Before international gymnastics overhauled its scoring system 10 years ago, the number 10 was considered the pinnacle of gymnastics performance. It became synonymous with perfection, conjuring images of such legends as Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton.
Nowadays, Team USA gymnasts still use 10 as a benchmark, but in reference to medals won at a major event. In fact, the U.S. has won at least 10 medals at each of the three world championships held in the Olympic cycle leading up to Rio, including 12 in 2013 (when team finals were not held), and 10 in each of the years following. They hope to bring home at least that many next month, nearly doubling the six six medals earned four years ago in London.
Looking to contribute to much of the medal haul is first-time Olympian Simone Biles. A three-time world all-around champion, she has won or contributed to 14 of the 32 medals presented to U.S. athletes at the past three world championships, 10 of them gold. As the odds-on favorite to win the individual all-around in Rio, Biles could give the United States its fourth consecutive gold medal in the event, which would be a first for any nation in either men’s or women’s gymnastics.
She will also look bring home golds on balance beam, floor exercise and vault.
Biles is joined on the Rio squad by five other gymnasts who have at least one individual world championship medal to their credit in the past quadrennium:
- Jake Dalton (2013 world floor silver medalist, 2014 world vault bronze medalist)
- Gabby Douglas (2012 Olympic all-around gold, 2015 world all-around silver)
- Madison Kocian (2015 world uneven bars gold)
- Danell Leyva (2011 world parallel bars gold, 2012 Olympic all-around bronze, 2014 world parallel bars silver, 2015 world high bar silver)
- Aly Raisman (2011 world floor bronze, 2012 Olympic floor gold and balance beam bronze)
Team USA is likely to land a second woman on the all-around podium, but it’s still up in the air which of the women will earn that spot. The U.S. women are also heavy favorites to defend their title in the team event, and the U.S. men are hoping to return to the team podium after finishing fifth in London.
The record medal haul for U.S. gymnasts competing at an Olympic Games not held on U.S. soil is 10, won at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Americans won a total of 16 medals at both Olympic Games held in Los Angeles (1932 and 1984), but the all-time U.S. high came in 1904 in St. Louis, when the host nation won a total of 29 gymnastics medals. The competition program was vastly different then, including such events rope climbing, club swinging and the individual all-around in field sports, which incorporated long jump, shot put and 100-yard.