Still improving each time she competes, Simone Biles is far ahead at her second Olympic Trials


Since the world first learned her name, Simone Biles has been leaps and bounds (slight pun intended) ahead of the field every time she competes — and yet the greatest gymnast of all time continues to improve.

Biles put out her best floor routine of the season — so far — on Friday night, the first day of women’s competition at the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials.

That’s saying something considering she had the highest floor exercise scores at both the U.S. Classic in May and the U.S. Championships earlier this month.

In an electrifying performance that included two eponymous skills, the five-time world floor champion scored 15.366 points; that’s 0.416 greater than her previous highest floor score this season and a full 1.116 points more than her floor score from U.S. Classic. The routine had a difficulty of 6.8, an astounding number, and Biles managed to stay in bounds throughout — something that proved to be a challenge at nationals, due to her amplitude and power.

“I feel like I’m going to remember staying in bounds [on floor], getting all my credit on beam, and just being out here with three of my [World Champions Centre gym] teammates,” Biles told NBC reporter Andrea Joyce. “It’s been a blast.”

GYMNASTICS TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview

To no one’s surprise, Biles leads in St. Louis halfway through the competition with an all-around score of 60.656 points. She is 2.899 points ahead of second-place Suni Lee (57.666).

For context on how much Biles has improved since 2016 — when she believed she was at her peak — her two-night winning total from Olympic Trials that year was just 2.1 points over Laurie Hernandez.

Biles also had the night’s highest scores on balance beam (15.133), which included her Biles dismount, and vault (15.466).

The five-time Olympic medalist (four are gold) still has room for increased difficulty and higher scores. She did not perform the Biles vault, nor what is expected to be dubbed the Biles II — a Yurchenko double pike she premiered at U.S. Classic.

Lee had the night’s best uneven bars score — 0.4 ahead of Biles’ — and should contend for the Olympic bars gold medal.

NBC commentator and Olympic medalist Tim Daggett called her performance, “the hardest bar routine, I believe, being done in the world today.”

In a tight race for minimal Olympic spots where a mere 0.834 points separate third through sixth place, Biles’ teammate and close friend Jordan Chiles sits in third with 57.132 points.

MyKayla Skinner (56.598), Grace McCallum (56.498) and Kayla DiCello (56.598) follow.

The men’s competition, currently led by Brody Malone, concludes Saturday and the women’s on Sunday.

The top two women’s all-around finishers will qualify to the Olympic team. A selection committee will then choose two others to join them; the team size in Tokyo is four — the smallest yet. The U.S. will also send two individual athletes who can compete on all apparatuses for qualification purposes, but their scores do not count toward the team event.

ON HER TURF: Why Biles is the GOAT

Biles and Lee finished 1-2 at both the 2019 and 2021 U.S. Championships and are poised to repeat that, which would earn them the automatic spots.

Chiles has been a consistent frontrunner for the team all season long, winning Winter Cup, placing second at U.S. Classic and third at U.S. Championships (where she was top-four on all events).

The fourth spot is more interesting.

Emma Malabuyo emerged as a favorite after vaulting to a surprising fourth at nationals two and a half weeks ago, but she currently sits in ninth in St. Louis.

Skinner, an alternate on the 2016 Olympic team, is steadily increasing her chances at a true Olympic debut. She left the elite ranks after Rio to compete collegiately for Utah for three seasons.

After initially intended to return as a specialist (she had the second-highest vault score of the night to Biles), the 24-year-old has been improving across all events.

Skinner was ninth at nationals but is in fourth so far at Trials; she held on to third place through the first three rotations.

“It was the best meet of her entire life,” 2008 Olympic all-around champion and NBC commentator Nastia Liukin said.

Two-time Olympic medalist Hernandez added, “This being her second Olympic Trials, it’s really interesting to watch her come back, and honestly I think she is even better than she was in 2016.”

In this year’s Olympic team final, three athletes will compete on each apparatus and all three scores will count. That’s why the four-person team is likely to include the U.S.’ best all-arounders.

While questions remain for rounding out the team, the rest of the Olympic picture became far more clear.

Jade Carey had locked in an individual spot — by name — via the World Cup series. She still had the option to compete for the four-person team, but if she were to make that team the U.S. would lose her individual spot.

After initially scratching from floor on Day 1, Carey did compete all-around but is sitting in 14th of 16 all-around athletes. She had the second-best vault score of the night (15.2).

It is now all but confirmed that Carey can no longer finish top-two and will not be selected to the team, so she will accept and fill the spot she earned.

The remaining individual spot will go to a gymnast who has medal potential in at least one event.

Riley McCusker is looking like the best candidate so far, as she had the second-highest score on uneven bars behind World silver medalist Lee and ahead of Biles.

McCallum, fifth in the all-around, was second on floor and should also be considered.

Aside from McCusker and McCallum (and Carey), the top three finishers on all four events are accounted for in the current top four in the all-around.

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IOC recommends how Russia, Belarus athletes can return as neutrals

Thomas Bach

The IOC updated its recommendations to international sports federations regarding Russian and Belarusian athletes, advising that they can return to competitions outside of the Olympics as neutral athletes in individual events and only if they do not actively support the war in Ukraine. Now, it’s up to those federations to decide if and how they will reinstate the athletes as 2024 Olympic qualifying heats up.

