Already the greatest gymnast of all time, Simone Biles has booked a return trip to the Olympic Games and will have the opportunity to build on her legacy in exactly one month.
The seven-time national champion became the first to win U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials twice for as far back as public records go.
Biles handily won the women’s all-around in St. Louis with a two-day total of 118.098 points, a margin of 2.66 over Sunisa Lee (115.832), who assured her Olympic debut by finishing second.
They will be joined on the team by Jordan Chiles, third at Trials with 114.631 points, and Grace McCallum, fourth with 112.564 points, who were named by a selection committee.
“I feel like I’ve been emotional this whole week,” Biles told NBC reporter Andrea Joyce. “I just can’t believe Olympic Trials is here again, I can’t believe I’m here again. It’s been a journey, and five years later we’re doing it again.”
MyKayla Skinner, who five years ago was an Olympic replacement athlete, was chosen to compete as an individual at the Olympics. Her best events are floor exercise and vault (for which she won bronze at the 2014 Worlds), though she was fifth in the all-around at Olympic Trials and first after the first day.
Riley McCusker was a favorite for that Olympic spot entering the final day, but she fell off her sole event — uneven bars — on Sunday.
Jade Carey will also compete as an individual. She locked in her spot, by name, in the spring of 2020 after winning the vault title at three World Cups. Carey should to make both the floor and vault finals, owning World Cup golds and world championship medals on both.
Carey and Skinner will have the option to compete as many of the events they choose in Olympic qualification.
It has been a given for the past few weeks that Chiles — Biles’ great friend and World Champions Centre training mate — was a virtual lock for the team. In her breakout year, she has been third to Biles and Lee at the past two meets, and is the only one of the Olympic team to go 24 for 24 in clean routines this season.
Two-time world team member McCallum was consistent at Trials and moved up from fifth after the first day.
Biles, Lee, Chiles and McCallum will head to Japan with plans of earning the U.S. women’s third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the team event, a feat not seen since the Soviet Union won eight straight from 1952-1980.
“I think this four-person team has a lot of depth, so we should be set once we get over there [to Tokyo],” Biles told reporters.
Biles will be the only one of the six U.S. women competing in Tokyo with Olympic experience, just as Sam Mikulak is of the five men. At 24, she and Skinner will be the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s gymnasts since Annia Hatch (26) and Mohini Bhardwaj (25) in 2004.
Lee, meanwhile, becomes the first Hmong American on an Olympic gymnastics team.
The 18-year-old has consistently been the nation’s second-best to Biles since making her senior debut in 2019.
Lee won the 2019 U.S. all-around silver, uneven bars gold and floor bronze, then at the 2019 Worlds she made the all-around final and took silver on floor and bronze on bars.
Repeating her all-around silver and bars title at the 2021 U.S. Championships — while still recovering from a foot injury, Lee is now a favorite for Olympic gold on bars with one of the most difficult routines in the world.
“This means so much to me,” Lee said on the broadcast. “I’ve worked so hard for the past couple of years, and to just go on the floor and do everything I was supposed to do feels amazing.”
Lee won both the bars and balance beam titles at Trials.
Sunday’s victory did not come as easily for Biles as her astounding 25 previous all-around wins had over the last eight years.
Looking concerned and potentially nervous all night, she was unhappy with the hops she had on both vault landings as the competition began, though still had the highest vault scores.
In the second rotation, Biles’ legs separated on uneven bars and she took multiple steps on her landing.
She then moved to beam, and fell off that apparatus for the second time this season.
Biles was seen crying for several minutes while coach Laurent Landi taped her foot, causing speculation over a potential injury.
“I’m just old; I’m always in pain,” Biles explained at the end of the night. “Something always hurts.”
She ended what could potentially be the last domestic meet of her career on floor, leaving out a connection and twice going out of bounds — though she still had the highest floor score of the day.
“I was just really upset,” Biles told Joyce. “Everybody out here came, gave their heart, and I didn’t give my best performance, so that’s what I was most upset about.”
Biles already holds several records in the sport, but is expected to add to the list in Tokyo. She already has 25 world championship medals, more than any other male or female gymnast, and four skills named after her.
A fifth eponymous skill could come next month if Biles successfully competes the Yurchenko double pike vault she debuted at last month’s U.S. Classic.
After winning Olympic golds in the all-around, floor, team event and vault — and bronze on uneven bars — five years ago in Rio, Biles will become the most decorated U.S. Olympic gymnast with just three more medals.
Should she win five gold medals — which she did at the 2019 World Championships — Biles would be the first U.S. woman in any sport to do so at a single Games. That would also cause her to displace swimmer Jenny Thompson for most career Olympic gold medals by a U.S. woman.
Simply winning the all-around, which Biles has done at five world championships, would make her the first woman in 58 years to win that title twice.
A four-person replacement team was also named, consisting of 2019 U.S. junior champion Kayla DiCello, 2019 Worlds balance beam fourth-place finisher Kara Eaker, 2018 U.S. junior champion Leanne Wong and 2021 U.S. fourth-place finisher Emma Malabuyo. They placed sixth through ninth at Trials.
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