8 Need-to-Know Facts About the Rio-Bound U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team
Meet the 2016 Women's U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Team
If you thought it'd be tough for the 2016 women's gymnastics team to follow in the footsteps of the beloved "Fierce Five" of the 2012 London games, think again. The ladies of the Rio-bound team are looking stronger than ever (BTW, two members of the Fierce Five have stuck around for round two). The U.S. Gymnastics Women's Olympic Trials took place July 8-10 in San Jose, CA, and after two days a grueling competition, the selection committee made their picks.
Meet your team: Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Aly Raisman, and Madison Kocian.
1. Simone Biles might just be the best U.S. gymnast—ever
There's a reason everyone is buzzing about Biles. In three years, she won 14 world championship medals (10 golds), which is more than any U.S. athlete in history. She came out in the top spot at the Olympic Trials, finishing two points higher than the next gymnast. She's a knockout on every apparatus (have you seen her slay it on the floor?).
She's humble too: "It would be a huge honor because only 5 girls get selected to do that [make the team]," said Biles after the first day of trials. "It's amazing to see all the gymnasts in this country and to be selected as one of the five, it would be an amazing feeling and I would be honored just to be selected."
And despite her individual success, she's 100 percent a team player. When asked about her hopes for Rio, she said, "I just want to make the team first and if that happens then I can think about goals [for Rio]. But I think that if I can just contribute to the team as much as I can then I've done my part."
2. The team is crazy close-knit
You'd think they were über competitive, considering they all battled against each other for spots on the U.S. Olympic Team. Not so much—they're somewhere between sisters and BFFS.
"All these girls are really amazing," said Hernandez during the Trials. "We just get along so well, we're always giggling. All these girls, we're all so close. We're like a ton of sisters we didn't realize we had."
Want more proof? Just check out this Instagram video Aly Raisman posted of the team celebrating post-Trials.
3. The roster is *stacked* with talent (and that includes the alternates)
The top gymnasts in the U.S. are so good, we could take two full teams to the Olympics and probably take home gold and silver, according to former all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin, who commentated during Day 2 of the Olympic Trials on July 10 on NBC.
You already know Gabby Douglas, 20, and Aly Raisman, 22, from the gold-medal-winning 2012 Olympics team. Douglas is the first Olympic all-around champion to return to the Games since Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci in 1980, according to U.S. Gymnastics.
As for the rest of the team? Simone Biles, 19, is a three-time world champion; Madison Kocian, 19, was the 2015 world champion on uneven bars; and Laurie Hernandez, 16, just won bronze in the nation for all-around. The three replacement gymnasts are MyKayla Skinner, 19, and Ragan Smith, 15, (who finished fourth and fifth in the trials, respectively), and Ashton Locklear, 18, an uneven bars and beam specialist.
4. You're going to love up-and-comer Laurie Hernandez
At just 16, this is Hernandez's first year competing at a senior level—and she's headed to Rio. She finished third overall at the trails and is predicted to be a strong contender in all events, despite being new to the game.
"As a gymnast, when you go from junior to senior it's a pretty big deal," she said. "Most people, when they go to the Olympics, I'm sure they've been a senior for at least a year to get that experience, but I just turned senior this year, so everything is a bit bigger for me this year, and I'm excited. It's really cool."
Just watch her floor routine to get a taste of her irresistible energy.
"This music has a good place in my heart and I feel like the choreography goes well with my personality," she said. "All of it just works perfectly together so when I'm out there I really am enjoying myself. And I'm enjoying the music and I love to dance, so performing in front of the crowd, gives me a lot of energy during the routine."
5. They're still figuring out their new nickname
After the London 2012 team was nicknamed the "Fierce Five," everyone's been asking what we'll call this group of all-star athletes. Some ideas being thrown around: phenomenal, fantastical, fairytale. When asked at the trials, the girls hadn't come up with a favorite.
6. No, Aly is not the mom
As the most veteran athlete on the team, Aly has been dubbed "Mama Aly" by the media and public. IRL, though, that's not really the case. She may have been team captain for the 2012 London games, and on the team again this year, but her teammates don't actually call her that. When they do, it's 100 percent a joke.
"The media definitely dramatizes my age, I mean I'm only 22 years old, that's very young, and it's a very good age to be at," said Raisman at the trials. "But Simone jokes around and calls me Grandma just because she thinks I go to bed early, and Laurie sometimes calls me that too, but they call me Aly normally, it's not like they refer to me as 'Mom' or something like that."
As a veteran, she said that she does try to be a mentor, but that this group of girls doesn't really need it: "I try to [be a mentor], but I think that everyone here is doing so well," she said. "Everyone here is so strong, mentally, so I think that they all do such a great job."
7. They won't let Zika scare them from their golden dreams
For girls who've dreamed their entire lives of gracing the Olympic stage, Zika is nothing but a bug bite.
"It's the Olympics," Gabby Douglas told the Associated Press in June. "Mosquitoes? Like, whatever. I'm going. This is my shot. I don't care about no stupid bugs." (But not all athletes have had the same reaction to Zika.)
If they're looking for a nickname, perhaps "Fearless Five" is the perfect pick for this Olympic games.
8. It's legendary Martha Karolyi's final year at the helm
Karolyi, 72, has led the U.S. national team for 15 years after succeeding her husband, Bela, in 2001, according to NBC. Their family name has become synonymous with gymnastics in the U.S.—and with Olympic success. She led the U.S. Olympic team to silver or gold medals at each of the last three Olympics, including the Olympic all-around gold medalist at three straight Olympics.
But after this Olympic season, Martha plans to retire, according to NBC. While she'll no longer serve as the team coordinator, it's hard to imagine the Karolyis will stay distant from the U.S. Gymnastics world, especially since the gymnastics National Training Center is on her ranch outside Houston.