Gymnastics Live: Simone Biles, Team U.S.A., Scores and More

Current time in Tokyo: July 25, 3:50 p.m. Key Updates: July 25, 2021, 2:34 a.m. ET July 25, 2021, 2:34 a.m. ET Simone Biles ...


Current time in Tokyo: July 25, 3:50 p.m.

Several months ago, MyKayla Skinner was hospitalized for pneumonia after contracting the coronavirus. Now she is on the competition floor in Tokyo.

Skinner, like Jade Carey, isn’t part of the team competition. She earned her Olympic berth when a U.S.A. Gymnastics panel chose her for the individual spot the United States earned at the 2019 world championships, so her scores won’t count toward the team total.

Her best chance to win a medal is on vault, where she is among the best in the world. But only two gymnasts per country can advance to a final. That means Skinner, a 24-year-old Arizonan, will need to outscore Carey, a world silver medalist on the event. At the trials, Skinner scored 30.399 total on two vaults, placing second to Simone Biles’s 30.866. (Any gymnast seeking a vault medal must perform two different skills, whose scores are totaled.)

Skinner’s other strong event is floor, but while she has difficult tumbling, she sees deductions for form problems and other mistakes. Today, Skinner tied Chiles with a 13.566.

Still, it’s worth noting that she has improved her execution on all four events since being named an Olympic alternate in 2016 — one of many results she made clear she disagreed with. After those Games, she enrolled at the University of Utah, where she amassed a litany of gymnastics achievements, including the N.C.A.A. record for consecutive routines without a fall (161). She returned to elite competition in 2019.

Skinner recently announced that she would retire after Tokyo and complete her college degree. The past year has been trying: She has also been nursing a bone spur in her ankle. “My body definitely needs a rest,” she wrote on Instagram.

The U.S. women are, for now, No. 2 and No. 3 in the floor exercise standings. Jade Carey and Simone Biles will likely make the event final next week.

MyKayla Skinner and Jordan Chiles are guaranteed to miss the floor final because of the two-per-country rule, as well as their scores.

MyKayla Skinner starts her floor routine with an incredibly difficult double-twisting double layout, which is called a Moors after the Canadian gymnast Victoria Moors.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

It looks like Russia will outscore the United States on floor.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Simone Biles usually owns the floor exercise. She has been great in the event ever since she was very young, back when some people mistakenly thought she would end up to be a specialist on the floor and the vault — and never an all-arounder. Those naysayers are probably hiding in a corner now.

At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Biles’s signature move on the floor was a double layout with a half-twist and a blind landing, now officially known as “The Biles.” It was the first skill named after her because she was the first one to do it at the world championships or Olympics.

Since then, she has added “The Biles II” to her floor repertoire, and that’s a triple-twisting double-tucked backward somersault that you need to see in slow motion to count the flips and twists. It looks like she is being tossed around inside the eye of a hurricane. But in the end, like a cat, she somehow lands on her feet. In gymnastics, that quality is called air awareness and it’s one of Biles’s many athletic gifts.

She also has been working on her choreography since the last Olympics. In an effort to “spice it up,” she enlisted professional dancer Sasha Farber to help. He was her partner on “Dancing with the Stars,” and together they finished fourth in that TV competition. Here, though, Biles wants a gold medal, not a glittery mirrorball trophy.

She just performed both of her Biles moves, and landed both of them. But her third tumbling pass, a full twisting double back somersault, gave her trouble. While she landed it with both feet, her momentum caused her to fly out of bounds and even off the beige raised competition floor. It was one of her worst floor performances of the year, and even with her wildly difficult moves she received a score of 14.133.

The score placed her in second place so far, just behind Vanessa Ferrari of Italy, who has 14.166 points. The top eight finishers at the end of the day qualify for the event final next week.

Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands fell on the uneven bars. She has the ability to do a layout Hindorff, during which she stretches out her body over the high bar, then does a half-turn to hang in a mixed L-grip. The very complicated skill would have been named for her had she tried it here. Still, her strongest event, beam, is to come.

Larisa Iordache hit most of her beam routine, with just a wobble on a very difficult back handspring to back flip with a full twist, but then stumbled on the dismount and is clearly in pain. We knew she had an ankle injury coming into this, but this is awful to see.

No one on the U.S. team, not even Simone Biles, has been as solid and consistent as Jordan Chiles has this year. She’s the gymnast the U.S. can count on.

