SAN JOSE, Calif. – Team USA will send one of its most decorated and competitive women’s gymnastics teams ever to next month’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games as it attempts to defend its Olympic team gold medal for the first time in history.
Chosen after two intense nights of competition at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the team is led by three-time all-around world champion Simone Biles, who is already the most decorated U.S. gymnast and will look to cement her place in history at her Olympic debut in Rio. Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman return to the Olympic team after winning both team and individual golds at the London Olympic Games four years ago. They become the first U.S. women’s gymnasts to make two Olympic teams since Dominique Dawes and Amy Chow did so from 1996 to 2000.
Joining them is first-year-senior standout Laurie Hernandez, who finished second to Biles at Olympic Trials and becomes the first Puerto Rican woman to make a U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team, and uneven bars specialist Madison Kocian, who last year won the world title in uneven bars in a four-way tie.
The three replacement athletes are Ashton Locklear, MyKayla Skinner and Ragan Smith.
Meet the members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team:
Hometown: Spring, Texas
Years On Senior Level: Simone Biles made her senior debut at the 2013 AT&T American Cup and 2016 marks her fourth year as a senior.
Who Is Simone Biles? Biles is considered by many to be the greatest female gymnast ever. In three years, she won 14 world championship medals (10 golds), more than any U.S. athlete in history.
Rio Expectations: Biles has built her impressive legacy for four years, patiently waiting to make her mark at the Olympic Games. She and the rest of the world have high expectations for her performance in Rio. All eyes will be on her to see if she could take home five golds – team, all-around, balance beam, floor and vault. Biles struggles on uneven bars and has not won a world medal on that event.
International Experience Highlights: Biles has 14 world championship medals: two team golds (2014-15), three all-around golds (2013-15), three floor golds (2013-15), two golds (2014-15) and a bronze (2013) on balance beam, and two silvers (2013, ’15) and a bronze (2014) on vault.
How She Fared At Olympic Trials: Biles won the all-around, earning the sole automatic qualification spot, and was tops on floor exercise and vault, while finishing fourth on balance beam and tied for fourth on uneven bars.
How The Team Naming Really Felt Compared To What She Expected: "I think we all thought we would be a little bit more nervous in the waiting room, but we were just talking and on our phones and taking pictures – kind of having fun because you want to remember it as having fun instead of almost passing out."
Thoughts On The Upcoming Month Leading Up To Rio: "I’m excited about being with the girls all the time because we all know what it’s like to go through this and we have each other to lean on, and I think that’s the best thing that could have happened."
Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Years On Senior Level: Gabby Douglas made her senior debut in 2011, though she did not compete in 2013 and 2014, taking a break after the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Who Is Gabby Douglas? Douglas made history in 2012 when she became the first U.S. athlete to win both team and all-around gold medals. She is also the first black gymnast to win an individual Olympic gold medal. In making the 2016 team, she is the first Olympic all-around champion to return to the next Games since Nadia Comaneci did so in 1980.
Rio Expectations: Douglas will of course help the team toward gold in Rio, and could be a surprise all-around final competitor – and medalist. While she hasn’t been at her best at the recent P&G Championships and Olympic Trials, Douglas has proven she can put out her best when it matters most, winning both the Olympic all-around gold in 2012 and world all-around silver in 2015.
International Experience Highlights: Douglas owns two Olympic golds, two world championship team golds (2011, ’15) and world all-around silver from her comeback year, 2015.
How She Fared At Olympic Trials: Douglas was seventh in the all-around and third on uneven bars. She also took sixth on vault, was tied for sixth on floor and was 11th in uneven bars.
On Earning Her Spot On The Olympic Team: "I feel like through my whole career I’ve had to fight for everything. I’m used to it by now but at the same time it's like, 'Let’s do it and let’s keep fighting.' That’s me and my demeanor."
On Being Compared To Her 2012 Self: "I do want to be sharper. When I look at my performances, I’m like, ‘Oo, you’re lagging behind, Gabs.’ The one thing I tell myself is to not get lazy. Nothing is handed to you; you always have to fight for yourself. Personally, I don’t feel as sharp as London, but that’s going to change. Right now, I’m so determined to get back in the gym and be better than before."
Hometown: Old Bridge, N.J.
Years On Senior Level: Laurie Hernandez is a first-year senior, the only one on the Olympic team.
Who Is Laurie Hernandez? Hernandez is the sole first-year senior-level gymnast on the team and was picked as a favorite to make the team after winning the junior all-around national title last year.
