SAN JOSE — Nerves ran high on Friday night at SAP Center as 14 women with Olympic dreams took to the floor, beam, bars and vault to determine who will make the women’s gymnastics team.
Leading the pack at the end of the night was reigning national champion Simone Biles. Biles led the field of hopefuls with a total of 61.850 points at the end of the first day of competition. Her score of 16.000 on vault was the highest point total awarded not only on that event, but for the entire night of competition.
Biles admits that even though she’s never been more confident, it really is frightening to take to the mat in front of the Olympic selection committee led by national team coach Martha Karolyi.
“It was hard,” Biles said of readying herself for competition. “I just gave myself little pep talks and I tried to calm myself down as best as possible and tell myself I’ve done this so many times, it’s just another meet, even though it is Olympic trials.”
Right behind Biles with 60.850 points was Laurie Hernandez.
Hernandez too admits the excitement of competition at the highest level of gymnastics is a little intimidating, but she’s hoping to spin her lack of experience into an advantage.
“I feel like kinda the underdog this year, just kinda popping out of nowhere,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez earned 15.300 points for her exciting floor routine that had the crowd interacting with the competition like she’d never before seen.
“This is the first competition that I’ve really seen the crowd really engage with our routines,” said Hernandez.
Rounding out the top five are 2012 floor exercise gold medalist Aly Raisman with 59.950 points, MyKayla Skinner with 59.450 points, and 15-year-old Ragan Smith with 58.700 points.
London’s all-around gold medalist Gabby Douglas, who is still aiming to make the team because of her familiarity to the selection committee, finished in seventh place for the night.
On hand before the event began was Shannon Miller, the most decorated athlete in gymnastics history.
“I had the pleasure of representing the United States of America twice in Olympic competition,” Miller said to the crowd prior to the start of the meet. “And I will tell you the Olympics trials is toughest part of the Olympics, just getting on the team.”
Competition continues on Sunday and will conclude with the appointment of five athletes and two alternates to the United States Olympic gymnastics team. The event will be broadcast on NBC from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on July 10.