Simone Biles qualifies for 2024 Olympics, wins US trials

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Each of them had a reason to come back.

Simone Biles is preparing to move past those grueling two weeks in Japan three years ago, when the gymnastics star prioritized her mental health and safety over glory, a decision that inspired some and angered others.

Sonny Lee was trying to prove — perhaps to herself more than anyone else — that the gold medal she earned in the all-around while Biles watched from the stands was no fluke.

Jordan Chiles will turn her silver medal at the 2020 Games into a gold medal.

Jade Carey became an official member of the five-woman Olympic team after making her way to Tokyo as an individual qualifier, a path not available to the United States this time around and, frankly, one she had no interest in exploring again anyway.

They’re all back in the unique spotlight — oh, and even 16-year-old newcomer Hezley Rivera — that only the biggest stage in the sport can provide.

Their reasons are very personal. But their motivations are not.

“This is definitely a redemption journey for us,” Biles said after winning the U.S. Olympic trials on Sunday night. “I feel like we all have more to offer.”

Biles is perhaps the oldest American woman to join the Olympic gymnastics team since the 1950s, as she is 27 years old. Biles never expected to continue in this role nearly a decade after she became a shining star at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

And here she is. Still working. Still doing her best. Not to silence the critics who keep tagging her on social media asking if she’s going to retire again, but because she remains determined to squeeze everything she can out of her amazing talent.

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“No one is forcing me to do this,” said Biles, who scored 117.225 points in two days to win the championship by nearly six points over Lee. “I wake up every day and I choose to train in the gym and come out here and perform by myself. Just to remind myself that I can still do this.” .

And she does it at a level that no one else in her sport — and when she’s at her best, perhaps the sport in general — can match.

A trip to France has not been in doubt since Biles returned from a two-year sabbatical last summer. All she’s done for the past 12 months is win her sixth world all-around title and capture her eighth and ninth national championships — both records — while performing the toughest gymnastics of her life.

She will be favorite to win when she sets foot on the Bercy Arena, although she has a lot to work on before the women’s qualifiers on July 28. However, there are matters she must address over the next four weeks.

Biles fell after landing a double Yurchenko-type peck vault, a testament to the difficulty of the vault and the tremendous power it generates during a skill few male gymnasts attempt and even fewer land cleanly.

She jumped off the bar after failing to land in the side air, though she wasn’t quite as frustrated as she was during a poor performance on Friday that left her spouting obscenities for the whole world to watch.

Biles finished off the competition with an impressive performance in the floor exercise, the event she is best known for. Although it was not easy, the performance was also wonderful, as she gave an unparalleled world-class performance, which received great acclaim recently. From pop star Taylor Swiftwhose song “Ready For It” opens Biles’ routine.

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She walked off the stage to rapturous applause from the audience, then sat on the steps to enjoy what would be her last competitive tour on American soil for a long time. And perhaps forever.

Biles deflects questions about what lies ahead. It can wait. It’s been a long, winding road to get to this moment. She’s determined to try to enjoy it even as she’s part of a team that will have “a huge weight on our shoulders.”

She believes she and her teammates are in a better position to handle it. This is the permanent salvation.

“It’s really nice that Tokyo has given us this opportunity to open up this stage for this conversation,” Biles said. “So I think the athletes are now more in tune and we just trust what our gut tells us.”

Biles’ gut instinct told her that if she wanted to come back, she would have to do it on her own terms. That meant taking deliberate steps to ensure that her life was no longer defined by gymnastics.

Biles married Chicago Bears player Jonathan Owens in the spring of 2023 and the two are building a home in the northern Houston suburbs that they hope to move into shortly after Biles returns from Paris.

Biles heads to France as perhaps the face of the U.S. Olympic movement, though she’s well aware that more than a few million people following her next month will check whether the demons she derailed in Tokyo will resurface.

Although there are still moments of anxiety – including at last year’s world championships – she has put safeguards in place to protect herself. She sees a therapist weekly, even during competition season, something she did not do in preparation for the 2020 Games.

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The Americans will bring their oldest women’s team ever to the Games, as Biles’ unparalleled longevity — she hasn’t lost a game she’s started or finished since 2013 — and the relaxation of name and image rules and similar rules at the NCAA level has allowed Curry (24), Chiles (23) and Lee (21) to continue competing while capitalizing on their newfound fame at the same time.

They drew on that experience during a sometimes harrowing encounter that featured two top contenders chelsea jones, Skye Blakely And Kayla De Cielo Coming up with leg injuries took them out of the mix weeks before their potential dream could come true.

Watching good friends leave the arena in tears is a reminder of how thin the line between success and failure can be. Biles has been on the right side of that line longer than she expected. And she’s going to try to enjoy it, despite the pressure and all.

She may have gotten ahead of herself in 2021. And she’s determined not to let that happen this time.

“I feel like success is what I achieve,” she said. “I now feel like I’ve succeeded in competing in the Olympic Trials and making the Paris Olympic team. So we’ll see from there.”

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AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games

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