Simone Biles takes the lead in US Olympic trials, ready for Tokyo…

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Simone Biles takes the lead in US Olympic trials, ready for Tokyo...

ST. LOUIS — Simone Biles is ready for Tokyo.

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The world and Olympic gymnastics champion put on a dazzling show at the US Olympic trials on Friday night, pulling out all the stops β€” well, almost all of them β€” en route to an impressive lead and a spot in Japan next month.

Her all-around total of 60,565 included a 15,133 on beam with the “double-double” dismount named after her, a maneuver she has kept a secret since the 2019 World Championships. She chose to skip the double pike Yurchenko vault she unveiled at the competition last month and still took the top score at the event.

Her floor exerciseβ€”the exercise that includes not one but two eponymous elements in the sport’s points codeβ€”was both spectacular and spectacularly controlled. Biles was clearly frustrated after stepping outside the boundaries several times while winning her seventh national title earlier this month, keeping her toes well within the white lines during her physics-defying tumbling passes.

THIS FLOOR ROUTINE. @Simone_Biles had the whole place SHOOK. 😳 #GymTrials21

β€” Team USA (@TeamUSA) June 26, 2021

β€œI was super excited to get started on this,” Biles said. “I know exactly what to expect. And I feel like I’m very… like I’m a lot more emotional this time around, which is so crazy. Even running out of tears and crying. The girls say, ‘Are you okay?’ “I’m fine. It’s like I can’t believe the time has come. It’s been five years and I’m grateful.”

The two best all-rounders on Sunday evening after the final automatically qualify for the Olympic team. Biles is a lock, no matter what happens on Sunday.

Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles are also approaching that area. Maybe they are already there.

The trio of Biles, Lee and Chiles came in 1-2-3 at nationals. They are in the same positions heading into the finals after Lee took a 57,666 followed by Chiles with 57,132, more than half a point ahead of MyKayla Skinner.

While many of its competitors returned to competition after a long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chiles sprinted to the title at the Winter Cup in February and has been a fixture in the top three in events ever since. Perhaps just as importantly, she has seemingly become immune to the pressure. She has now completed 20 events in the past four months without dropping any of them.

Even Biles, who came off uneven bars at the US Classic in May, can’t say that.

The selection committee has set aside 30 minutes after the finals to assemble the team. The committee may need every last second to see who deserves fourth place.

Skinner, 24, makes a pretty compelling case. A deputy in 2016, Skinner attended college after the Rio Olympics before returning to the elite level in 2019. She spent part of the COVID-19 pandemic battling the novel coronavirus and pneumonia.

Health scares behind her, she puts on some of the best gymnastics of her career. Skinner fed on the energy in an electric dome at America’s Center, finishing in the top five in three events, begging the crowd to roar at the end of each descent.

Skinner, Grace McCallum and Kayla DiCello are only three tenths apart, with Kara Eaker a little further back. DiCello bounced back from a slow performance in which she fell on multiple events to finish in the top six in three of the four events.

Riley McCusker appears to be losing the race for the “plus-one” specialist spot. Her bar routine is world class, her score of 14,800 would put her in the mix for a medal in Tokyo if she could replicate it.

Jade Carey, who earned a nominated individual spot through the World Cup series, is the only gymnast to compete with her spot already secured. She drilled her Amanar vault, scoring her 15.2 second only to Biles’ at the event.

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