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Jul 8, 2016 11:23 PM

Biles on top after first day of Olympic Trials

The Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Simone Biles is just four rotations away from her long-awaited trip to Rio de Janeiro.

The three-time world champion led the way during the first night of U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics trials on Friday. The 19-year-old Biles, a lock to make the five-woman team when it is announced on Sunday night, wasn't as sharp as usual, but her score of 61.850 was a touch better than rising star Laurie Hernandez.

Hernandez, who turned 16 last month, lit up the SAP Center everywhere she went, her only wobble coming during a gutsy save on uneven bars when she muscled her way out of a mistake.

Three-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman is third, followed by MyKayla Skinner in fourth. Defending Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas is seventh after falling on balance beam in her final event.

National team coordinator Martha Karolyi is picking from an embarrassment of riches as she pieces together a squad that will head to Rio as the heavy favorite to win a second straight Olympic team gold. Karolyi, who is retiring after the Olympics, said following the national championships last month that she already had five names in mind while stressing nothing is written in stone.

Biles, Hernandez and Raisman appear to be in solid position while Douglas is still searching for the form that helped her win an eye-opening silver in the all-around to Biles at the world championships last fall. Douglas was only so-so at nationals and adjusted her coaching situation heading into Trials, with Christian Gallardo taking a more prominent role with less than a month to go before opening ceremonies.

While Douglas was third on uneven bars, the event that first caught Karolyi's eye five years ago, she was iffy elsewhere, her uneven night ending with a hop off the beam.

Douglas' wobble may open the door for other candidates to slip into the group. Skinner put a strong 59.450 to finish fourth, including top four scores on vault, beam and floor.

Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear, who came into the trials as the leading candidate for the fifth spot, posted matching 15.750s on bars — the best of the night by far — with Kocian adding a steady 14.7 on balance beam.

There is no drama at the top, though there might be company for Biles. The high-flying star hasn't lost a meet in three years while cementing herself as the best gymnast of her generation. While she's still in a class by herself, she wasn't quite as crisp as she was while winning her fourth national title in St. Louis two weeks ago.

She was visibly upset with herself after a 15.2 on beam, frustrated by an awkward save while coming out of a spin. Her score of 15.2 was still second in the field — a telling sign of Biles' impossibly high standards — and she has breathing room heading into Sunday night.

Just not as much as usual. Hernandez has been as good as advertised in her first year at the elite level and her charisma is infectious. The crowd inside the packed SAP Center roared with every acrobatic tumbling pass, and there were no nerves as she became the first gymnast in quite a while to be somewhere in the vicinity of Biles, no small feat.


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