Gymnastics at the Olympic Games brought the most entertainment we’ve seen on a Sunday or Monday morning in a long time. Uncertainty roamed up until the last rotation for both the men and women competing in the team final, and on both occasions, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) found itself on top.
Back-to-back gold medals for the ROC
The ROC men got the ball rolling on Sunday, after a nail biting final headlined by men from Russia and defending Olympic gold medalist Japan. In the sixth and final rotation, ROC finished on floor and Japan on high bar.
The medal ultimately came down to the final routine of the final rotation: Nikita Nagornyy on floor. The ROC star needed a 14.563 to secure gold.
He delivered with a 14.666.
Other notable performances on the rotation came from Artur Dalaloyan and his miracle Achilles, who had to make up for Denis Abliazin’s prior 13.9. Dalaloyan, despite an out-of-bounds landing, cracked 14 and brought the team momentum heading into Nagornyy’s run.
Japan didn’t make it easy for the ROC men, as high bar is one of the team’s strongest events. The host nation put up massive numbers, totaling a 43.800, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap.
The ROC women also saw a fight down to the end, but under more unusual circumstances, as the U.S. women were without Simone Biles after the first rotation.
Biles pulled herself out of the meet following an uncharacteristic vault attempt that saw her downgrade her Amanar to a Yurchenko 1.5 mid-air, shocking the crowd with a scary landing.
Angelina Melnikova and company were able to capitalize on this early, outscoring Team USA on vault, one of its strongest events, by over a point and never looking back.
Both teams showed success on bars, but ROC’s clean technicality was unmatched, with the women from Russia stretching the lead to 88.498 to 85.998. 16-year-old Viktoria Listunova was a major key for the team in distancing themselves from the back-to-back Olympic champion, as she anchored with an effortless 14.9.
The ROC women saw the pressure get to them on beam, where Vladislava Urazova and Melnikova had back-to-back falls, opening the door for the U.S. women heading into floor.
But they got it together, finding their composure and hitting all three routines, leaving practically no room for the U.S. to bridge the gap.
Melnikova entered the final routine of competition needing barely above a 10. She crushed it with a 13.966 to secure the victory.
Simone withdraws, U.S. women rally
After Biles’ uncharacteristic vault and uncontrolled landing, the superhero athlete let her human side show. Following the vault, Biles went to talk with her trainer, before ultimately scratching from the entire team final.
The reasoning for the scratch was originally unclear, with the only information being that it wasn’t a physical injury, but rather a mental issue.
USAG later made a statement, saying that it was “due to a medical issue” and that Biles would be “assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”
While that statement didn’t clear up much, Biles’ vulnerability and honesty in the post-meet press conference did.
Biles expressed that she was not in the right headspace and has been struggling with confidence lately under the world’s pressure. To compete dangerous skills in the condition she was in would be dangerous not only to her body, but to the team’s medal potential.
Biles was confident that her three teammates could carry on without her, and she could assume the role of the team cheerleader.
Grace McCallum, Suni Lee, and Jordan Chiles stepped up immediately, pivoting effortlessly in rotation two on bars.
Chiles, who fell on bars in qualifications and was not meant to compete in the event, took did her job on short notice, scoring a 14.166. Lee also posted the highest score of the competition — a 15.400.
The U.S. women also did their best to capitalize on beam after ROC’s two falls. Despite solid routines, it was not enough to chase down the gold medal.
The women saw their last fighting chance on floor, but a few out-of-bounds landings coupled with a fall from Chiles put them out of contention for gold but a silver medal win well within reach.
The U.S. women staged a phenomenal comeback given the circumstances. With their leader sidelined, Chiles, Lee and McCallum rose to the occasion and performed like true champions.
Biles is day-to-day and will make decisions about upcoming individual finals as they come.
Great Britain women break medal drought, China’s men fall to third
While Great Britain was not in the race to first, their bronze medal was a monumental moment for the program, breaking a 93-year medal drought.
The GBR women were part of a close battle for third, which also included Italy, Japan and China.
China slowly found itself out of the race as it competed its weaker events on the last two rotations: floor and vault.
But for Italy and Great Britain, the race came down to Italy’s beam and GBR’s bars. GBR ultimately outscored them 41.765 — 39.108, respectively.
On the men’s side, China’s bronze medal came from a lost fight for first or second. The Chinese saw their biggest fall out on parallel bars, where they did not maximize their potential as much as they could have.
The men were in contention for silver or gold up until high bar, where a few uncontrolled dismounts separated them from the top two teams.
US Men slip to fifth for third-straight Games
The U.S. men were looking good coming into team finals, winning the race of the non-powerhouse nations by qualifying in fourth.
The men hit routine after routine during the team final, comfortably seated in fourth until floor, where Sam Mikulak posted a 12.133 due to a fall and Wiskus a 13.466. That was enough for Great Britain to sneak in, outscoring the U.S. by 1.166.
This marks the U.S. men’s third-straight fifth-place finish at the Olympic Games.