U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials: Simone Biles leads as injuries derail others (2024)

MINNEAPOLIS—

Simone Biles wobbled, stepped and shook her way through her beam routine, and when she mercifully dismounted, she rolled her eyes. On the big screen at Target Center, Biles appeared to mutter a four-letter word that left the sold-out crowd laughing.

“Relatable,” a woman in the crowd said.

Biles restored order and took a comfortable first-place lead after the first day of women’s competition at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials, but the selection process for the team grew ever murkier after a slew of injuries dominated a meet of nerves and mistakes.

After Biles’ meet-leading 58.900, UCLA star Jordan Chiles was solid on all four events to place second with a 56.400. Reigning all-around champion Suni Lee proved that despite battling two kidney diseases, she is still a threat in all four events, finishing third with an all-around score of 56.025, her highest since she won all-around gold in Tokyo three years ago.

U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials: Simone Biles leads as injuries derail others (1)

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All three are in strong standing to earn return trips to the Olympics. The team will be announced Sunday after the second day of women’s competition, which begins at 5:30 p.m. PDT (NBC).

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After Biles, the selection process was expected to be one of the most difficult in recent history because of the national team’s depth, but injuries are testing it.

Three of the top seven Olympic contenders were injured by the first routine. While two-time world team champion Skye Blakely patrolled the floor with her leg in a hard cast because of an Achilles injury suffered Wednesday during podium training, Shilese Jones, the No. 2 all-around contender behind Biles, injured her left knee during vault warmups and could muster only a routine on bars. On the first routine of the meet, Kayla DiCello, who was an alternate for the Tokyo Olympic team, injured her right ankle. Coaches carried her off the mat and placed her in a wheelchair as she was forced to withdraw.

Laurent Landi, coach for World Champions Centre that boasts Biles, Chiles and fifth-place all-arounder Joscelyn Roberson, acknowledged watching DiCello’s injury heightened the anxiety for the other athletes.

The meet already is the most stressful event Chiles has competed in, she said. Having gone through the process three years ago did not make it easier. Chiles said she was getting into her own head this week and her practice Friday morning was rough.

But true to the gregarious nature she often shows at UCLA meets, Chiles danced through the nerves, lounged on the plush white couches between events and cheered on her teammates. She resettled herself after the morning practice by listening to a playlist of songs from female artists such as Beyonce and Megan Thee Stallion.

U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials: Simone Biles leads as injuries derail others (2)

Jordan Chiles competes on the vault at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials on Friday.

(Abbie Parr / Associated Press)

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“What I came in to do today was basically just to have fun and to vibe with everybody,” Chiles said, acknowledging that the early injuries put a damper on the mood. “Knowing [the injuries happened], I just knew that I need to take time to myself and reset and just have fun. This meet is already stressful itself so might as well put some good energy out there.”

Chiles notched her highest all-around score of the year, boosted by an upgraded mount on beam that earned three-tenths more in difficulty points.

Every fraction matters as the selection committee will choose a five-athlete team with the goal of maximizing earning potential in the Olympic team final. In Paris, three athletes compete on every event and all scores count toward the team total.

The subjectivity of selection leaves a door open for Jones, who limped off the mat after she landed her bars dismount but still scored a 14.675, the highest of the competition on the event. Although Jones has proven herself to be a consistent all-around force, her recent injuries could impact her standing with the committee. Jones could have about one month to recover from a minor tweak, but the committee “always [has] to look at what’s being done right now in front of us because that’s what we can actually bank on,” Alicia Sacramone Quinn told reporters Wednesday.

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Sacramone Quinn, the strategic lead of the women’s high performance team and one of the selection committee members, added that balancing consistent all-around scores with individual event specialists will be “a puzzle.”

Upgrades such as Chiles’ front pike mount and Leanne Wong’s Cheng vault are valuable pieces. Wong’s new vault is worth six-tenths more in difficulty points than her previous routine and she earned a 14.450 on Friday, ranking third en route to an eighth-place all-around standing. She was one of four athletes who competed a vault worth 5.6 difficulty points or more.

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The hardest skill belonged to Biles. She bounced back from wobbling on almost every element of her beam routine to return to her usual dominant self on floor, then put an exclamation on her night with her signature Biles II vault, the Yurchenko double pike. She took only one step on the landing after two sky-high flips in the air and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

More to Read

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    June 30, 2024

  • More than the Simone Biles show: What to watch for at U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials

    June 26, 2024

  • U.S. Olympic trials: Athing Mu’s hopes of a golden repeat in the 800 shattered

    June 24, 2024

U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials: Simone Biles leads as injuries derail others (2024)

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