American star Simone Biles aims for more history in Tokyo

Jordan Chiles competes in the floor exercise at the Women's Olympic Gymnastics Trials in the United States on Sunday, June 27, 2021, in St. Louis.  (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson)

Jordan Chiles competes in the floor exercise at the Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Trials in the United States on Sunday, June 27, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson)


RIO HIGHLIGHTS: American star Simone Biles made the 2016 Games her own personal showcase, winning five medals (four gold, one bronze) and redefining what is possible along the way. The American women won their second consecutive team gold medal and took home nine medals in total in their final competition under the leadership of former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi. … Japan’s Kohei Uchimura edged out Ukrainian Oleg Verniaiev to win back-to-back Olympic titles in the men’s all-around. More importantly, Uchimura also guided the Japanese to victory in the team final as their longtime rival and defending Olympic champion China faded to third place behind Russia.

WHAT’S NEW: The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has reduced the official size of teams from five athletes in Rio to four in Tokyo in an effort to level the playing field a bit for countries with no talent pool. is not as important as superpowers like the United States and Russia. Countries could also obtain a “plus 1” specialist place by meeting certain qualifying standards, although the “plus 1” athlete is only eligible for individual awards and is not allowed to compete in the team competition. The FIG also allowed the athletes to obtain a nominative individual place in the organization’s World Cup circuit. American Jade Carey took advantage of the change to secure her own place in Tokyo ahead of the US Olympic trials. The trade-off is that Carey will not be allowed to compete with other Americans and will have to wear a different leotard. Does this sound confusing? This is why the FIG has announced that it will remove the nominative individual qualification standard and restore team size to five athletes in Paris 2024.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: Biles is looking to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic titles in over 50 years. The 24-year-old has become a transcendent figure in the sports world since her star performance in Brazil. It’s also better than ever, adding improvements to the floor, beam and vault exercises that will essentially turn the sport’s code of points into its own Wikipedia entry. The Americans are heavily favored to win a third consecutive team gold medal. Russia, China and host Japan have spent the past half-decade in a close battle for supremacy on the men’s side. The Russians beat the Chinese at the 2019 world championships.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: Biles isn’t the only American to come home with multiple medals. Sunisa Lee, the first American Hmong to be part of an Olympic team, is a revelation on uneven bars. Jordan Chiles, who trains with Biles in Houston, is also a medal threat after a meteoric rise in the past two years. … Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan will compete in her eighth Olympic Games record at 46. … Russia’s Nikita Nagornny, 2019 world champion, appears to be the favorite among the men. … Uchimura, two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion, came out of his semi-retirement at 32 to earn an individual place and a chance to compete in front of home fans. Uchimura is a massive star in Japan.

MOMENT (S) GOLD MEDAL: July 26: Men’s team final: July 27: Women’s team final; July 28: final of the men’s all-around competition; July 29: final of the women’s all-around competition; July 30: women’s trampoline; July 31: men’s trampoline; August 1: men’s finals in floor exercise, pommel horse; Women’s vault finals, uneven bars; August 2: men’s ring finals, vault; women’s vault finals; August: 3: men’s events on parallel bars, high bar; women’s finals on beam; August 7: final of the rhythmic gymnastics general competition; August 8: Rhythmic gymnastics team final.

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