Great floor routine by Sunisa Lee, who could win silver to Simone Biles in the all-around. She’s the most graceful dancer on this year’s team and makes every move look so easy.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Grace McCallum’s coach, Sarah Jantzi, is here and while you may not recognize her, she has played a huge role in the sport in the last six years. She was the coach who was the whistleblower in the Lawrence G. Nassar sexual abuse case.

Grace McCallum goes WAY out of bounds on her first tumbling pass, but not a surprise for a first-time Olympian. Lots of adrenaline and nerves!

Needless to say, the main attraction in this subdivision — the third of five — is the United States. But also here are the Dutch team (led by Sanne Wevers, the reigning Olympic champion on the balance beam) and 11 individual gymnasts from countries that didn’t qualify full teams for the Games. They include Filipa Martins of Portugal, who’s strong on bars, and Larisa Iordache of Romania, who is hoping to qualify for the beam final.

Some context for folks who perhaps woke up to watch the United States, or will watch only the Americans in the qualification. As we head into the third subdivision, the Russians are leading the competition with a total score of 171.629 and the top all-around score (57.132) currently belongs to Russia’s Angelina Melnikova. For perspective, in the most recent world championships, the Americans qualified to the team event with a score of 174.205.

Biles attempts maneuvers that are so difficult, she can fall and still win a competition.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Yes, but also no.

Simone Biles does gymnastics that are so difficult, she can fall and still win a competition. Look for her at some point in the competition to launch a powerful Yurchenko double pike vault — which will be named for her if she completes it during the Games — and throw a double tuck with three twists on floor. She is the only woman to have landed these skills in competition.

A squad without Biles would almost certainly score lower yet still win gold. Spencer Barnes, a host of the gymnastics podcast Gymcastic, has estimated that the Americans could count up to four falls and still beat a “hit” meet from all of the other teams.

The Americans have won the team event in every Olympics and world championship since 2011.

Jade Carey during the U.S. Olympic trials in June.
Credit…Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The American gymnast Jade Carey might — we’re hedging here because it would be risky — debut a floor exercise skill that even Simone Biles has not attempted in competition: a triple-twisting double layout. It would be the hardest tumbling pass ever performed by a woman.

The boundary-pushing skill would see Carey launch herself into a roundoff and a series of back handsprings before two back flips and three twists. It is similar to Biles’s incredible triple-double on floor exercise, but whereas Biles tucks her knees into her chest, Carey increases the difficulty by keeping her body straight. While practicing at the recent U.S. championships, Carey landed the pass as her father and coach, Brian Carey, spotted her. The NBC commentator Tim Daggett noted that Biles “walked by and said congrats and that’s crazy.”

At podium training on Thursday, Carey played it safe, instead performing a still-tough Moors (a double-twisting double layout). She followed that with a powerful front layout through to a tucked double-double.

If she lands the triple-double layout in either the qualification or the floor exercise final — if she moves on to that event — the skill will be named for her.

Carey, 21, is also capable of winning a medal on vault; she placed second on the event at the 2017 and 2019 world championships. Like MyKayla Skinner, her fellow Arizonan, she is not part of the team competition. She secured her spot at the Olympics through the multiyear World Cup series.

At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, a penalty like that actually cost the United States the bronze medal in the team competition. The U.S. received a 0.5-point deduction because an alternate, Rhonda Faehn, was standing on the platform while Kelly Garrison competed on the uneven bars. (Faehn had moved a springboard away, which she was allowed to do, but then she didn’t step off the platform as required.) East Germany ended up winning the bronze by 0.3 points.

Britain received a 0.3-point deduction from its team score because, according to the official results, Jennifer Gadirova exceeded the warmup time limit. It’s lucky for Britain that this happened in qualifications instead of in the team finals, where medals can be determined by tenths of a point.

China successfully argued that judges did not properly account for the difficulty of Lu Yufei’s floor routine.
Credit…Lionel Bonaventure/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The two-per-country rule, which states that only two gymnasts from the same country can qualify to each Olympic gymnastics final, is always a source of drama and heartbreak for the top-scoring nations. Today, there was a little extra.

When Lu Yufei of China finished competing on the floor exercise, her last routine of the night, she received an unexpectedly low score of 12.466, giving her the third-best all-around total among the Chinese women, with Tang Xijing in first place and Zhang Jin in second. It seemed that Lu, China’s reigning national champion, would miss qualifying for the all-around final by less than a tenth of a point.

But China challenged her score, filing what’s called an inquiry. Countries can do this when they believe a gymnast was not sufficiently credited for the difficulty of a routine. (Execution scores cannot be challenged.) The judges re-examined Lu’s routine and increased her score by two-tenths, to 12.666, moving her from third to second place among the Chinese women and shutting Zhang out of the all-around final instead.

