Olympic medallists Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez and Chellsie Memmel are set to compete in Indianapolis at the upcoming U.S. Classic.
Her last outing was historic and ended in five World Championships gold medals. After more than a year away, what surprises will she have in store for the gymnastics world?
For Chellsie Memmel, the wait has been even longer – some 3,283 days since the 2008 Olympic silver medallist last donned a leotard in competition.
Biles and Memmel will be joined by fellow Olympic medallist Laurie Hernandez Saturday (22 May) in Indianapolis, the first major competition to help select the 2021 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team.
Here’s what to keep an eye on in Indy.
Biles’ testing ground
At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s media summit last month, Biles indicated she plans to compete on all four apparatus at the Classic, her first time doing so since winning her fifth World all-around title in 2019.
She also may debut a difficult new vault, the Yurchenko double pike. In April, Biles said she would ‘definitely’ debut it prior to the Tokyo Olympics to see how she would react to in competition.
While Biles is likely to run away from the field, the competition serves a much bigger purpose: get her feet wet in one of three competitive opportunities prior to the Olympic Games. There, she’ll likely be the biggest star as she attempts to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles since Czechoslovakia’s Vera Caslavska did it in 1964 and 1968.
To celebrate our most popular episode of 2019 - we are replaying our chat with Simone. We caught up with the history-making four-time Olympic champion gymnast Simone Biles at her gym in Houston for an exclusive interview. We also spoke to Olympic champ Nastia Liukin about why she thinks Biles is the greatest of all time.
Memmel returns, Hernandez continues
After getting back into training while cleaning the gymnastics facility her parents own at the start of the pandemic, Memmel is now set for her first competition since the 2012 U.S. Classic.
It’s just one more step in her new, adult gymnastics journey, she says.
“I can’t believe it,” Memmel said in a YouTube video posted on Sunday. “It’s still a little bit crazy to me. I’m freaking out a little bit, also excited. Incredibly nervous. It’s another test to me to see where I’m at and see how it goes because I don’t know.”
Hernandez competed for the first time since the Rio Games in late February at the Winter Cup. There, she was impressive – notching a fifth place finish on the balance beam. But she’ll need to improve from what she showed at the Winter Cup in order to, first, qualify to June’s U.S. Championship and, second, signal she is a contender for a very deep U.S. women’s gymnastics team.
Beyond the Olympic medallists, the U.S. Classic features a bevy of women who have won World Championships gold including 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd, and world team champions Jade Carey, Kara Eaker, Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum, Riley McCusker and MyKayla Skinner.
All but Hurd and Skinner have already competed in 2021; however, the U.S. Classic will be the first time fans and – more importantly – the selection committee for the Olympic team see them all on the same floor at the same time. Hurd, who stars in the Olympic Channel original series All Around, is returning after elbow surgeries in March, while Skinner has worked her way back into form after having COVID-19 last year. She told Olympic Channel last month she’s also dealing with a nagging ankle injury.
While all seven will likely have no problem qualifying to (or already have) the U.S. championships, impressing here could be important in determining the five women who are named to the Olympic squad at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials (24-27 June in St. Louis). Carey has already mathematically secured a specialist spot to the Games.
They’ll also be contending with a rising Jordan Chiles, who won the Winter Cup all-around title in February. Her impressive performance, under the guidance of new coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi, signaled she’s one to watch on the road to Tokyo. New seniors Konnor McClain and Skye Blakely are also likely to be factors.
The U.S. Classic signals a busy stretch for women’s gymnastics in the United States. Next up is the U.S. Championships, 3-6 June in Ft. Worth, followed by the U.S. trials three weeks later. Those events will determine the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team.
USA Gymnastics will name its Tokyo team on the final day of its Olympic trials: June 27. Beyond Carey, the only way to lock a spot to the Games is by finishing in the top two all-around after both days of competition at the trials.
The remaining Olympians will be determined by the selection committee that consists of USA Gymnastics High Performance Team Coordinator Tom Forster, Tatiana Perskaia, who was appointed by the USA Gymnastics International Elite committee, and athlete representative Jessie DeZiel.