By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) - Defending Olympic all-around champion Simone Biles shone in training on Thursday in a series of sharp routines that included a vault so difficult that no other woman has ever attempted it in competition.
Biles, 24, has not lost a competition since 2013 and is aiming to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around golds in over 50 years as well as improve on her Rio haul of five medals, four of them gold.
She made two attempts at the Yurchenko Double Pike vault, rolling her landing on the first one but performing the second almost flawlessly, surprising the handful of watching media and officials - including one of her coaches.
"I didn't think she was going to do the double pike today," Annie Diluzo told reporters. "Then she came out and did it and I was just as shocked as everybody else.
"If she does it like that, we could see it in competition, I'm not sure when."
Should Biles perform the vault successfully at the Olympics, it would be named for her.
Biles and the rest of the team were performing days after alternate Kara Eaker tested positive for the coronavirus and fellow alternate Leanne Wong was deemed to be a close contact, a situation Diluzo described as "devastating".
"It was hard for me, it was hard for the athletes and it was hard for the staff," she said, noting that they were carefully obeying the virus prevention protocols in place at the Games and "keeping to ourselves".
In line with this, none of the gymnasts stopped to talk to waiting reporters but walked quickly by, all masked, although some waved.
"I have anxiety for the test results to come in every day. I can't sleep until I know," Diluzo said. "I hope they don't."
The artistic gymnastics competition kicks off on July 24 with the men's qualifying rounds, followed by the women on July 25. The Games run from July 23 to Aug. 8.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies, editing by Ed Osmond)