ST. LOUIS — As if the U.S. women weren’t already formidable enough.
Simone Biles won the two-day Olympic trials to lock her spot on the Tokyo team. Sunisa Lee did, too, actually finishing ahead of Biles in Sunday night’s all-around competition. While Biles will still be the overwhelming favorite to become the first woman in more than 50 years to defend her Olympic title – her errors here uncharacteristic and sure to provide even more fuel – Lee establishes herself as a threat to join Biles on the all-around podium.
Jordan Chiles still has to be named by the selection committee, but there’s no way it’s leaving her home. Including Winter Cup in February, the U.S. Classic in May, nationals and trials, she did not count a single fall. That’s 24 routines without a major error, and there isn’t a team in the world that would turn down that kind of consistency.
When Chiles finished floor exercise, her last routine of the night, she bent over and briefly put her face in her hands. Coach Cecile Landi gave her a big hug as she walked off the podium, and she then shared a long embrace with Biles, who she trains with in Houston.
That leaves one more spot on the four-woman team, which will be heavily favored to win a third consecutive Olympic team title. Because, you know, Simone, the greatest gymnast ever.
There were still a handful of contenders for the last spot after the first night of competition Friday but, one by one, they took themselves out of contention Sunday.
Kayla DiCello fell off uneven bars, just as she did at nationals earlier this month. Kara Eaker went the wrong way on a pirouette on uneven bars – not a huge mistake, but when the margin is this slim, it’s enough.
That left just MyKayla Skinner, the perennial alternate, and Grace McCallum, who competed on the 2018 and 2019 world teams.
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McCallum bounced so far out of bounds on her first tumbling pass on floor that she almost went off the podium, and landed another so low she was practically on her knees. She also had some small errors on balance beam.
Skinner had several wobbles on balance beam and was low on the dismount, forcing her to pitch forward. She also had to windmill her arms to try and steady herself after overcooking a pass on floor, and finally had to take a step out of bounds. Not massive mistakes, but when the margin is this slim, everything matters.
Skinner did have two gorgeous vaults, and was smiling and blowing kisses to the crowd afterward.
McCallum finished just .300 ahead Skinner, 112.564 to 112.264. But the question is whether the selection committee will go solely by scores of if they’ll take into account who provides the highest scoring opportunity in team finals, when three gymnasts will compete on each event and all three scores have to be counted.
As for the individual spot, which won’t count toward the team score, Riley McCusker was considered the favorite for the plus-one spot. As one of the best in the world on uneven bars, she would have given the Americans a chance for two medals on the event, possibly even gold and silver.
But McCusker fell on a pirouette on the low bar, putting her Olympic hopes in jeopardy. Worse, McCusker could do nothing but wait – and wonder — the rest of the meet. She only did uneven bars at trials, still nursing an ankle injury she suffered at the U.S. Classic last month, and her night was over 15 minutes after the meet started.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee make gymnastics team for Tokyo Olympics