The two-per-country rule will also keep Viktoria Listunova of Russia, the reigning European all-around champion, out of the final because her teammates Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova finished ahead of her. Additionally, Listunova and Urazova will miss the uneven bars final because Melnikova and Anastasia Iliankova scored higher on that apparatus.

China successfully challenged Lu Yufei’s score on floor. It was increased, and now Zhang Jin will miss the all-around final under the two-per-country rule instead.

With the second subdivision done, Russia leads the team competition with a startlingly large 5-point lead over China: 171.629 to 166.663. They’ll both qualify to the team final easily, so these totals don’t matter per se, but they give us a hint of how the countries might stack up in the finals.

And, of course, the United States and several other countries are still to come in Subdivisions 3 through 5.

Yet another two-per-country casualty: Lu Yufei, the Chinese national champion, will miss the all-around too. She’s in third place among Chinese gymnasts by less than a tenth of a point.

Lilia Akhaimova fell off the beam. Fortunately for Russia, because this is the qualifications round and not the final, they get to drop their lowest score on each apparatus, so it shouldn’t affect them.

Angelina Melnikova and Anastasia Iliankova will almost certainly move on in the tight race for the eight spots in the uneven bars final. Iliankova’s 14.966 is the top score so far today. The two-per-country rule means two other Russians, Viktoria Listunova and Vladislava Urazova, won’t get a chance to seek an individual bars medal despite surpassing the score of the stellar Chinese bars worker Fan Yilin (14.600). Melnikova and Iliankova, though, will likely see stiff competition from Sunisa Lee of the United States and Nina Derwael of Belgium. Lee has the most difficult bars routines in the world.

Viktoria Listunova, the reigning European all-around champion, will miss the all-around final as well as the bars final because of the two-per-country rule. Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova are ahead of her in the all-around, and Anastasia Iliankova and Melnikova are ahead of her on bars.

After a very long wait, the score comes through for Guan Chenchen on beam: 14.933. That puts her a full six-tenths ahead of Tang Xijing, who had China’s second-best beam score.

Nothing’s for sure until all five subdivisions are done, but a phenomenal beam routine from Guan Chenchen — competing for China as an individual — puts her in great position to make the beam final, where she would be a serious medal contender.

On a recent day in Tokyo, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team took a photo with Oksana Chusovitina, who began in the sport in 1982. Her son was born when Simone Biles was just 2.

Chusovitina, 46 of Uzbekistan, is competing in her eighth Olympics. And the United States is fielding its oldest women’s gymnastics team since 1952. The average age is 20.8.

The sport looks a lot different than it did decades ago, when it was common to see 14- and 15-year-olds winning medals. Part of that has to do with rules. Since 2000, women must turn 16 or older in the Olympic year to compete. The code of points has also changed several times since and now rewards many skills that arguably improve with experience and muscle. Take the hardest vault: Biles’s Yurchenko double pike. It would be extremely difficult for a girl to generate the power it takes to execute the skill properly and safely.

While several previous U.S. teams had adults on them (Annia Hatch, for one, was 26 at the 2004 Games), it seems now that more Americans are competitive well into adulthood.

The German team’s average age is 26; its oldest member is 32. Simona Castro of Chile is 32. Vanessa Ferrari of Italy is 30. The Dutch twins Sanne and Lieke Wevers are nearly 30.

Like Biles, many of these athletes push their own limits. The Olympic beam champion in 2016, Sanne Wevers recently debuted the most difficult uneven bars element in the world.

Alice Kinsella of Britain is just not having a good day. She just landed fully out of bounds on one of her tumbling passes on floor, a 0.3-point deduction, and is shaking her head as she walks back to the sidelines.

Credit…Francois Nel/Getty Images

Jordan Chiles could be affected by the rule that states only two gymnasts per country can make a given final.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

When it comes to gymnastics talent, the U.S. is so deep that “the U.S. is so deep that” has become a cliché.

The U.S. is so deep that it could send its “B team” to the Olympics and still win gold. The U.S. is so deep that all six of its gymnasts could make the all-around final in Tokyo.

Well, not so fast on that last one, says the two-per-country rule.

The rule, as its name suggests, states that only two gymnasts per country can make a given final. So even if all six Americans are among the top 24 all-arounders in qualifications — a real possibility — only two will advance.

The idea is to prevent countries with lots of money from monopolizing the finals. A gymnast training without the mats, foam-block pits and other equipment that help gymnasts from affluent countries work safely toward world-class skills is unlikely to reach the same level. But if she qualifies for an Olympic final, that can bring attention and resources to her country’s future athletes.

