Still improving each time she competes, Simone Biles is far ahead at her second Olympic Trials
Since the world first learned her name, Simone Biles has been leaps and bounds (slight pun intended) ahead of the field every time she competes -- and yet the greatest gymnast of all time continues to improve.
Biles put out her best floor routine of the season -- so far -- on Friday night, the first day of women’s competition at the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials.
That’s saying something considering she had the highest floor exercise scores at both the U.S. Classic in May and the U.S. Championships earlier this month.
In an electrifying performance that included two eponymous skills, the five-time world floor champion scored 15.366 points; that’s 0.416 greater than her previous highest floor score this season and a full 1.116 points more than her floor score from U.S. Classic. The routine had a difficulty of 6.8, an astounding number, and Biles managed to stay in bounds throughout -- something that proved to be a challenge at nationals, due to her amplitude and power.
“I feel like I’m going to remember staying in bounds [on floor], getting all my credit on beam, and just being out here with three of my [World Champions Centre gym] teammates,” Biles told NBC reporter Andrea Joyce. “It’s been a blast.”
To no one’s surprise, Biles leads in St. Louis halfway through the competition with an all-around score of 60.656 points. She is 2.899 points ahead of second-place Suni Lee (57.666).
For context on how much Biles has improved since 2016 -- when she believed she was at her peak -- her two-night winning total from Olympic Trials that year was just 2.1 points over Laurie Hernandez.
Biles also had the night’s highest scores on balance beam (15.133), which included her Biles dismount, and vault (15.466).
The five-time Olympic medalist (four are gold) still has room for increased difficulty and higher scores. She did not perform the Biles vault, nor what is expected to be dubbed the Biles II -- a Yurchenko double pike she premiered at U.S. Classic.
Lee had the night’s best uneven bars score -- 0.4 ahead of Biles’ -- and should contend for the Olympic bars gold medal.
NBC commentator and Olympic medalist Tim Daggett called her performance, “the hardest bar routine, I believe, being done in the world today.”
In a tight race for minimal Olympic spots where a mere 0.834 points separate third through sixth place, Biles’ teammate and close friend Jordan Chiles sits in third with 57.132 points.
MyKayla Skinner (56.598), Grace McCallum (56.498) and Kayla DiCello (56.598) follow.
The men’s competition, currently led by Brody Malone, concludes Saturday and the women’s on Sunday.
The top two women’s all-around finishers will qualify to the Olympic team. A selection committee will then choose two others to join them; the team size in Tokyo is four -- the smallest yet. The U.S. will also send two individual athletes who can compete on all apparatuses for qualification purposes, but their scores do not count toward the team event.
ON HER TURF: Why Biles is the GOAT
Biles and Lee finished 1-2 at both the 2019 and 2021 U.S. Championships and are poised to repeat that, which would earn them the automatic spots.
Chiles has been a consistent frontrunner for the team all season long, winning Winter Cup, placing second at U.S. Classic and third at U.S. Championships (where she was top-four on all events).
The fourth spot is more interesting.
Emma Malabuyo emerged as a favorite after vaulting to a surprising fourth at nationals two and a half weeks ago, but she currently sits in ninth in St. Louis.
Skinner, an alternate on the 2016 Olympic team, is steadily increasing her chances at a true Olympic debut. She left the elite ranks after Rio to compete collegiately for Utah for three seasons.
After initially intended to return as a specialist (she had the second-highest vault score of the night to Biles), the 24-year-old has been improving across all events.
Skinner was ninth at nationals but is in fourth so far at Trials; she held on to third place through the first three rotations.
“It was the best meet of her entire life,” 2008 Olympic all-around champion and NBC commentator Nastia Liukin said.
Two-time Olympic medalist Hernandez added, “This being her second Olympic Trials, it’s really interesting to watch her come back, and honestly I think she is even better than she was in 2016.”
In this year’s Olympic team final, three athletes will compete on each apparatus and all three scores will count. That’s why the four-person team is likely to include the U.S.’ best all-arounders.
While questions remain for rounding out the team, the rest of the Olympic picture became far more clear.
Jade Carey had locked in an individual spot -- by name -- via the World Cup series. She still had the option to compete for the four-person team, but if she were to make that team the U.S. would lose her individual spot.
After initially scratching from floor on Day 1, Carey did compete all-around but is sitting in 14th of 16 all-around athletes. She had the second-best vault score of the night (15.2).
It is now all but confirmed that Carey can no longer finish top-two and will not be selected to the team, so she will accept and fill the spot she earned.
The remaining individual spot will go to a gymnast who has medal potential in at least one event.
Riley McCusker is looking like the best candidate so far, as she had the second-highest score on uneven bars behind World silver medalist Lee and ahead of Biles.
McCallum, fifth in the all-around, was second on floor and should also be considered.
Aside from McCusker and McCallum (and Carey), the top three finishers on all four events are accounted for in the current top four in the all-around.
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!