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Simone Biles Olympic alternates and replacements


Here’s a look at the process that goes into determining who would replace Biles in the upcoming individual events if she doesn’t compete.

One of the biggest stories of the Tokyo Olympics has been the mental health of Simone Biles. The six-time Olympic medalist, widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, has withdrawn from two competitions so far, saying she’s experiencing the “twisties,” which she described as not being able to tell up from down while in the air.

Biles has qualified for four more individual events at the Tokyo Games – the balance beam, vault, floor and uneven bars – although as of July 30, it’s unclear if she’ll compete in them. Biles said she’s evaluating her situation daily.

As questions remain about whether she’ll compete, Google Trends data shows people have been searching about who would replace Biles. “Alternate for Simone Biles,” “did an alternate compete for Simone” and “Simone Biles alternate” have been breakout searches.

THE QUESTION

Will U.S. gymnasts automatically replace Biles if she chooses to not compete at the Olympics?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

No, U.S. gymnasts will not automatically replace Biles if she withdraws from upcoming individual competitions.

WHAT WE FOUND

The International Gymnastics Federation sets the rules of competition for gymnastics at the Olympics.

For women’s gymnastics, each qualifying country was allowed one team of four athletes, plus up to two qualifying individual athletes. This year’s women’s team is made up of Biles, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum. MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey are representing the U.S. in individual events.

In addition to those six, USA Gymnastics named four replacement athletes to the team: Kayla DiCello, Emma Malabuyo, Leanne Wong and Kara Eaker. Eaker tested positive for COVID-19 before the start of the games and was ruled out of competition. 

According to International Gymnastics Federation rules, alternates are only allowed to replace sick or injured athletes at least 24 hours before qualification events at the Olympics. Since none of the alternates participated in qualifying events, they can’t replace Biles in event finals. Biles shared the same rule in a story on her Instagram account. She also noted the U.S. alternates were already back home.

In the team competition, when Biles withdrew after the vault, her teammates — Lee, Chiles and McCallum —  had to fill her role. And they did so successfully, earning a silver medal.

In individual events, if a qualified gymnast can’t compete, then another gymnast from the same country can compete if they “obtained a superior result to that of the first gymnast of reserve.” That’s what happened in the individual all-around competition, which Biles also withdrew from.

In the individual all-around event, the top 24 gymnasts, limited to a maximum of two per country, advanced to the final. Biles, who hasn’t lost an individual all-around competition since 2013, qualified in first place. Lee finished third, Carey ninth, Skinner 11th and McCallum 13th. But because of the limit of two gymnasts per country, only Biles and Lee initially qualified for the event. With Biles withdrawing, though, Carey was able to replace her because she was the highest-scoring American who finished ahead of the first gymnast of reserve. Lee went on to win a gold medal in the event, with Carey finishing in eighth place.

For the rest of the individual events — balance beam, vault, floor and uneven bars – the top eight gymnasts in qualifications, still limited to a maximum of two per country, advance to the final.

Similar to the individual all-around, another American will replace Biles in the vault if she doesn’t compete.  Biles and Carey finished first and second in qualifications, claiming the two U.S. spots. But Skinner finished in fourth place. So, because she’s in the top eight, Skinner is in line to replace Biles.

But no Americans scored high enough in qualifications to be in line to replace Biles if she doesn’t compete in the other three events. In the uneven bars, Melanie de Jesus dos Santos of France would currently replace Biles. On the balance beam, Urara Ashikawa of Japan would take Biles’ spot. And in the floor exercise, Jennifer Gadirova of Great Britain would replace Biles.  

The vault and uneven bars competitions take place on Aug. 1. The floor exercise follows on Aug. 2 and the beam is scheduled for Aug. 3.

More from VERIFY: Yes, gymnastics changed its scoring system 15 years ago and eliminated the ‘perfect 10’

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