Biles headlines U.S. gymnastics Olympic team (2024)

MINNEAPOLIS – Only a week ago, Alicia Sacramone Quinn fretted about the gut-wrenching decision she and her two colleagues would have to make in determining the 2024 Olympic team. A loaded field, tons of questions and too many options had Quinn, the national team strategic lead, flat-out dreading having to do her job.

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Turns out, she need only go back to the Tokyo selection.

The United States will send four members of its 2020 Olympic team to Paris — Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey — reserving one singular spot for a rookie. That went to the youngest rookie of all, 16-year-old Hezly Rivera, who only became a senior eligible this year.

She secured the fifth and final spot in what was the only wild card decision heading into the final day. No doubt it gave Quinn and her committee the angst they anticipated, the battle fierce between a host of competitors.

For the very first time, we proudly introduce the 2024 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team presented by @Xfinity!

➡️ Hezly Rivera
➡️ Jade Carey
➡️ Simone Biles
➡️ Suni Lee
➡️ Jordan Chiles

Traveling Replacement Athletes: Joscelyn Roberson & Leanne Wong pic.twitter.com/btf44HDjSL

— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 1, 2024

But the U.S. needs the most help on balance beam and uneven bars and Rivera’s scores there — 13.70 and 14.025 — were better than anyone else’s in the running.

She also finished fifth in the all-around, allowing for an easy clean sweep team selection. The five women chosen were also the top five all-arounders at trials. Rivera looked calm. In the stands, her dad wept.

“Honestly it was pretty cut and dry,” Quinn said of the selection. She added Rivera’s solid routines at the trials and her ability especially to hit bars and beam gave her the edge. Quinn admitted, too, the committee eyed the benefit of adding the teenager now, with consideration for future Olympics.

GO DEEPERMeet Hezly Rivera, gymnast who will make Olympic debut alongside veterans

It is, without question, a star-studded team, filled with one-name famous athletes who time and again brought the delirious fans here to their feet.

Of course, the biggest star is Biles. When she finished her routine to end her trials meet, her family seated in section 109 rose to their feet, joined quickly by the rest of the Target Center. Her routine wasn’t perfect — she stepped out of bounds — nor was her night. She fell off the beam, too.

But three years after exiting the Olympics and spending a full two years away from the sport she grew to define, Biles’ stunning athleticism and gravity-defying difficulty is perhaps even better than it was before.

At 27, she is the oldest American female gymnast since the 1950s, a reality that made her grin when it was relayed to her.

“I knew I wasn’t done after Tokyo,‘’ Biles said, adding that her “religious” Thursday meetings with her therapist helped her through. “Getting back to the gym, trusting the process, I knew I’d be back.‘’

It was, of course, Biles’ decision to withdraw from competition in 2021 that changed the entire tenor of the team’s plan in Tokyo. What seemed a foregone conclusion — a historic three-peat as team gold medalists — instead fell apart on the floor exercise, where costly mistakes gave the Russians the victory. The U.S. took silver.

Redemption, then, may seem an easy narrative; it is not necessarily accurate. This team may include most of the same names that represented the United States in Tokyo.

They are not, however, the same women anymore. Biles has spoken repeatedly about how she is not out to prove anything to anyone, and this Olympic chase is for herself, and her definition of success.

“Nobody is forcing me to do it,‘’ Biles said “I wake up every day and choose to grind in the gym. That’s my why. … Success is what I make it.”

The same can be said for each of her returning teammates.

They all have been through some stuff — self-doubt, injury, illness, and in some cases, a combination of all three. They have learned that making it to the Olympics doesn’t mean you’ve made it and that a Team USA jacket isn’t, in fact, body armor. It doesn’t protect you, or make you immune to struggles.

Aside from Biles, none of the four repeat Olympians arrived in Minneapolis a lock to make it back to the Games. Some people fretted the name recognition of the old guard could complicate a selection process in which younger, would-be rookie Olympians, might be more deserving.

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Some of that self-selected. Skye Blakely and Kayla DiCello both tore their Achilles tendons and Shilese Jones withdrew with a knee injury suffered during warmups on the first day of competition. The injuries were cruel, coming so close to the Olympic dream, but also served as a stark reminder that one person’s disappointment often leads to another one’s opportunity.

GO DEEPERAt U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials, rash of injuries hovers over a major moment

The U.S. it turns out, is lucky none of the women making the return to the Games gave up. Because each of them, frankly, could have.

Carey, who won gold on floor in Tokyo, returns to Paris after pulling off an incredibly demanding double. Rather than taking a year off from Oregon State, she opted to compete collegiately and train for the Olympics. She stayed because the college world worked for her.

An introvert and horrible self-critic, Carey nearly backed out of her last Olympics after stumbling on her run up to the vault table during the event final, failing to medal in one of her best events. Only a pep talk from her dad coaxed her back for the floor final, where she won gold.

But at Oregon State, she found a community in the team aspect that made her a stronger gymnast. “The missing piece,‘’ her father and coach, Brian, said of the Oregon State experience.

Staying wasn’t easy. Collegiate gymnastics doesn’t demand the same level of difficulty as elite gymnastics, and performing those routines during the heftier college slate is not only dangerous; it’s foolhardy. But Carey still had to fine-tune all of her sets, which meant a great deal more time in the gym, not to mention a demanding schedule.

