SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - When you are a three-time world all-around champion you get a free pass and Simone Biles will have one tucked into her leotard if needed at this weekend’s U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics trials.
It is doubtful, however, that Biles will need any charity to punch her ticket to next month’s Rio Games.
The petite dynamo enters the two-day Olympic trials in top form having demolished the same field she will face here just two weeks ago when she became the first woman in 42 years to win four consecutive U.S. women’s gymnastics championships.
Asked on Thursday if there was anything that could happen on Friday and Sunday to keep Biles off the team, women’s national team program director Marta Karolyi paused for a moment, looked upwards, thought and answered; ”I don’t think so.
”She has a fantastic past so certainly if she would have a bad day we would go back and analyze what she did before and compare with the other contenders.
“I really don’t assume that.”
None of the other 15 women battling for the five coveted spots will get the same benefit of the doubt, not even 2012 London Olympic double gold medallist Gabby Douglas.
The darling of the London Games, Douglas, who has developed a reputation of thriving at the biggest moments, could be a threat to repeat in Rio but first must get on the team.
Karolyi, who has never let sentiment stand in the way of team selection, made it clear she was unimpressed by Douglas’s fourth place effort at the U.S. championships and will need to see better from her at the trials.
”I‘m hoping she will be really eager to prove herself in this competition,“ said Karolyi. ”Everyone is under pressure here and certainly she is.
“I would hope she would show a consistent performance because at the championships she was a little bit rocky, wobbly here and there, so I would want her to show a more consistent routine.”
Karolyi denied reports that she had long ago settled on her lineup but the 73-year-old gymnastic matriarch conceded that in her mind there was an ideal team.
Biles, Fierce Five team mates Douglas and Aly Raisman and former junior sensation Laurie Hernandez are believed to have the inside track on four spots leaving only one other place up for grabs.
That spot could be decided between Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear, two uneven bar specialists who would shore up one of the American team’s weaker events.
“We haven’t picked our team, we always have in our minds the ideal composition but we have never picked the team before this competition,” said Karolyi.
”This competition is extremely important. They need to prove themselves, they need to show they are able to handle the stress and routines are very consistent.
”We have a second option, third option, fourth option and even fifth option depending on what we see on the conclusion of the second day. The selection committee will put the puzzle together.
“Usually the first place is easy to identify but then you get down to four and five you have to a lot of thinking and play a lot with the different scenarios how really we can have the best three up on every event.”
Editing by Frank Pingue