SAN JOSE, Calif. – The team is set. Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian and Simone Biles will be Team USA’s gymnasts at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
Just don’t try to call them GLAMSquad.
“I think it’s cute, but that’s not going to be our name,” Raisman said, squashing the nickname that began circulating on Twitter Sunday night, after the team was announced at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in San Jose, California. “I feel like it doesn’t really fit the athletes.”
Raisman and Douglas were members of the gold-medal-winning 2012 U.S. team that became known as the “Fierce Five.” They followed the United States’ other winning team, the 1996 group known as the “Magnificent Seven.”
“Fierce was so good,” Raisman said. “You need something that describes the team.”
So what describes the team?
“Our team is very goofy,” she said. “Like Laurie and Simone are super hyper, but then I can be hyper sometimes, too; you know they always tease me, make fun of me, so you have to have something that fits all of us, but we don’t know yet.”
So, What’s Next?
Gymnasts and gymnastics fans exited the Bay Area en masse on Monday, the San Jose airport serving as ground zero for fans to get one last selfie with their favorite gymnasts.
Before they left, the sleep-deprived athletes went through some morning media sessions and leotard fittings. They’ll have the day off from training as they travel to their respective hometowns before getting back to work tomorrow.
The gymnasts will train at their home gyms for five days before heading to an intense, nine-day pre-Olympic training camp at national team coordinator Martha Karolyi’s Texas ranch.
“This is a period of time when you really want to really work for perfecting and making sure these routines will become absolutely automatic,” Karolyi said.
The Rio gymnastics schedule opens Aug. 6 with men’s qualifications, followed my women’s qualifications the next day.
MadKo Goes About Her Business
The story coming into trials was everywhere: Four of the five Olympic spots are locked up, it was said, and uneven bars standouts Kocian and Ashton Locklear would battle it out for the fifth spot.
Indeed, four of the five Olympic spots were fairly secure, Karolyi confirmed Sunday night. But the race for fifth actually came down to Douglas, the defending Olympic all-around champion, and Locklear.
So as the battle of the bars specialists played out in the press, Kocian, a 2015 world champion on the event, was quietly confident.
“Especially after Night 1, I think I really did the job,” she said. “And throughout all my practices I had been really consistent.”
Kocian, who had been scoring slightly lower than Locklear on bars at recent meets, had the advantage of being an all-around gymnast, whereas Locklear competes only bars and beam. As it turned out, that was actually the criteria Karolyi used to select Douglas. Locklear was one of three alternates, along with MyKayla Skinner and Ragan Smith.
Regardless, any drama about Kocian’s fate was essentially erased with her lights-out bar routine, punctuated by a stuck landing, on Sunday night. Her score of 15.9 was the best by a U.S. gymnast this year.
“That was obviously my best score, but I think for me that was probably one of the best routines quality-wise as well,” she said.
Hernandez Gets Her First Taste Of Olympics Hype
For veterans Douglas and Raisman, the Olympic Games are an old hat. Even Biles and Kocian have plenty of big-time experience at the world championships — including multiple gold medals there. But for 16-year-old Hernandez, the Olympic buildup is coming in her first year at the senior level.
She’s already starting to experience the hype.
“Teen Vogue tweeted me, Cosmopolitan tweeted me… I was like, ‘Oh hey guys!’” she said. “I think it’s cool because we met Kobe Bryant last night, too. He’s really tall.
“I told him, ‘You’re really tall!’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m one of the shorter ones.’”
Martha’s Last Stand
This year’s team carries to Rio the added significance of being Karolyi’s last. The matriarch of the U.S. women’s program plans to retire after the Games at age 73.
Martha and her husband Bela have been fixtures in he gymnastics community for decades, having coached a who’s-who of stars including Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Kim Zmeskal, Dominique Moceanu and Kerri Strug. Since 2001, Martha has led a semi-centralized national team program from their Texas ranch. The U.S. women have experienced unprecedented success under her watch, including 87 world championships and Olympic medals.
“It’s really sad and it’s exciting, and I’m just excited that this group of girls gets to be her last, because that’s what people remember the most,” Biles said with a big smile. “Hopefully we get to carry that legacy on.”
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009, including the gymnastics national championships and Olympic trials every year since 2011, on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.