The United States women's gymnastics team will look to continue its recent dominance in Rio de Janeiro, but first the five-gymnast team will be determined at the Olympic trials Friday and Sunday.
Only the top all-around performer will clinch a spot at the 2016 Summer Games, while the selection committee will determine the other four competitors based on their performances. Three-time reigning all-around world champion Simone Biles is favored to clinch the top spot, but 2012 Olympic all-around gold medalist Gabby Douglas should be in the mix as well.
Ahead of the premier meet in U.S. women's gymnastics, here is a full rundown of when and where to catch all the action, along with a closer look at some of the top gymnasts to watch.
Where: SAP Center in San Jose, California
When: Friday, July 8, at 8:30 p.m. ET and Sunday, July 10, at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
|U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic Trials TV Schedule|
|Date||TV Start Time (ET)||Watch|
|Friday, July 8||9 p.m.||NBC|
|Sunday, July 10||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
Top Gymnasts to Watch
While she wasn't part of the gold-medal-winning 2012 United States women's gymnastics team in London, Biles has dominated the sport ever since, winning 10 world championship gold medals from 2013 to 2015 and 11 U.S. national championship golds from 2013 to 2016.
She is the undisputed all-around champion of the world, and it would be a major upset if she doesn't cement that distinction at the trials as well as at the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil.
The 19-year-old international superstar took four gold medals at the 2016 U.S. nationals in St. Louis but wasn't quite as dominant as observers have grown accustomed to in terms of margin of victory.
According to Chros McDougall of TeamUSA.org, Biles made it abundantly clear after that competition that she's not the machine she is often portrayed as:
I am human, and it's good for other people to see me mess up and that I'm not perfect, because I'm not. But they only see one routine whenever we compete, so it's easy for them to say I'm perfect. But the deal is that I'm not. ...
It's just kind of frustrating because even I have my rough days, and even though you guys can't tell, I can feel it in the inside. So whenever everyone's like, 'Oh Simone, you're fine,' it’s just like, 'OK, well I know I'm going to be fine, but I still have the right to be tired and stuff.' But they think I shouldn't. But they can be tired. So it's not fair.
Despite the immense amount of pressure she is under, Biles seems to be entering the trials in good spirits, as evidenced by this fun moment she enjoyed while throwing out the first pitch at a Houston Astros game recently, via Daniel Gotera of KHOU-TV:
If Biles is indeed loose and confident ahead of the trials, it doesn't bode well for her competitors and prospective teammates in terms of pulling off an upset in the all-around.
Even if Biles does falter unexpectedly, however, her place on the Olympic team is all but assured because of what she has accomplished over the past few years.
Being in fine form ahead of the Olympics is important, though, and Biles has a chance to prove precisely that in San Jose.
Douglas was the darling of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as the all-around gold medalist, and although she has been knocked from her perch to some degree by Biles, she still enters the Olympic trials and the Summer Games with huge expectations hanging over her.
Biles' ascent coincided with Douglas' taking on a lighter schedule after the 2012 Olympics, but she always remained committed to returning to the world stage in 2016.
That was apparent at last year's world championships, when Douglas won silver in the all-round behind Biles and joined forces with her to help the United States take gold in the team event.
Per Poppie Mphuthing of the Huffington Post, the 20-year-old feels primed and ready to be at the top of her game once again in Rio: "It means so much to me that I just have a very healthy body and a capable body to go back and defend my title and just go back to another Olympic Games. It's just truly, truly awesome."
While Douglas' track record is impeccable, she does have some question marks during the lead-up to the trials.
She finished a disappointing fourth in the all-around at nationals last month behind Biles, Aly Raisman and Lauren Hernandez. A similar showing in San Jose could potentially put her Olympic spot in jeopardy.
The fact that Douglas is a far better all-around gymnast than one who excels in any one certain area is something that could work against her if she doesn't improve upon her performance.
Douglas' missing the Olympics would be a shock to most casual observers, but her position on the team is far from a lock.
Raisman is the elder stateswoman for Team USA at 22 years of age, but she seemingly enters the trials with perhaps a better chance than anyone not named Simone Biles to make the team.
In addition to taking floor exercise gold and balance beam bronze in London, Raisman is coming off a fantastic performance at the 2016 U.S. National Championships that saw her win silver in the all-around, balance beam and floor exercise.
Because she is among the best Team USA has to offer in beam and floor, it would likely take a catastrophic performance or an injury in San Jose to keep her out of the Rio Games.
As the veteran of the team, Raisman knows exactly what to do and how to deal with the pressure that goes along with the trials, as she told Laurie Bern of espnW.com:
This can be really hard, but we aren't expected to be completely perfect at each meet. Even at trials, I'm guessing the selection committee would rather see us at 90-95 percent so we can be 100 percent in Rio if we make the team. We do need to be consistent—major mistakes are still bad—and you have to show you can handle the pressure of these big meets. But you don't have to be perfect—yet.
Although Biles is currently considered the star of the team, even she looks up to Raisman and all the veteran has accomplished:
Raisman is valuable because of her ability to excel in multiple disciplines, but her value to the team stretches far beyond that.
Her experience on the Olympic stage and calmness in big moments are intangibles that every gymnast on the team would benefit from, and having her in the fold for Rio should boost Team USA's chances of repeating as gold medalists in a significant way.
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