Why USA gymnastics chose Hezly Rivera over Joscelyn Roberson, Leanne Wong for Paris 2024 Olympics roster | Sporting News

Why USA gymnastics chose Hezly Rivera over Joscelyn Roberson, Leanne Wong for Paris 2024 Olympics roster | Sporting News

Blood, sweat and tears — the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials were full of it all. Literally.

In the days leading up to the first day of the competition, everything changed as three world medaling gymnasts went down and out with injuries. A team that seemed set at the U.S. Championships would be drastically different. But it also meant more gymnasts would have to live up to the challenge that is the Olympic trials.

And they did. With four spots taken by Tokyo members Simone Biles, Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey, only one spot remained for an up-and-coming athlete. 

They had just one shot, four routines to prove why they should go to Paris. It was a close race, but in the end, it was Hezly Rivera who came out on top.

Here’s why she edged out alternates Joscelyn Roberson and Leanne Wong for the final spot on the Paris team.

MORE: Meet the full USA Olympic gymnastics roster headed to Paris

Why USA Gymnastics chose Hezly Rivera

Rivera is only 16 years and in her first year of senior-level gymnastics. She competed alongside Biles and other Paris-bound athletes for less than a year, but that’s all she needed to secure her spot in the 2024 Games.

The selection committee chose the top five all-around finishers at trials for the Olympic team, the same technique they used for the 2021 Games. The returning Tokyo gymnasts finished in the top four, meaning the final team member was more than likely going to be the fifth-place finisher. Rivera got the nod after finishing with a score of 111.150.

Besides her podium finish, the gymnast was chosen for a multitude of other reasons. 

When looking at needed event specialists, Rivera fit the bill perfectly. Team USA needed another strong contender on beam, one of the events the 16-year-old excels at. She tied with Joscelyn Roberson for the highest two-day score on the event.

Additionally, Rivera added the most depth on bars, finishing behind Lee, Chiles and Biles in Minneapolis. Her assets filled in the team’s needs perfectly, making her selection the most reasonable option.

Additionally, given recent injuries, the selection committee went for a gymnast who could act as a built-in alternate. Should an emergency affect any of the other four, Rivera is there to fill in on any event and put up a decent score. Her consistency at trials proved that position.

MORE: Complete results from U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials

In elite gymnastics, peaking at the right time is of the utmost importance. Rivera did just that.

In her first senior competition at the Winter Cup, she claimed the all-around bronze as well as gold on beam and bronze on floor. In the national championships in early June, Rivera finished sixth in the all-around, fifth on bars and fourth on beam. While it didn’t warrant a medal, it was a massive sign of what was to come in the next few weeks.

At 16, Rivera is by far the youngest female gymnast headed to Paris. But if a breakout star is what Team USA needs to win the gold, then a breakout star is what they get.

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