sports : Meet the U.S. Gymnastics Team for the Paris Olympics

Monday 1 July 2024 10:45 PM

Nafeza 2 world - The U.S. has set its women’s and men’s gymnastics teams for Paris. The group features five Olympians, including Simone Biles, who is competing in her third Summer Games, and five who will make their Olympic debuts at the Bercy Arena.

Read More: Your Guide to the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics: When and How to Watch—and What to Expect

In total, 36 gymnasts, 16 women and 20 men, competed for the 10 spots available, and four were named as alternates who will travel to Paris. The women and men each competed over two days, and their scores from both days, combined with their competition results from the past season, factored into the selection decision.

No trials process is easy, and this was no exception. Many gymnasts see the winnowing process to make Team USA more nerve wracking and difficult than the Olympics themselves. “It’s still stressful,” Jordan Chiles said after the first day of competition. “This is the most stressful one I’ve done in my whole entire career, because you find out you either make it or you don’t.”

This year’s trials was especially punishing for the women, as three promising gymnasts injured themselves during training or warmup for the competition in Minneapolis. Skye Blakely, a member of the gold medal-winning team at last year’s world championships, injured her Achilles the day before the first day of competition while training on floor exercise; Kayla DiCello and Shilese Jones both injured themselves minutes before the first day of competition as they were warming up on vault. Jones returned to compete on uneven bars, but eventually pulled out of the trials and did not compete on the second day. Like Blakely, DiCello also injured her Achilles and announced that she would not be continuing with the competition.

“It’s always hard to see one of your teammates getting hurt and this is the third one this week so it’s becoming a little stressful,” said Laurent Landi, Biles’ coach at World Champions Centre (WCC), after the first day of competition. “How do you reset after that? So we told [the gymnasts] to calm down and just think about themselves, one event at a time and one skill at a time, and to live in the moment and don’t think ahead too much and don’t think in the past as well.”

That’s easier said than done, especially with an event as monumental as the Olympics looming in just over four weeks. Here’s who you can expect to see competing for the red, white, and blue in Paris.

U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials Mens Day 2
The U.S. Olympic Men’s Gymnastics Team and alternates celebrate after the Team Trials in Minneapolis on June 29, 2024.Nikolas Liepins—Anadolu/Getty Images

USA Gymnastics (USAG) changed its men’s programs following the Tokyo Olympics, with an aim toward earning a team medal in Paris, something the men haven’t done since 2008.

Over the past three years, Brett McClure, the men’s high performance director at USAG, prioritized raising the difficulty score of the U.S. team—under current international gymnastics scoring, each gymnast has his own start value, which reflects the difficulty of the skills he performs. The higher the difficulty, the more points he can potentially add to the team score, which is a calculated composite of team members’ scores. “Honestly, I didn’t think we could do it,” said McClure. “We thought maybe this was going be an LA [Los Angeles, the host of the 2028 Olympics] path for change, as far as increasing the difficulty. But they did it in time for Paris.”

By the numbers, the U.S. team should be able to earn enough points to earn a medal. “Japan’s difficulty score is right around 110, China 108.4, and our difficulty score is 106.4,” said McClure. “So we’re great compared to where we were in Tokyo, where we were six points behind [from medal contention]. We’re in a much different position now and we’re going to control our own destiny.”

Fred Richard
U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials Mens Day 2
Frederick Richard, left, leaves the floor after open stretch during the Trials.Nikolas Liepins—Anadolu/Getty Images

Richard was the top scorer during both nights of Trials, and finished in the top three on three of the six events on which the men compete, which earned him an automatic berth on the Olympic team. A native of Stoughton, Mass., he just completed his sophomore year at the University of Michigan, where he trains with head coach Yuan Xiao. Richard is the reigning world all-around bronze medalist, and he was part of the U.S. men’s team that earned bronze in the team event at those world championships last year. An electric performer on floor and high bar, he’s already created his own brand, frederickflips, that sells apparel, hats, and athletic gear, and he’s a social media and YouTube star. He is chronicling his journey to the Olympics on social media, and has earned a sizable following for his entertaining TikTok challenges with fellow athletes at the University of Michigan. The big sized personality comes with an equally sized dedication and commitment to gymnastics—his teammates know to always find him at the gym, where he’s the first one in and last one out. In Paris, Richard hopes to improve on his bronze standing in the all-around competition as well as help Team USA to the podium in the team event.

