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The fight for the Olympic team spots: Who will make the five-member squads?


MINNEAPOLIS — Last stop, the Twin Cities. Next stop: Paris.

The U.S. gymnastics trials pull into the Target Center this weekend, where 20 men and 16 women will compete for five spots each on the men’s and women’s U.S. Olympic teams. The men hope to send a team to Paris that can match their bronze medal world championship performance in Antwerp, Belgium, last October. And the women hope to improve on their team silver from Tokyo.

Both goals are lofty and achievable, and the competition to make the two teams will be fierce. Here’s what to know as competition begins Thursday.

Biles is a lock

It’s been just over three weeks since the U.S. championships in Fort Worth, where Biles won the all-around and every individual event gold medal. The 27-year-old is undefeated in all-around competition since 2013, a streak that’s likely never to be matched and is anticipated to culminate in Paris.

“She is an icon in our sport,” Alicia Sacramone Quinn, the USA Gymnastics strategic lead and a member of the selection committee, said on Wednesday. “I don’t know if there will ever be another gymnast who will come close to touching her caliber of achievements, difficulty and the impact she’s had on our sport.”

If Biles wins this two-day meet in Minneapolis, she will earn the only automatic bid to the five-woman team. Then she will turn her focus to blocking the outside noise ahead of the Paris Games, where she can become the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history and the first gymnast to win Olympic all-around gold in non-consecutive Games.

Brody is a shoo-in, too

After sticking his high-bar dismount at U.S. championships, Brody Malone let out a roar. “Going through what I’ve gone through, I’ve learned to be grateful for every opportunity to compete,” he said that night, after winning his third national title in four years — in his first time competing in more than a year.

In spring 2023, Malone crashed while dismounting from the high bar at a World Cup in Germany, fracturing his tibia and tearing his meniscus and two major ligaments in his right knee. He had multiple surgeries before spending months relearning how to walk. His return to the sport has been incredible, as is his determination to make his second Olympic team. If his performance in Fort Worth was any indication, the 24-year-old is the favorite to take the all-around title and earn the automatic bid.

Shilese and Suni are an alliterative force

Neither Shilese Jones nor Suni Lee have shored up spots on the team. But they have certainly submitted iron-clad statements for why they deserve to be selected. Jones, 21, didn’t compete at U.S. championships to rest her injured right shoulder in the hopes of being 100 percent at trials, but has consistently proved to be the No. 2 all-around gymnast in the country.

On Wednesday, her coach, Sarah Korngold, said the decision to rest her shoulder was a good one: Jones is pain free this week and working to regain her stamina. If her shoulder holds up, she’s on the squad.

A year ago, it seemed nearly impossible to imagine Lee, 21, the reigning Olympic all-around champion, making this team. She had been recently diagnosed with two kidney diseases that kept her out of training on many days. Last August, Lee turned down an invitation to the world team selection camp to focus on her health and didn’t train for more than four months. Then she returned to the gym in January and began to slowly increase her training and upgrade her routines. She was fantastic on bars and beam in Fort Worth, and if she performs similarly this weekend, she will make the team on the strength of her skill on both events. That trials are taking place in her hometown only adds fuel to Lee’s fire.

Up until this week, 19-year-old Skye Blakely was also a heavy favorite to make the team. Blakely finished second in the all-around behind Biles in Fort Worth, and debuted a new vault for her, called the Cheng. But in podium training on Wednesday, Blakely was wheeled off the floor with what looked like a serious leg injury.

Prepare for a fight for the final women’s spots

If all goes as predicted, three spots appear all but taken on the women’s side. Will the selection committee award the final spots to another all-arounder, such as Kayla DiCello, who finished third at nationals, or Jordan Chiles, who finished third at U.S. Classics? Or could it be Leanne Wong, who’s been one of the most consistent performers in the country over the past few years and debuted a Cheng of her own at Wednesday’s podium training?

They may also choose another specialist to balance Lee’s strengths on bars and beam, such as Jade Carey, Joscelyn Roberson or Kaliya Lincoln, who are known for their skill on vault and floor.

The wild thread that runs through this group: Four of these women competed in NCAA gymnastics after the Tokyo Olympics. Two of them, Wong and Carey, competed this past season while also training elite-level skills. Wong has been a member of the past three world championship teams while earning all-America honors at the University of Florida. Carey, the reigning Olympic floor champion, hit 55 of 55 routines and earned seven perfect 10.0 scores in 2023 at Oregon State.

“I’ve been so thankful for the past three weeks of training,” Wong said Wednesday. “It was a super quick turnaround from NCAA to Classics and from Classics to Championships. I finally had time to train my elite routines. I’ve done everything I can in the gym and now it’s time to have fun.”

Despite all of these credentials, it looks like a maximum of two of these women will hear their names called Sunday night.

Two other NCAA stars are ready for their five-ring moment

Fred Richard (University of Michigan) and Khoi Young (Stanford) had breakout 2023 seasons on the men’s national team while becoming stars for their universities. Richard, 20, and Young, 21, were part of the 2023 team that earned the country’s first world championship team medal since 2014, and Richard took bronze in the all-around, only the fourth American man (and the youngest ever) to do so. Both men hope to earn individual medals in Paris while helping the U.S. team return to the Olympic podium for the first time since the 2008 team earned bronze.


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