While you’re watching the Olympics Opening Ceremony, you may notices some of Team USA’s most famous faces are missing. Simone Biles and the rest of the U.S. gymnastics team did not march in this year’s ceremony.
The team, which includes Biles, Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey, did not walk because the gymnasts are “focused on preparation,” said Meredith Yeoman, a spokeswoman for U.S.A. Gymnastics, to the New York Times.
In a Q&A on her Instagram story, Biles gave a bit more insight into the decision and listed four reasons why the team skipped the kick off event. The main explanation, Biles noted, was COVID. The threat of the virus is particularly salient to the gymnastics team, as one of their alternates, Kara Eaker, tested positive at a training camp in Japan, despite being fully vaccinated. She no longer has the possibility of participating in the Games. After the positive test, the U.S. gymnastics team moved out of the Olympic Village and into a hotel to prevent any other team members from contracting the virus.
Biles also gave a few more reasons why the team decided to opt out of the ceremony. “The amount of standing is crazy. USA is usually at the end as well because alphabetical,” Biles noted. She also mentioned that, because gymnastics events start the day after the ceremony, “it wouldn’t be smart” to stay out late the night prior.
Finally, Biles shared that the American gymnasts usually skip the Opening Ceremony. “We’ve actually never attended opening I believe,” she wrote.
However, though the team skipped the official ceremony, the gymnasts still got to celebrate in their own—albeit abridged—way. “We did our own little walk outside where we are staying haha,” Biles posted on Instagram.
American viewers can watch Team USA gymnastics compete starting Sunday, July 25 with the women’s gymnastics qualification. The program will be broadcast on NBC.