Nicknamed “Jaderade,” Carey arrived in Tokyo via a different qualifying route than her teammates, earning a spot through the apparatus World Cup series rather than through the USA Gymnastics selection process. She might have been in contention to make the four-member American team regardless, but her chosen route meant her berth was assured even before the U.S. trials.
As an individual competitor, she was able perform in every event with the opportunity to earn individual medals. That’s why Carey did not compete in Tuesday’s team final, in which the U.S. earned silver.
She has also qualified for the event finals in vault and floor, finishing second and third, respectively, in those events.
The 21-year-old from Phoenix has been considered a vault and floor specialist.
Like Biles, Carey came to Tokyo with a new signature move, though hers is on the floor rather than the vault. It’s a triple-twisting double layout, something that carries a high degree of difficulty and has not been done by a female gymnast in floor competition. (Carey has unveiled it in training.) The move consists of a double backflip with three twists and is one that Biles performs with her knees tucked. Carey does it with her body straight, which makes the move much more difficult. If she performs it in the Olympics, the move will be named for her.
Carey has won four world championship medals: one gold and three silvers. She won silver on vault and floor exercise at in 2017 and a team gold and silver on vault in 2019. But it was her success in the 2017 world championships that opened up international possibilities for Carey.
“Winning silver on vault and floor really boosted my confidence,” she told NBC, “and made me realize the Olympics is something I could go for.”
With Biles’s withdrawal from the all-around event, Carey’s big moment in the spotlight comes at a fortuitous time. A strong showing in Tokyo would significantly boost the profile of Carey, who postponed entry into college to train for the Olympics, at a time when college athletes can now profit from their names, images and likenesses. No longer must gymnasts choose between elite and college competition, and Carey is slated to compete for Oregon State.
“Everyone wants to do both,” Samantha Peszek, a 2008 Olympian who went on to become an NCAA all-around camp at UCLA, told The Washington Post’s Emily Giambalvo. “My teammates were doing ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and really cool deals, and I was in math class,” she said.
It’s a freedom that Jordyn Wieber called “the best thing that could happen to gymnastics.”
Carey arrives with another distinction that sets her apart from the team and other Olympians. A member of her family was able to join her in Tokyo despite restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic because her father, Brian, trains her at the Arizona Sunrays gym in Phoenix.
“We’ve been through it all together. The ups, the downs, the good the bad,” she wrote to her dad on Instagram last year. “You’ve shown me how to spread my wings and in myself believe. I can’t wait to finish this journey of ours, we’re almost there.”