debuted a Yurchenko double pike vault at U.S. Classic last month, but left it out of nationals, where she also did not display the double-double Biles beam dismount she first landed in 2019. Biles is internationally competitive on balance beam, floor exercise and vault, owning a combined 10 World titles from those events.

Jade Carey
Four-time World medalist
Six-time World Cup gold medalist

Broke out onto both the domestic and international gymnastics scenes in 2017 as a first-year senior. Carey was first on vault and second on floor at nationals that year, then went to the world championships in Montreal and won silver medals on both apparatuses. She removed herself from consideration for the 2018 World team in order to be eligible to earn an individual Olympic spot, which she did after winning both floor and vault at three World Cup competitions that took her to Azerbaijan, Qatar and Australia. Carey also won silver on vault at the 2019 Worlds. She has continued to improve on beam and uneven bars and finished sixth at this year’s nationals (was fourth after day one), 4.95 points out from second, but is one of approximately eight athletes with a shot at second place to Biles. Should she accept the individual Olympic spot she earned, Carey would be permitted to compete all four events on qualification day in Tokyo.

Suni Lee
Three-time World medalist
2021 U.S. all-around silver medalist

As close to a lock as there is for the Olympic team following Biles and, of course, Carey. In her first year as a senior in 2019, Lee impressed by finishing second to Biles at nationals; she also won the uneven bars title and was third on floor. The Hmong American left the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, that year with the floor silver medal and bars bronze medal. She also qualified for the all-around final but did not have the performance she’s capable of and finished eighth. Lee was again second to Biles at the 2021 U.S. Championships and won the bars title with a routine that 2008 Olympic champion Nastia Liukin called the best in the world; recovering from an ankle injury, that was her first time this year competing all four events. Biles, Carey and Lee are the only Trials competitors to win individual World medals in the past six years; Morgan Hurd won four medals of her own between 2017 and 2018 but did not qualify for Trials.

Jordan Chiles
2021 U.S. all-around bronze medalist
2021 Winter Cup all-around champion

Has stood out as a top all-arounder at all three of this year’s meets. Though she did not medal on any apparatuses, Chiles was the surprise all-around runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Championships. She was the non-traveling alternate for that year’s Worlds but her results fizzled out from there and she did not make the World team in 2018 or 2019. That changed when she moved from Vancouver, Washington, to Spring, Texas, to be coached by Cecile and Laurent Landi at close friend Biles’ World Champions Centre gym. She has proven to be a top Olympic contender all throughout this year, winning all-around, floor and vault at the Winter Cup in February, then placing second in the all-around, bars and floor at the U.S. Classic in May. Named after Michael Jordan, Chiles was third at nationals – 0.5 points behind Lee – and a consistent presence on every event, taking third on vault and fourth on the rest.

Kayla DiCello
2021 U.S. floor exercise silver medalist
2020 American Cup silver medalist

At 17, one of the youngest athletes competing in St. Louis. DiCello won the U.S. junior titles in the all-around, vault and floor, and tied for third on bars, in 2019. As what she thought would be her first full year as a senior began, DiCello took silver at the American Cup, a World Cup event, in March of 2020, about a week before everything shut down. Once competition returned in 2021, DiCello continued to appear a contender: She was second on bars at the American Classic in April, then won bars and was third in the all-around and on bars at U.S. Classic in May. She faltered at nationals and was 11th in the all-around with three scores in the 12s, but still placed second to Biles on floor. The past two Olympic teams featured first-year seniors in Kyla Ross (2012) and Laurie Hernandez (2016), and DiCello could be the one to fill that role this time.

Emma Malabuyo
2021 U.S. all-around fourth place
2017 U.S. junior all-around silver medalist

The surprise fourth-place finisher at nationals. Touted as one to watch at the senior level in 2018 after placing second in the U.S. junior all-around the year before, Malabuyo ended up missing much of the next two years due to injuries and has barely had a senior career. A back injury kept her out of the 2018 U.S. Championships and, after placing third in the all-around at the 2019 City of Jesolo Trophy in March, a broken tibia kept her out of the remainder of the 2019 season. High-performance team coordinator Tom Forster named Malabuyo as the athlete who surprised him the most, though, after this year’s nationals – her first at the senior level. The 18-year-old moved up from seventh following the first day to place fourth; her second-day score was just 1.55 points lower than Chiles’.

