2024 U.S. gymnastics championships: Pre-Olympics takeaways

Simone Biles won the all-around and every individual event at the 2024 U.S. championships. Elsa/Getty Images

FORT WORTH, Texas -- For a record ninth time in her career, Simone Biles is the U.S. all-around champion, and she won with a two-day total that was nearly six points ahead of second place.

That's a larger margin than what separated second and 10th place. Her Friday night all-around score of 60.450 was the highest any woman in the world has achieved since Tokyo.

"I use the phrase, 'aging like fine wine,'" Biles said Sunday night. "It's just getting better and better. So, we'll see. Hopefully we get to ride this out for the rest of the year."

For the second time in her career, Biles also won each of the four event titles at championships -- on uneven bars, balance beam, floor and vault. She is only the third woman ever to win all five gold medals at nationals, and the only one to do it twice.

"I think it's great coaches," Biles said of her ability to remain at the top for so long. "Cecile and Laurent [Landi] know exactly where we need to be and when we need to be there. "It goes back to how we train in the gym. It correlates to how we compete."

It's safe to say, in the understatement of the year, that Biles is a lock to make her third Olympic team and lead Team USA into Paris. Shilese Jones, who withdrew from championships last week with a lingering shoulder and biceps injury, petitioned into trials and has proved herself over the past year to be the No. 2 all-around gymnast in the country. If the selection committee were to name the team today, Jones would grab the second spot.

That leaves three spots remaining. And while championships was important, Olympic trials in Minneapolis on June 27-30 matters arguably more than any meet since Tokyo. Especially for the gymnasts who want to convince the selection committee that they deserve one of those final few spots on the team.

With one competition remaining before Paris, here are five takeaways from a fantastic two nights of competition in Fort Worth:

Suni Lee looks like she will peak at exactly the right time

A year ago after being diagnosed with kidney disease, Lee didn't know if she would wear a leotard again. This weekend, she competed in her first all-around meet since Tokyo and looked a lot like the Lee who won the Olympic all-around title, and in some ways, even better.

"It feels really good," Lee said of having an all-around meet behind her. "I'm super happy with my beam performance. I feel like beam and bars are where I'm going to be the most helpful to the team, so I'm glad I could put those to my feet."

Lee's coach, Jess Graba, has paced her return to competition with a focus on not overwhelming her physically or mentally. Since last August, she's slowly added skills back into her routines at each meet. She didn't perform a floor routine until Friday night, as she worked to regain her stamina.

Their plan seems to be working perfectly. Lee's consistency and confidence have improved each meet, and in Fort Worth, she was stellar on beam, earning a 14.9 Sunday night and finishing second behind Biles in the event. Lee scored 14 or higher on three of four rotations and finished 0.15 off the all-around podium -- and that was with an uncharacteristic fall on vault Sunday night. It was an incredible return to all-around competition in one of the deepest fields in U.S. history.

Lee said she plans to upgrade her floor and bars routines for Minneapolis, and if she performs anything like she did this weekend, she will head to her second Olympics in July.

Skye Blakely also made a case for herself

That leaves two Olympic team spots. And Blakely, who finished second in the all-around behind Biles, second on vault, and third on bars and beam, looked like an Olympian this weekend. Her performance went a long way to locking up that fourth spot on the team.

She might have done it on vault alone.

Blakely has been working on a Cheng vault -- a Yurchenko half onto the springboard with a laid-out 1.5 off it -- for years. It is one of the most difficult vaults in the world and a must-have at the Olympics.

The week before Fort Worth, Blakely said she started training the skill to a raised landing mat to gain confidence before she took it to a hard surface for the first time. That, she did Friday night in Fort Worth and earned a massive 15.0 for her efforts.

"It's a big difference training on soft mats at the gym and landing it in an arena like this, so I'm really happy I could bring it here," Blakely said Sunday. "That was my first 15 ever, so that was exciting," she said.

But her performance in Fort Worth was better than one vault. She proved she's a strong all-arounder with scores that will matter in multiple events in the three-up, three-count format of team finals at the Olympics.

That leaves one spot, and there are a lot of gymnasts who could claim it

The list of potential Olympians was cut to 16 this weekend when USA Gymnastics named its senior national team at the conclusion of competition. Those 16 gymnasts are invited to compete at Olympic trials. And if Biles, Jones, Lee and Blakely do in fact grab the first four spots, 12 gymnasts are competing for the final slot on the team. There is so much depth in that dozen.

Because of the strengths of those four gymnasts, there's an opportunity for an athlete who excels on floor to grab the final spot. But it also could go to a strong all-arounder with international experience who the team can rely on to step into any event if someone is injured. Or a combination of both.

Kayla DiCello looked great on floor in Fort Worth and finished second overall behind Biles in the event. She also took third in the all-around.

Tokyo Olympian Jordan Chiles' performance Sunday night earned her the second-highest score on floor of the weekend and she finished fifth in the all-around.

Jade Carey is the reigning Olympic floor champion and has improved in every meet.

Leanne Wong, who's been part of the past three world championship teams, is a consistent all-arounder but didn't have her best performance Sunday night.

Brody Malone is better than back -- he's in Olympic shape

A little over a year ago, Malone crashed dismounting from high bar at a World Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, and destroyed his right knee. He fractured his tibia, tore his meniscus and two of the four major ligaments that support the knee joint. Four months earlier, he had become a world champion on the high bar. Now his future was uncertain.

Then came three surgeries. Rehab. The process of re-learning how to walk. And a re-introduction to gymnastics.

Thursday night, at his first meet in more than a year, the Tokyo Olympian stuck six of six routines and lead the field heading into Saturday's final night of competition. There, too, he made a statement. When he stuck his high-bar dismount, he let out a roar.

"Going through what I've gone through, I've learned to be grateful for every opportunity to compete," Malone said after winning his third national title in four years. "And with that, I'm letting loose a little more and having more fun. ... I don't like to lose. It drives me. It makes me work hard. I didn't come here to just show up and compete. I wanted to win."

The U.S. men are ready to rock the Paris Games

Reigning world all-around bronze medalist Fred Richard finished second this weekend, followed by Khoi Young and Tokyo Olympians Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus. Richard said that while he prefers to finish every meet with a gold medal around his neck, championships has him hopeful for the team's potential in Paris. He believes he and his teammates can back up their bronze-medal performance in Belgium. Having Malone back in the mix certainly helps his case.

"Let's just say we are going to be very deadly," Richard said Saturday night. "This is going to be a fun Olympics. This is going to be amazing. We are fully loaded and stronger than I've seen the U.S. in years. I think we can look for medals."