Podium training is not an opportunity for the gymnasts to practice receiving their medals and singing along to their national anthems, despite what the name might imply. Instead, it’s a chance for the gymnasts to perform their routines on the Olympic podium, which is the raised platform where all the equipment sits. Most gymnasts practice on equipment that’s sitting on the floor, and the equipment can feel a little bit different on a less stable surface.
The U.S. women’s gymnastics team showed no signs of trouble, though, going 20 for 20: all five gymnasts got through all four events with no major mistakes. Unlike the U.S. men in yesterday’s session, none of the athletes sat out a rotation, even if they’re unlikely to actually perform on that event in competition.
The line-up did reveal some clues as to what to expect in Sunday’s qualification round. The format is five-four-three: out of the five gymnasts on the team, four will compete on each event, and the top three scores count.
On floor exercise, the line-up was Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Madison Kocian. Typically, the fifth gymnast in podium training will not compete on that event in competition.
If Hernandez doesn’t compete on all four events, she will not be eligible for the all-around final. Biles, Raisman and Douglas will, although only two will actually advance to the final thanks to the two-per-country rule. Many remember Jordyn Wieber getting shut out of the all-around at the London Olympics because she finished behind Douglas and Raisman in qualifications.
Hernandez finished second behind Biles on both nights of the Olympic Trials, and at that point looked like a potential all-around medalist.
Hernandez’s coach, Maggie Haney, told ESPN after podium training, “I’m disappointed at the possibility of [Hernandez] not competing in the all-around.
“I have to respect the decision, but it’s hard when I look back and realize she was second both days at Trials and had the second-highest all-around score to Simone coming in. I don’t know what to say. I’ve cried a lot this week.”
Hernandez showed maturity beyond her years when asked about being potentially left out of the bars line-up. “I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed,” she said. “This is what the team needs. If the team needs someone that is strong and consistent and can help the team in bars, I say that’s what we do. Martha [Karolyi] is very smart and knows the right decision.”
The final event was balance beam, with Douglas, Raisman, Hernandez, Biles and Kocian competing in that order.
In the U.S. men’s session, only Sam Mikulak and Chris Brooks competed on all six events. Here are the top routines from the yesterday’s men’s podium training.