The five female gymnasts who will go for gold for the United States in Rio will be revealed this weekend following the women’s gymnastics trials in San Jose, California. After winning three gold medals in London four years ago, including the team all-around, the standard is set to be high as 14 gymnasts get one last opportunity to impress the selectors over Friday and Sunday. Here’s what you need to know:
How is the team decided?
The competitor with the highest all-round score over the two nights at the sold-out SAP Center will garner an automatic place in Rio. The remaining four places will be chosen by the Olympic Selection Committee, which comprises of national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, director of elite programs Steve Rybacki and athlete representative Terin Humphrey. Although there have been suggestions that the team has already been picked, Karolyi has insisted that was happens this weekend will have a big bearing on the selectors.
“We didn’t pick the team,” she told the Team USA website. “We always have in our mind the ideal composition, but we never pick the team before. This competition is extremely important. They need to prove themselves. They need to show that they’re able to handle the stress and their routines are very consistent.”
The gymnasts will compete over four apparatus – vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor – and the selectors will look for a mix of expertise with the focus on retaining the team gold in Brazil.
Who is the favorite?
Simone Biles is the name to watch and, if everything goes to plan, she will be a household name across the United States and further afield just a few weeks’ time. The 19-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, has won three consecutive world all-round titles, a feat not even managed by Russian great Svetlana Khorkina, who was previously the only female gymnast to have won the title on three separate occasions. The Olympics is expected to see her coronation as the most successful female gymnast in history. While Biles isn’t taking anything for granted ahead of the trials, Karolyi has all-but confirmed her place on the team, regardless of what happens in San Jose.
“I don’t think [there’s anything Biles can do that would see her not selected],” she said. “She has a fantastic past. Certainly, if she would have a bad day, we will go back and analyze what she did before and compare with the other contenders. So I really don’t think so.”
Who won last time around?
Gabby Douglas secured the top all-round score at the U.S. trials four years ago, earning herself an automatic berth. In London she went onto win the individual all-around competition, as well as helping the U.S. to team gold. Now aged 20, she may have been cast in the shadow of Biles of late, but, after taking silver behind her teammate at the 2015 World Championships, she will have designs on becoming the first gymnast since 1968 to repeat as all-around Olympic gold medalist.
Who are the other contenders?
Douglas is not the only member of the 2012 team aiming to become the first U.S. gymnast since 2000 to make back-to-back Olympic appearances. Aly Raisman, now aged 21, was the most decorated female gymnast in London, taking gold on the floor as well as bronze on the balance beam to go along with team glory. Raisman was on the 2015 World Championships team, as were, Brenna Dowell, Madison Kocian and Maggie Nichols, who will also compete in San Jose.
Christina Desiderio, Rachel Gowey, Laurie Hernandez, Amelia Hundley, Ashton Locklear, Emily Schild, Ragan Smith and McKayla Skinner, a non-competing alternate at the 2015 World Championships, are the others who will vie for a place in Rio.
When and how to watch
The trials will get underway at 9 p.m. EDT on Friday and conclude on Sunday, starting at 8.30 p.m. EDT. Live coverage will be provided by NBC, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.