Brody Malone
U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials Mens Day 2
Brody Malone competes in the floor exercise during the Trials.Nikolas Liepins—Anadolu/Getty Images

After a devastating leg injury at the 2022 world championships that left him with a fractured leg and torn ligaments in his knee after a freak dismount off the high bar, Malone had three surgeries and endured months of rehab to learn to walk again. Gymnastics, especially at the high level he was accustomed to performing, wasn’t a given. And there wasn’t a lot of time to ease into the intense level of training required to be an Olympic contender. But Malone fought and by March was back on vault and floor exercise, perhaps the events that put the most strain on the legs and knees, with a brace. Malone shed the brace for vault during the Trials, saying that it hurt his shins and made the run-up to the table more difficult. As the only gymnast with Olympic experience, he’s already become the de facto leader of the group, initiating a group text labelled Olympic Team 24 with an inaugural “’sup boys” message the morning after the team was announced. His experience as the world champion on high bar in 2022, and competing at Stanford will certainly help Team USA to the podium in Paris.

Paul Juda
Paul Juda celebrates after competing on the vault during the men's U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials , in Minneapolis on June 29, 2024.
Paul Juda celebrates after competing on the vault during the Trials.Nikolas Liepins—Anadolu/Getty Images

Breaking down in tears when talking about his journey to the Olympics, Juda, a teammate of Richard’s at the University of Michigan, says he almost erased ‘make the Olympic team’ from his whiteboard of goals. “I’m glad I didn’t,” he said immediately after he learned he was going to Paris. “Every time somebody says ‘Olympian,’ you just get that warm fuzzy feeling.” Juda is one of the few males who also performs the difficult Yurchenko double pike vault that Simone Biles made famous, but he wasn’t ready to reveal whether it’s possible that two Americans could perform that skill in Paris.

Asher Hong
Asher Hong reacts after his floor routine during the Men's U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials in Minneapolis on June 29, 2024.
Asher Hong reacts after his floor routine during the Trials.Nick Wosika—Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

A member of the NCAA championship team at Stanford, Hong is the youngest member of the men’s squad. After a disappointing national championships (which counted as part of the selection for the Olympic team) a month ago, when he finished 10th in the all-around, Hong rallied to close out trials in fifth place. He used his frustration after the national championships to focus his training on strengthening his weaknesses and leaving as little room for error as possible. “Visualizing this week, after every visualization, I was like, ‘what are you going to write on that paper?’” he said of daring the judges to find fault in his performances. “Nothing. Nothing. It was kind of like a battle between me and the judges, like try and find something in this routine, I dare you,” he said.

Stephen Nedoroscik
Stephen Nedoroscik competes on the pommel horse during the men's U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis on June 29, 2024.
Stephen Nedoroscik competes on the pommel horse during the Trials.Nikolas Liepins—Anadolu/Getty Images

The only specialist on the team, Nedoroscik, who trains in Florida at the same gym as Malone, is a four-time national champion on pommel horse, probably the U.S. men’s team’s weakest event. It wasn’t until he was 15 that Nedoroscik realized he had a talent for the pommel horse routines, which require a blend of power, endurance, and technical skill to swing along and on top of the horse. A coach of a former national champion on the event noticed Nedoroscik training at his club gym when he was 15 and told him he could become a national champion on the event one day. “From that moment on, I took pommel horse more seriously and got better and better slowly, and within that year, I won my first ever junior Olympic national title,” Nedoroscik said. He also benefited from the change in selection criteria which allowed for a specialist to round out the team and generate the highest possible score on all six apparatus that are part of the men’s competition. “This time they saw that we actually have specialists who could make the best team, so I was happy they made that change,” he said. “And I do think it’s the best possible team that’s going to pump out the biggest score.”

Shane Wiskus, alternate
Shane Wiskus competes on rings during the Men's U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials in Minneapolis on June 29, 2024.
Shane Wiskus competes on rings during the Trials.Nick Wosika—Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Training alongside Malone at EVO in Florida, Wiskus had the crowd behind him at Trials, which were held in his home state of Minnesota. Wiskus was part of the Tokyo Olympic team and was visibly disappointed after missing the team and being named an alternate. “Numb” was the only word he used to describe his emotions immediately following the decision. “I had the best two days of competition.” Wiskus finished third overall at trials, and was fifth at national championships. But the calculations of the new selection algorithm didn’t favor him this time.

