Current time in Tokyo: July 25, 11:35 a.m.
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.
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.)
I think the gold medal of this session should go to Japan’s Mai Murakami who performed a great floor routine to a mash-up of car chase music and “Pump Up the Volume.” (And silver to the DJ who mixed it.) The sport needs more music that gets you out of your seat to dance.
Great, difficult floor routine from Murakami, including a double-double (a double back flip with two twists) and a two-and-a-half to front full (a back layout with two and a half twists, immediately connected to a front layout with a full twist).
Mai Murakami of Japan is up next on the floor exercise, where she could qualify to the apparatus final. (She’s also a strong contender to qualify to the all-around finals.)
Aly Raisman, a member of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic teams, tweeted an interesting thought: She found it harder to compete on a light-colored floor like the one in Tokyo, because U.S. facilities generally have blue floors.
Not sure if other gymnasts agree but I always found it more difficult to train/compete on a white floor. I found it harder to spot my landings. Maybe it’s because I was used to the blue floor we use in the US? Curious if other gymnasts agree!
— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) July 25, 2021
Thank you, Raegan Rutty of the Cayman Islands, for the loud and thumping house music you used for your floor routine. I had to get to the gymnastics venue very early, and I needed something to wake me up.
Ashikawa had a few small balance checks during her beam routine, but overall very good. Lots of deceptively difficult leaps in that routine, where she loses sight of the beam by throwing her head back.
Urara Ashikawa, who qualified to the Olympics based on her beam routine, is up on beam now.
The Japanese team is wearing the sparkliest leotards I’ve ever seen. They look glittery on TV, but for sure are so much shinier in person. Kind of hard to look away. So different than, let’s say, what Mary Lou Retton wore at the 1984 Olympics, which was pretty much just a plain white leo with big stripes and stars of the American flag.
Italy and Japan are not likely to be serious contenders for a team medal, though they could both be among the eight teams that qualify to the team final.
Another Japanese gymnast, Urara Ashikawa, has a chance to qualify to the balance beam finals. She earned an individual spot at the Olympics, separate from the four-person Japanese team, via the World Cup apparatus series on beam.
The announcer just said, “Please welcome the gymnasts” as the first set of teams marches into the arena. The volunteers, who are the heroes of these fan-less Games, are clapping in unison. This has all the electricity of a real, live practice session.
If you’re watching in the United States, NBC’s live streams have started. It’s striking to see a mostly vacant arena on my screen.
Here at the gymnastics venue in Tokyo, there’s dramatic music blasting and a light show so that the two fans in the stands can enjoy it.
The first of five subdivisions is underway. It will feature Italy, Japan and 10 individual gymnasts competing for countries that didn’t qualify full teams.
The first day of women’s gymnastics is a marathon: The qualification rounds, which decide which teams and athletes will vie for medals, last about 12 hours.
If you want to watch live, prepare to stay up all night. The first round, featuring Italy and Japan, starts on Saturday at 9 p.m. (all times Eastern). Russia and China, which are in the hunt for the silver team medal, begin competing at 10:50 p.m. The Americans compete in Round 3, on Sunday at 2:10 a.m. The final round, No. 5, kicks off at 7:20 a.m.
In the United States, you can stream the competition via NBC’s Olympics site, its Peacock streaming service or the NBC Sports app.
Many fans will prefer to stream a replay or watch the tape-delayed broadcast on NBC, which will air between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. To avoid spoilers, turn off mobile news notifications and try to stay off social media.
Four gymnasts make up the team representing the United States: Biles, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum. Two women are competing on their own: Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner.
Biles, 24, is the reigning Olympic all-around champion and the only American returning from the 2016 squad. In Tokyo, she is expected to break the record for combined world and Olympic medals in women’s gymnastics, which is 32 and belongs to Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union.
Latynina also holds the sport’s Olympic medal record; if Biles wins five medals, as she is expected to, she will rank third on that list.
Biles and Chiles, 20, are likely to help the team on every apparatus — vault, uneven bars, beam and floor exercise. Lee, who is 18 and goes by Suni, is a strong all-rounder and the American other than Biles who is most likely to win gold in an individual event. She can perform the most difficult uneven-bars routines in the world.
Carey, 21, and Skinner, 24, are potential medalists on vault and floor. In June, Carey showed that she is capable of a double layout with three twists on the floor, a skill that Biles called “crazy,” according to Tim Daggett, the Olympian and NBC commentator. McCallum, 18, contributes solid scores wherever she is needed.
Besides the United States, there are 11 countries with women’s gymnastics teams in Tokyo: Belgium, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain and Russia, which is competing as R.O.C., an abbreviation for Russian Olympic Committee. (The Russian team name was banned from the Games as part of the penalties for a doping cover-up.)
This weekend, teams will use all four of their gymnasts and drop the lowest mark on each apparatus. The eight squads with the highest total scores qualify for the team final on Tuesday, when the United States is all but certain to win the gold medal. Russia and China are expected to vie for the silver and bronze.
Keep an eye on the Japanese and British teams; they should both advance to the team final and have a chance of landing on the podium, especially if Russia and China make mistakes.
Here’s where things get a bit confusing. While 48 gymnasts are part of teams, 50 gymnasts are not, and they will not be eligible for a team medal.
Carey and Skinner will rotate among the apparatuses with the U.S. team, but they will wear different leotards, and their efforts won’t count toward the team score. (Carey earned her Olympic berth by competing in the multiyear World Cup series; an athlete selection committee gave Skinner the spot the United States received for winning the team event at the 2019 world championships.)
The top 24 gymnasts — whether team members or individual competitors — who compete in every event will advance to the individual all-around competition, on Thursday. The top eight athletes on each apparatus will move on to the event finals.
But only two women per country can take part in the all-around or in any event final. In 2016, for instance, Gabby Douglas finished third in the all-around, behind Biles and Aly Raisman, but couldn’t advance because of this rule. Instead, an athlete from another nation — with a lower qualifying score — participated.
Gymnasts’ routines receive a “D score” for difficulty (such as 6.0 for a difficult vault called the Cheng) and an “E score” for execution (starting at 10 and decreasing for errors). The two scores are combined, meaning a Cheng can score a maximum of 16.0.
For a more in-depth explanation, watch this helpful video.
The “perfect 10” was scrapped in elite competition in 2006, though that top score is still used in women’s college gymnastics and elsewhere.