Olympic Gymnastics: Live Updates from the Qualifying Round

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Current time in Tokyo: July 25, 2:40 p.m.

Key Updates:

July 24, 2021, 11:57 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:57 p.m. ET

The two-per-country rule: Why six Americans won’t make the all-around final.

July 24, 2021, 10:53 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 10:53 p.m. ET

Billie Eilish, Queen and lots of very loud music.

July 24, 2021, 9:03 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 9:03 p.m. ET

How to watch in the United States.

July 24, 2021, 9:03 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 9:03 p.m. ET

Who’s who among the Americans.

July 24, 2021, 9:01 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 9:01 p.m. ET

How does the scoring work?

July 25, 2021, 1:30 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 1:30 a.m. ET

Jade Carey during the U.S. Olympic trials in June.
Credit…Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The American gymnast Jade Carey might — we’re hedging here because it would be risky — debut a floor exercise skill that even Simone Biles has not attempted in competition: a triple-twisting double layout. It would be the hardest tumbling pass ever performed by a woman.

The boundary-pushing skill would see Carey launch herself into a roundoff and a series of back handsprings before two back flips and three twists. It is similar to Biles’s incredible triple-double on floor exercise, but whereas Biles tucks her knees into her chest, Carey increases the difficulty by keeping her body straight. While practicing at the recent U.S. championships, Carey landed the pass as her father and coach, Brian Carey, spotted her. The NBC commentator Tim Daggett noted that Biles “walked by and said congrats and that’s crazy.”

At podium training on Thursday, Carey played it safe, instead performing a still-tough Moors (a double-twisting double layout). She followed that with a powerful front layout through to a tucked double-double.

If she lands the triple-double layout in either the qualification or the floor exercise final — if she moves on to that event — the skill will be named for her.

Carey, 21, is also capable of winning a medal on vault; she placed second on the event at the 2017 and 2019 world championships. Like MyKayla Skinner, her fellow Arizonan, she is not part of the team competition. She secured her spot at the Olympics through the multiyear World Cup series.

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July 25, 2021, 1:24 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 1:24 a.m. ET

At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, a penalty like that actually cost the United States the bronze medal in the team competition. The U.S. received a 0.5-point deduction because an alternate, Rhonda Faehn, was standing on the platform while Kelly Garrison competed on the uneven bars. (Faehn had moved a springboard away, which she was allowed to do, but then she didn’t step off the platform as required.) East Germany ended up winning the bronze by 0.3 points.

July 25, 2021, 1:21 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 1:21 a.m. ET

Britain received a 0.3-point deduction from its team score because, according to the official results, Jennifer Gadirova exceeded the warmup time limit. It’s lucky for Britain that this happened in qualifications instead of in the team finals, where medals can be determined by tenths of a point.

July 25, 2021, 1:14 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 1:14 a.m. ET

China successfully argued that judges did not properly account for the difficulty of Lu Yufei’s floor routine.
Credit…Lionel Bonaventure/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The two-per-country rule, which states that only two gymnasts from the same country can qualify to each Olympic gymnastics final, is always a source of drama and heartbreak for the top-scoring nations. Today, there was a little extra.

When Lu Yufei of China finished competing on the floor exercise, her last routine of the night, she received an unexpectedly low score of 12.466, giving her the third-best all-around total among the Chinese women, with Tang Xijing in first place and Zhang Jin in second. It seemed that Lu, China’s reigning national champion, would miss qualifying for the all-around final by less than a tenth of a point.

But China challenged her score, filing what’s called an inquiry. Countries can do this when they believe a gymnast was not sufficiently credited for the difficulty of a routine. (Execution scores cannot be challenged.) The judges re-examined Lu’s routine and increased her score by two-tenths, to 12.666, moving her from third to second place among the Chinese women and shutting Zhang out of the all-around final instead.

