Simone Biles is the greatest gymnast of all time, and not just because she is expected to leave Tokyo with the same number of medals she earned in Rio in 2016 (five: gold in the individual all-around, vault and floor, bronze in balance beam and gold in the team event). It’s how she’ll do it: “She could have done the exact same [routines] and still would’ve been able to win. But she’s truly trying to be better than herself every year,” says five-time Olympic gymnastics medalist turned commentator Nastia Liukin.
Since Rio, Biles, 24, has had three more gravity-defying new skills named after her; if she lands her take on a Yurchenko double pike vault at the Games, her career tally will be five.
Along with potentially giving the U.S. its fifth consecutive women’s individual all-around champion, Biles looks to lead an unparalleled four-person squad to its third-straight team title. Suni Lee, 18, combines power and grace with the hardest uneven-bars routine in the world. Jordan Chiles, 20, who’s trained with Biles since 2019, has been rock-solid this year, hitting 24 of 24 routines in competition.
“It’s incredible to see what can happen with a bit of change and believing in yourself,” says Liukin.
And Grace McCallum, 18, is a calm presence capable of stepping up where needed.
Jade Carey, 21, and MyKayla Skinner, 24, nabbed individual berths, meaning their scores won’t count toward the team. They’ll try to qualify for spots in the all-around and apparatus finals (each country still has a limit of two athletes in those events). Root for Skinner if you like comebacks: She was an alternate in Rio, and battled COVID and pneumonia last winter. Says Liukin, “It was inspirational to watch her journey.”
Men’s Team: New Hope
The U.S. men haven’t won a team medal in gymnastics since they took bronze in Beijing in 2008, but his third Olympics could be the charm for veteran Sam Mikulak. He’ll have three rookies by his side: unflappable reigning national champion Brody Malone, whose high-bar routine could be golden; Yul Moldauer, a master of what analyst Tim Daggett dubs Gymnastics 101 (“Fly high and stick the landing!”); and Shane Wiskus, who proved his mental toughness in June when he put a scary three-fall high-bar outing at the U.S. championships behind him to wow at the Olympic trials weeks later. Also: Pommel horse specialist Alec Yoder tries to tame that devil apparatus. Godspeed.
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