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Simone Biles Transcendent Once Again to Lead U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team: NPR


Simone Biles won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials by more than five points to clinch her spot on the team in Paris.

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MINNEAPOLIS — For most gymnasts, a slip off the balance beam, a foot exercise on the floor and several steps after landing a vault are enough to ruin a chance for success.

But this is Simone Biles we’re talking about.

For Biles, already the most decorated gymnast in history at 27, a somewhat shaky night at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials was enough to finish 5.5 points ahead of her competitors. points — and officially earn a spot on the team competing at this summer’s games in Paris.

And the crowd didn’t seem to mind slipping. After her usual set, the night’s finale, Biles walked offstage to a standing ovation from the 16,000 people who packed the stands of the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.

Olympic gold is the next capstone awaiting Biles’ return to dominance after a two-year hiatus from competition. In 2021, he was forced to withdraw from several events in Tokyo after experiencing “twists”, a psychological phenomenon in which a gymnast loses the ability to control their body in mid-air. The two-year break was necessary to maintain her mental health, she said.

Biles will enter the Olympics in Paris as the favorite to win gold medals in the individual all-around, vault and floor exercise.

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In Paris, Tokyo Games gold medalist Suni Lee shined in front of a friendly hometown crowd Sunday night, a St. Paul native.

Two other Olympians, Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey, will return for their second Games. Rookie Hesley Rivera, who turned 16 earlier this month, rounds out the lineup. Two alternates, Jocelyn Roberson and Leann Wong, will also travel with the team.

The women’s team won team gold in 2012 and 2016, then finished second at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 after Biles withdrew from the event.

Injuries were more common in the female trials

A spate of injuries before and after the first day of competition caused a blip at the women’s trials. Skye Blakely first suffered an Achilles injury during pre-match training on Wednesday; Blakely’s second-place finish at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships raised her stakes for potential Olympic recognition.

Then, on Friday, Shils Jones, another favorite to make the Paris team, tweaked his knee while warming up on vault. Minutes later, a third gymnast, Kayla DiCello, injured her Achilles on vault and was forced to exit the competition in a wheelchair.

Back injuries rocked the rest of the contenders on Friday. Suni Lee, who was in line to vault immediately after DiCello, had to wipe away tears before taking the stage.

“A lot of athletes have a fear when they see someone get hurt, and you don’t want that to be you.” Check the first note Chiles said Friday after the injuries to Jones and DiCello. “But I try to put it in the back of my brain because I don’t want to think about it all the time.”

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The U.S. men’s gymnastics team heads to Paris hoping to win its first team medal since 2008.

The men’s team was announced Saturday night. The five competitors, led by Olympian Brody Malone and newcomer (and social media star) Fred Richard, head to Paris with the goal of winning the first U.S. team medal in gymnastics since 2008.

“We shouldn’t just aim for a medal. We should aim for gold, we’re going to land something,” Richard said on Saturday.

Richard, 20, scored the highest score in the U.S. team trials, while Malone, 24, finished second. They will be joined in Paris by Asher Hong, Paul Judah and Stephen Nedorozic, along with substitutes Shane Viscus and Koi Young.

A secondary goal for the team — aside from returning to the team medal podium — is to raise the profile of men’s gymnastics, a sport long overshadowed by its women’s rival.

“If we go to Paris and get a team medal like we’ve been training for, that’s going to put more fuel on that fire,” Hong said Saturday.

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