Grace McCallum
2019 American Cup silver medalist
Two-time World team gold medalist

One of three U.S. athletes to compete at both the 2018 and 2019 Worlds, including Biles. While never finishing first or second in any event at any senior nationals, McCallum has been a mainstay of the U.S. women’s program since 2018. She helped her country to two team World titles – contributing on vault in 2018 and vault and bars the following year. At the 2019 Worlds, McCallum was fifth in all-around qualification but did not advance to the final because two Americans (Biles and Lee) were ahead of her. Her greatest individual accomplishment is finishing second at the 2019 American Cup. She was third on balance beam at the 2021 U.S. Championships and seventh in the all-around, though fourth through ninth were separated by less than a point after the completion of eight programs by each gymnast.

Riley McCusker
2019 Pan American Games uneven bars gold medalist
Two-time U.S. uneven bars medalist

Potentially a favorite for the sole, open individual Olympic spot. In a career fully of injuries – including to her ankle, hamstring, hip and wrist, plus a case of rhabdomyolisis that kept her out of the 2019 World team selection camp – McCusker has continued to persevere and has remained one of the most consistent athletes the entire quad. She was on the 2018 World team, where in the team event she tied Russia’s Aliya Mustafina for the second-highest bars score in the team event (behind Biles). McCusker has also proven a strong all-arounder, taking silver at the 2019 Birmingham World Cup and Pan American Games. Last month, however, another injury hit after her vault landing at the U.S. Classic. McCusker will only compete bars and beam at Trials and is a favorite to many for the individual spot. She won bars at the 2017 U.S. Championships and was second on the event in both 2019 and 2021, and medaled on beam in both 2017 and 2018.

MyKayla Skinner
2016 Olympic alternate
Two-time NCAA all-around silver medalist

The only athlete other than Biles who has Trials experience. Now married, Skinner is the oldest woman competing, at 24.5 years old; she and Biles have anywhere between three and nine years on the rest of the field. Her situation is unique in that, after being named one of three replacement athletes to the 2016 Olympic team, Skinner went the collegiate route, taking two NCAA all-around silver medals and a floor title (2017) and vault title (2018) for Utah, then returned to the elite ranks for one more go at an Olympic team. Originally planning to return as a floor and vault specialist, Skinner became an all-arounder after Forster told her that Carey was going the same direction and he would like her to compete all-around. Though her bars and beam efforts have been successful – she was fourth in the all-around at the 2019 World team selection camp – Skinner’s best events are still floor and vault, the latter on which she won the 2014 World bronze medal. She won vault at this year’s U.S. Classic and was second (to Biles) at nationals.

Leanne Wong
2019 American Cup champion
2021 U.S. all-around fifth place

Technically her third year as a senior, Wong seems like a veteran at just 17. She won the U.S. junior all-around title in 2018 and went on to have a strong first-year senior season in 2019. Wong was assigned to the American Cup in March, which she won, and later the Pan American Games. In Lima, Wong helped the team win gold and took silver on bars. At this year’s U.S. Championships, she was fifth in the all-around but is a solid contributor across multiple events, taking third on floor this year and third on beam in 2019. Her first-day floor routine score of 14.2 at nationals was third-best of the entire competition; only Biles’ two were higher.

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Shoma Uno tops Grand Prix Final short program; Ilia Malinin 5th

Shoma Uno
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World champion Shoma Uno of Japan leads after the short program at the Grand Prix Final, the biggest figure skating competition of the fall. Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old American, is fifth out of six skaters after struggling on jumps on Thursday.

Uno, bidding for his first Final title after two silvers and two bronzes, landed a quadruple flip and quad toe loop-double toe combination en route to 99.99 points at the Palavela, the 2006 Olympic venue in Turin, Italy.

He takes a 5.13-point lead over countryman Sota Yamamoto going into Saturday’s free skate.

Malinin is fifth, 19.89 points behind, after stepping out of the landing on the back end of a quad toe-triple toe combination and spinning out of a triple Axel landing, putting a hand on the ice.