The two-per-country rule will also keep Viktoria Listunova of Russia, the reigning European all-around champion, out of the final because her teammates Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova finished ahead of her. Additionally, Listunova and Urazova will miss the uneven bars final because Melnikova and Anastasia Iliankova scored higher on that apparatus.

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July 25, 2021, 12:50 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:50 a.m. ET

China successfully challenged Lu Yufei’s score on floor. It was increased, and now Zhang Jin will miss the all-around final under the two-per-country rule instead.

July 25, 2021, 12:47 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:47 a.m. ET

With the second subdivision done, Russia leads the team competition with a startlingly large 5-point lead over China: 171.629 to 166.663. They’ll both qualify to the team final easily, so these totals don’t matter per se, but they give us a hint of how the countries might stack up in the finals.

July 25, 2021, 12:46 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:46 a.m. ET

And, of course, the United States and several other countries are still to come in Subdivisions 3 through 5.

July 25, 2021, 12:46 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:46 a.m. ET

Yet another two-per-country casualty: Lu Yufei, the Chinese national champion, will miss the all-around too. She’s in third place among Chinese gymnasts by less than a tenth of a point.

July 25, 2021, 12:40 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:40 a.m. ET

Lilia Akhaimova fell off the beam. Fortunately for Russia, because this is the qualifications round and not the final, they get to drop their lowest score on each apparatus, so it shouldn’t affect them.

July 25, 2021, 12:40 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:40 a.m. ET

Angelina Melnikova and Anastasia Iliankova will almost certainly move on in the tight race for the eight spots in the uneven bars final. Iliankova’s 14.966 is the top score so far today. The two-per-country rule means two other Russians, Viktoria Listunova and Vladislava Urazova, won’t get a chance to seek an individual bars medal despite surpassing the score of the stellar Chinese bars worker Fan Yilin (14.600). Melnikova and Iliankova, though, will likely see stiff competition from Sunisa Lee of the United States and Nina Derwael of Belgium. Lee has the most difficult bars routines in the world.

July 25, 2021, 12:39 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:39 a.m. ET

Viktoria Listunova, the reigning European all-around champion, will miss the all-around final as well as the bars final because of the two-per-country rule. Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova are ahead of her in the all-around, and Anastasia Iliankova and Melnikova are ahead of her on bars.

July 25, 2021, 12:21 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:21 a.m. ET

After a very long wait, the score comes through for Guan Chenchen on beam: 14.933. That puts her a full six-tenths ahead of Tang Xijing, who had China’s second-best beam score.

July 25, 2021, 12:18 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:18 a.m. ET

Nothing’s for sure until all five subdivisions are done, but a phenomenal beam routine from Guan Chenchen — competing for China as an individual — puts her in great position to make the beam final, where she would be a serious medal contender.

July 25, 2021, 12:07 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:07 a.m. ET

On a recent day in Tokyo, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team took a photo with Oksana Chusovitina, who began in the sport in 1982. Her son was born when Simone Biles was just 2.

Chusovitina, 46 of Uzbekistan, is competing in her eighth Olympics. And the United States is fielding its oldest women’s gymnastics team since 1952. The average age is 20.8.

The sport looks a lot different than it did decades ago, when it was common to see 14- and 15-year-olds winning medals. Part of that has to do with rules. Since 2000, women must turn 16 or older in the Olympic year to compete. The code of points has also changed several times since and now rewards many skills that arguably improve with experience and muscle. Take the hardest vault: Biles’s Yurchenko double pike. It would be extremely difficult for a girl to generate the power it takes to execute the skill properly and safely.

While several previous U.S. teams had adults on them (Annia Hatch, for one, was 26 at the 2004 Games), it seems now that more Americans are competitive well into adulthood.

The German team’s average age is 26; its oldest member is 32. Simona Castro of Chile is 32. Vanessa Ferrari of Italy is 30. The Dutch twins Sanne and Lieke Wevers are nearly 30.

