FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Simone Biles looks ready for Tokyo. So it seems, are the leading contenders vying to join the reigning world and Olympic gymnastics champion in Japan next month.
The 24-year-old Biles claimed her seventh U.S. title Sunday night, delivering another stunning — and stunningly easy — performance that served little doubt the pressure surrounding her bid to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around gold in more than 50 years is only pushing her to even greater heights.
Shaking off a somewhat sloppy start Friday, at least by her impeccable standards, Biles put on a four-rotation showcase on what separates her from every other gymnast on the planet. Her score of 119.650 was nearly five points better than runner-up Sunisa Lee and good friend and teammate Jordan Chiles.
"It's so crazy because in training I never go out of bounds and I never have this much power," Biles said. "But with the adrenaline, that's where it comes."
While Biles' victory was never in doubt — it rarely has been during her nearly eight-year reign atop the sport — she remains in no mood to coast. Visibly annoyed after stepping out of bounds three times during her floor routine on Friday, Biles responded the way she almost always does: by cleaning things up and expanding what is possible on the competition floor.
And to think she didn't even bother with her latest innovation, a Yurchenko double-pike vault she drilled twice at the U.S. Classic last month that caught the attention of everyone from LeBron James to Michelle Obama. Instead, she opted for two with slightly lower difficulty that she completed so casually it was hard to tell if she was in front of an arena that screamed for her at every turn or just fooling around at practice back home in Houston.
Not that it mattered. She still posted the top score on vault anyway. Just like she did on beam. Just like she did on floor. Just like she's done everywhere she's saluted the judges since the 2013 U.S. Championships.
The Yurchenko double-pike will return at Trials and likely in Tokyo, where if she completes it during competition yet another element in the sport's Code of Points will be named for her. Just add it to the list of what they call "#SimoneThings."
Biles has been a lock for Tokyo from the moment she returned to training in late 2017. Chiles and Lee may also be nearing that territory. The top two all-around finishers at Trials will earn an automatic spot on the Olympic team, though U.S. national team coordinator Tom Forster allowed Biles, Chiles and Lee have separated themselves from the pack.
"You can look at the scores and if the scores are anything, it looks like that," Forster said.
Yes it does.
Her floor exercise, the one that includes two elements already named after her in the sport's Code of Points, was far more precise than it was on Friday. She was well in bounds on all but one of her tumbling passes and her 14.950 included a 6.8 D-score, which ranks the difficulty of the routine, tied for the highest by any athlete on any event at the meet.
Lee, competing on a bad ankle that sometimes left her limping around the arena, Lee appears to be gaining momentum following a sluggish return to competition last month. Behind a bars routine that is one of the most innovative and electric on the planet, Lee fended off a strong challenge from Chiles to hold on to silver.
Chiles continued her remarkable rise over the last six months, finishing runner-up to Biles for the second time in three weeks. The 20-year-old, who started training alongside Biles two years ago, is practically now a lock to be named to the U.S. Olympic team following the trials in St. Louis later this month.
The real intrigue heading into the trials might be who else can emerge from a crowded field. Leanne Wong finished fourth, with Emma Malabuyo fifth. Jade Carey, who has already secured an at-large berth to the Olympics thanks to her performance on the World Cup circuit, was sixth.
Three gymnasts from the University of Utah — Kara Eaker, Grace McCallum and MyKayla Skinner — all made the senior women's national team and will compete at the trials. McCallum finished the U.S. Championships two-day event tied for seventh overall with an all-around score of 109.550. McCallum was trailed by Skinner, the 2016 Olympic alternate, who finished in ninth with an all-around score of 109.500, and Eaker in 10th with a score of 109.050.
Skinner made up some ground during Sunday's second session of the championship after a 10th-place finished after Day 1 and scored a 15.000 on vault Sunday, which was second only to Biles, who scored a 15.550 during the second day.
The group at the trials, however, will not include Laurie Hernandez. A two-time Olympic medalist in 2016, Hernandez did not compete after injuring her left knee on a beam dismount during warm-ups on Friday. The 20-year-old shared a picture of herself in her Captain American/Falcon-inspired leotard anyway sporting a sizable tape job over her injured knee.
A pair of former world champions are also likely out. Morgan Hurd, the 2017 world champion, could petition into Trials but has been struggling with both her injuries and her form didn't finish in the top 20 in any of her three events. Chellsie Memmel, the 2005 world champion who began a comeback last summer, saluted the crowd after ending her uneven bars routine.
The picture behind Biles and Chiles and Lee, however, remains crowded with only three weeks to go before the team is unveiled. That's not a bad thing.
"I do think the field has gotten better," Forster said.
The Olympic Trials will take place June 24-27 at The Dome at America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The team that will represent the U.S. in the Tokyo Olympics will be named following the event. For this year's Olympics, only four gymnasts will be selected for the team, with at most two more gymnasts that may compete as individuals.
Carey already has an at-large guarantee as an individual, but if she pursues a spot on the team, the U.S. loses an individual spot and will have no more than five gymnasts in Tokyo.
The full senior women's national team that will compete at
- Simone Biles
- Skye Blakely
- Jade Carey
- Jordan Chiles
- Kayla DiCello
- Amari Drayton
- Kara Eaker
- Addison Fatta
- Shilese Jones
- Emily Lee
- Sunisa Lee
- Emma Malabuyo
- Grace McCallum
- Riley McCusker
- Zoe Miller
- Ava Siegfeldt
- MyKayla Skinner
- Leanne Wong
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