USA Women's Gymnastics Qualifiers: Much As We Expected

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There was a lot of gymnastics over the weekend, but it ended exactly how most expected it. After two days of Olympic Trials in San Jose, the women’s U.S. Olympic gymnastics team was named on Sunday night. About a half hour after the final routine was completed, national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and other members of a selection committee picked the five women who will represent the United States in Rio. While the post-meet selection process took twice as long as expected, the team eventually named was the one many predicted heading into the weekend. This team will be the overwhelming favorite to win a team gold medal in Rio and there is also a chance for many other individual event medals. Here are the women selected:

Simone Biles

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How she did it: In 2012, Simone Biles was too young to go out for the Olympics at just 15 years old. In the four years since, she’s turned into the best female gymnast in the U.S., the world and possibly ever. Biles has won four straight U.S. championships and three straight world championships. She’s the heavy favorite to be the fourth consecutive U.S. woman to win an Olympic gold in all-around and she could also come home with a gold on three other individual events. Even with a few small hiccups during Trials, Biles ran away with the top spot in the competition. She finished 2.1 points ahead of the second-place finisher in the all-around. There was just one automatic qualification spot for the team which went to the top all-around score and there was never a doubt that would belong to Biles.

Aly Raisman

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How she did it: Aly Raisman won a gold medal on floor during the London Olympics to go along with the team gold won by the “Fierce Five.” Then she took two years off from the sport before returning at the age of 20. Now at age-22 Raisman will be the oldest U.S. gymnast on the women’s side since Mohini Bhardwaj (25) and Annia Hatch (26) in 2004. She’ll also be the sixth female gymnast since 1984 aged 22 or older to make the U.S. Olympic team. But even at an advanced age for gymnastics, Raisman has shown she’s still one of the best in the world. She’s still a threat to medal on floor where her first pass roundoff-back handspring-back one and a half twist-stepout-roundoff-back handspring-Arabian double front-punch front layout—is enough tumbling to fill up an entire routine. But she’s also gotten even stronger in the all-around where she tied for third in London, but without a medal and off the podium because tiebreaker rules do not allow for multiple medals to be awarded. For the team competition in Rio she’ll be a contributor on floor, beam and vault with a shot at bars to qualify again in the all-around.

Laurie Hernandez

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How she did it: There was no doubt left that Laurie Hernandez belonged on this team. Heading into P&G Championships, it was unclear how exactly Hernandez fit into the Olympic picture, but four days of competition later she’s made a claim to the No. 2 spot behind Biles, along with Raisman. Hernandez finished third all-around at P&Gs and did it with flair, especially on floor. She followed that up by finishing second in the all-around during Trials. There were some bumps in the road during Day 2 of Trials with scores lower than Hernandez has be accustomed to scoring on floor and bars, but with high scores over the first three meets of the process, it would have taken multiple major mistakes to keep Hernandez off the team. She also finished off Trials with a 15.7 on beam, which was even better than her Trials-leading 15.5 on Day 1. Hernandez also has the potential to compete in the all-around final should she get the chance to compete all four events in the qualifying round.

Madison Kocian

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How she did it: The final spot on the team always appeared to be between Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear. The two were the best gymnasts in the country on bars, the event the U.S. is the weakest on. Kocian has the highest start value of all competitors on bars, but over the past few meets from the Secret Classic through Day 1 of Trials, Ashton Locklear had been able to come out ahead. But for potentially the biggest routine of her life, Kocian hit a 15.9 on bars on Day 2 of Trials, which was easily the highest score of anyone during the past few competitions. Going back to the Secret Classic, Locklear’s bar average came out 0.02 ahead of Kocian, but the higher difficulty and the exclamation mark of the final routine gave Kocian the definitive lead. Kocian also gives the U.S. some more depth on other events should the team need it. She can compete all-around, though will likely only be needed to bars in the team final. She’ll also have the potential to medal on bars during the event finals, she tied for first—in an insane four-way tie World Championships in October.

Gabby Douglas

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How she did it: There’s a little leeway given for the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the all-around. Gabby Douglas didn’t have a mistake-free Olympic Trials—far from it—but she showed enough to prove to Karolyi and the rest of the selection committee she can still be an asset in Rio. Douglas had a fall during each night on beam, but that’s not where she’s going to be of service during the team final. She was able to hit her bar routine, which is where she’ll have the biggest impact during the three-up, three-count team final. She finished the weekend in third place on the event behind Kocian and Locklear, the two fighting to be the bars specialist. She was the only competitor outside of those two to score higher than a 15.0 on bars and she did it both nights. There were definitely gymnasts who performed better overall during Trials, but Karolyi had long stated the selection would be have a bigger picture focus and not be the result of just one competition. Douglas, with wins at the American Cup and City of Jesolo Trophy in March and a second-place finish behind Biles at World Championships in October showed Douglas can still be at the top of her game despite what could be viewed as a disappointing weekend.

Along with the five member team, Ashton Locklear, MyKayla Skinner and Ragan Smith were named as the team’s three alternates.

Dan Pizzuta is a freelance writer and former Division I gymnast at Temple University.