Simone Biles has had a sublime 2021 so far. After debuting the Yurchenko double pike at the US Classic in May, she won her 7th all-around title at the US National Championships a month later.
At the US Olympic Gymnastics Trials held in the same month, she finished first in the women's all-around event and booked her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Biles won four golds and one bronze medal in the Rio Olympics and has only gone from strength to strength since then.
At the Tokyo Olympics 2020, Biles would be looking to etch her name in the history books. A gold medal in the individual all-around event would make her the first female gymnast in half a century to successfully defend her title.
Four medals of any color would take Biles' tally of Olympic and World Championships medals to 34 and make her the most decorated gymnast of all time, whether male or female.
But the record Biles will be targeting at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 is the one currently held by Larisa Latynina. The Soviet star has 9 Olympic gold medals to her name across three Olympics.
Biles would need to win five gold medals out of six events to share the honor. What will make Biles' achievements even more special is that she would have done it in just two Olympics.
While that will certainly cement Biles' status as the Greatest Of All Time, one has to remember that at the end of the day she is also a human being and hence not infallible.
Biles' opponents at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 will be waiting to pounce if she takes one miscalculated step. But who are her challengers? Let's find out.
Sunisa Lee and Nina Derwael - Simone Biles' rivals on uneven bars at Tokyo Olympics 2020
At the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships held in Stuttgart, the only blemish on Biles' performance was a blank on the uneven bars. She finished fifth in the finals, with Belgium's Nina Derwael, Great Britain's Becky Downie and USA's Sunisa Lee taking the first three positions.
The Downie sisters won't be competing in the Tokyo Olympics 2020 but the other two podium finishers will be gunning for the gold medal. At the Osijek World Challenge Cup held in June this year, Derwael debuted the Nabieva 1/2 move. The Code of Points awarded it the highest difficulty in the uneven bars and renamed the move Derwael.
The Belgian's uneven bars routine at the aforementioned tournament helped her D-score improve from 6.5 to 6.7. USA's Sunisa Lee isn't far behind either as her Uneven bars routine at the 2021 US Championships on Day 1 had a D-score of 6.8.
Going by current form, Nina Derwael and Sunisa Lee look firm favorites to battle for top honors at the uneven bars. And Simone Biles may just have to be content with a third or fourth-placed finish.
Jade Carey looking to challenge Simone Biles on vault for gold at Tokyo Olympics 2020
Simone Biles' strength lies in the vault and many would believe she shouldn't be having a hard time capturing the gold medal on her favorite apparatus. But that's not completely true.
Although the Yurchenko double pike enjoys a D-score of 6.6, Biles is unlikely to perform the gravity-defying move in the vault finals. Rather, she will preserve it for the individual all-around finals.
This is because at the all-around finals, she will get an additional one-touch warm up. However, she won't have the same luxury in the vault finals. A small step gone wrong here and Biles' dreams will be all but over.
Also Read: What is the Yurchenko double pike?
At the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, Biles and Jade Carey had the same combined D-score of 11.800, with the former pipping the latter courtesy of her higher execution score.
Carey also received a penalty of 0.300 points while executing the Amanar vault on her second attempt. She will be hoping to not repeat the same error at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Will Simone Biles be able to sustain the pressure at Tokyo Olympics 2020?
The pressure of the Olympics can get the better of any top athlete and that applies to Simone Biles as well. Moreover, she has been seen to succumb to pressure recently.
At the US Olympic Gymnastics Trials, she fell off the balance beam. At the US National Championships, thrice she was unable to contain herself within the perimeter while performing her floor exercise routine. All these instances prove that Biles, like others, is human and susceptible to making mistakes.
Then there is the element of surprise. Five years earlier in Rio, Netherlands' Sanne Wevers took home the gold medal in the women's balance beam, restricting USA's Laurie Hernandez and Simone Biles to the silver and bronze, respectively.
Biles knows that the world will be watching her closely at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. It remains to be seen if she can translate the hot streak of form she has displayed on the domestic circuit to the international stage.