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The gymnasts who will represent the U.S. at the Olympics have been chosen

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles is heading to her third Olympics.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

She is looking to cap her remarkable comeback after pulling out of some events at the Tokyo games three years ago, amidst struggles with her mental health that came in the wake of revelation she'd been among those abused by a former team doctor. Now she's ready for Paris. She won the U.S. Olympic trials last night by 5 1/2 points - a huge margin.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR sports correspondent Becky Sullivan was there in Minneapolis. Becky, how did Simone Biles look?

BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: You know, she looked loose. She looked happy. And I say that for the most part because she did have a couple missteps, but she still finished, as you said, like, just well ahead of the pack. And so some of these missteps I'm talking about - she had, like, a big slip on the balance beam. She fell off, which wasn't just her - a couple others had the same issue with the beam - and then she also had a few extra steps on the vault landing, but the difficulty of what Simone Biles is attempting here is so high that the little mistakes like that just doesn't matter. And so afterwards, she just had great humor about her night - the slips and all.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SIMONE BILES: We have a lot of weight on our shoulders to go out there and prove that we're better athletes; we're more mature; we're smarter; we're more consistent. But don't quote me on that (laughter), because not tonight, but, you know, we have to get that out of the way.

(LAUGHTER)

BILES: You feel me? We have to get that out of the way, but we are in training, so if we can just do what we do in training, then I think we're going to hit it out the ballpark.

SULLIVAN: So you can just hear it in her voice there - I mean, she feels good. She's back.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. She can laugh because she qualified (laughter). I mean, if she didn't qualify, maybe it wouldn't be so funny. Now, what might we see from her in Paris?

SULLIVAN: Well, she is instantly going to be the favorite for the individual all-around medal, as well as the vault and the floor exercise. She also did win the balance beam at a world competition recently, and so that could be in play, and I think a thing I should mention here is that she's 27 now, and so her main competitors will all be younger than her, and it just doesn't matter. You know, with her competing, the U.S. will also be the favorite to win the team all-around, which is something that the U.S. won back in 2012. Again in 2016, they took gold, but then in Tokyo, they took home silver after Biles withdrew from that event, and so winning gold there is now a focus of the women. Biles and her teammates used the word redemption to talk about it. So here's Suni Lee, who's also one of the ones headed to Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUNI LEE: I think that we really want a team gold. I feel like this is the same team, basically, as 2020, so it's kind of like a redemption tour.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So who else is on the team?

SULLIVAN: Well, so there's Lee, of course, who you just heard. She was the surprise kind of breakout star of the Tokyo games three years ago. She won the gold medal and the individual all-around after Biles withdrew, so she's back. The other people who are returning are Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey, so there's lots of experience on this team. and then there is one newcomer. Her name is Hezly Rivera. She just turned 16 last month, so this is her first Olympic Games.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So when it comes to gymnastics, the women's team is always the main event. What about the men, though? Do they have a shot at a medal?

SULLIVAN: You know, they might have a shot at that medal. So the men's team hasn't won a team medal since 2008, and then they didn't even win any individual medals in Tokyo, which was an incredibly disappointing showing. But this year, they have a star in the making in Fred Richard. He is a 20-year-old who has made it his mission not just to have success in the Olympics, but also to raise the profile of men's gymnastics overall. So he says he's not aiming just for any old medal. He wants gold. That'll be an uphill battle for the men, but we'll see what they can do.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR sports correspondent Becky Sullivan at the Olympic trials in Minneapolis. Becky, thanks.

SULLIVAN: You are welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.