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The United States Gymnastics Championships came to an end over the weekend, and few could have been surprised that Simone Biles dominated the competition.
Despite some uncharacteristic mistakes on Friday, which she counted with an abundance of strength and adrenaline, Biles, 24, sailed to her seventh US record title on Sunday night in Fort Worth, Texas. Biles won three of the four events on Sunday, and did so while leaving some of her best tricks – including a jump so technically advanced that other gymnasts wouldn’t even try – in reserve.
“It’s really emotional, especially when I’m doing an Olympic run for the second time, it’s really crazy,” said Biles, who has won every all-around competition she has competed in since 2013.
“It was a lot of fun,” she added, “but it was also a lot of stress.”
Here’s what the event revealed about Biles, the other top gymnasts, and the Olympics, which are kicking off in just over six weeks.
Biles is still the best gymnast in the world.
Biles has dominated world gymnastics for eight years. But because she and all other gymnasts were mostly inactive during the pandemic, there were always questions about how she would perform on the big stage.
Biles left no doubt at the US championships and won the overall title with a comfortable 4.7 points lead. She won three of the four events and came third in the bars.
Biles did better on the second day of the meeting than on Saturday, another good sign. On day 1, she kicked out of bounds three times while doing the floor exercise. On day 2, she only did this once.
“It’s so crazy because I never go out of line in training and I never have that much power,” Biles told reporters. “But with the adrenaline, it depends.”
Bile could do even better at the Olympics.
Missing from Biles’ routine was the Jurchenko double pike jump that shone in the US classics last month. On that turn, Biles begins a backward hand jump, then turns twice into a pike position before landing. It’s so technically difficult – and therefore potentially dangerous – that no other woman has tried it in the competition.
Instead, Biles performed two vaults that, at least for her, are more routine: Cheng and Amanar. She is expected to bring back the Yurchenko pike at the Games.
Biles won four out of six possible gold medals in Rio and only lost on the beam and on the beam. It is not inconceivable that it will surpass this achievement in Tokyo.
Even before the US trials, the team is taking shape.
Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles finished second and third in the U.S. Championships, well ahead of the rest of the field (but still nearly five full points behind Biles in a sport that measures scores to hundredths). Lee and Chiles both appear to be strong contenders for the United States’ five-man Olympic squad. Despite a persistent ankle injury, Lee won the bars on Sunday, making it the only gymnast to finish anything ahead of Biles.
The top two finishers in the United States Olympic Trials, which will be held June 24-27, will automatically receive seats in the Games, but USA Gymnastics will be able to select the rest of the team at its own discretion. It’s hard to imagine now that Lee and Chiles would be left out, barring injuries.
Jade Carey, who finished sixth in the Nationals, had already fought for a place as an individual candidate in Tokyo, but not a place in the US four-women team.
Some popular names may not qualify for Tokyo.
After the championships, 18 gymnasts were appointed to the US national team and received places in the exams. But some well-known athletes didn’t. Laurie Hernandez, 20, part of the 2016 team, injured herself warming up and did not compete. Chellsie Memmel, a 2008 team member, a mother of two trying to make a comeback at age 32, stopped halfway through a bar routine after losing her footing and didn’t do the floor exercise. Morgan Hurd, 19, a former all-around world champion, only attended two events and did poorly.