TOKYO – The U.S. women cannot win all the gymnastics medals, and it’s not just their international competition holding them back.
It’s also the International Gymnastics Federation rules.
While the team is talented and deep enough to win another team title and take home a substantial haul of medals, the two-per-country rule is almost certain to leave some U.S. women out of the all-around and event finals.
Take floor exercise, for instance.
Simone Biles has five worlds gold medals in the event and won it in the Rio Olympics five years ago. She also has two skills on floor named after her in the Code of Points. Safe to say, we can pencil her in to make that final.
But who is the other American? Jordan Chiles finished two spots behind Biles at trials, making her the closest of anyone on the Olympic team. She also won the event at Winter Cup, where Biles did not compete.
Sunisa Lee has a silver medal in the event from 2019 worlds, and Jade Carey has one from 2017. MyKayla Skinner, who received an individual spot and won’t compete in the team competition, and Grace McCallum could be in the mix.
Realistically, the American women could have four of the top eight scores and see two gymnasts left out of that final.
Same goes for vault.
Biles landed her Yurchenko double pike in podium training on Thursday, and she looks primed to use it in competition. (If she does, it will be the fifth skill named for her in the Code of Points.)
The vault – during which Biles does a roundoff onto the takeoff board, a back handspring onto the vault and flips twice with her body in a piked position – is so difficult that most men don’t try it.
Skinner finished second to Biles at both U.S. championships and trials, and Chiles is expected to be in the mix. Jade Carey, who qualified her individual spot based on her floor and vault results at World Cup events, has two worlds medals on vault.
By the time qualifying is over, several American women could find themselves among the best in the world but left out when it comes to contending for a medal.
That’s not a new position. During the Rio Games five years ago, Biles, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas finished as the top three in the all-around qualifying, but Douglas – the 2012 Olympic champion – did not make the final because of the two-per-country rule.
And while it might disproportionately affect the U.S. women, the rule also hurts other countries.
Viktoriia Listunova, the reigning European and Russian champion, will miss the all-around final because she finished behind teammates Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova.
China's national champion, Lu Yufei, initially fell victim to the rule, too, finishing just 0.066 behind teammate Zhang Jin. But China protested Lu's floor exercise score, and the change moved her ahead of Zhang, by 0.1
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tokyo Olympics: US gymnasts may not medal at 2021 Games due to rule