Bound for gold: US Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team is more unique than ever before

These robust tumblers are ready for Rio! Five spectacular gymnasts secured their spots on team USA for the Summer Olympics, and they’re sure to make history. Want to meet them?

From left to right: (Front row) Lauren Hernandez, MyKayla Skinner, Simone Biles, Ragan Smith (Back Row) Ashton Locklear, Alexandra Raisman, Madison Kocian, and Gabrielle Douglas pose for a team photo after they were selected for the Olympic Team after the 2016 U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic Trials on July 10, 2016. Ezra Shaw | Getty Images

After an intense round of trials in San Jose, California this week, the USA Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team has emerged: five stunning, strong and talented young women, including the first-ever Olympic gold-medal winning African American gymnast, and a prodigy who is perfecting a never-before-seen flip. This team of courageous tumblers, beautiful floor dancers, and mind-blowing bar-monkeys will be the main event in Rio for many spectators.

Could Americans ask for a better line up of athletic ladies in leotards? We certainly don’t think so … And neither does normally stoic Coach Martha Karolyi, who was so overcome by joy at the final results, she even shed a tear!

Gabrielle Douglas competes in the floor exercise during the 2016 U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Trials on July 10. Ezra Shaw | Getty Images
Laurie Hernandez shows off a split during the floor exercise. Ezra Shaw | Getty Images
Aly Raisman, now captain of the US Olympic team, competes on the balance beam. Dilip Vishwanat | Getty Images
Uneven bar champion Madison Kocian swings almost flawlessly. Ian MacNicol | Getty images
A completely inverted Simone Biles competes in the floor exercise during the 2016 Olympic Trials. Ezra Shaw | Getty Images

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Meet the team from oldest to youngest:

Aly Raisman, age 22

The team captain and a returning competitor from the London Olympic games (where the collective USA Team won gold), Raisman is the natural leader of this young, but strong group of athletes. In fact, some jokes have even been made that Raisman is the “grandma” of the team, as most gymnasts are so young.) But don’t be fooled by the banter, Raisman is at the top of her game. After making the team, she proudly talked to reporters about the amazing feeling of returning to the Olympics a second time, just like teammate Gabrielle Douglas: “So many people thought we were crazy and doubted us, but we did it.”

Gabrielle Douglas, age 20

Arguably the most famous of the pack, Gabby Douglas, who is the first African-American gymnast to win Olympic gold, will arrive in Rio as a defending champion, having won all-around (both team and all-around medals) at the London Olympics. And this year she is looking at breaking another record: if she wins first place again, the New York Times reports, she’ll be the first gymnast to obtain all-around gold in back-to-back Olympics since 1968! Even though her routines weren’t perfect (she fell during an easy skill on the beam on day one) during the trials, that alone gives you some indication of how impressive her talents are.

Mattel, the maker of Barbie, was so impressed with her performance that they created a look-alike Gabby Douglas Barbie doll as part of the company’s Shero collection. When asked about her return to the Olympics, Douglas, who is known for being an incredibly supportive and happy teammate, sounded optimistic for a fresh start, “With different girls the atmosphere is a little bit different, which I love,” she told reporters on Monday night.

Madison Kocian, age 19

The reigning World Uneven Bars Champion, this young lady’s career is in full swing now that she’s made the Rio Olympic team. Watching her twirl around each bar in her sparkling red leotard is nothing short of mesmerizing. Every spin seamlessly transitions into another, every hand placement is perfection. And, to finish, even the usually critical announcers were wowed by how well she stuck her landings at the trials. This girl looks polished and Rio-ready. Plus we give her extra points for her signature hairstyle at every competition: a pretty and practical braided ponytail.

Simone Biles, age 19

Small but powerful, Simone Biles is the shortest member of the team with the biggest smile, and just packed with talent. Widely known for her near-perfect vaulting skills and a never-before seen flip on the floor now nicknamed, “the biles,” she has been heralded as a prodigy, because she hasn’t lost a competition in three years. The announcers proclaimed Simone’s warm ups and performances at the trials this weekend to be perfect. “There [have been] a lot of 10’s given out over the years … it was better than all of them,” you’ll hear one commentator say in the video below.

After the announcement that she made the final five, Biles was ecstatic. “I’m not usually a crier,” she said with a laugh. “There are no right words to describe how I’m feeling right now … But for the past three years this is what I’ve been training for, so it’s very exciting, and I’m proud of myself.” As she should be! A young Olympian with that much physical prowess and positive energy? Now that’s something to flip over.

Laurie Hernandez, age 16

Finishing in second place during the trials, Laurie Hernandez is already being hailed as the “breakout star” of Rio. And, after seeing her floor routine, how could she not be? Amid the amazing tumbles and leaps, her dance even includes blowing a kiss! (See the video below.)

But before she heads to Rio, this Latina Olympian—who has been competing since she was just five years old!—has a lovely event to attend much closer to home: her local New Jersey high school has arranged for a rally on Thursday night to honor and cheer on their hometown hero. The school said they wanted to show their support, and “send her off to bring home the gold.” No doubt, viewers from across America will be hoping for the same thing as we watch her compete abroad this August.

Natalie van der Meer
Natalie van der Meer
Senior Editor Natalie van der Meer is a former editor for Redbook, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest and Allure, covering fashion, beauty, travel, family, book reviews, and much more. She lives in New York City.

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