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A Shaky Biles Takes Lead at U.S. Olympic Trials
(11 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

By her own standards, Simone Biles had a horrible meet on day one of the U.S. Olympic Trials in San Jose, Calif., Friday. And in her wake was a re-ranking musical chairs after the P&G Championships in St. Louis two weeks ago. Yes, Biles took the midway lead with 61.85, but Lauren Hernandez climbed to second, just 1.0 behind. And anyone who finishes within a point of Biles has a legitimate chance against the three-time world all-around champion.

Aly Raisman slipped to third with 59.95, and MyKayla Skinner, 10th in St. Louis, skyrocketed to fourth with 59.45. Ragan Smith, eighth at the P&Gs, also improved to fifth (58.70). With the added pressure of the situation, is the cream rising to the top?

Madison Kocian had another strong night, but dropped from fifth to sixth (58.60), but her tie for first on bars with Ashton Locklear (15.75) was the most important routine for her. It's also the event that ushered Gabby Douglas onto the 2011 World Championships team and led to her Cinderella story at the London Olympics.

Four years later, one wonders if the clock has struck midnight for the defending Olympic all-around champion. Douglas hit bars in San Jose but fell off beam on a full turn with one leg at horizontal. She ranked sixth on floor, where her routine includes an incompatible tucked full-in to back tuck. And after saying in St. Louis that she planned to vault an Amanar at trials, she stayed with a Yurchenko-double twist. Douglas dropped from fourth at P&Gs to seventh (58.55), and that's only because Maggie Nichols also fell off beam (side aerial) to score 58.25 for eighth. Both are trending the wrong way.

Biles, who has long spoiled fans with her consistent excellence, could have been better on every event. She took a large step on her Amanar and barely completed her Cheng vault. On bars she repeated the leg separation after her Weiler kip that had marred her routine in St. Louis, and on beam, her 2.5 wolf turn quickly morphed into one of those contorted sit spins one might see in figure skating. And even though she won floor (15.70), the landings on all of her landings were unsteady. That said, her effort still would probably be enough to win the all-around gold in Rio.

Hernandez had a hiccup on beam when her second layout step-out was slightly under rotated, but she saved it and actually won the event with 15.50. She also covered a mistake on bars, when her Endo-pirouette came up short of the handstand. But the rest of her night was polished and most likely cemented her spot on the team, especially after hitting so well in St. Louis.

For people predicting that only one berth is up for grabs—with Biles, Raisman, Hernandez and Douglas as locks—that scenario might have changed after the first night in San Jose. There is still the perceived competition between Kocian and Locklear for their bars prowess, but much will be riding on the Sunday performances of Douglas, Nichols, Skinner and Smith.

Yes, bars is what may eventually send Douglas to Rio—she ranked third there tonight with 15.10—but her other events lacked confidence and stability.

Douglas, and every other competitor with a shot at an Olympic team berth, will have one more chance on Sunday to prove why she deserves it.

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