Meet the Frontrunners for the U.S. Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team
Who will join Simone Biles in the top four? Here's who the pros have their money on.
One of the most popular parts of the summer Olympics is women's gymnastics. And though the official team won't be determined until the U.S. Olympic trials later this month, some serious frontrunners are emerging. Of course, there's the current queen of the sport, Simone Biles, but some other burgeoning stars will be joining her in Tokyo this summer. As you might recall from iconic teams like the "Final Five" and "Fierce Five," the women's Olympic gymnastics teams have historically been made up of five members. This year, new rules are forcing each country to pare that down to only four. Meaning, in addition to the near-lock that is Biles, there will only be three other women on the final team. Read on to find out who's likely to make up the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team.
It's not official, but it's basically certain that 24-year-old Simone Biles will be heading to the Olympics. As Insider points out, Biles has not lost an all-around competition since becoming a senior elite gymnast in 2013, and she made history earlier this month when she won her seventh national gymnastics championship.
Biles' total from the two-day competition of 119.650 was nearly five points higher than the runner-up, solidifying her position as the best in the game. In May, she landed a Yurchenko double pike vault at the U.S. Classic, becoming the first woman in history to perform the move in a competition.
An upcoming seven-part docuseries ahead of the Olympic trials, called Simone vs Herself, is set to premiere on Facebook Watch on June 15, following Biles' journey and challenges as she prepares for the Tokyo Olympics. In a voiceover in the trailer, the champ says: "I never imagined the Olympics would be postponed. Having to come back, am I going to be just as good? Can I do it again?" So far, it seems like a resounding yes.
As ESPN reports, the top two all-around finalists at the Olympic trials earn an automatic spot on the Olympic team—one of those is likely to be Biles, but the other is up for grabs. U.S. national team coordinator Tom Forster told ESPN two other young women have "separated themselves from the pack." "You can look at the scores, and if the scores are anything, it looks like that," Forster told ESPN.
The first? Jordan Chiles. The 20 year old, who trains in Texas with Biles, is named after Michael Jordan and much like her mentor, she shines on the vault. The two have trained together for the last two years and Chiles was all-around first runner-up behind Biles at the U.S. Classic in Indianapolis in May. In an emotional moment at the national championship in June, Chiles, who came in third, said: "Simone was telling me that I deserved what I just did, and that I'm basically gifted and talented and I have the opportunity to make that team. It just all hit me then. I'm so close."
Biles is clearly in her corner, telling the Team USA website, "I have a very good feeling if we keep this going, we have a good shot at making the Olympic team together and going to Tokyo."
Forster confirmed to the official site of the U.S. Olympics team that "Jordan's shown great consistency this year and has improved tremendously since 2019." He added: "She has done an incredible job and she looks like a solid contender."
At the national championship, Chiles went head-to-head with Suni Lee, who came in second behind Biles at the end of the two-day competition. Lee, an 18 year old from Saint Paul, Minnesota, had a recent ankle injury that left her future more uncertain, but she's long been a standout on the uneven bars.
"My bar routine was something I'm super proud of," Lee told USA Today after the national championship. "It just felt amazing. Like so surreal that I actually made the bar routine because I feel like people kind of doubted that I would be able to make that bar routine… I was really excited about that."
Lee got a boost of support when she saw her father and brother in the crowd before she hopped up on the bars. Her father fell off a ladder almost two years ago, an accident that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair. It was his first time watching his daughter in the arena since then. "I saw them and I was like, 'OK, this is going to be a good routine,'" Lee said. It certainly was—she came in first in that event.
The fourth spot is a wild card.
"The situation behind those three remains as wide open as ever," according to the Team USA website. Rounding out the top 10 at the national championship behind Biles, Lee, and Chiles was Emma Malabuyo, Leanne Wong, Jade Carey, a tie between Grace McCallum and Skye Blakely for seventh, followed by MyKayla Skinner and Kara Eaker.
Eight more young women will join them at the Olympic trials on June 25: Kayla DiCello, Amari Drayton, Addison Fatta, Shilese Jones, Emily Lee, Riley McCusker, Zoe Miller, and Ava Siegfeldt.
In addition to the four members of the team, the U.S. has two other Olympics spots available to assign to individual gymnasts whose scores won't count in the all-around competition, but can help with specific events: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, or floor. As the Insider notes, the USA Gymnastics Athlete Selection Procedures state that the selection committee will fill these spots "based on the goal of maximizing medal potential in individual event competition." One of them will be going to Carey (pictured here), a specialist on the floor and vault who clinched one of the open positions in April 2020. Forster told Team USA Carey is not expected to compete for a spot on the Olympic team since "doing so would forfeit the individual spot and mean the U.S. could send five, rather than six, women to Tokyo."
The Insider notes there was only 0.75 of a point between McCallum, Blakely, Skinner, Eaker, and DiCello at the national championships, "making the choice between them all the more difficult." Skinner has proven herself a fierce competitor on the vault; McCusker has shown prowess on the bars; McCallum is known for her work on the beam; and DiCello and Wong have had impressive floor routines. But it's not just who's the best—it's who will compliment Biles, Chiles, and Lee and fill in where they may be weaker.
As the Team USA site points out, "The list is so long because each of those women, if things go just right, could realistically contend for either a spot on the four-person Olympic team or the other individual spot."
You can watch the women's Olympic gymnastics trials on NBC on June 25 at 8 p.m. ET and June 27 at 8:30 p.m. ET, to find out who's heading to Tokyo.