Khoi Young, alternate
Khoi Young competes on the Pommel Horse on Day One of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on June 27, 2024.
Khoi Young competes on the pommel horse during the Trials.Elsa—Getty Images

A teammate and roommate of Hong at Stanford, Young is one of the U.S.’s promising male gymnasts. A native of Maryland, Young is part of the Stanford NCAA championship team from 2023 and the national bronze medalist in the all-around. He struggled at trials, finishing 15th overall after not competing on rings to preserve his strength for the pommel horse, and was named as an alternate. “I know it’s going to hurt not being able to compete but I’m excited to do what I can for the team,” he said.

2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Gymnastics - Day 4
Left to right: Suni Lee, Simone Biles, Hezly Rivera, Jordan Chiles, and Jade Carey pose after being selected for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team on Day Four of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Gymnastics Trials at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 30, 2024.Jamie Squire—Getty Images

After a shaky start in which three gymnasts became injured and were forced to withdraw from trials, the women’s team bounced back and proved that experience pays off. Four of the five-member squad are returning Olympians—in fact nearly a repeat of the Tokyo squad, with Biles, Carey, Chiles, and Lee. The team was selected by a three person committee—Alicia Sacramone Quinn, women’s elite program strategic lead and 2008 Olympic silver medalist; Tatiana Perskaia, international elite committee representative; and Jessica DeZiel, the athlete representative. Sacramone Quinn said it was “pretty cut and dry, an easy decision” when it came to the top four finishers at trials, all of whom were on the Tokyo team. “The fifth spot came down to what we felt like we were lacking as a team and that was on beam, and Hezly really delivered tonight putting up two great scores and we went back and compared her start value, her execution and we felt she’d be a good person to fill that last spot,” Sacramone Quinn said. “She’s always someone that you were keeping an eye on because she has such potential. And with the way the cards fell this week [with injuries] it gave her a huge opportunity.”

All of the returning gymnasts already see Paris as a “redemption tour,” as Biles called it, or a chance to redo the 2021 experience—this time without COVID, and this time hopefully rewriting the results to win the team gold after winning silver in Tokyo. “I feel like we all have more to give since our Tokyo performances weren’t the best,” said Biles. “We weren’t under the best circumstances either. This [Paris] has to be for us, because it can’t be for anybody else, because that’s not why we do it. We do it for ourselves and the love of the sport and the love of representing the U.S.”

Simone Biles
Simone Biles competes in the floor exercise on Day Two of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis on June 28, 2024.
Simone Biles competes in the floor exercise during the trials.Elsa—Getty Images

What more can be said about Biles and her groundbreaking gymnastics? The most decorated gymnast is truly now only competing with herself, and raising the bar every time she competes. To no one’s surprise, Biles scored the highest on both nights of trials and therefore earned an automatic place on the Paris team.

But to everyone’s surprise, she did so by unleashing the Yurchenko double pike vault that’s now named after her since she became the first female gymnast to perform that skill at an international competition last year. She didn’t have to do it at trials, she didn’t need to do it, but her coach Laurent Landi said she wanted to compete with the vault on both nights “to prepare for Paris. It can only get better at meets, so doing it under the pressure and the stress, she needs to know what it feels to do it under that conditions and the only way to feel that is to do it in this kind of place.”

Expect to see some combination of the five skills she has named after her—two on floor, two on vault, and one on balance beam—at some point during her run in Paris. These Olympics will be an opportunity to do what she wasn’t able to do in Tokyo when she decided to withdraw after experiencing the twisties to focus on her mental health. She made a statement four years ago about prioritizing her mental health and she’s ready this time to show that doing so hasn’t—and shouldn’t—take anything away from her status as the greatest gymnast of all time.

Suni Lee
Suni Lee (right) reacts to being named to the U.S. Olympic Team for women's gymnastics in Minneapolis on June 30, 2024.
Suni Lee (right) reacts to being named to the Team.Nikolas Liepins—Anadolu/Getty Images

In the years since winning the all-around Olympic gold in 2021, Lee has experienced a serious kidney condition that doctors predicted would prevent her from doing gymnastics again. But she’s back—and ready to prove something to herself. Crediting the USAG team doctor and her family for not letting her give up on her journey to another Olympics, Lee is eager for a bit or redemption and some goals for Paris. “We really want a team gold,” she said. “And I want to make it to the all-around finals. And then I really want to be in the top three for bars, and I really want a beam gold; I always make it to the final and I always mess up; it’s so annoying.”

