10 things to know about the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team
Before the gymnastics competition begins in Rio, learn more about the ten U.S. men and women that will be trying to tumble, leap and flip onto the podium.
Already a 14-time world championship medalist, she could win five gold medals in Rio
Too young to be eligible for the 2012 Olympics, Biles has completely dominated the gymnastics world over the last four years. She’s won three consecutive all-around titles at the world championships (something that had never been done before) and four all-around titles at the national championships. She hasn’t lost a single all-around competition since the summer of 2013. So expectations are high for Biles in Rio: all-around and team gold medals are considered a lock, and she’s the reigning world champion on floor and beam, too. She’ll face stiff competition from gymnasts who specialize on vault, but after upgrading one of her two vaults earlier this year she now has the most difficult vault combination in the world: the Cheng and the Amanar. What else to notice when Biles is performing? How she’s the first to laugh, joke and cheer with her teammates or competitors. She says she performs her best when she’s having fun.
The Olympic champ wants to make the ultimate comeback in Rio, but history isn’t on her side
The last Olympic all-around champion to successfully defend her title was Vera Caslavska in 1968. The last Olympic all-around champion to even return for a second Olympics was Nadia Comaneci in 1980, when she finished in second place. So no matter how Douglas performs, she’s already accomplished something rare by being a reigning all-around champion on a second Olympic team. But having two gold medals from the 2012 Olympics plus a team gold and all-around silver from the 2015 World Championships doesn’t mean she won’t have something to prove, especially after her performances at the Olympic Trials. She fell off the beam on both days of competition, dropping her down to seventh place in the all-around. But her consistently solid scores on the uneven bars, plus her ability to contribute in a team final on floor and vault if needed, earned her a place on the five-woman squad. She'll need to be at her sharpest to earn a place in the all-around final in Rio.
She’s the team captain and everyone's “Grandma”
22 is not old in any other sport, but three-time Olympic medalist Raisman is very aware that she’s no longer a fresh face; after all, her teammates call her “Grandma” and “Mama Aly” for her tendency to nap every chance she gets. But with age comes experience: she was voted the team captain of the Fierce Five in London and the Rio squad chose her as captain, too. Plus she’s rediscovered her confidence after a string of uncharacteristic errors in late 2015 and early 2016 made it look like she might be struggling under the pressure to return to Olympic form. She turned a corner in early April and made the podium at her last four competitions—and reminded everyone why her original nickname was “Reliable Raisman.”
She’s nicknamed “Baby Shakira” but competes with the confidence of a veteran
A year ago, Hernandez was wrapping up an undefeated 2015 season with all-around wins at the national championships and an international meet in Japan—but in the junior division, as Hernandez was 15 years old. She graduated to the senior ranks just in time for the Rio Olympics and looked right at home alongside the older, more experienced gymnasts. Not only did she share the all-around podium with Simone Biles and Aly Raisman at the 2016 P&G Championships and Olympic Trials, but she also converted entire arenas into screaming fans with a floor routine that emphasizes her dance ability and sassy personality as much as her powerful tumbling. Watch and learn why they call her “Baby Shakira.”
She’s a dynamo on uneven bars and trains at the same gym that produced Nastia Liukin and Carly Patterson
Kocian may look unassuming, but as she showed the world when she and her impressive arm muscles starred in an Under Armour commercial, she is actually a baby-faced killer on the competition floor. Her strongest event is uneven bars, where she consistently puts up smooth routines that look perfectly easy despite being some of the most difficult in the world. At the last two world championships, Kocian’s bars scores helped push the U.S. women into first place in the team competition. And at the 2015 Worlds, Kocian qualified individually for the uneven bars final and posted the top score—which was then tied by three other gymnasts. Kocian, Viktoria Komova and Daria Spiridonova of Russia and Fan Yilin of China all shared the podium as co-champions, but only one gymnast will get to claim Olympic gold in Rio.