Last week when Simone Biles spoke to the press for the first time since the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, he failed to guarantee he would return for the Olympics scheduled for 2021. “I haven’t decided not to do it, but I haven’t really decided to do it,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
This is not what we want to hear from one of the most interesting athletes in the world. Biles headed to Tokyo 2020 as a big favorite to win his second consecutive Olympic title. That would be the right cornerstone for a 23-year-old record-breaking career. Although Biles had insisted last year that he would retire after the 2020 Olympics, most assumed he would continue his career so he could compete in 2021. Biles’ reason for not immediately committing to the Olympics next summer was plausible: a toll of another year of training would eating his sick body; the desire to continue his life; and another year dealing with US Gymnastics, one of the institutions that allows former team doctor Larry Nassar for the abuse of Biles and dozens of other athletes. “I don’t know if I can deal with USAG for another year,” he said.
While I’m still betting on Biles being in Tokyo next year, it’s good to ponder what the US might be doing without him. He has been an important part of the program for eight years and it is hard to imagine a team without him.
First, let’s clarify one thing – the US will still take the women’s team title in Tokyo next year even without Biles. The American program has a deep bench, deeper than other women’s programs. There must be a fourth (or fifth or eighth) gymnast who can give a strong score across the board and help American women secure victory.
But a team win less than Biles won’t look exactly the same. The point margin above the other top teams will be slimmer. At the 2019 world championship, Biles’ floor score, for example, was one point higher than the other two Americans, whose floor score itself was one point higher than Russia’s next best score. The US will certainly be able to find other gymnasts who can score in the same range as other Americans, but there’s no way they will find gymnasts who will score like Biles. In 2015, gymnastics blogger Lauren Hopkins showed that “between 2014 and 2015, the US team increased their final score by about two points. Of these two points, seven-tenths are from Biles with another 1.3 divided among the other four gymnasts. “And this was before he began to expand his all-around margins into the area” falling more than once and still winning “. Also, Biles competed in all four apparatuses in the team finals during the last three main team championships. Replacing Biles means changing four scores in the team finals.
And then there’s a tough individual medal from Biles. Bile in Tokyo may mean four gold medals – all-around, vault, beams and floors. The US certainly has gymnasts who are able to carry medals in all of these disciplines, but their medals are not guaranteed like Biles. The best bet for US gold without Biles is the vault where Jade Carey excels.
Biles is a three-time world champion on the balance beam but his record is, by his standards, spotty. If he hits, he is one of the favorites to win but if he misses – like he did in 2016 and 2018 – he might end up with a medal but it won’t be gold. But the beam, in particular, is where the US is loaded with talent. There is Kara Eaker, who will be a world champion in 2018 if it is not for mistakes in the final, and Morgan Hurd, world silver medalist in 2017. As for the floor, the US is pretty sure it will go with a medal there too. , maybe even gold. Even without Biles, Americans boast some of the best glass in the world.
And finally, the most prestigious individual contest, the final all-around. Biles has dominated everything since his senior debut in 2013. The US certainly has another gymnast who can win – the Americans won three all-around Olympic titles in a row before Biles came to the scene – but their victory is not guaranteed. Sunisa Lee, like 2017 world champion Hurd and several other Americans, can win the all-around title on a good day but only a good day. Only Biles can win it on a bad day.
All of this prognostication is based on what the Summer Olympics will look like. But 2021 is not 2020. Over the next 16 months, a lot will change. There might be injuries to the main competitors now. The year before the Olympics requires some of the most difficult training in the gymnast’s career. The athletes, who are more than half a year old, will be forced to bear it again. For some people, that would be too much. And there will be gymnasts who have been injured but now may have enough time to recover. In February, Asuka Teramoto from Japan broke the roots. He is out of the picture for Tokyo 2020 but he can return to 2021.
Then there are new competing plants that are too young to compete in Tokyo this year but will be 16 years old and therefore meet the requirements next year. The two most promising junior juniors who will now be able to compete in 2021 are Konnor McClain from the US and Viktoria Listunova from Russia. The first is the best junior gymnast in the US with great potential on the balance beam; the latter is a junior world champion. (International Gymnastics The Federation will decide what to do about new seniors in connection with the 2021 Olympics in the next two weeks.)
Shortly after the Olympic delay was announced, Yahoo Sports ran a story about McClain and the prospect of the Olympics if he competed in the 2021 Olympics. While coach McClain was very careful about his chances, noting that gymnast preparations had been oriented to the 2024 Olympics, 2008 Olympic champion Shawn Johnson stated that McClain could become a potential rival for Biles because of his youthfulness. junior. That is a silly statement. While McClain, who is only 32 days ineligible for 2020, is a very talented gymnast and attractive prospect for the future, he has not competed as a senior. McClain has a lot to prove before he can be considered a rival goat.
So much can happen in a year. The future is always uncertain but more felt during this pandemic. Biles, who has been a sure thing in gymnastics for the past eight years, will not give us the certainty that we are desperately looking for by committing to 2021. He can’t even give such guarantees to himself. Bile, like all of us, must take this one day, one week, one month at a time.