Simone Biles reaches Paris Olympics in style – Sport

(L-R) Suni Lee, Simone Biles, Hezly Rivera, Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey pose after being selected for the women’s gymnastics team in the US Olympic team trials at Target Center.—AFP

MINNEAPOLIS: Four-time Olym­pic gold medallist Simone Biles is headed to the Paris Games after a resounding all-around victory at the US gymnastics trials on Sunday.

Biles capped her trials with anot­her electrifying floor routine, her high-flying tumbling bringing the crowd to its feet.

She piled up 117.225 over two days of competition to earn an automatic berth on the five-strong team for Paris later this month.

Three years after a bout of the disorienting “twisties” cut short Biles’s Tokyo Games campaign, the gymnast considered the best of all time will return to the Olympic stage looking stronger than ever.

The 27-year-old told an exultant crowd in Minneapolis that in the immediate aftermath of Tokyo she had “never pictured going to another Olympic Games.”

“I never thought I would go back in the gym again, be twisting, feel free,” said Biles, who returned to competition in August last year after a two-year break.

She’ll be joined in Paris by three other members of the Tokyo Olympics team: all-around gold medallist Suni Lee, floor gold medallist Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles, who helped the US to team silver.

The quartet — who will be joined by 16-year-old Hezly Rivera — have branded the Paris Olympics their redemption tour.

“I feel like we all have more to give and our Tokyo performances weren’t the best,” said Biles, who withdrew from the team final at the pandemic-delayed Games.

“I feel like we have a lot of weight on our shoulders to go out there and prove that we’re better athletes.

“We’re more mature, we’re smarter, we’re more consistent – but don’t quote me on that, because not tonight!” she laughed after the closing night of trials saw Biles, Lee and Chiles all fall off the balance beam.

The always-tense trials were tur­n­ed into an even more nervy affair as three top contenders were forced out of the competition by injury.

Skye Blakely ruptured an Achilles tendon in training on Wednesday and Shilese Jones hurt her left knee in a warm-up vault on Friday, minutes before Tokyo Olympic alternate Kayla DiCello suffered what proved to be an Achilles injury on the opening vault of the trials.

The injuries unsettled everyone, but with less than a month before gymnastics competition begins in Paris, Biles was confident the team will be at its best.

US gymnast Simone Biles celebrates being selected for the 2024 US Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on June 30, 2024. — AFP

“If we can just do what we do in training, then I think we’re going to hit it out of the ballpark,” said Biles, who has captured world championships all-around gold and her eighth and ninth national titles since retur­ning to competition last summer.

Biles launched her night with a soa­ring version of her Yurchenko double pike vault, and even though she skittered backwards a few steps on landing, she scored 15.50 points for a vault so difficult that no other woman has attempted it in competition.

After a sub-par balance beam performance on day one left her clearly furious, Biles was rolling through an impressive routine when she lost her balance and fell off — still scoring an impressive 13.900.

Lee, whose return to the Olympics comes as she manages not one but two kidney diseases that threatened to end her career, finished second overall with 111.675 points.Chiles finished third, Carey fourth and Rivera fifth in the all-around — although it was a nervous wait for the quartet behind Biles, who were named to the team after about half an hour of deliberation by the selection committee.

Rivera was buoyed by a strong showing on the balance beam and capped her night with a solid vault to edge out 18-year-old Joscelyn Roberson for the final berth.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2024

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