Lesson one, no matter what the scores say, Simone Biles is still the Queen/GOAT/legend… but she’s also a human being
Simone Biles is, finally, officially, going to her second Olympic Games. The 24-year-won the US Olympic Team Trials, which took place in St Louis from 24-27 June, with her combined two-day score of 118.098.
On the second day, uncharacteristic errors on bars and beam meant that Biles was beaten for the first time in the all-around since 2013, but she still heads to Tokyo aiming to be the first female gymnast in 50 years to win consecutive all-around titles. She could also win up to five gold medals.
"I feel like I’ve been emotional this whole week … The journey has been so real," Biles told NBC after the event.
The crowd let Biles know they’ve got her back as they cheered her on from the stands.
Lesson two, even through tragedy, heartache and injury you can make it through difficult times with the support of those around you
Sunisa Lee joins Biles in the second automatic spot on the US team for Tokyo 2020 in 2021, after coming runner up to Biles with a score of 115.832 over the two days. On the second day, following Biles’ wobbles, Lee scored a 58.133 to Biles’ 57.533.
It was an emotional moment for the 18-year-old who made the team after an extremely challenging few years. On returning to the gym after a period of lockdown in 2020, Lee broke her ankle, requiring further time out of training. She then lost both her aunt and uncle to COVID-19 within a week of each other. Then tragically, in 2019, Lee's dad became paralysed from the chest down after falling off a ladder while helping a neighbour.
Lee's family's Hmong community have rallied. The ethnic group from within Laos, her parents' heritage – have been there throughout and Lee couldn’t be more grateful.
"I'm just trying to compete for everybody, for the Hmong community, my dad and my family,” Lee told Olympics.com. “I want them to be proud of me.”
“It would be the greatest accomplishment of any Hmong person in the US ever,” says Lee's father John while she was on an interview Zoom call to Elle magazine last month. “It will go down in history.”
Another person who offered the teenager support during the most difficult of times? One Simone Biles, legendary gymnast and super human being.
I'm just trying to compete for everybody, for the Hmong community, my dad and my family. I want them to be proud of me.
Lesson three, whether it’s your first Olympics or your third, the emotion in qualifying is still the same
Sam Mikulak, 28, will be heading to his third Olympic Games, while it’ll be Yul Moldauer’s second, both having been in Rio. Mikulak said this had been the hardest year ever to qualify, after he had to isolate following close contact with someone with COVID-19, missing six weeks’ training at the end of last year, while also managing an elbow injury. Mikulak finished fourth in the weekends’ trials (166.750) to book his ticket to Japan.
Meanwhile, the 2017 US champion Yul Moldauer, will join the recently-crowned US champion, Brody Malone in the US team, after coming second in the trials to newbie Malone, with a score of 168.600. Malone (171.600) had never even competed at a senior men’s championships until the US championships a few weeks ago and has never competed as a senior outside the United States. He’s now headed to Japan for his first one.
Shane Wiskus, meanwhile, joins the four-man team having overcome quite the upheaval in his preparations. A 2019 world team member, Wiskus had to move cross-country to train after the funding was cut to his University of Minnesota men's gymnastics team. “It's just been a crazy year, and you just can't make this stuff up," Wiskus said.
The 2014 Youth Olympics all-around bronze medalist, Alec Yoder, makes up the team, heading to the Olympic Games as a pommel horse specialist.
Lesson four, when life gives you lemons, get creative
When lockdown happened due to COVID-19 across the world, gymnasts were pretty much stuck due to the equipment needed in order to train properly. But Yul Moldauer's neighbours had quite the treat when the then Olympic hopeful created a training set up in his front yard. Come mid-August when the Tokyo Olympic Games come to an end, they will be able to say they have seen a real-live Olympian in action.
The USA Gymnastics women’s team for Tokyo 2020 is:
Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum (team)
Jade Carey (individual)
MyKayla Skinner (vault specialist)
The USA Gymnastics men's team for Tokyo 2020 is:
Brody Malone, Sam Mikulak, Yul Moldauer, Shane Wiskus (team)
Alec Yoder (individual)
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics artistic gymnastics competition starts on Saturday 24 July with three rounds of men’s qualification. The women’s competition starts the next day, Sunday 25 July.