Like Biles, many of these athletes push their own limits. The Olympic beam champion in 2016, Sanne Wevers recently debuted the most difficult uneven bars element in the world.

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July 25, 2021, 12:01 a.m. ET

July 25, 2021, 12:01 a.m. ET

Alice Kinsella of Britain is just not having a good day. She just landed fully out of bounds on one of her tumbling passes on floor, a 0.3-point deduction, and is shaking her head as she walks back to the sidelines.

Credit…Francois Nel/Getty Images

July 24, 2021, 11:57 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:57 p.m. ET

Jordan Chiles could be affected by the rule that states only two gymnasts per country can make a given final.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

When it comes to gymnastics talent, the U.S. is so deep that “the U.S. is so deep that” has become a cliché.

The U.S. is so deep that it could send its “B team” to the Olympics and still win gold. The U.S. is so deep that all six of its gymnasts could make the all-around final in Tokyo.

Well, not so fast on that last one, says the two-per-country rule.

The rule, as its name suggests, states that only two gymnasts per country can make a given final. So even if all six Americans are among the top 24 all-arounders in qualifications — a real possibility — only two will advance.

The idea is to prevent countries with lots of money from monopolizing the finals. A gymnast training without the mats, foam-block pits and other equipment that help gymnasts from affluent countries work safely toward world-class skills is unlikely to reach the same level. But if she qualifies for an Olympic final, that can bring attention and resources to her country’s future athletes.

In practice, that isn’t always the effect. At the 2016 Olympics, the rule kept gymnasts from the United States, Japan, Russia and Brazil out of the all-around final, and those spots went to gymnasts from France, Germany and Italy. Gymnasts from under-resourced countries who made finals, like Jessica López of Venezuela (all-around and bars) and Dipa Karmakar of India (vault), placed high enough to qualify with or without the rule.

This year, the rule will affect Suni Lee or Jordan Chiles of the United States, either of whom could win silver or bronze in the all-around, but only one of whom can earn the spot available for an American not named Simone Biles. The other three Americans — Grace McCallum, Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner — would also probably make the final, but not medal, in the absence of the rule.

Russian gymnasts are in a similar situation, with Viktoria Listunova, Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova competing for two spots in the all-around. China will also be affected, though the gymnasts shut out there — possibly Tang Xijing and Ou Yushan, if their teammates Zhang Jin and Lu Yufei place higher — probably wouldn’t be as strong medal contenders.

The rule also applies to apparatus finals. On vault and floor, expect a battle among the Americans, with Carey, Chiles and Skinner fighting for the non-Biles spot. On bars, four Russians — Urazova, Melnikova, Listunova and Anastasia Iliankova — will aim for two spots. On beam, Ou, Lu and Guan Chenchen of China may do the same.

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July 24, 2021, 11:55 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:55 p.m. ET

Such a difficult bars routine from Viktoria Listunova, capped with a rare double-twisting double back dismount. She had some issues with leg form in the air but landed well.

July 24, 2021, 11:53 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:53 p.m. ET

A good rotation for the Russians on vault: a team score of 43.832, compared to China’s 42.366 on that event. The Russians head into the halfway point with a .500 lead. Both teams have the 4 inch wide balance beam to come. The Chinese are known for being very strong on that apparatus; the Russians have been somewhat shaky there in recent competitions.

July 24, 2021, 11:52 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:52 p.m. ET

Fan Yilin, competing for China as an individual, hit her very difficult bars routine with just a small step on the dismount. She’s a world gold medalist on bars from 2015 and 2017 and is aiming to make the finals here too.

July 24, 2021, 11:50 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:50 p.m. ET

Russia is on bars next, and China is on beam. Lots of pressure on both of them, both in terms of the team score and in terms of qualification to individual finals. Russia, for instance, has four gymnasts who are strong contenders for two spots in the bars finals.

