Tokyo Olympics: the story finally at hand, Biles headlining the American gymnastics team

Simone Biles against herself remains a work in progress. The gymnastics superstar against the world?

Like always.

Next stop, Tokyo. And one more shot on history. And gold. Maybe a lot.

The reigning world and Olympic champion will headline the U.S. women’s gymnastics team in Japan next month, claiming one of the automatic spots with another easy victory at the Olympic trials on Sunday night.

Well, maybe not that easy.

The 24-year-old found herself in tears at one point during a performance unusually shaky by her impeccable performances. His bars were uneven. She fell off the beam. Out of bounds for floor exercise. While her two-day total of 118.098 was more than two points ahead of Olympic teammate Sunisa Lee, Lee actually posted a higher overall score than Biles in the final.

I kind of got into my head today and started doubting myself, Biles said.

And you could see it in gymnastics. But go home, work harder. This is just the start of the journey.

Or maybe the beginning of the end. Biles isn’t sure what to expect after the Tokyo Games. She has focused too much on trying to become the first woman in over half a century to repeat her Olympic title. The lure of history and respect for her immense talent is the reason she returned after a short hiatus after her dominant five-medal performance in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. This is why she stayed after the COVID-19 pandemic has led authorities to postpone the opening ceremonies. in Tokyo for a year.

Biles travels to Japan as the face of his sport, the American delegation and possibly even the entire Olympic movement. She has become more than just a gymnastics star since her coronation in Rio in 2016. Her consistent excellence, her last second place in a competition came over nine years ago, combined with her charisma and stimulating routines. propelled her into the business. by Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, athletes whose dominance on the world stage has made them Olympic icons.

Sport stops to watch when she does her thing. The pressure she feels both inside and out is real. And it gushed as she greeted the slightly exhausted judges after her floor routine, grateful for the standing ovation that came with it but also just relieved that the big show was finally here.

Yes, very relieved that the Olympic trials are over, she said.

We still have a lot of work to do once there.

Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum will join Biles in the four-woman Olympic team. MyKayla Skinner, a substitute in 2016, was awarded the plus-1 specialist position. Jade Carey has secured a nominative spot on the World Cup circuit, which means she will compete as an individual.

Kayla DiCello, Kara Eaker, Leanne Wong and Emma Malabuyo will be the replacements.

The selection committee opted to take the top four in practice, although national team coordinator Tom Forster admitted that a team with Skinner instead of McCallum could potentially get a slightly higher score due to the jump from Skinner’s world class.

However, fractions of a point are unlikely to differentiate between gold and silver. If the Americans are anywhere near the top of their game, they should win their third straight Olympic crown by a substantial margin. It was enough for the committee to take the order of the ranking at the top.

We’re so lucky that our athletes are so strong that I don’t think it’s going to come down to tenths of a point in Tokyo, Forster said.

It doesn’t seem to be … so as a committee we just didn’t think it was worth changing the integrity of the process for a few tenths.

Lee, who will be the first American Hmong to compete in the Olympics, is booming. Embarrassed by an ankle injury that slowed her down in the spring and left her limping at times at the national championships earlier this month, Lee is perhaps the best gymnast on the planet unnamed Biles.

The 18-year-old from Minnesota is a wonder on uneven bars, one of the few gymnasts on the planet who can outshine Biles in an event. Its series of intricate connections, all made with a fluidity and grace that make for an effortless appearance, are among the toughest in the sport.

I just told myself to take a deep breath and do what I normally do, because it’s a time when I just had to do my gymnastics, Lee said.

Chiles admits she probably wouldn’t go to Tokyo without the pandemic. She moved to Houston to train with Biles two years ago, but was still finding herself as an athlete. She has become one of the most electric and reliable gymnasts in a country with the largest talent pool in the world. Chiles hit her 24 competitive routines in 2021, and she put her face in her hands after her floor exercise to drink into the fulfillment of a dream she feared would never come true.

It was a very emotional moment for me because I have been through so much with everything that has happened, said Chiles.

I am just very excited.

With reason. The Americans have dominated every major international competition since winning gold in London in 2012. The streak hasn’t stopped even after the retirement of former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and the fallout. the sexual abuse scandal surrounding former national team doctor Larry Nassar.

The cloud of Nassar persists as the lawsuits between the survivors and the organization remain in mediation.

However, when Biles, who is a survivor of Nassar herself, is on the ground, the narrative changes. And she knows it. His presence is one of the guiding lights of the whole movement. She is ready to put on one last show.

I think I’ll try to live in the moment for a bit because 2016 has been so blurry, she said.

Once we got there, it all happened so fast. … This time we can relax a bit. And kind of take advantage of the training and enjoy the process.

It’s almost over.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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