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Simone Biles leads, Suni Lee takes third after Day 1 of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Trials

Simone Biles leads, Suni Lee takes third after Day 1 of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Trials

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Simone Biles, Suni Lee and Jordan Chiles thrilled the Target Center crowd on Friday during the first night of competition at the United States Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Trials.

Biles, the four-time gold medalist who was making her third trip to the Olympics at age 27, finished atop the all-around leaderboard with a score of 58.900. Chiles finished second, two and a half points behind Biles with 56.400. Lee, from St. Paul, placed third with 56.025 and competed in front of his home crowd as the reigning Olympic all-around champion.

Biles, Chiles and Lee — members of the women’s team at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics — are preparing for a reunion at the Paris Olympics, along with fourth-ranked Jade Carey. Leanne Wong, a reserve in Tokyo, is eighth.

“(Biles) is someone I’m always going to look up to, no matter what it is in life, whether it’s gymnastics, whether it’s just life in general,” Chiles said. “Being behind her just makes me feel more confident. Going into Day Two, let’s just keep it that way.”

The gymnasts will do it all again on Sunday evening before the five Olympic gymnasts – and two alternates – can start packing their bags for Paris.

The woman with the highest score after two days of competition automatically qualifies for the Olympic team. A committee chooses the other four team members, taking into account the results of international competitions and four other U.S. events, including the recent U.S. Championships, from the past year. The committee also weighs the potential for team, all-around and individual event medals.

The last two World Championship teams have taken over the top five all-around finishers from the trials event.

“I would say it was a coincidence,” said Alicia Sacramone Quinn, USA Gymnastics’ women’s strategic leader. “I think it’s always a puzzle, and that’s how we talk about it. And it’s a combination of our best all-arounders, our best event finalists, so it just kind of happened to work out that way. …Honestly, we were a little bit lucky and we didn’t have anything too crazy to work through. So it’s been relatively easy to make selections so far. We know this one’s not going to be easy at all.”

Injuries will play a role in the committee’s decision after a nerve-racking start to Friday night. During vault warm-up, Shilese Jones, a member of the 2022 and 2023 world championships gold medal-winning teams, landed awkwardly and clutched her knee before being helped off the floor by her coaches. She abandoned a vault attempt, delivered a strong performance on uneven bars on the next rotation (14.675) and then took the rest of the night off.

Her status for Sunday’s game is unknown. Jones had skipped the U.S. Championships to rest a shoulder injury, but her coach, Sarah Korngold, said this week that Jones had no pain from that long-term injury.

On the first jump of the night, Kayla DiCello landed, fell back onto the mat and grimaced. She held her foot and shook her head before being carried off the mat. She withdrew from the Friday evening portion of the trials shortly afterwards with an undisclosed injury.

DiCello, 20, was considered a contender for the Olympic team after finishing third in the all-around at the U.S. National Championships this month and winning all-around gold at the 2023 Pan American Games.

“It’s always hard to see one of your teammates get hurt,” said Laurent Landi, one of Biles’ coaches. “It’s the second one this week, so it’s getting a little stressful now.”

Another gymnast who thought she had an inside track on a spot on the Paris team, Skye Blakely, suffered an Achilles injury during practice on Wednesday. After the first rotation on Friday, she took the floor on crutches, waving and with tears in her eyes, and received a 30-second standing ovation from the audience.

Landi told the gymnasts to be in a bubble and focus on themselves. “Control the controllable,” he added.

During her second rotation of the evening, Biles had a shaky performance on the balance beam. She tripped on her horse, then wobbled on her first pass across the beam and staggered as she came out of a rotation. She looked visibly frustrated and appeared to have uttered a curse word.

He said Biles was very angry after her beam routine, but came back with “an almost perfect floor and an amazing vault.” Biles finished with the highest scores in both apparatus, rising to first place after finishing second to Wong after two rotations.

The Target Center crowd gave a standing ovation after Biles’ signature first jump, almost as if they were asking for an encore. Her score of 15.975 was the highest of the evening on the apparatus and a full 1,375 points more than the next best jump.

“It was a great recovery,” Landi said. “Just trust your training.”

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