The U.S. failed to be at the top of the women’s gymnastics team leaderboard for the first time at a World Championships or Olympics since 2010.
On Sunday, the Simone Biles-led team made uncharacteristically sloppy errors during the qualifying round at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo. Biles, Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallum are in second with a score of 170.562. Russia leads with 1.067 points ahead of the Americans.
The U.S. was off to a rough start on floor where McCallum and Biles both stepped out of bounds, with the latter flying off the floor on her third tumbling pass and outside the mat with both feet.
Then on vault, Biles took a huge step off the mat on the landing, even rolling her eyes afterward.
Chiles scored only a 12.866 on the bars during which she dragged her feet on a transition from high to low bar. On the beam, her last apparatus of the day, she fell off on her acrobatic series and stumbled on her dismount.
“I feel we did a pretty good job. Obviously, there are little things we need to work on, so we’ll go back and practice and work on that, just so we can do our best performance at team finals because that’s what matters,” Biles said after completing the qualifying round. “We’re really striving for top three [finish].”
Biles, the reigning Olympic all-around champion, and Lee will be the two qualifiers to the all-around from Team USA. Both are also at the top of the all-around standings with Biles, despite her errors, earning 57.731 and Lee finishing with 57.166.
Biles, who also made the event finals in vault, floor and beam, and who still could win a record five golds, leads on vault with a score of 15.183.
Lee earned the highest score on bars, at 15.200. (Only the top eight on each apparatus qualify for finals.)
“We had great performances today and some not-so-great ones, but the errors we made are mental. These girls have been training incredibly well, so it’s things we have some time to work on before finals, and we’ll do it,” Tom Forster, Team USA’s high-performance team coordinator, told reporters after qualifying.
Speaking about Biles’ mistakes, Forster said: “That was a surprise. She’s been incredibly consistent and I’m sure she feels bad, but I’m super proud of the way she trained. She’s been a great leader for us. Sometimes, just like in other sports, great athletes drop the ball in the end zone or a quarterback throws an interception. It happens. Those steps are mental errors.”
As for how coming in second to Russia will affect them, Forster added, “This might be a great awakening for us, and we’ll take advantage of it.”
Meanwhile, Jade Carey qualified for the floor exercise and vaulting finals, though MyKayla Skinner was unable to qualify for either. After Sunday, her elite gymnastics career came to an end.
Carey and Skinner are competing as individuals and are not part of the women’s gymnastics team event, which holds its final on Tuesday.
The individual all-around final is set for Thursday.
Source: Karen Mizoguchi