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Simone Biles Will Return to the Olympics. Here's Who Else Made the USA Women's Gymnastics Team
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By Associated Press
Published 3 weeks ago on
July 2, 2024

Simone Biles and the U.S. women celebrate as the 2024 team is named at the U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Trials on Sunday, June 30, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP/Abbie Parr)

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Simone Biles is eager for a chance to put the Tokyo Olympics firmly in her rearview mirror.

Three years after she memorably pulled out of multiple finals to protect her mental health and safety — a decision that came with a backlash that still litters her social media feed — Biles headlines a U.S. women’s gymnastics team filled with familiar faces eyeing a shot at redemption in Paris.

Biles will be joined by reigning Olympic champion Sunisa Lee, 2020 floor exercise champion gold medalist Jade Carey, 2020 Olympic silver medalist Jordan Chiles and 16-year-old newcomer Hezly Rivera, who will find herself competing next to a couple of her idols as the Americans try to reclaim the spot atop the Olympic podium they ceded to Russia in Japan.

Meet the oldest women’s gymnastics team the U.S. has ever taken to the Games.

Simone Biles Returns for a Third Shot at Olympic Glory

The 27-year-old Biles has long been in a class of her own. She will arrive in Paris as the most decorated women’s gymnast ever with a combined 37 medals between the Olympics and world championships.

She took two years off after Tokyo, a break in which she prioritized her mental health — she now meets with her therapist weekly, even during competitions — and moved on with her life.

Biles married Chicago Bears safety Jonathan Owens in the spring of 2023 (Owens has been given permission by the Bears to take a brief break from training camp to watch his wife in Paris) and has shifted gymnastics to something she does, not something that defines her.

At an age where most gymnasts are simply trying to hold onto their skills — that is if they haven’t already retired — Biles may be as good as ever. Her vaulting and floor exercise routines are the hardest being done by any woman on the planet. The Houston-area native is a four-time world champion on beam and has even started to like uneven bars (sort of anyway).

“Nobody’s forcing me to do (this),” Biles said. “I wake up every day and choose to grind in the gym and come out here and perform for myself just to remind myself that I can still do it.”

Sunisa Lee’s Comeback from Health Scare

Lee’s return to the Games seemed unlikely at various points over the last 18 months. Multiple kidney-related issues limited her training and led to massive weight fluctuations that took time to get under control.

The 21-year-old, who became the fifth straight American woman to win the Olympic title when she edged Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade in a thrilling all-around final in Tokyo, admitted she thought about quitting more than once.

Thanks in part to a support team led by USA Gymnastics team doctor Marcia Faustin and longtime personal coach Jess Graba, Lee regained her confidence and her form in time to make it to Paris.

Lee remains a wonder on uneven bars, where her intricate routine is packed with difficulty. She’s also gained an affinity for the balance beam, a 45-second test of nerves that serves as a showcase for her artistry.

“I really want a beam gold,” Lee said. “I need a beam gold because I feel I always make the final and then I always mess up, but it’s still annoying.”

Why Is This the Oldest U.S. Team Ever?

For decades, the U.S. women’s Olympic program was powered by teenagers who would head to the Games, win a few medals then cede the spotlight to the next wave of talent.

Those days are long gone.

Biles’ unique longevity — she will arrive in Paris as the oldest female U.S. team member since the 1950s — stands apart, but she’s hardly the only 20-something who will be on the floor at Bercy Arena later this month.

The easing of name, image and likeness rules around college athletes in recent years allowed Lee (21), Chiles (23) and Carey (24) to continue training and competing at the NCAA level while still being able to cash in on their Olympic success. It’s a luxury that wasn’t afforded the champions that came before them, from Carly Patterson to Nastia Liukin to Gabby Douglas, who had to choose between accepting endorsements or retaining their amateur status.

Lee (Auburn), Chiles (UCLA) and Carey (Oregon State) helped fuel a boom in interest in college gymnastics and upended the model of what a U.S. Olympic team is supposed to look like in the process.

Biles joked she needs to apologize to 2016 Olympic teammate Aly Raisman, who was nicknamed “grandma” eight years ago in Rio de Janeiro, when Raisman was all of 22.

“I’m way older now,” Biles said with a laugh.

So is everyone else. Well, almost everyone.

Who Is Hezly Rivera?

There is one Olympic rookie in the group: Rivera, a 16-year-old from northern New Jersey who looked right at home competing against the women she grew up idolizing.

Rivera earned her spot by thriving under the pressure at U.S. trials. She finished fifth in the all-around — just ahead of alternates Joscelyn Roberson and Leanne Wong — and tied for first on beam and a solid fourth on uneven bars.

And Rivera did it while hardly looking intimidated by the stage. When asked by Alicia Sacramone Quinn — one of the co-leaders of the U.S. women’s elite program — before finals on Sunday if she was nervous, Rivera shook her head ‘no’ and made it a point to compliment Quinn’s dress.

“I think I’m like the underdog,” Rivera said. “So I don’t think there was so much pressure on me, which is also good. It just feels really good to just do my own thing and just be here.”

When Will They Compete?

Biles and company will spend the next several weeks ramping up for the Olympics, which begin with opening ceremonies on July 26.

The women’s gymnastics competition begins with qualifying on July 28. The Americans are expected to breeze into the eight-team finals scheduled for July 30 and will be heavily favored to finish atop the podium with defending champion Russia unable to compete as part of the fallout of its war with Ukraine.

The real intrigue for the U.S. will likely center on who makes the all-around and event finals. The International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per individual competition regardless of their score, which in the past has cost stars like Douglas (2016) and 2011 world champion Jordyn Wieber (2012) spots in the all-around finals.

The main focus, however, is on the prize that slipped away in Tokyo.

“I think that we really want a team gold,” Lee said. “This is the same team basically as 2020. So it’s kind of like a redemption tour.”

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