A look back at major moments in US Olympic gymnastics history

A look back at major moments in US Olympic gymnastics history

With the 2024 Paris Olympics fast approaching, gymnastics superstars including Simone Biles, Shilese Jones and Suni Lee are all vying for a spot on Team USA.

Biles, Jones and Lee, along with 13 other Olympic hopefuls, will compete for one of five places on the women’s team at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Gymnastics, which will be held June 27 through June 30 in Minneapolis.

It’s an especially momentous year for Biles, who is back in action after her surprising withdrawal from multiple events at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Games.

Biles opened up about her comeback in a trailer for her upcoming Netflix documentary series, “Simone Biles Rising.”

“I knew it would be a long journey, but to me it wasn’t done,” Biles says in the trailer. “Sometimes you have to take that power back.”

Biles’ withdrawal from the Tokyo finals was undoubtedly an unforgettable moment in Team USA gymnastics history — and there have been many of those over the years.

Here’s a look back at just a few:

Kerri Strug

In 1996, the women of the U.S. gymnastics team, dubbed the “Magnificent Seven,” had a lot riding on Kerri Strug’s performance in the final team event on vault. Given how tight the competition was between the United States and Russia, a strong performance from Strug looked to be the only path to secure gold. The problem was, a bad landing on her first attempt at the vault left her with an injured ankle — and the sudden need to stick the landing on her second attempt, no matter what.

Kerri Strug (David Madison / Getty Images)
Kerri Strug (David Madison / Getty Images)

Despite the odds, the 18-year-old nailed the routine and, ever so briefly, landed with both feet on the mat before hopping and then collapsing. Coach Béla Károlyi carried her to the podium to receive her medal alongside her teammates.

Mary Lou Retton

The 1984 Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles, putting Team USA on home turf and putting 16-year-old gymnast Mary Lou Retton in the spotlight.

Mary Lou Retton (AP)
Mary Lou Retton (AP)

Though it was Retton’s first (and last) Olympic Games, she shined as a star from the start, helping her team clinch the silver, while she took another silver in individual vault and two bronzes for the uneven bars and floor exercise respectively, and most spectacularly of all, she went on to win gold in the all-around — a first-time feat for any American gymnast, and one that also landed her the coveted spot on the front of the Wheaties box.

Dominique Dawes

When it comes to firsts, Olympian Dominique Dawes has had her share of them.

Like Strug, Dawes was a member of the “Magnificent Seven” at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, meaning that she, too, won team gold that year and also an individual bronze medal for her floor exercise — making her the first Black female gymnast to win an individual medal at the Olympics. Four years earlier in Barcelona, Dawes and teammate Betty Okino became the first Black gymnasts to take home Olympic medals after the U.S. team secured the bronze.

Dominque Dawes USA (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)
Dominque Dawes USA (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)

Dawes, now in her 40s, is also one of just three female U.S. gymnasts to compete at three different Olympic Games: Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000).

Gabby Douglas

Even after Dawes’ impressive list of first-time achievements, there was another remarkable first to be had at the 2012 London Olympics. That’s when a 16-year-old Gabby Douglas took the gold in the all-around, becoming the first Black all-around champion and the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in that event and the team competition at the same Games.

Gabrielle Douglas (Michael Regan / Getty Images)
Gabrielle Douglas (Michael Regan / Getty Images)

Dominique Moceanu

Yet another member of the “Magnificent Seven” makes the list with Dominique Moceanu. Her team victory in 1996 at just 14 years old made her the youngest U.S. gymnast to ever win gold — a record she’s likely to keep as the International Gymnastics Federation later adjusted the minimum age requirement for Olympic eligibility.

Dominique Moceanu (Mike Powell / Getty Images)
Dominique Moceanu (Mike Powell / Getty Images)

Shannon Miller

After participating in the Olympic Games in 1992 and 1996, Shannon Miller earned the distinction as the most decorated U.S. female Olympic gymnast of all time, with two gold, two silver and three bronze medals to her name.

Shannon Miller (Walter Iooss Jr. / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
Shannon Miller (Walter Iooss Jr. / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Simone Biles

And then there’s the woman known to fans as the GOAT — the greatest of all time. Biles currently shares the record with Miller for the most decorated U.S. female Olympic gymnast (seven medals each). She is also the most decorated American gymnast of all time when including all senior competitions.

Simone Biles (MIKE BLAKE / Reuters)
Simone Biles (MIKE BLAKE / Reuters)

Biles delivered an incredible performance at the 2016 Rio Games, winning the gold medals for team, all-around, vault and floor exercises, as well as a bronze for balance beam. She also went on to hold the flag for Team USA at the closing ceremony, which had never been done by a female gymnast before.

Then, in 2021, she made headlines for another kind of big move: She shocked fans when she withdrew from the team competition in Tokyo after experiencing “the twisties.” That’s a phenomenon that occurs when gymnasts lose awareness of where they are in the air, making it dangerous to land.

Biles later opened up about her decision to withdraw in a July 2021 interview with Hoda Kotb, saying she needed to look after her mental health.

“Physically, I feel good, I’m in shape,” she told Hoda exclusively on TODAY. “Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment. Coming here to the Olympics and being the head star isn’t an easy feat, so we’re just trying to take it one day at a time and we’ll see.”

Since her unexpected withdrawal from the team finals in Tokyo, Biles has been open about prioritizing her mental health.

“I think I have to take care of myself a little bit more and listen to my body and making sure that I’m making time for the important things in my life, rather than before, it was just ‘go, go, go,’ and then making time after,” she told Hoda on TODAY in September.

After some time away from competing, the gymnastics legend returned to the sport in August when she won the 2023 U.S. Classic.

Since then, she has soared from victory to victory. In October, she won an all-around gold medal at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships. With this victory, she became the most decorated gymnast of all time.

Biles also won her ninth all-around title at the 2024 U.S. Gymnastics Championships, which were held this year from May 30 to June 2 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Now, as she sets her sights on Paris, Biles has said she is taking a more balanced approach to competing, and is looking after her physical and emotional well-being.

“This time around, it’s being intentional, going to therapy, making sure everything is aligned,” she previously told Hoda, “so that I can do the best in the gym and be a good wife, good daughter, good friend and all of the good things.”

This article was originally published on TODAY.com