At the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Biles had a two-point edge entering the second day of the women’s competition Sunday, and her lead only grew on her way to a seventh national all-around title. Biles’s final score of 119.650 put her nearly five points ahead of runner-up Sunisa Lee. Biles has begun incorporating a goat emblem on her leotards — a symbol of the 24-year-old’s status as the greatest of all time — and her performances prove that she is worthy of that acclaim.
Biles soared off the table on both of her vaults, even though she didn’t perform the stunning Yurchenko double pike she unveiled last month. Unlike on the first day of competition Friday, she managed to control her power and adrenaline on the floor. Biles improved upon her already terrific opening performance with a 60.100 all-around score Sunday, which is her best mark since October 2018. In addition to her all-around title, Biles finished with the best scores on the vault, beam and floor.
“I feel like every single championships stands out for a different reason, but this one stands out specifically because it’s the road to Tokyo,” Biles said. “And we came out here, we did what we were supposed to.”
With just three weeks until the Olympic trials, time is running out for the gymnasts in contention to prove they should make the team. The trials, a two-day competition in St. Louis, will be another critical moment for these athletes, but with their performances this week, a few already have emerged as favorites — none more so than Lee and Jordan Chiles. Those two finished second and third in Fort Worth and delivered two sets of solid routines, each one bringing them a step closer to Tokyo.
When asked whether the top three gymnasts — Biles, Lee and Chiles — have begun to separate themselves from the pack, high performance director Tom Forster said, “You can look at the scores, and if the scores are anything, it looks like that.”
Lee, one of the world’s best on the bars, performed a terrific routine on that event for a personal-best 15.300 on Friday. On Sunday, she didn’t connect all of the skills as she hoped, which lowered her difficulty score. But she still managed a 14.900 to secure the only event title not claimed by Biles.
Lee has dealt with an ankle injury lately, but she had solid outings on the vault and floor this weekend, which strengthens her position to earn a spot on the four-member Olympic team. The U.S. squad will need all-arounders to fill those spots because all four gymnasts perform every event in the qualification round, with three scores counting toward the team total, and three compete in each event in the final. Lee, who also finished second to Biles at 2019 nationals, reaffirmed that she can contribute on more than the bars.
In the final rotation, the 18-year-old from Minnesota needed a strong beam routine to maintain her lead over Chiles, and she capped her evening with a calm performance. Lee hadn’t performed a vault to a competition surface “in a long time,” she said, and her floor routine is still downgraded to protect her ankles.
“It definitely helped my confidence going in [to the trials] because I know that I don’t have to be at 100 percent to be able to still be in the top two,” Lee said, adding that she hopes to upgrade her floor routine before the trials.
Chiles’s confidence has soared this year as she has continued to showcase consistently solid routines. In Fort Worth, Chiles, who trains alongside Biles, performed eight hit routines, building on her success earlier in her breakout season.
“I truly believe that I accomplished something really, really big today because this is something that I’ve always looked forward to,” Chiles said.
Chiles, the runner-up behind Biles at the U.S. Classic last month in Indianapolis, was in tears after the competition. The emotion, she said, was prompted by seeing her coach, Cecile Landi, tear up after her final routine. Biles then told Chiles that she deserved all of her recent accomplishments and that she has a chance to make the team that will head to Tokyo.
“It just all hit me that I’m so close,” Chiles said, “because if I looked at myself in the past, I don’t even think I would be where I am right now.”
If Chiles and Lee continue to perform at this level through the Olympic trials, the other gymnasts will have to chase the fourth spot on the team. Four points separated Chiles and Emma Malabuyo, the fourth-place finisher at 110.450. So even though Biles has a massive advantage on the field, Lee and Chiles also delivered performances this weekend that, for now, position them above the rest.
The United States also can send two athletes to the Games to compete as individuals; those gymnasts will perform on every event and can earn medals, but they are not part of the team competition. Riley McCusker made a strong case as a candidate to earn one of those spots with an exceptional performance on the bars across both days of competition. McCusker suffered an ankle injury at the U.S. Classic, so she didn’t compete in any other events in Fort Worth. She finished second to Lee on the event via her two-day total, but Sunday she scored a 15.100, the best mark of the day on the bars and an indication that she has the potential to make the event final in Tokyo.