MOSCOW, July 16 (Reuters) – Simone Biles may be only 142 centimeters tall, but she is casting a giant shadow over the Tokyo Olympics where she is set to reaffirm her absolute dominance over women’s gymnastics.
The 24-year-old American, widely regarded as the best gymnast of all time, is perhaps the most outstanding athlete not only in her sport but in the world right now.
Biles – who won five medals, including four gold, at the Rio 2016 Olympics – currently has 30 medals combined at the world championships and the Olympics. She is expected to break Larisa Latynina’s record 32 in Tokyo.
The United States, which has not lost a team final at the Olympics or world championships since 2010, also boasts Sunisa Lee, 18, 2019 world medalist in floor exercise and uneven bars.
With a strong performance at the US selections, Lee established herself as a favorite for the all-around silver medal.
The Russians and Chinese, who have worked to close the gap with the United States in recent years, are rivals for the silver medal in the team event.
The Russian team, which competes without its flag and anthem due to anti-doping sanctions, is made up of a new generation of talented gymnasts who would not have met the age criteria had the Games been held last year. , including Viktoria Listunova and Vladislava, 16-year-old Urazova, who only recently made her senior debut.
Listunova, European champion of the all-around competition, is a candidate for the podium of the all-around competition in Tokyo. But the competition between Listunova, Urazova and 20-year-old Angelina Melnikova will be tough as only two gymnasts from each country can qualify for the all-around final.
The Russian team are strong on the uneven bars, and Melnikova, who won silver in the team event in Rio, could also win a medal on the floor exercise behind Biles. The Russians struggled in their national championship on balance beam and need a solid performance to finish ahead of China.
The veteran Chinese team will be looking to bounce back after winning just one medal, a bronze, in the team event in Rio.
Tang Xijing, eighteen, an all-around silver medalist at the 2019 world championships, will lead the team with her poise and consistency.
Or Yushan could score points in the all-around, and Lu Yufei could prove to be a threat after recently increasing the difficulty of his routines.
Zhang Jin, 20, was strong on the beam and could also help China on the floor and vault practice.
In the individual events, two-time uneven bars world champion Fan Yilin is the favorite to win a medal, while 16-year-old beam specialist Guan Chenchen could climb to the podium.
Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Karishma Singh
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