Chiles wins 2021 Winter Cup, Hernandez makes competitive return (video)

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After a tumultuous week for the gymnastics community (more here) – and after a year devoid of any notable competition – top American gymnasts travelled to Indianapolis for the 2021 Winter Cup.

Rather than provide much clarity on which American women will ultimately compete at the Tokyo Olympics, the 2021 Winter Cup instead provided a reminder of just how hard it will be to make the U.S. Olympic team.

In a change since the 2016 Rio Games, only four athletes will compete in the team event at the Tokyo Olympics. One of those athletes will almost certainly be four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, who has the potential to break the women’s record for most Olympic gold medals in Tokyo (more here).

In addition to the four-person team, two American women will also compete individually at the Games. Jade Carey has already mathematically clinched one of those spots via the apparatus World Cup series, while the other individual spot will be awarded at the conclusion of U.S. Olympic Trials.

[RELATED: Continuing the count: American women look to extend Olympic medal streaks]

Jordan Chiles, 19, won the women’s all-around competition, 1.95 points ahead of 18-year old Shilese Jones (full results are here).

While not every athlete in Indianapolis entered the all-around competition, Chiles’ result was especially noteworthy given she also notched top scores on three of four events: vault, floor, and beam (tie). In 2019, Chiles moved from Washington to Texas to train alongside Simone Biles at the World Champions Centre (WCC). After the competition concluded, Chiles gave a shout out to her WCC teammates watching from home.

Other highlights from the 2021 Winter Cup:

  • The 2021 Winter Cup marked two-time Olympic medalist Laurie Hernandez‘s first competition since the 2016 Rio Games. Hernandez competed on two events (floor and balance beam) and described her routines as “super watered down,” though she did debut a floor routine to “Hamilton” that she choreographed herself. After the competition ended, the 20-year-old said her next goal is to contest four routines and upgrade some of her skills.
  • Suni Lee, who also only competed on two events, finished first on uneven bars and third on balance beam. It was particularly remarkable given what the last year has looked like for the 17-year-old, who estimated that she was only at 60-70 percent entering the 2021 Winter Cup. She lost both an aunt and uncle to COVID-19. Then, shortly after returning to her gym in June after a two-month hiatus, she broke a bone in her left foot, followed by an achilles injury.
  • Two young athletes proved that they are making most of the opportunity they were handed. Skye Blakely and Konnor McClain were both initially too young to compete at the Tokyo Olympics Blakely by 35 days, McClain by 32 days – but the two 16-year-olds became age-eligible after the one-year postponement was announced. In Indianapolis, both Blakely and McClain only competed on two events; Blakely tied for first on balance beam, while McClain placed third on floor and fourth on vault.

Simone Biles was the most notable – but not only – Tokyo hopeful who didn’t compete in Indianapolis. Other athletes who skipped the 2021 Winter Cup but who should still challenge for a spot on the Olympic team include Morgan Hurd, Kara Eaker, Grace McCallum, and MyKayla Skinner.

[READ MORE: Jordan Chiles wins Winter Cup; Laurie Hernandez comes back]

NBC Olympics researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this story. 

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