July 24, 2021, 11:38 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:38 p.m. ET

Ou Yushan finished one bars skill in pretty much a dead hang and had to muscle her way back up to a handstand. That loss of momentum will be a deduction, though China has a couple excellent bar routines from other gymnasts in the bag already.

July 24, 2021, 11:35 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:35 p.m. ET

In qualifications, four gymnasts compete for each country on each apparatus, and the lowest score is dropped. In the team finals, it’s three gymnasts on each event and all three scores count. So if Kinsella’s teammates hit, Britain can drop her bars and beam scores.

July 24, 2021, 11:34 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:34 p.m. ET

Alice Kinsella of Britain fell on both uneven bars and beam, dashing her hopes for a spot in the all-around final. After her beam routine, she stood on the sidelines with her head in her hands. The errors put pressure on her teammates to hit.

July 24, 2021, 11:31 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:31 p.m. ET

Excellent bars routine from Tang Xijing of China. About those pirouettes: Many of the skills the Chinese gymnasts do are in “eagle grip,” which is ridiculously difficult. Imagine there’s a bar in front of you, and try to grip it underhand, but with your hands rotated the _opposite_ direction from what’s natural.

July 24, 2021, 11:28 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:28 p.m. ET

We have a guide to uneven bars skills here if you want a primer.

July 24, 2021, 11:28 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:28 p.m. ET

Gymnastics trivia time: This subdivision features the second of three sets of twins competing today, Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova of Britain. Alice and Asia D’Amato of Italy competed in the first subdivision, and Lieke and Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands will compete in the third.

July 24, 2021, 11:27 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:27 p.m. ET

China is now on bars, where its gymnasts have excelled for decades. You’ll see a very characteristic style from them, with intricate and extremely difficult pirouetting skills.

July 24, 2021, 11:20 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:20 p.m. ET

You’ll notice the Russian gymnasts are competing under “Russian Olympic Committee.” Russia was banned from the Games because of its state-sponsored doping program, so the team cannot be called “Russia.” The Russian flag and anthem are also banned.

July 24, 2021, 11:18 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:18 p.m. ET

The British team is on the uneven bars. Suspiciously missing from the squad is bars world silver medalist Becky Downie, who was left off the British team in a controversial decision by British Gymnastics. Becky and her sister Ellie were outspoken about the emotional and physical abuse they experienced while on the national team. The sisters wonder if speaking out cost Becky a spot on the Olympic team.

July 24, 2021, 11:18 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:18 p.m. ET

Elena Gerasimova is wearing a sleeveless purple leotard to differentiate herself from her Russian teammates. She is competing as an individual, like Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner of the United States will do later today. Their scores won’t count toward the team totals, but they can vie for individual medals.

July 24, 2021, 11:17 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:17 p.m. ET

China started out on vault and did fine, but that’s not where it’s going to win or lose the competition. The team’s best events are bars and beam, which will be coming up fairly soon.

July 24, 2021, 11:14 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:14 p.m. ET

A tidbit about the Russian team: Its coaches selected Listunova, Melnikova and Urazova as members early and then made two other gymnasts, Lilia Akhaimova and Elena Gerasimova, duke it out for weeks over who would get the last spot on the team and who would compete as an individual athlete. Akhaimova won.

July 24, 2021, 11:12 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:12 p.m. ET

Honey on a vault at the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

While the women competed in Tokyo, viewers watching NBC’s tape-delayed coverage of men’s gymnastics might have noticed honey bottles near the parallel bars.

Men use the honey as a gripping agent: They squeeze it onto their palms, rub their hands together and then dust up both hands with chalk before grasping the bars.

Honey, however, is rarely used by the women, who do not compete on the parallel bars. On the uneven bars, though, stickiness is helpful, and instead they use spray water and use chalk on the bars, and wear leather grips, for more stability.

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July 24, 2021, 11:10 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:10 p.m. ET

Good floor routine to start from Viktoria Listunova, who is just 16 and wouldn’t have been age-eligible for the Olympics if they’d been held as planned last year. She won the all-around at the European Championships this year.