In practice, that isn’t always the effect. At the 2016 Olympics, the rule kept gymnasts from the United States, Japan, Russia and Brazil out of the all-around final, and those spots went to gymnasts from France, Germany and Italy. Gymnasts from under-resourced countries who made finals, like Jessica López of Venezuela (all-around and bars) and Dipa Karmakar of India (vault), placed high enough to qualify with or without the rule.

This year, the rule will affect Suni Lee or Jordan Chiles of the United States, either of whom could win silver or bronze in the all-around, but only one of whom can earn the spot available for an American not named Simone Biles. The other three Americans — Grace McCallum, Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner — would also probably make the final, but not medal, in the absence of the rule.

Russian gymnasts are in a similar situation, with Viktoria Listunova, Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova competing for two spots in the all-around. China will also be affected, though the gymnasts shut out there — possibly Tang Xijing and Ou Yushan, if their teammates Zhang Jin and Lu Yufei place higher — probably wouldn’t be as strong medal contenders.

The rule also applies to apparatus finals. On vault and floor, expect a battle among the Americans, with Carey, Chiles and Skinner fighting for the non-Biles spot. On bars, four Russians — Urazova, Melnikova, Listunova and Anastasia Iliankova — will aim for two spots. On beam, Ou, Lu and Guan Chenchen of China may do the same.

Such a difficult bars routine from Viktoria Listunova, capped with a rare double-twisting double back dismount. She had some issues with leg form in the air but landed well.

A good rotation for the Russians on vault: a team score of 43.832, compared to China’s 42.366 on that event. The Russians head into the halfway point with a .500 lead. Both teams have the 4 inch wide balance beam to come. The Chinese are known for being very strong on that apparatus; the Russians have been somewhat shaky there in recent competitions.

Fan Yilin, competing for China as an individual, hit her very difficult bars routine with just a small step on the dismount. She’s a world gold medalist on bars from 2015 and 2017 and is aiming to make the finals here too.

Russia is on bars next, and China is on beam. Lots of pressure on both of them, both in terms of the team score and in terms of qualification to individual finals. Russia, for instance, has four gymnasts who are strong contenders for two spots in the bars finals.

Ou Yushan finished one bars skill in pretty much a dead hang and had to muscle her way back up to a handstand. That loss of momentum will be a deduction, though China has a couple excellent bar routines from other gymnasts in the bag already.

In qualifications, four gymnasts compete for each country on each apparatus, and the lowest score is dropped. In the team finals, it’s three gymnasts on each event and all three scores count. So if Kinsella’s teammates hit, Britain can drop her bars and beam scores.

Alice Kinsella of Britain fell on both uneven bars and beam, dashing her hopes for a spot in the all-around final. After her beam routine, she stood on the sidelines with her head in her hands. The errors put pressure on her teammates to hit.

Excellent bars routine from Tang Xijing of China. About those pirouettes: Many of the skills the Chinese gymnasts do are in “eagle grip,” which is ridiculously difficult. Imagine there’s a bar in front of you, and try to grip it underhand, but with your hands rotated the _opposite_ direction from what’s natural.

We have a guide to uneven bars skills here if you want a primer.

Gymnastics trivia time: This subdivision features the second of three sets of twins competing today, Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova of Britain. Alice and Asia D’Amato of Italy competed in the first subdivision, and Lieke and Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands will compete in the third.

China is now on bars, where its gymnasts have excelled for decades. You’ll see a very characteristic style from them, with intricate and extremely difficult pirouetting skills.

You’ll notice the Russian gymnasts are competing under “Russian Olympic Committee.” Russia was banned from the Games because of its state-sponsored doping program, so the team cannot be called “Russia.” The Russian flag and anthem are also banned.

The British team is on the uneven bars. Suspiciously missing from the squad is bars world silver medalist Becky Downie, who was left off the British team in a controversial decision by British Gymnastics. Becky and her sister Ellie were outspoken about the emotional and physical abuse they experienced while on the national team. The sisters wonder if speaking out cost Becky a spot on the Olympic team.

Elena Gerasimova is wearing a sleeveless purple leotard to differentiate herself from her Russian teammates. She is competing as an individual, like Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner of the United States will do later today. Their scores won’t count toward the team totals, but they can vie for individual medals.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Gymnastics Live: Simone Biles, Team U.S.A., Scores and More
Gymnastics Live: Simone Biles, Team U.S.A., Scores and More
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