Team USA’s 2016 Olympic Gymnastics Line-Up Is The Girl Power Gang Of Our Dreams

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The Olympics are always an event which captures the attention and imagination of the world in a way that no other single sporting event can. Athletes from across the globe come to bring their best, set new records, and inspire generations of people who watch them compete. For the second Olympic games in a row, the entire Team USA will be made up of more female athletes than men, according to Business Insider.

Also, they will be sending more women to Rio than any other nation in the history of the Olympics. One group we are chomping at the bit to see do their thang is Team USA’s gymnastics line-up. If you are looking for a dose of girl power in the upcoming Rio Olympics, while we have no doubt there are going to be many personalities and incidents that will go viral, these 5 diverse young women are already showing young girls across America that they too can be Olympic champions and athletes.

The team assembled by coordinator Marta Karolyi were carefully chosen for one objective only – to win! The team were gold medal winners at the 2012 London Olympics and we are hopeful they will be able to go it again (to all our non-American readers, we apologize in advance for our obvious bias!).

The most well-known of the team, for a number of reasons, is Gabby Douglas. At 16 she was the first African American woman in Olympic history to become an individual all-round champion and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. But wait, there’s more. She is also the only American all-around champion to win multiple gold medals in a single Olympic Games.

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Her journey became the inspiration behind a Lifetime Network movie called ‘The Gabby Douglas Story’, and Gabby herself was part of a reality series with her family called ‘Douglas Family Gold’. Mattel recently honored the gymnast by creating a Gabby Douglas Barbie as part of their “Sheros” line, showing just how far her role model status is impacting pop culture.

Aside from her obvious world class talent, Gabby received a lot of critical attention from viewers who didn’t like the way she styled her hair.

“I just simply gelled it back, put some clips in it and put it in a bun. Are you kidding me? I just made history. And you’re focusing on my hair?” she told the media at the time.

She has also had to face racism since entering the public eye, something which her mother told Teen Vogue recently in a profile on the gymnast.

I remember when everyone was talking about her arms, and she became very self-conscious about how muscular they were. Then Gabrielle saw the elegance with which Serena Williams handled all the negative criticism of her own body. It was liberating for my daughter to see that. She said, ‘I don’t have to apologize to anyone about my body. My body is beautiful’,” said her mother and manager Natalie Hawkins.

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Although Gabby set out to compete professionally, she had no idea the kind of world impact she would make. But once she realized what she was capable of, it propelled her journey even further.

It took a long time for me to see my own potential — a long time. Finally something clicked and I knew I could be one of the best. It was a game changer. Now I’m like, ‘I am going for this. I’m going for it all’,” she told Teen Vogue, adding that it was only 4 months before the 2012 Olympics that she started thinking differently about her ability.

After taking a few years off after London and getting back into the competitive arena in 2015, Gabby has had a bit of a shaky experience in the major Gymnastic tournaments which determine the athletes that will go on to compete at the Olympics.

She won silver at the World Gymnastics Championships in 2015, and placed 4th at the nationals this year. In the Olympic trials she ended up placing 7th, which could be disappointing for the Olympic champ, but she is determined to bring only her A-game to Brazil.

Laurie-Hernandez

Also profiled in Teen Vogue alongside Gabby is fellow gymnast Simone Biles, who will be traveling to Rio as part of the fab five. She is only 19 years old and has collected a medal at every single competition she has entered since August 2013. This will be her first Olympic games, but already she is turning heads and setting new standards in the world of gymnastics. Raised by her grandparents in Columbus, Ohio, Simone started getting into gymnastics at the age of 6. By 9th grade she was so involved, training up to 20 hours a week, she decided to start homeschooling so her athletic schedule would stay on track.

In 2015 she signed a sponsorship deal with Nike, which is a big deal for professional athletes. Her floor routine, known as “The Biles” was created as a way to avoid aggravating a foot injury, and now it has become the stuff of legends, propelling her into the spotlight. But of course, like Gabby, Simone has sadly had to deal with racism because of her appearance.

In 2013 an Italian gymnast made a racist comment, saying “we should also paint our skin black, so we can win too” as a dig at Simone’s success. In a true show of dignity and class, Simone did not respond in kind nor did she allow it to affect her self-esteem.

It went viral, but it didn’t bother me one bit. I guess I just have really tough skin. I was like, whatever,” she told Teen Vogue.

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She is already an inspiration to us and many others, and we can’t wait to see how even more young girls look up to this badass young woman.

I was built this way for a reason, so I’m going to use it. To go out there and prove what I can do has taught me a lot about who I am. We can push ourselves further. We always have more to give,” she said about how her body shape used to make her self-conscious, but now she owns it.

The third member of the team is another London 2012 competitor, Aly Raisman. Huffpost reports that at 22, she is the oldest team member and will most likely be captain. In 2015 she was part of the World Championship gold medal-winning team, and this year came in 2nd at nationals. Her specialty is tumbling and is apparently in even better shape than in 2012. She told US Weekly that she was excited to compete in her 2nd Olympic games with Gabby Douglas again.

“It’s exciting that Gabby and I are on this team together, because we’ve both dreamed of this since the moment [the] 2012 [games] was over. It’s really special to say we’ve been on two Olympic teams together — it’s really crazy that we both did it. I can’t believe it really came true!” she said.

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New Jersey native Laurie Hernandez is the first American-born Latina to qualify for the U.S. women’s gymnastics Olympic team since 1984 when Tracee Talavera competed in Los Angeles. Oh, and did we mention she is only 16?!?! She says floor events are her favorite, and in 2015 she was undefeated in all four competitions in the all-round, and at nationals she won medals in all four events. This will be her first Olympics, and we can’t wait to see what she will bring to the mat!

The final Team USA member is 19 year old Madison Kocian. Her specialty is the uneven bars where she has seen some major success. In 2015 at the World Championships, she won the gold medal in a 4-way tie(!) and silver at the Pan Am Games in 2014, according to The Couch Gymnast blog. She also won the silver medal for bars at the nationals this year, making this event one to watch for Madison.

Not sure about you guys, but we can’t wait to see what these ladies will bring to Rio. And judging by their collective talent and medal-winning ability, we have no doubt it is going to one of the highlights of the Olympic games. So if you are looking for a group of sporting role models to inspire your girls, look no further that Team USA’s gymnastic line-up.

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