Katy: Superstar Simone Biles leads a list of veteran champions vying with a talented new generation aiming to make a US women’s Olympic gymnastics team that could be one for the ages.
Biles, who dazzled in winning four gold medals at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, returned last year from a two-year absence to win four world titles — taking her career tally to 23 as she battled back from the bout of the disorientating “twisties” that cut short her Tokyo Olympics campaign.
Sunisa Lee, who won Olympic all-around gold in Tokyo, and London 2012 all-around champion Gabby Douglas are also in training as what promises to be a hyper-competitive Olympic year gets underway.
Add in Tokyo floor champion Jade Carey and team silver medallist Jordan Chiles, two-time world all-around medallist Shilese Jones and two-time world team champion Skye Blakely and it is clear the US has plenty of experienced talent to draw on.
“The depth this year is actually really insane,” said 17-year-old Joscelyn Roberson, who is hoping to be in the Paris 2024 conversation when Minneapolis hosts the US trials in June.
“I honestly think this will be one of the best teams the United States has ever had and one of the best teams that the world has ever seen,” Roberson said Sunday at a media opportunity during a USA Gymnastics training camp in Katy, Texas.
“So it’ll be really cool to see. I honestly feel like the United States could make three teams and they’d all be amazing.”
Roberson qualified for last year’s World Championships and helped the US team win gold before her campaign was cut short by injury.
Roberson has had Paris 2024 circled on her calendar for a while.
“Probably from like eight or nine (years old) I was, like, ‘OK, so that’s my year,’” she said. “Ever since then I’ve been counting down the years.”
Now that it has arrived, she said, it’s nerve wracking but exciting.
“It feels like any other season. But then you always have it in the back of your mind, like, ‘Oh my gosh, at the end of the season I’ll be trying to go to Olympic trials and the Olympics,’” she said.
Jones, who missed out on a Tokyo Games berth, said the arrival of youngsters like Roberson and fellow teenagers Tiana Sumanasekera, Zoe Miller and Kaliya Lincoln, who all helped the US to Pan American Games gold last year, will make the path to Paris a tough one.
“There’s babies coming up to teenagers to older athletes — that’s me being one of them,” Jones said.
“So it should fun.
“Honestly, I feel like we’re already working really hard pushing off each other.
“It’s going to be tough, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Case by case expectations
The first big test for many of America’s hopefuls will be the Winter Cup held on February 23-25.
The Core Hydration Classic in May will be another key competition before the US championships on May 30-June 2, with the US trials June on 22-30.
Alicia Sacramone Quinn a former world champion who won team silver at the 2008 Olympics and is now part of the US women’s elite team leadership, said she likes the mix of old and new blood.
But she cautioned it would be months before a team coalesces as the seasoned competitors she calls the “super seniors” ramp up their training and youngsters chase competitive experience.
“I think the expectations are a case by case,” she said.
“Right now each athlete’s in a different point, either they’re nursing some aches and pains or had an injury or they’re a seasoned vet who doesn’t need to be really ready for early spring meets.
“Each athlete’s journey is their own,” she added.