TOKYO (NBCOlympics.com) — A clean slate awaits the U.S. women’s artistic gymnastics team after an unusually shaky performance in qualifications resulted in the gold medal favorites qualifying in second behind the Russian Olympic Committee.
Led by Simone Biles, the four gymnasts will get a fresh start in the team final, as all of their scores from the first day of competition are erased. Though the team — which also includes Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum — trailed the ROC by over a point after qualifications, the probability of extending the gold medal streak that began at the London Games is high if the gymnasts can shake off the nerves that caused errors on balance beam and overly-bouncy landings on floor exercise.
Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner will not participate in the team final due to being classified as individual specialists. Carey, like Biles and Lee, will have a shot at individual medals during event finals that occur after the team competition.
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Team USA will begin the competition on vault, an event that is typically one of its strengths, before rotating with the ROC to uneven bars, beam and floor.
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Russian Angelina Melnikova is one to watch on multiple events, and all four gymnasts representing ROC placed in the top six on the uneven bars in qualifications. The team’s difficulty scores on floor are slightly lower than the Americans’, but the Russians proved this isn’t necessarily an obstacle on the path to team gold.
China is favored to win bronze in the team final, and its position on the podium didn’t appear to be challenged during qualifications. France currently sits in fourth and trails China by over two points. The team’s performance on the balance beam during qualifications was particularly impressive, as Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing posted scores of 14.933 and 14.333, respectively, to go 1-2 on the event.
Japan is not considered a medal favorite, but the home team is still worth watching because of veteran Mai Murakami. She won gold on floor at the 2017 World Championships and snuck into that event final by nabbing the eighth-place spot.
How to watch:
The women’s team final will air at 7 p.m. CDT on NBC.