Rio Expectations: Like many of her teammates, Hernandez can contribute in all four events and will be key in the team final. She is a favorite to contend for an all-around medal at her Olympic debut, should she make the final. She could also make event finals in balance beam and potentially uneven bars.
International Experience Highlights: Rio will be Hernandez’s first major senior international meet, but at her senior international debut in March she was first on balance beam, second on vault and third in the all-around at Jesolo Trophy in Italy.
How She Fared At Olympic Trials: Hernandez made a big statement for herself, finishing second to Biles in the all-around, in addition to winning balance beam. She also was third on on floor, fourth on vault and seventh on uneven bars.
On Making An Olympic Team With Olympic Champions Douglas And Raisman: "That’s incredible. Wow. That’s all I can really say. I was 12 and that’s a really young age. Four years really matures you. I didn’t realize how much mentally and physically older I got in the past four years, so looking back at this little girl watching the Olympics on her phone, I would never think I’d be here right now."
What She Is Looking Forward To Most From Now Through Rio: "This next month is going to be really hard. It’s not sugar-coated at all; I’m ready for all the training and everything. We have tomorrow off, then it’s back in the gym. There’s so many things that I want to go back and fix. I can’t wait."
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Years On Senior Level: Madison Kocian made her senior-level debut in 2013 and is in her fourth year.
Who Is Madison Kocian? Kocian is best known for winning the uneven bars world title in 2015, though not in the most traditional fashion. Kocian tied three other gymnasts for an unprecedented four-way tie for gold.
Rio Expectations: Kocian is considered Team USA’s sole event specialist and will contribute the country’s highest scores on bars. The good news for Kocian and the rest of the team is she is also an all-arounder and can contribute on the other events as needed. She will also hope to make the uneven bars final and turn her world title into Olympic gold.
International Experience Highlights: Kocian won team and uneven bars gold at the 2015 world championships as well as team gold at the 2014 worlds.
How She Fared At Olympic Trials: As expected, Kocian won uneven bars. She also finished eighth in the all-around, ninth on both bea and floor, and 12th on vault.
On Awaiting The Announcement Of The Team: "I was sitting next to Aly. We’ve been rooming this whole trip together. We were just holding hands and Martha came in and was emotional since this was going to be her last Olympics. It’s just something so special that I will never forget her announcing my name."
Hometown: Needham, Mass.
Years On Senior Level: The most veteran member of the team, Aly Raisman made her senior debut in 2010; however, she did not compete at all in 2013 and 2014, taking a break after the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Who Is Aly Raisman? Raisman came home from the 2012 Olympics as Team USA’s most decorated gymnast, earning three medals. In addition to contributing to the team gold, she won gold on floor exercise (a first for the U.S.) and bronze on balance beam. She also tied for third in the all-around but finished fourth due to a tiebreaker.
Rio Expectations: Raisman could try to match her feat of three medals when she returns to the Games in Rio. In addition to a medal in the team event, she will hope to return to the floor final and defend her title, and she has put extra effort into beam this year in hopes of making an impact in that final as well. She has been one of the country’s top all-arounders as of late, but says it is not a focus for her in Rio, knowing full well she could be one of the top in the world and not qualify for the final due to the two-per-country rule.
International Experience Highlights: In addition to her Olympic medals, Raisman’s world championship experience includes two team golds (2011, ’15) and a silver (2010), and bronze on floor exercise (2011). She also finished fourth in all-around and balance beam in 2011.
How She Fared At Olympic Trials: Raisman was a consistent top-three finisher at Olympic Trials on most events. She was third in the all-around, second on floor, third on vault and 11th on uneven bars.
Why She Cried Less Than When She Made The Team In 2012: "I think it just hasn’t really sunk in yet. I cried right after the meet and then when my name was announced. By the time we got our jackets on and I waited for the other girls, I stopped crying. Martha said we have to look happy because last time me and Gabby looked so sad when we went out there, so I tried to really take it in."
On Her Conversation With Simone Biles Before The Team Was Named: "We were joking and I was like, ‘I really am going to live up to my grandma name because I’m going to have a heart attack before they announce the names,’ because I was so nervous. Simone’s like, ‘I know, I’m too young to die.’ I don’t think she realized she had her automatic spot. And she could have fallen 10 times tonight and she still would’ve made the team. That’s the thing about Simone – no matter how successful she is, she always goes for more and works really hard. It says a lot about this team because we’re all trying to squeak out extra tenths and I hope that we live up to our potential in Rio."