On April 20, she finished second in the NCAA all-around. Nine days later, she won the all-around at the American Classic.

Yet the gymnast who competed in Minneapolis is decidedly better for the effort. Known for her floor and vault, she was consistent on all four events over two days. But she is known for her powerhouse floor routine, perhaps the only one that can even come close to Biles.

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Hers was the last of the evening, and she finished with a huge smile on her face before high-fiving her dad and coach, Brian.

Like Carey, Chiles did not have the Olympic experience she envisioned. Pressed into service on bars and beam after Biles withdrew, she did well but a fall on floor and step out of bounds contributed to the team’s failure to capture gold. Afterward, she enrolled at UCLA, built up her brand with endorsem*nts but always eyed a return to the Olympics.

That did not go smoothly, either.

Chiles wasn’t selected to the 2023 World team, and a shoulder injury slowed her participation this season. She finished fifth at U.S. Championships earlier this month and arrived in Minneapolis as anything but a sure thing. Some of it got in her head.

On the eve of the first day of competition, she chastised herself for overthinking and purposefully changed her vibe. She blasted some of her favorite female artists, including Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce, telling herself, “If these girls can slay like this, I can go out there and slay like them.”

And then she did. Aside from catching the balance beam plague that haunted many of her teammates, Chiles nailed one solid routine after another.

As she moved her arms above her head, the final move on her floor routine, Chiles’ face crumbled. She stood up, holding back tears, as the final doubts were erased. After the meet ended, the human hype machine ran down the vault ramp, playing to the crowd.

“Of course gold is the goal,” Chiles said. “But this redemption tour is not about that. It’s about us. We all went through so much in Tokyo, and to be back, I’m so proud of all of us.”

No one, frankly, had more doubts than Lee. Diagnosed with two separate kidney diseases, she was only cleared to resume training in January. The reigning all-around Olympic gold medalist spent many days finding the energy to even come to the gym, all the while questioning if she’d ever be good enough to be Olympic caliber again.

She competed at Winter Cup in February, but only on bars and beam; on beam, vault and floor at Core Hydration in April. Finally last month she put together an all-around, finishing fourth. Still with Blakely and Jones as options, Lee’s best chance at the Olympics seemed to be as a beam and bar specialist.

Instead, Lee finished second in the all-around to Biles and has a very good chance at medaling again in Paris. Her uneven bars set was so singular the crowd oohed and ahhed at every release move, and Lee waved in joy after dismounting.

EVERYONE was loving Suni Lee’s uneven bars routine! 🙌

📺 NBC & @peaco*ck | #USAGTrials24 pic.twitter.com/1VFPgRZLw5

— NBC Olympics & Paralympics (@NBCOlympics) July 1, 2024

Her lone issue came on balance beam, where a fall and a major break left her stewing. She left the meet floor after dismounting, blowing by her coach, Jess Graba and heading out the tunnel. But Lee, whose illness has occasionally robbed her of her confidence, returned to nail both her floor and vault.

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Overcome with emotion, Lee choked back sobs in a post-meet interview. “I didn’t think I’d be here,‘’ she said to the cheers of the crowd. She stepped away from the microphone, as Chiles wiped tears from her eyes. Later she added, “everything has been hitting me like a freaking rollercoaster. I haven’t sopped crying since. I’m so, so glad I kept going. There were so many times I thought about quitting and walking away from this sport.”

And then, of course, there is Biles. There likely won’t be another athlete in Paris under more scrutiny than she will face. After withdrawing in Tokyo, she spoke candidly about her mental health struggles, forcing a much-needed conversation and allowing other athletes to speak openly about their need to prioritize themselves over the sport.

But Biles also took a nearly two-year hiatus from competition, leaving many to speculate if she was done with gymnastics. It was not like she owed the sport — or anyone — anything. She was then already the most decorated gymnast in history, a two-time Olympian with four gold medals.

She returned in 2023, not only decidedly not rusty but perhaps even stronger and better than before. As always, Biles won every competition she entered — the U.S. Classic (twice), Worlds, the U.S. Championships (twice) and the Trials. She did not just win here.

She dominated — a gap of 5.55 separating her and Lee — which is practically a canyon in the world of gymnastics.

None of those, however, are the Olympics. And while, as Biles heads to Paris with very familiar teammates, everything may look the same, it is, in fact, entirely different.

Required reading

    • Meet Hezly Rivera, the 16-year-old gymnast who will make her Olympic debut alongside team of veterans in Paris
    • The story in Simone Biles’ new floor routine: The ‘big boss of gymnastics’ is back
    • At U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials, rash of injuries hovers over a major moment
    • Frederick Richard highlights men’s U.S. gymnastics team heading to Paris Olympics

(Photo: Matt Krohn / USA Today)

Biles headlines U.S. gymnastics Olympic team (3)Biles headlines U.S. gymnastics Olympic team (4)

Dana O’Neil, a senior writer for The Athletic, has worked for more than 25 years as a sports writer, covering the Final Four, the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and NHL playoffs. She has worked previously at ESPN and the Philadelphia Daily News. She is the author of three books, including "The Big East: Inside the Most Entertaining and Influential Conference in College Basketball History." Follow Dana on Twitter @DanaONeilWriter

Biles headlines U.S. gymnastics Olympic team (2024)

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