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Bile is dazzling, joy on the way to a great lead in exams

ST. LOUIS – Simone Biles is ready for Tokyo.

The gymnastics world and Olympic champion put on a dazzling performance during the US Olympic exams on Friday night and pulled out all the stops – well, almost all – on her way to a sovereign lead and a place in Japan next month.

Her total of 60,565 included a 15,133 on the bar showing the “double-double” relegation named after her, a maneuver she has kept under wraps since the 2019 World Championships. She chose to skip the Yurchenko double pike jump that she revealed in the competition last month and still got the highest score at the event.

Her floor exercise – which contains not just one but two eponymous elements in the sport’s point code – was both spectacular and spectacularly controlled. Obviously frustrated after being out of bounds multiple times in winning her seventh national title earlier this month, Biles kept her toes well within the white lines during her physically challenging passes.

“I was super excited to go into this one,” said Biles. “I know exactly what to expect. And I feel like I’m a lot more emotional this time, which is so crazy. Even walking out of the tear and crying. The girls say, ‘Are you okay?’ I’m fine. It’s just like this, I can’t believe the time has come. It’s been five years and I’m grateful. “

The first two finishers in the all-around event on Sunday evening after the final automatically qualify for the Olympic team. Bile is a lock no matter what Sunday happens.

Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles are also approaching this area. Maybe they are already there.

The trio of Biles, Lee and Chiles came in 1-2-3 at the national championships. They are in the same positions ahead of the final after Lee scored 57,666, followed by Chiles with 57,132, more than half a point ahead of MyKayla Skinner.

While many of their competitors returned to the competition after a long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chiles sprinted to the title at the Winter Cup in February and has since been an integral part of the top 3 at event meetings. Perhaps just as importantly, it appears that it has become immune to the pressure. She has now completed 20 events in the last four months without falling on any of them.

Not even Biles, who joined the U.S. in May, can say that. Classic came from the uneven bars.

The selection committee has given 30 minutes after the end of the final round to put the team together. It may take the committee every last second to see who deserves fourth place.

Skinner, 24, makes a pretty compelling case. As an alternative in 2016, Skinner went to college after the Rio Olympics before returning to the elite level in 2019. She spent part of the COVID-19 pandemic fighting the novel coronavirus and pneumonia.

Health fears are behind her, she does some of the best gymnastics of her career. Drawing on the energy in an electric dome at the America’s Center, Skinner finished in the top five at three events and made the crowd roar at the end of each descent.

Skinner, Grace McCallum and Kayla DiCello only separate three tenths of a point, Kara Eaker a little further back. DiCello recovered from a sluggish performance that saw her falling on multiple events and finishing in the top six on three out of four events.

Riley McCusker seems to lose the race for the “plus-one” specialist spot. Her bar routine is world class, her 14,800 score would put her in the mix for a medal in Tokyo if she were able to repeat it.

Jade Carey, who has earned a nominative single place through the World Cup series, is the only gymnast who has entered the meeting with her place already secured. She drilled her Amanar vault, her score of 15.2 seconds was just Biles at the event.

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