July 24, 2021, 11:10 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:10 p.m. ET

One PSA: Don’t read too much into the early rankings. Neither Russia nor China is starting on its best apparatus.

July 24, 2021, 11:04 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:04 p.m. ET

China’s team is Lu Yufei, Ou Yushan, Tang Xijing and Zhang Jin. Two other gymnasts, Fan Yilin and Guan Chenchen, are competing as individuals. All of them are capable of making at least one final if the two-per-country rule doesn’t get in the way.

July 24, 2021, 11:00 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 11:00 p.m. ET

The rule that only two gymnasts per country can qualify to each final is going to start coming into play a whole lot. Three Russian gymnasts will be fighting for two spots in the all-around, and four will be fighting for two spots in the uneven bars final. You’ll want to watch Viktoria Listunova, Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova. They’re all capable of medaling but only two can make the final.

July 24, 2021, 10:53 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 10:53 p.m. ET

The Italian team strikes a pose.
Credit…Mike Blake/Reuters

There’s no crowd at Ariake Gymnastics Center for the women’s competition, but if there were, this music would certainly be hyping it up.

Loud music — think lots of drums — has been pumping through the venue between rotations. And during the competition, the traditional melodies once commonly used on the floor exercise were for the most part absent. In the first subdivision alone, Reagan Rutty of the Cayman Islands tumbled to thumping house beats, and Diana Varinska of Ukraine performed to a dramatic version of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” A lively P.A. announcer tried to explain some of the pop culture references and musical nuances after a Queen medley played.

Later, expect to hear plenty of Billie Eilish. And Simone Biles will defy gravity as “Tokyo Drift” by the Teriyaki Boyz — the song from “Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift” — blares through the arena.

Gymnasts, of course, have long eschewed piano music. In 2016, Emma Larsson of Sweden chose quite the earworm: the “Sex and the City” theme song. In 2012, one of my favorite selections was Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” — perhaps not modern, but certainly more so than Chopin.

Eythora Thorsdottir’s routine, in the third subdivision, is one to note. The Dutch gymnast’s choreography is striking, and, yes, that voice you’ll hear is her singing her own floor music.

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July 24, 2021, 10:50 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 10:50 p.m. ET

We’re heading into the second of five subdivisions in women’s gymnastics qualifications. This subdivision includes two major medal contenders, China and Russia. It also includes Britain, which has been a rising gymnastics power in recent years and could sneak onto the podium if other countries make mistakes.

July 24, 2021, 10:40 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 10:40 p.m. ET

Throughout these games there are numerous reminders of things that would be way more necessary with paying spectators in the stands. At gymnastics, a lively PA announcer is trying to explain various pop culture references and musical nuances. “Sometimes you can hear the lyrics,” she said when explaining a medley of Queen songs.

July 24, 2021, 10:38 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 10:38 p.m. ET

That’s a wrap on the first subdivision. Italy finishes with a team total of 163.330, just ahead of Japan at 162.662. Again, these numbers aren’t meaningful until we see what countries in later subdivisions do, but file them away for later.

July 24, 2021, 10:36 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 10:36 p.m. ET

Tan Sze En of Singapore is posing for photos after her last routine. A reminder that for most gymnasts competing today, this is it. Most gymnasts will not make any finals.

July 24, 2021, 10:01 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 10:01 p.m. ET

Mai Murakami does two vaults, which means she’s trying to qualify to the vault finals. Both were solid enough, though not as difficult as what we’ll see from the best vaulters.

July 24, 2021, 9:54 p.m. ET

July 24, 2021, 9:54 p.m. ET

Midway through this first subdivision, Italy is 4 points ahead of Japan — a BIG gap. (It’s impossible to say what score teams will need to make the team finals because it’s so early and we haven’t seen the power players yet.)

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