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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Football takes significant step in Olympic push

Flag Football
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Football took another step toward possible Olympic inclusion with the IOC executive board proposing that the sport’s international federation — the IFAF — be granted full IOC recognition at a meeting in October.

IOC recognition does not equate to eventual Olympic inclusion, but it is a necessary early marker if a sport is to join the Olympics down the line. The IOC gave the IFAF provisional recognition in 2013.

Specific measures are required for IOC recognition, including having an anti-doping policy compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency and having 50 affiliated national federations from at least three continents. The IFAF has 74 national federations over five continents with almost 4.8 million registered athletes, according to the IOC.

The NFL has helped lead the push for flag football to be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Flag football had medal events for men and women at last year’s World Games, a multi-sport competition including Olympic and non-Olympic sports, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Football is one of nine sports that have been reported to be in the running to be proposed by LA 2028 to the IOC to be added for the 2028 Games only. LA 2028 has not announced which, if any sports, it plans to propose.

Under rules instituted before the Tokyo Games, Olympic hosts have successfully proposed to the IOC adding sports solely for their edition of the Games.

For Tokyo, baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were added. For Paris, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved again, and breaking will make its Olympic debut. Those sports were added four years out from the Games.

For 2028, the other sports reportedly in the running for proposal are baseball and softball, breaking, cricket, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse, motorsports and squash.

All of the other eight sports reportedly in the running for 2028 proposal already have a federation with full IOC recognition (if one counts the international motorcycle racing federation for motorsports).

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Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. It is produced by Religion of Sports, the venture founded by Gotham Chopra, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

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