Led by Simone Biles, US sets World Gymnastics Championships roster

Simone Biles had already narrowly earned a spot on the U.S. team heading to the world championships later this month, but other gymnasts in contention had to wait another day. Shilize Jones, Skye Blakely, Jocelyn Roberson and Leanne Wong will join Biles on the five-member team competing in Antwerp, Belgium, USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday night.

The team will be favorites to win gold — especially with Russia, a gymnastics powerhouse, still banned from international competition due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine — and the U.S. women also poised to capture impressive medals from the individual events. Are.

Biles made several major mistakes during Tuesday’s all-around competition at the selection event held at a gym in Katy, Texas, but she improved on Wednesday with error-free routines on bars and beam. She will arrive in Belgium in search of her sixth all-around gold at the World Championships.

“I feel like everyone was nervous [Tuesday] – Not just me,” Biles told reporters on Wednesday. “And I don’t know why. But it was absolutely difficult. So today was a much better day.”

Analysis: It’s easy to pick a strong American team. Who is difficult to leave?

This group of American gymnasts – which includes four athletes who have won world championship medals along with one newcomer in Roberson – will compete for podium finishes on each apparatus. (Kayla DiCello, an alternate for the Tokyo Olympics, will also travel as an alternate.) Gymnasts earned their spots on the team after a two-day selection event, which included an all-around competition on Tuesday and additional performances on two apparatus on Wednesday. Were. Bars and beam for almost everyone).

Jones, who won all-around silver at last year’s world championships, nearly finished ahead of Biles on the first day of the selection event, when the top all-around finisher secured an automatic spot on the team. But Jones made a mistake on bars during her final routine and fell to second place. She performed brilliantly on Wednesday to score 14.750, the highest bar score during the two-day event. Jones’ best all-around score this season, 57.800 on the second day of nationals, is well short of Biles’ highest (59.300), but should be enough to compete for an all-around medal.

Olympians Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey were not selected for the World Championships team. Both suffered multiple falls during the trials, and the gymnast who performed more consistently throughout the season and this week was chosen to replace them. (The team for the Pan American Games was also selected on Wednesday and Chiles got the opportunity to compete there.)

Better with age: Simone Biles leads a maturing group of US gymnasts

In addition to Biles and Jones, two other gymnasts on the five-member team have world championship experience: Blakely, who won a gold medal with the team in 2022; Wong, an alternate for the Tokyo Olympics, was also part of the US team last year and has two individual medals (silver in the all-around and bronze on floor) from the 2021 World Championships.

Blakely fell behind the bars on Wednesday, but his recent performances have almost brought him into the team on the day. Blakely has consistently scored at least 14,000 on vault, bars and beam – good enough for a team score on each apparatus – and she could advance to the world finals on bars and beam. Despite low floor scores during Tuesday’s all-around competition, Blakely scored 55.000 — not far off Biles (55.700) and Jones (55.300).

Wong, a junior from Florida who continues to train with her college coaches during elite season, followed up her strong performance at nationals by completing all of her routines during the trials. Wong provides the team with a stable option on each device.

In a team final, the United States will rely on three gymnasts per apparatus, so identifying the top three finishers on each is often the starting point for determining the group with the highest scoring potential. Wong doesn’t quite fit into those calculations. Other gymnasts — Zoe Miller with strong bars scores or Kalia Lincoln with excellent floor routines — could provide a bigger scoring boost than Wong. But Miller and Lincoln offer little on other instruments, and Wong’s ability to contribute anywhere is valuable.

Roberson earned a spot on the team after a breakout season. The 17-year-old from Texas started training at the World Champions Center, a club owned by Biles’ family, a year ago and has improved significantly since then. Roberson finished just 18th nationally in 2022, but moved up to seventh this year, then finished fourth in the all-around at the selection event.

Roberson does two separate vaults – a requirement to win a medal on apparatus – and she could earn a spot with Biles on the podium at the world championships. She has also scored up to 14.150 on floor this season and has the potential to reach the finals.

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