July 22, 2024
Simone Biles

Hezly Rivera will be the youngest of a team of veterans in their twenties

With the Paris 2024 Olympics just over two weeks away, the excitement is palpable as the world eagerly awaits to see the best athletes compete across more than 30 disciplines. This unique experience, which happens only once every four years, is a culmination of nearly a lifetime of preparation for many athletes. For those who are not exceptionally young or extraordinary, the chances of returning to the Olympics are slim.
Simone Biles

One of the sports where younger athletes often shine is gymnastics. In the Tokyo Olympics, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team finished third behind China and Russia, but they were the most successful nation in Rio 2016. The stars of the U.S. team are undoubtedly Simone Biles (27), who is the oldest U.S. gymnast to compete in the Olympics in 72 years, and Sunisa Lee (21). Both were bested in the trials in Minnesota by an impressive performance from 16-year-old Hezly Rivera, who excelled across two balance beam routines, outscoring both Biles and Lee and tying for the top score with Joscelyn Roberson.

With Tokyo veterans Biles, Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles (23), and Jade Carey (24) still in top form, a fifth spot seemed highly unlikely for Rivera. However, after injuries to Olympic contenders Shilese Jones, Kayla DiCello, and Skye Blakely at the trials, Rivera seized her Paris opportunity and performed exceptionally all weekend. The nerves will surely be present for Rivera, but the support from her family, coaches, and teammates will be crucial for her to channel her energy effectively.

Looking ahead, with the next Olympics being held in Los Angeles 2028, Rivera could have the chance to represent the U.S. women’s gymnastics team again at just 20 years old. Even if she doesn’t win an individual medal in Paris, it doesn’t mean she can’t achieve great things in the future. Michael Phelps, who is considered by many to be the greatest athlete of all time, did not win any medals at 15 years old in Sydney 2000, but we all know what happened in the years that followed.

Finally, a word on Simone Biles. While every medal won in the olympics is historic-she has seven-this time, if she secures two more, she will tie the legendary Nadia Comneci with nine and place herself in fifth position in the all-time rankings. Four more medals would bring her total to 11, matching Czechoslovakia’s Vera Cáslavská, but still far from Larisa Latynina’s 18, achieved between 1956 and 1964. Each Olympic Games bring unparalleled excitement, and this year will be no exception. As we count down the days to the opening ceremony in Paris, the world awaits the thrill and spectacle of the Olympics, ready to witness history in the making once again.

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