Despite winning the all-around in 2021, Lee has also said previously that she felt like an imposter after critics noted she only won because Biles had withdrawn. This time, Lee is back to show herself—and the world—that she deserves to be considered one of the world’s best gymnasts in her own right.

Jordan Chiles
Jordan Chiles celebrates after being selected for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team on Day Four of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 30, 2024.
Jordan Chiles celebrates after being selected for the Team.Elsa—Getty Images

The entertainer of the group, Chiles is known as much for the chill and party vibe she brings to competitions as for her rock-solid gymnastics. This will be Chiles’s second Olympics, and she’s ready to enjoy it her way, with a floor routine set to Beyoncé and an attitude to match. “Ever since I was little, I was always told to be the best version of yourself. So I just put myself out there and am just authentic to whom I am,” she said. “I’m not going to shy away or dim my light for something that isn’t me.” Chiles credits spending a couple of years competing on the collegiate circuit at the University of California in Los Angeles with helping her to manage the pressure of an Olympic year better. “Being that we competed every single weekend I think helped with the confidence,” she said.

Jade Carey
Jade Carey competes on the uneven bars on Day Four of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis on June 30, 2024.
Jade Carey competes on the uneven bars during the Trials.Jamie Squire—Getty Images

Another veteran Tokyo team member, Carey has been competing at Oregon State University, where she has been able to continue training with her father as her coach. She last competed at a major international event at the 2022 world championships, where she was part of the gold medal-winning team and earned an individual gold in vault.

Hezly Rivera
Hezly Rivera reacts after being selected for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team on Day Four of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis on June 30, 2024.
Hezly Rivera reacts after being selected for the Team.Elsa/Getty Images

At 15, Rivera is the youngest member of the entire USA contingent traveling to Paris. “I was surprised, but I’ve also been working so hard for this specific moment,” she said of being named to the team. “My mentality was that I really have nothing to lose. I kind of knew I had a slight chance to be on the team. But I’m very shocked still.” Rivera began gymnastics when a coach spotted her at her best friend’s gymnastics birthday party and suggested that her parents enroll her in classes. Now working with the husband-and-wife team of Valeri and Anna Liukin (parents of 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin), Rivera can contribute to the team’s scores on beam and bars.

Joscelyn Roberson, alternate
Joscelyn Roberson competes on the beam on Day Two of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis on June 28, 2024.
Joscelyn Roberson competes on the beam during the Trials.Elsa—Getty Images

Part of the group from WCC where Biles trains, Roberson was a member of the 2023 world champion team and advanced to the vault final but became injured and couldn’t compete. The Texas native committed to the University of Arkansas for the fall, where she will join the women’s collegiate team run by 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber (Kyla Ross, Wieber’s teammate from 2012, is an assistant coach). Roberson joined WCC after her mother moved to Houston in 2022, and she has thrived under coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi. She credits them with helping her overcome the twisties, the condition that forced Biles to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics when her mind and body weren’t in sync. “I am so excited, going to Paris has been on my mind since I was probably three years old,” she said. In the next month, she plans to go back to the gym and “be ready to step in if I need to and be ready for all of them and be their biggest supporters.”

Leanne Wong, alternate
Leanne Wong hugs her coach after her uneven bars routine on Day Four of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis on June 30, 2024.
Leanne Wong hugs her coach after her uneven bars routine at the Trials.Elsa—Getty Images

This is the second Olympic team for which Wong will serve as an alternate. Now a rising senior at the University of Florida, the Kansas native is the NCAA silver medalist in the all-around and the champion on uneven bars, and she was part of the 2023 gold medal world championships team. Rather than taking time off from the NCAA season to train at the elite national level, Wong balanced both. “In the past year I went on a journey no one has been on, going from college gymnastics right into the elite season, but I’m proud of where I am tonight,” she said. Wong started as an ice skater but switched to gymnastics after her father saw Olympic coach Al Fong on TV and realized his gym was less than an hour away from their home. As part of a fashion and interior design class, Wong turned a hobby of designing hair bow accessories into a business in 2021 and recently partnered with hair dye brand Hally to cross sell her products. “All the little girls that wear my bows and apparel, I’m so appreciative of them,” she said. “And being on the same team as Simone is a dream come true, because I always looked up to her.”

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