Filling in for Simone Biles, Jade Carey takes eighth in Olympic all-around final
TOKYO — Phoenix gymnast Jade Carey came to the Olympics not assured of anything beyond an individual opportunity in women's qualifying Sunday.
Four days later, she is eighth in the world all-around and has an opportunity to win up to two medals in event finals.
Her seemingly meteoric ascension is an intersection of good health and training at the right moment, allowing her to regain the form that led to her Olympic qualifying through the Apparatus World Cup Series in 2018-20.
When an alternate was needed for all-around final Thursday after 2016 Olympic champion Simone Biles withdrew due to mental health issues, Carey was prepared to step in thanks to her ninth-place finish all-around in qualifying.
"It means everything to me to be able to have this opportunity," Carey said. "I just wanted to go out there and do the best I can and have a lot of fun, and I feel like that's exactly what I did. I'm feeling really good. I'm proud of myself for how I was able to step in in the last minute and compete in the all-around finals."
Biles withdrew from the team final Tuesday after a vault went awry but didn't drop out officially from the all-around final until Wednesday. Carey could only wait on a decision that would require her to again compete on uneven bars and balance beam instead of concentrating on her vault/floor specialties, events in which she is a medal contender.
"It's been a little bit crazy not knowing what was going to happen," she admitted. "I just tried to remember I've been training all-around this whole time so I knew I could do it."
The 21-year-old, who trains at Arizona Sunrays, wasn't as strong as she was in qualifying, falling on balance beam and scoring lower on three of her four events. She scored 54.199, down from 56.265 on Sunday
Still, Carey took eighth in the 24-woman field, had the second best score on vault (15.200) and third best on floor (13.966).
Biles is not yet officially out for event finals — she qualified for all four — but if the 24-year-old opts not to compete again then Carey's chances of becoming the first Arizonan to win an Olympic women's gymnastics medal since Kerri Strug in 1996 only increase.
The all-around final was in essence a bonus for Carey, competing in the same rotation with fellow American Sunisa Lee, who became the fifth consecutive U.S. gold medalist and sixth overall.
With Biles, five-time World all-around champion, cheering from the stands at Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Lee won uneven bars (15.300), was second on beam (13.833) and did enough on floor (13.700) to hold off Brazil's Rebeca Andrade and Russia Olympic Committee's Angelina Melnikova.
There was just a .234 spread between first and third with Lee winning with 57.433.
"She (Lee) did amazing," Carey said. "She did everything I know she can do. She is a really great teammate. We had a lot of fun together out there. We just kept it light and fun."
Both are starting their college careers in the fall, 18-year-old Lee at Auburn and Carey at Oregon State. Carey deferred starting college to train for the Olympics, which then were delayed a year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vault final is Sunday and floor final on Monday with eight women in each.
Andrade and Carey will be favorites on vault, unless Biles returns. And Carey still could unveil her triple-double layout on floor, a skill that if she successfully completes would be named after her as the first to do so in major competition.
"We're not sure yet, just seeing how training goes," Carey said. "I think being able to be out on this stage again is only going to help me for finals."
Olympic women's all-around final
1. Sunisa Lee (U.S.) 57.433
2. Rebeca Andrade (Brazil) 57.298
3. Angelina Melnikova (Russia Olympic Committee) 57.199
4. Vladislava Urazova (ROC) 56.966
5. Mai Murakami (Japan) 56.032
6. Nina Derwael (Belgium) 55.965
7. Tang Xijing (China) 54.498
8. Jade Carey (U.S.) 54.199
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or 602-444-8053. Follow him on Twitter @jeffmetcalfe.
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