The IOC has not made a decision on the participation of Russian or Belarusian athletes for the Paris Games and will do so “at the appropriate time,” IOC President Thomas Bach said Tuesday.

Most international sports federations for Olympic sports banned Russian and Belarusian athletes last year following IOC recommendations to do so after the invasion of Ukraine.

Bach was asked Tuesday what has changed in the last 13 months that led to the IOC updating its recommendations.

He reiterated previous comments that, after the invasion and before the initial February 2022 recommendations, some governments refused to issue visas for Russians and Belarusians to compete, and other governments threatened withdrawing funding from athletes who competed against Russians and Belarusians. He also said the safety of Russians and Belarusians at competitions was at risk at the time.

Bach said that Russians and Belarusians have been competing in sports including tennis, the NHL and soccer (while not representing their countries) and that “it’s already working.”

“The question, which has been discussed in many of these consultations, is why should what is possible in all these sports not be possible in swimming, table tennis, wrestling or any other sport?” Bach said.

Bach then read a section of remarks that a United Nations cultural rights appointee made last week.

“We have to start from agreeing that these states [Russia and Belarus] are going to be excluded,” Bach read, in part. “The issue is what happens with individuals. … The blanket prohibition of Russian and Belarusian athletes and artists cannot continue. It is a flagrant violation of human rights. The idea is not that we are going to recognize human rights to people who are like us and with whom we agree on their actions and on their behavior. The idea is that anyone has the right not to be discriminated on the basis of their passport.”

The IOC’s Tuesday recommendations included not allowing “teams of athletes” from Russia and Belarus to return.

If Russia continues to be excluded from team sports and team events, it could further impact 2024 Olympic qualification.

The international basketball federation (FIBA) recently set an April 28 deadline to decide whether to allow Russia to compete in an Olympic men’s qualifying tournament. For women’s basketball, the draw for a European Olympic qualifying tournament has already been made without Russia.

In gymnastics, the ban has already extended long enough that, under current rules, Russian gymnasts cannot qualify for men’s and women’s team events at the Paris Games, but can still qualify for individual events if the ban is lifted.

Gymnasts from Russia swept the men’s and women’s team titles in Tokyo, where Russians in all sports competed for the Russian Olympic Committee rather than for Russia due to punishment for the nation’s doping violations. There were no Russian flags or anthems, conditions that the IOC also recommends for any return from the current ban for the war in Ukraine.

Seb Coe, the president of World Athletics, said last week that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned from track and field for the “foreseeable future.”

World Aquatics, the international governing body for swimming, diving and water polo, said after the IOC’s updated recommendations that it will continue to “consider developments impacting the situation” of Russian and Belarusian athletes and that “further updates will be provided when appropriate.”

The IOC’s sanctions against Russia and Belarus and their governments remain in place, including disallowing international competitions to be held in those countries.

On Monday, Ukraine’s sports minister said in a statement that Ukraine “strongly urges” that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned.

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Summer McIntosh breaks 400m freestyle world record, passes Ledecky, Titmus

Summer McIntosh

Summer McIntosh broke the women’s 400m freestyle world record at Canada’s swimming trials on Tuesday night, becoming at 16 the youngest swimmer to break a world record in an Olympic program event since Katie Ledecky a decade ago.

McIntosh clocked 3 minutes, 56.08 seconds in Toronto. Australian Ariarne Titmus held the previous record of 3:56.40, set last May. Before that, Ledecky held the record since 2014, going as low as 3:56.46.

“Going into tonight, I didn’t think the world record was a possibility, but you never know,” McIntosh, who had quotes from Ledecky on her childhood bedroom wall, said in a pool-deck interview moments after the race.

McIntosh’s previous best time was 3:59.32 from last summer’s Commonwealth Games. She went into Tuesday the fourth-fastest woman in history behind Titmus, Ledecky and Italian Federica Pellegrini.

She is also the third-fastest woman in history in the 400m individual medley and the 11th-fastest in the 200m butterfly, two events she won at last June’s world championships. She is the world junior record holder in those events, too.

MORE: McIntosh chose swimming and became Canada’s big splash

McIntosh, Titmus and Ledecky could go head-to-head-to-head in the 400m free at the world championships in July and at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Titmus is the reigning Olympic champion. Ledecky is the reigning world champion, beating McIntosh by 1.24 seconds last June while Titmus skipped the meet.

The last time the last three world record holders in an Olympic program event met in the final of a major international meet was the 2012 Olympic men’s 100m breaststroke (Brendan Hansen, Kosuke Kitajima, Brenton Rickard).

Ledecky, whose best events are the 800m and 1500m frees, broke her first world record in 2013 at 16 years and 4 months old.

McIntosh is 16 years and 7 months old and trains in Sarasota, Florida, which is 160 miles down Interstate 75 from Ledecky in Gainesville.

McIntosh, whose mom swam at the 1984 Olympics and whose sister competed at last week’s world figure skating championships, is the youngest individual world champion in swimming since 2011.

In 2021, at age 14, she became the youngest swimmer to race an individual Olympic final since 2008, according to She was fourth in the 400m free at the Tokyo Games.

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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