The Summer Olympics are here! To celebrate this momentous event, we are featuring prominent Chinese and American Olympians from various sports in a three-part series. Today, we bring you two gymnasts: Lu Yufei of China and Simone Biles of the United States.
Twenty-one-year-old Lu Yufei will represent China in the women’s artistic gymnastics event. Lu is the 2021 Chinese national all-around and floor champion. While the Games deem
Lu an underdog, her lead up to the Olympics demonstrates that she can be a strong contender in her first Olympic Games.
She began competing at an elite junior level at the age of 13, finishing 40th in the all-around qualification. After dealing with many injuries, she was able to rebound at the 2015 Chinese Championships, where she finished sixth in the uneven bars and top ten in the all-around final. That same year, she competed at the China National Youth Games, winning the floor title and medaling in all events but vault, where she placed fourth. She finished the games as the second-most decorated gymnast behind Liu Tingting.
When she first started competing as a senior in 2016, Lu did not perform well due to several injuries with ensuing mental setbacks. She nearly retired
from the sport altogether. However, Lu came back stronger and better two years later. Her breakthrough revealed itself at the 2018 Chinese Individual Championships, where she won bronze medals in the all-around and floor. At the 2019 Asian Championships, her second international competition, Lu was the star of her team, winning the uneven bars and placing second in the all-around.
This past year, Lu has consistently placed in the top three. She won the all-around gold at the 2021 National Championships and the all-around bronze at both Olympic trials, ahead of three of her teammates going to Tokyo.
The other Chinese gymnasts traveling to Tokyo are Tang Xijing, Ou Yushan, and Zhang Jin representing the four-member team. Fan Yilin and Guan Chenchen will compete as individuals.
On Team USA, Simone Biles has become a household name and is favored to take gold in most events. Biles is the most decorated gymnast, with a total of 30 medals: five Olympic medals (four golds, one bronze) and 25 world medals (19 golds, three silvers, and three bronzes). She is internationally recognized as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
Growing up in Spring, Texas, young Simone was not that different than she is today: strong, energetic, and daring. By the age of 13, Biles had already made a name for herself at the national level. At the 2011 Women’s Junior Olympic National Championships, she took home the gold medal in the floor exercise and the bronze in the vault. Two years after entering the elite level, Biles won her first international title at the 2013 World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, winning the all-around and individual floor, and placing second in vault. Since then, she has not lost a single championship.
Although she was too young to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, Biles kept winning world championships. Her third-consecutive U.S. all-around title at the 2015 World Championships made her the first woman to achieve that since Kim Zmeskal in 1992. By the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Biles was a crowd favorite. Not only did she meet expectations of winning the individual all-around, but her performance was deemed
“the most remarkable performances in Olympic history.”
What truly sets her apart from the rest of the competition, however, is the difficulty of the skills she performs. Not only has she raised the bar for women’s gymnastics, but her execution--the height of her jumps, the speed of her turns, her steadfast landings--leaves everyone speechless.
A one-of-a-kind athlete, Simone Biles has four moves named after her in three events: the floor, balance beam, and vault. At the U.S. Classic in April 2021, she performed a Yurchenko double pike on the vault, a move that no female gymnast has ever attempted in competition. If she successfully lands it at these Olympics, the vault skill will be named after her and become her fifth eponymous move. Here is a video compilation from NBC Sports of the rest of Simone Biles’s signature moves.
Simone Biles will lead the U.S. women in Tokyo. Her teammates include Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum, with Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner competing as individuals.
Now that you know who to look out for in these Games, here’s a link to the women’s artistic gymnastics Olympic schedule. Go watch!