There’s one task left before the U.S. women can leave for the world gymnastics championships that begin next week in Antwerp, Belgium.
Making the team.
The two-day selection camp to determine the six gymnasts on the U.S. travel squad begins Tuesday night and the gymnast with the highest all-around score after Day 1 automatically locks in a spot. Let’s be honest, that’s almost certain to be Simone Biles.
The 19-time world champion won her record eighth U.S. title last month by almost four points, a huge margin in a sport where gymnasts are often separated by mere tenths of a point. So long as Biles is healthy, no other American comes close to her.
As for the remaining five gymnasts on the traveling squad, they’ll be announced Wednesday night, after the second day of competition. The five-person team and alternate will be named before the world championships begin.
The U.S. women are in an Oct. 1 qualifying session, with the team final on Oct. 4.
USA TODAY Sports will provide the latest updates, highlights and analysis throughout the evening. Follow along.
Simone Biles’ night got off to a rough start.
The four-time Olympic champion fell on a release move on uneven bars, her first event. She got back on and finished the rest of the routine cleanly. Biles wound up with a score of 12.8.
Only the top all-around in tonight’s competition locks a spot on the world team, but this shouldn’t affect her much. Bars is her lowest-scoring event and, if the rest of the meet is like last month’s national championships, she’ll have a bit of a cushion.
Katelyn Jong was a late scratch after a scary crash on vault during warmups.
Jong’s hand slipped off the table. She had to be carried off the floor, per Olympics.com, and was being worked on by trainers. But she wasn’t in the introductions. Jong’s injury means there will be 18 gymnasts competing for the world and Pan American teams.
The two-day meet is Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Day 1 begins at 6:50 p.m. ET, and gymnasts will compete on a minimum of two events. Day 2 begins at 6:15 p.m. ET, and gymnasts will be asked by the selection committee to do at least one event.
It’s only being shown on FlipNow.tv, USA Gymnastics’ subscription streaming service.
The 19 gymnasts at camp will be split between two events on each rotation. They’ll begin on uneven bars and balance beam, with Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles headlining the bars group and Shilese Jones, Leanne Wong, Skye Blakely and Jade Carey the big names on balance beam.
It’ll be beam and floor exercise for the second rotation, followed by vault and floor for the third rotation. The meet will wrap up with vault and bars.
You can find the live scores here.
Because that might not give the Americans the highest scoring potential.
Constructing a gymnastics lineup is a bit like doing a puzzle because of the sport’s scoring format. In qualifying, four gymnasts compete on each event and the lowest score is dropped. In the team final, however, it’s three up, three count: Three gymnasts compete on each event and every score counts.
That means medal contenders need a team that, ideally, can produce three big scores on every event. Or at least not have gaping holes on any event.
Someone who finishes fourth in the all-around might be a terrific gymnast. But if her best events are the same as the three gymnasts ahead of her and the Americans still need a monster score on, say, balance beam, she might not be the right fit. But someone who is terrific on balance beam but not as strong elsewhere might be.
The selection committee also will be looking at consistency.
Big scores are great, but only if a gymnast can produce them on a regular basis. Otherwise, a team is better off taking someone who might not score as high but is as consistent as a metronome, especially when the stakes are high.
Joining Biles are Tokyo teammates Jade Carey, who is the reigning Olympic champion on floor exercise, and Jordan Chiles. Shilese Jones, who was the runner-up to Biles at nationals and also was the silver medalist in the all-around at last year’s world championships and fellow 2022 world team members Skye Blakely and Leanne Wong, also will be competing at camp.
The other gymnasts expected at camp are: Kayla DiCello, Amelia Disidore, Addison Fatta, Madray Johnson, Katelyn Jong, Kaliya Lincoln, Eveylynn Lowe, Nola Matthews, Zoe Miller, Joscelyn Roberson, Tiana Sumanasekera, Lexi Zeiss and Alicia Zhou.
The reigning Olympic champion declined an invitation to the selection camp.
USA Gymnastics didn’t say why, but her training has been limited the past six months because of a kidney issue that forced her to end her final NCAA season early. She only did two events, balance beam and vault, at last month’s national championships.
A whole lot of history.
Biles needs one more medal to tie Vitaly Scherbo as the most-decorated gymnast of all time. Biles has 32 medals from the world championships and Olympics, including a record 25 at worlds. Scherbo, who competed for the Soviet Union, the Unified Team and Belarus, has 33.
(To be fair, Biles has won hers doing two fewer events. And she’s already topped Scherbo with 23 golds at worlds and the Olympics to his 18.)
Biles also can get yet another skill named after her – this would be the fifth, for those keeping count – if she does her Yurchenko double pike vault during worlds. She already has two skills named after her on floor exercise, and one each on balance beam and vault.
The U.S. women, meanwhile, have won the team title at every world championships going back to 2011. That’s six in a row, which ties them with China’s men (2003 to 2014) for the longest consecutive streak at worlds.
“I’ve been doing it for so long, I feel like I don’t think about numbers. I think about my performance,” Simone Biles said on NBC when asked about her record-breaking title. “I think overall, I hit 8 for 8 (clean events). So eight, I guess it’s a lucky number this year.”
After her first day of competition Friday, Biles was asked on NBC what drives her at this point in her career, and she said she still has personal goals she wants to achieve. On Sunday, she was asked to specify those goals.
“I like to keep them personal, just so that I know what I’m aiming for. I think it’s better that way,” Biles told the network. “I’m trying to move a little bit differently this year than I have in the past. I think it’s working so far, so I’m going to keep it a little bit secretive.”
But could she say if competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics is one of them?
“Not yet,” Biles added.
Simone Biles didn’t really get serious about training until this spring. Yet, just two meets in, she’s as good as she’s ever been. Asked how that feels, Biles said she’s happy with how things are progressing because there were times she wasn’t sure if she’d be back competing.
Anything else she’s feeling?
“Hungry,” she said emphatically. “I’m so starving right now.”
Simone Biles’ latest Athleta GIRL collection, geared toward girls ages 6 to 12, features the tagline, “Because I can.” That was Biles’ response when she was asked two years ago why she was continuing to do difficult tricks even when international gymnastics officials refused to give them their full credit.
“It’s that little Simone on their shoulder, or that little reminder to have confidence, keep going and never give up,” Biles told USA TODAY Sports. “It helps them just put that first step forward and then keep pushing throughout the entire school year.”