By Nancy Armour |
The U.S. women might want to consider bringing a Brinks truck with them to Tokyo.
Simone Biles alone would be enough to make the Americans overwhelming favorites to win their third consecutive Olympic title. But the other gymnasts accompanying her to Tokyo, both on the four-person team and the two individuals, give the U.S. women the potential to win a lot of medals.
A lot a lot.
“Each person on this team brings something for each event,” Sunisa Lee said Sunday night. “I think we’re going to do pretty good overall.”
Biles was a given to make the Tokyo team from the second she announced in late 2017 that she was coming back — I mean, duh. She’s the greatest gymnast the sport has ever seen, and locked her spot for Tokyo by finishing first at the two-day Olympic trials.
But thanks to several uncharacteristic errors by Biles — she fell off beam and went out of bounds on floor twice — Lee actually finished ahead of her in Sunday’s event.
“Simone Night One kicked Simone Night Two’s butt,” Biles said. “But at the end of the day, it is what it is. It wasn’t my best performance. I kind of got in my head today and started doubting myself. And you could see that in the gymnastics.
“Just go home, work harder.”
Lee acknowledges she is not likely to finish ahead of Biles again. But her performance establishes her as a threat to join Biles on the all-around podium. She’s also arguably the best in the world on uneven bars, and posted the highest two-day score at trials on balance beam.
Jordan Chiles, who was third behind Biles and Lee at both the national championships and trials, hasn’t counted a fall all year. That’s 24 routines between Winter Cup in February, the U.S. Classic in May, nationals and trials, and there isn’t a team in the world that would turn down that kind of consistency.
When Chiles finished the floor exercise, her last routine of the night, she bent over and briefly put her face in her hands. Coach Cecile Landi gave her a big hug as she walked off the podium, and she then shared a long embrace with Biles, who she trains with in Houston.
“I was just really, really excited that I did what I did and I really was just hoping the outcome was going to be good,” Chiles said. “But then, at the same time, I was just focusing on the fact that I did my job when I needed to, and I was just very proud of myself.”
The fourth member of the team is Grace McCallum, a member of the 2018 and 2019 world championship teams.
“The four-person team, we have a lot of depth on all of the events, so I think we’ll be set,” Biles said. “And it should be fun.”
Though MyKayla Skinner won’t compete with the U.S. team, she can finally shed her label as the perennial alternate, selected as one of the Americans’ two individual gymnasts. Skinner also has medal potential on two events, vault and floor exercise.
After finishing vault, her final event Sunday, Skinner smiled and blew kisses to the crowd. When she was introduced as a member of the Olympic team, she practically sprinted up the steps of the podium.
National team coordinator Tom Forster said Skinner was chosen as the “plus-one” because McCallum had a better two-day score at trials. While he acknowledged the U.S. women’s scoring potential would have been higher with Skinner on the team, he wanted the selection process to be straightforward — something USA Gymnastics has not exactly been known for in the past.
“We’re so, so fortunate 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, acknowledging what the world already knows. “So as a committee, we just didn’t feel it was worth changing the integrity of the process simply for a couple of tenths.”
Jade Carey had already locked down the other individual spot as the winner of the vault title in the individual apparatus World Cup series. She, too, will be a contender on both floor and vault.
Countries are limited to two gymnasts in the all-around and event finals. But given how deep the U.S. women are rolling into Tokyo, that still leaves room for them to come home with a lot of precious medals.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.