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Meet the 5 Formidable Women on the U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Team

The U.S. women's gymnastics team.
The U.S. women’s gymnastics team. Photo: Jason Lavengood/Courtesy of USA Gymnastics

The five women who secured spots on the U.S. gymnastics team Sunday night are diverse, accomplished, and dedicated athletes. They’re also fashion enthusiasts; Zac Efron and Texas Rangers fans; and poets. Two of them won gold together at the last London Olympics. And all of them lead pretty cool lives outside of the gym.

Simone Biles

Age: 19
Hometown: Spring, Texas

Nickname: the “Michael Jordan of Gymnastics

Strengths: Often described as the sport’s highest-profile female gymnast, she’s a favorite winner for the all-around competition in Rio. As a seven-time champion (four U.S. titles, three worldwide), she’s also the most decorated American female gymnast in World Championships history with 14 medals (ten of them are gold). At the 2013 World Championships, she became the first African-American woman to win all-around champion.

Backstory: Born to a mother addicted to drugs and alcohol, Biles was adopted by her maternal grandparents at age 6. Her grandfather, whom she calls her dad, served in the Air Force for 22 years; his wife is from Belize. Biles was home-schooled from eighth grade through high school. She planned to attend UCLA after the Rio Olympics, and last summer announced she’d go pro instead.

Music: Today’s hot hits, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber

Celebrity crush: Zac Efron

TV shows: Pretty Little Liars, Keeping up with the Kardashians

Mantra:Be the Best Simone.”

Gabby Douglas

Age: 20
From: Virginia

Nickname: the “Flying Squirrel”

Strengths: After becoming the first African-American woman to win all-around gold at the London Games, the Fierce Five alum is now the team’s defending Olympic champion.

Backstory: She started gymnastics at age 6, after her oldest sister persuaded their mom to sign them up for classes.

Showbiz: Following a Lifetime original movie (The Gabby Douglas Story, 2014), she’s currently executive producer of Oxygen’s Douglas Family Gold, a reality TV show about her family. Also: There is now a Gabby Douglas Barbie “Shero” doll.

Boyfriend? “No, I don’t have a boyfriend; I don’t have time,” she said on an episode of Douglas Family Gold. “All of my attention and focus was spent, you know, in the gym, training, so I was already in a relationship, and his name was Jim … Nastics.”

Loves: reading, knitting, roller coasters

Secret talents: the card game called Speed, bowling

Food: pizza

If she wasn’t an athlete: She’d maybe do stand-up.

Greatest luxury: post-competition deep tissue massages

Aly Raisman

Age: 22
From: Massachusetts

Strengths: Returning Olympic floor champion (she keeps her London medals in a bank safe). She was the most decorated American gymnast at the London Olympic Games, winning the first-ever U.S. gold medal for a win-clinching floor exercise and a bronze for the balance beam. Her specialties are vault and floor.

Showbiz: She finished fourth on Dancing With the Stars in 2013.

Backstory: Growing up, she obsessively watched a VHS tape of the Magnificent Seven women’s gymnastics team, which won the first-ever U.S. gold in women’s gymnastics at the 1996 Olympics. Her mom was a gymnast in high school. Raisman was a part-time student at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, for a year, but right now she’s focusing on the Olympics.

If she wasn’t an athlete: She’d work in fashion, and still dreams of going to Paris Fashion Week. She loves Gossip Girl for the clothes.

Superstitions: If she falls during a competition, she’ll never wear that leotard again. Her coaches think the color black is bad luck.

Beauty products: Revision Skincare, including a papaya enzyme cleanser, finishing touch, Retinol, a hydrating serum, vitamin C lotion, D.E.J face and eye cream, and a black mask for baths.

Likes: Boston sports, hot yoga

TV shows: Pretty Little Liars, The Ringer, Dance Moms

Madison Kocian

Age: 19
From: Texas

Nickname: Maddie

Strengths: Current world-champion gold medalist of uneven bars, her greatest strength for the Rio Games. She also performs well in the other three events, making her an ideal backup if other teammates get injured.

Backstory: The Dallas native loves baseball and the Texas Rangers. She’ll be a freshman at UCLA this fall. Her mom signed her up for gymnastics because she was constantly climbing out of her crib. The family has two rescue dogs: Biscuit, a collie/golden retriever mix, and Pete, a terrier.

Beauty look: She always ties a side French braid back into a ponytail. Hair clips are placed in the exact same order for every competition.

Lucky charm: A small block engraved with the mantra “Think positive and positive things will happen.” She packs it in her suitcase for every competition and training camp.

Music: pop music before competitions; Carrie Underwood and country music when she isn’t at the gym

TV shows: Blacklist, America’s Got Talent

One Olympic dream: To hear from the Texas Rangers, and take her dad out on the field to throw a first pitch.

Role model: Nastia Liukin

Hobbies: cooking new recipes for her family, shopping with her mom on weekends

Laurie Hernandez

Age: 16, the youngest teammate
From: New Jersey

Strengths: floor routine (just watch her amazing faces during floor routines), beams.

Accolades: This is her Olympic debut. She was junior all-around champion at last year’s P&G Championships, where she earned medals in all four events, and recently won all-around bronze at the senior national championships.

Backstory: At age 5, her first-generation Puerto Rican parents bribed her to go to ballet and dance classes with sugar cookies. Then they signed her up for gymnastics. Her mom was in the Army Reserve for six years.

If she wasn’t an athlete: She’d be an actress.

TV shows: Law and Order, Dancing with the Stars, The Voice

Hobbies: learning from YouTube dance videos, swimming, writing poetry, sketching, painting her nails

Celebrity crushes: Theo James, Liam Hemsworth, Dave Franco, Chris Evans, Zac Efron

Greatest influence: Simone Biles

The 5 Women on the U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Team