“It was a performance that I wasn’t really expecting,” said Malinin, who did not mention a left foot injury that affected him at his last competition (a win) two weeks ago. “We put a lot of effort trying to perfect all these movements in the program with all these jumps. The jumps didn’t go so well, but I think that my performance and my spins definitely have improved. … I just have to stay confident and look forward to the free skate.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Malinin rallied from smaller short program deficits to win his first three competitions in his first full senior season, becoming the first skater to land a quad Axel in September and repeating it in October and November.

Uno, the world’s top returning skater after Yuzuru Hanyu retired and Nathan Chen went back to Yale, didn’t compete against Malinin at those earlier events.

“It wasn’t up to the levels of my best performance,” Uno said of Thursday’s short program, according to a translation. “But I think I was able to show what I’ve done this season up until this competition. I’m genuinely happy.”

The quad Axel is not a point-scoring element in short programs, but it is in free skates.

Malinin, the son of Olympic skaters from Uzbekistan, was second at last January’s U.S. Championships but left off the three-man Olympic team due to his relative inexperience. He went to senior worlds in March and finished ninth, then won the world junior title in April.

The Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the six-event Grand Prix Series, is the most exclusive figure skating competition. It was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara topped the pairs’ short program with 78.08 points, edging world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier by 43 hundredths of a point.

Miura and Kihara, ranked No. 1 in the world this season, are bidding to win the biggest title ever for a Japanese pair.

Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, recorded a personal best score with their first clean program since those worlds. Frazier put his hand on the ice on their side-by-side triple toe landings, but judges still barely graded it positively.

“We’ve made a big improvement from our [fall] Grand Prix [starts],” Knierim said. “I am elated with the outcome.”

Pairs experienced the biggest change of the four figure skating disciplines since the Olympics with none of the top five teams from the Winter Games competing internationally this fall. Russian pairs, traditionally the best in the world as a group, are ineligible due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including gold medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t skate in the Grand Prix Series.

The Grand Prix Final continues Friday with the pairs’ free skate, rhythm dance and women’s short program, all live on Peacock.

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Katie Ledecky talks swimming legacy and life in Gainesville

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OlympicTalk recently caught up with Katie Ledecky to discuss life since moving from Stanford to Florida 15 months ago, her meticulous mindset, and the legacy she continues to build.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can also catch an encore presentation of Ledecky’s performance at the 2022 U.S. Open this Saturday at 4:30 pm ET on NBC.

What does a typical day look like for you Gainesville? Walk me through a full day starting from the minute your alarm clock goes off.

Ledecky: A typical day would be waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning and swimming from 6 to 8. Then I have weights from 8 to 9:15. I get breakfast, have lunch and then take a nap. Then I have practice again at 2 or 3 in the afternoon for another two hours.

Wow, that sounds incredibly busy! Have you had a chance to find any new favorite places to eat in Gainesville?

Ledecky: I’m still kind of finding my spots. There is a breakfast spot pretty close to campus that a lot of the swimmers like, so I go there quite a bit, but I’m still looking. I haven’t gone to very many places more than once.

What are you doing in your free time? Are you coaching?

Ledecky: Yes, I’m volunteering with the [University of Florida] team, but I think of myself more as a teammate. I have a lot of other things going on with sponsorships, but aside from that, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I have a piano and enjoy playing that!

How often do you get to see your family?

Ledecky: My parents, David and Mary, still live in the D.C. area, and then my brother, Michael, lives in New York, so I’m a lot closer to home [than at Stanford]. I see them around the holidays, and they come to a lot of my swim meets.

I know how much you love to stay academically engaged. Are you taking any classes at the University of Florida?

Ledecky: I’m not taking any classes right now. I’m taking a break, but I’m still trying to learn as much as I can just in other areas, reading a lot and watching the news, following different things that I’m interested in. I think at some point, I’ll probably go to grad school, but I’m still figuring out what area that would be in right now.

There’s a quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel like that only scratches the surface of describing your work ethic and mindset. You demand excellence in every area of your life, not just from yourself, but from others around you. Can you talk about where that mindset comes from?

Ledecky: I’ve always had that kind of a mindset. I’m very driven, and I’m always setting new goals for myself no matter what I’ve achieved in the past. I’m always looking forward, I don’t take very many breaks, and so it’s always on to the next goal and making sure I’m doing the little things right and doing the things I need to do to reach my goals.

To be able to perform at the level that you do every single day takes a lot of mental toughness. What do Katie Ledecky’s inner thoughts look like? What do you tell yourself? Any affirmations? 

