Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and Suni Lee set to face off for first time in crucial gymnastics qualifier Saturday

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Gymnastics royalty will begin their journey to Paris 2024 on Saturday when an unprecedented three Olympic all-around champions — Suni Lee, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas — compete at the Core Hydration Classic.

The meet is the final qualification opportunity for the U.S. Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, later this month. Biles and her fellow Olympic champions have already punched their tickets to Fort Worth, but Saturday’s meet is an important steppingstone to making the five-member Paris Olympic team this summer.

It is one of a handful of competitions this season that the selection committee can use to determine the members of the Paris Olympic team, culminating at the end of June in Minneapolis at the Olympic Trials.

The Core Hydration Classic will be Biles’ first competition since the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, in October, when she won a historic sixth individual all-around world title, medaled on three of the four events and led the U.S. women to their seventh straight victory in the team competition.

The Olympic all-around title may be the most coveted in gymnastics, but eight additional Olympic and world championship medalists will also compete Saturday.

The reigning Olympic gold medalist on the floor exercise, Jade Carey, and Olympic team silver medalist Jordan Chiles are on the start list. They will be joined by world championship medalists Shilese Jones, Kayla DiCello, Skye Blakely, Joscelyn Roberson, Leanne Wong and Lexi Zeiss, who was an alternate for the 2022 World Championships team.

The 2022 U.S. champion, Konnor McClain (making her return to elite gymnastics after two years away), will be one to watch Saturday, as well. After she lost her father in 2021 and grappled with coaching changes and injuries, McClain opted to start her collegiate career at LSU a season earlier than planned last fall.

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She helped lead the Tigers to their first NCAA championship last month, but the status of her elite training remains a major question this weekend.

Three weeks ago, Douglas returned to competition for the first time in nearly eight years at the American Classic in Katy, Texas. She placed 10th in the all-around, but her scores on the vault and the balance beam qualified her to compete in the two events at the U.S. Championships.

Douglas made it clear in Katy that her comeback effort is legitimate. Her performance in Hartford on Saturday will be an even stronger indicator of her chances to make her third Olympic team — a feat no American woman has accomplished since Dominique Dawes.

Biles, who was Douglas’ teammate at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, is eyeing her third Olympic team, as well.

Lee, the reigning Olympic all-around champion, has donned her competition leotard at two elite meets this year: the Winter Cup and the American Classic. Her season got off to a shaky start at the Winter Cup in February, when she fell three times on two events. However, she came back to win the balance beam at the American Classic with a simplified routine that she is capable of upgrading this weekend.

Lee has also been teasing a major upgrade in her signature event, the uneven bars. She revealed a brand-new skill in a video posted to Instagram account on Jan. 23. She tried it at the Winter Cup but did not successfully complete it.

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The skill is a Jaeger in a laid-out position with a full twist. It will be named after her in the rule book if she successfully completes it at an international competition like the Olympics. The intricate release move would not only further cement Lee as an all-timer in the sport, but it would also increase her difficulty in the event and maximize her scoring potential.

Lee has been grappling with kidney issues since early last year, ending both her collegiate career and her 2023 elite season prematurely. She competed at the 2023 U.S. Championships but withdrew from consideration for the World Championships team.

If she is able to achieve the difficulty and execution she displayed in Tokyo, Lee has the potential to make the Paris Olympic team on the strength of her bars and beam routines alone.

The gymnasts representing the U.S. in Paris will be selected at the Olympic Trials on June 27-30. The athletes competing there will be determined at the U.S. Championships.

The Core Hydration Classic airs live 7-9 p.m. ET Saturday on CNBC and Peacock. It also streams on and the NBC Sports app. (Comcast, the parent company of NBC News and NBCUniversal, runs Peacock and NBC Sports.)

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