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Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and Suni Lee will face off for the first time in crucial gymnastics qualifying on Saturday

HARTFORD, Conn. — Gymnastics royalty will begin their journey to Paris 2024 on Saturday when three unprecedented Olympic all-around champions – Suni Lee, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas – compete in the Core Hydration Classic.

The competition is the final qualifying opportunity for the U.S. Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, later this month. Biles and his fellow Olympic champions have already punched their tickets to Fort Worth, but Saturday’s meet is an important step toward making Paris’ five-member Olympic team this summer.

It is one of the few competitions this season that the selection committee can use to determine the members of the Paris Olympic team, which will culminate at the end of June in Minneapolis during the Olympic trials.

The Core Hydration Classic will be Biles’ first competition since the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, in October, when she won a historic sixth world individual all-around title, medaled in three of four events and led the American women to their seventh consecutive victory in the team competition.

The Olympic all-around title is perhaps the most coveted in gymnastics, but eight other Olympic and world championship medalists will also compete on Saturday.

Reigning Olympic floor exercise gold medalist Jade Carey and Olympic team silver medalist Jordan Chiles are on the start list. They will be joined by World Championships medalists Shilese Jones, Kayla DiCello, Skye Blakely, Joscelyn Roberson, Leanne Wong and Lexi Zeiss, who was an alternate for the 2022 World Championships team.

The 2022 American champion, Konnor McClain (who is making her return to elite gymnastics after a two-year absence), will also be one to watch on Saturday. After losing his father in 2021 and dealing with coaching changes and injuries, McClain opted to start his collegiate career at LSU a season ahead of schedule last fall.

She helped the Tigers win their first NCAA championship last month, but the status of her elite roster remains a major question this weekend.

Three weeks ago, Douglas returned to competition for the first time in nearly eight years at the American Classic in Katy, Texas. She placed 10th in the all-around, but her scores on vault and balance beam qualified her to compete in both events at the U.S. championships.

Douglas made it clear to Katy that her comeback attempt was legitimate. Her performance in Hartford on Saturday will be an even stronger indicator of her chances of making her third Olympic team – a feat no American woman has accomplished since Dominique Dawes.

Biles, who was Douglas’ teammate at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, is also eyeing her third Olympic team.

Lee, the reigning Olympic all-around champion, donned her competition leotard at two elite competitions this year: the Winter Cup and the American Classic. Her season got off to a rocky start at the Winter Cup in February, when she fell three times in two events. However, she came back by winning the beam at the American Classic with a simplified program that she is able to improve this weekend.

Lee also announced a major upgrade to its signature event, the uneven bars. She revealed a brand new skill in a video posted to her Instagram account on January 23. She tried it at the Winter Cup but didn’t succeed.

The skill is a Jaeger in a laid out position with a full twist. It will have her name in the rule book if she succeeds in an international competition like the Olympics. The complex release move would not only cement Lee as an all-time player in the sport, but also increase his difficulty in the event and maximize his scoring potential.

Lee has struggled with kidney issues since early last year, ending her college career and her 2023 elite season prematurely. She competed in the 2023 United States Championships, but withdrew from the World Championship team.

If she is able to achieve the difficulty and execution she demonstrated in Tokyo, Lee has the potential to make the Paris Olympic team on her bars and beam routines alone.

Gymnasts representing the United States in Paris will be selected during the Olympic trials June 27-30. The athletes who will compete there will be determined during the American championships.

The Core Hydration Classic airs live from 7-9 p.m. ET Saturday on CNBC and Peacock. It also streams on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. (Comcast, the parent company of NBC News and NBCUniversal, runs Peacock and NBC Sports.)



News Source : www.nbcnews.com
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