Ledecky: I try to stay positive no matter how well or how poorly a practice or a race is going. When I’m swimming, I give myself positive mental pep talks along the way throughout a race. I’ll say “keep it up,” “hold pace” or “hit this turn.”

I just want to read you a few tweets… 

You idolized Michael Phelps when you were younger, and now you’re that person for a lot of people. You’re the GOAT. You’re Katie Ledecky. Someone’s idol. What does that feel like?

Ledecky: It’s an honor to have young swimmers look up to me, and I don’t take that lightly. I try to be a good role model and reach out to young kids and sign autographs and take photos if people approach me at swim meets. I hope that there are some young swimmers out there that will grow up to be champions or maybe they’ll just continue to love the sport or find other things that they’re passionate about, but it’s an honor.

Have you had any memorable interactions with young swimmers?

Ledecky:  Yeah, actually the World Cup in Indianapolis [in November]. We were given those giant checks at the end of the meet that you really can’t travel with, so I was able to sign it and give it to one of the basket carriers at the meet. They were thrilled, and it was fun to be able to put a smile on their face.

Give me just one word to describe each of these milestones in your life, starting with the 2012 Olympics.

Ledecky: The first. It was my first international competition and my first gold medal, so that’s the one that’ll probably be the most special for me forever.

OLY-2012-SWIM

2016 Rio Olympics.

Ledecky: Consistency. I was swimming in multiple events at the Olympics for the first time and I just got into a really good rhythm and felt so comfortable in the pool deck. So confident. That was just a very unique feeling.

Tokyo Games.

Ledecky: Tokyo was different with all the COVID protocols. Nobody in the stands. No family there. But it was a lot of fun still, so a lot of great memories with my teammates there.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind at the end of your career? What do you want to be remembered for?

Ledecky: I’d like to be remembered as somebody that worked really hard and gave my best effort every time I got up on the blocks and represented Team USA. Hopefully, I can continue to inspire young kids to work hard in whatever it is that they are passionate about, whether that’s something academic, athletic, or something else. If you find something that you really love, you should go all in on it and try to be the best you can be at it.

You’ve achieved so much in life already personally and professionally, I just want to ask: Are you genuinely happy? Are you satisfied in this season of life right now?

Ledecky: Oh yeah, I’m very happy. I love the sport more and more every year. I get a little sad thinking about the day I will eventually retire–which isn’t anytime soon. I love the sport. I’m trying to just enjoy every day of training and racing and trying to be the best that I can be.

I say this all the time, I never imagined I would even make it to one Olympics and so to be training now to try to qualify for a fourth Olympics is it’s all just icing on the cake at this point and something that I truly enjoy. I enjoy doing it with my teammates, striving for similar goals, and getting to do it with really great people.

Knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self — the little Palisades Porpoise?

Ledecky: I don’t have very many regrets or anything in my career, so I think I would just continue to tell myself to have fun and enjoy every moment. Maybe, write down a little bit more early on. I’ve done a better job of journaling and writing down different things so that I can remember them down the road, but I didn’t do as good of a job in 2012 and 2013.

Rapid-fire questions. Race day hype song? 

Ledecky: “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen.

Finish this sentence: I’m not ready for a meet without … 

Ledecky: My suit, cap and goggles.

Did you have AIM back in the day? What was your embarrassing screen name?

Ledecky: I didn’t. I didn’t even have a cell phone until before the London Olympics. I think I actually borrowed my brother’s phone for that, and then we went out and bought an iPad so that I could FaceTime my family from London. I didn’t have an email account either until high school.

Your life is on the line. You need to sing one karaoke song to save it. What are you picking?

Ledecky: Well, USA Swimming did carpool karaoke in 2016 before the Olympics. My car did “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which is a great karaoke song because it’s like 10 minutes long so maybe I would choose that just as a fun memory. We also did “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen in 2012. Those are two fun songs with some fond memories.

Post-workout meal?

Ledecky: After morning practice, eggs and toast or veggies and eggs. I love breakfast. I could eat breakfast food for all three meals and I’d be satisfied.

Cheat meal? 

Ledecky: Either pizza or a burger.

If you had to choose another Olympic sport to compete in what would it be and why? 

Ledecky: Probably hockey. I’m not good on skates, but it’s my favorite sport to watch.

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