The “Final Five” have done it again. The U.S. women gymnastics team, rising far above competition and redefining the level of artistic gymnastics, have won gold at Rio.
The win, anchored by 19-year-old living legend Simone Biles, comes with a historic margin of a record 8.209 points.
The win, fresh in the wake of Michael Phelps’s record-smashing 20th and 21st gold medals in the men’s 200 meter butterfly and the 4×200 meter freestyle relay, places the U.S.A. at a comfortable position at the top of the Olympics medal tally with 26 medals.
China comes at a second place with a significantly fewer number of 19 medals. U.S. swimming team co-captain Nathan Adrian was one of those who congratulated the achievement.
The Final Five — a new and improved version of the Fierce Five of the 2012 London Olympics — have defended their team gold from the London games.
The victorious five comprise Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian. Each of them has a significant hold over a niche apparatus, in addition to being the overall best in the craft.
While Simone Biles has been stealing the headlines with her extraordinary prowess in just about every apparatus, with the lone exception of the uneven bars, the team itself has won the hearts of a global audience.
Unlike other athletes, the Final Five are so happy, so unbelievably assured and relaxed, that it comes as a serious surprise to see them mesmerize almost effortlessly on the floor, the vault, the balance beam and, yes, the uneven bars.
The Final Five posted the highest accumulated score on every apparatus. The Russian team came second and China won bronze, but the ease of the U.S. team in securing gold was palpable.
Such is the immeasurable threat of the Final Five that, according to the Reuters report, the Russian and Chinese gymnasts were resigned to aiming for the silver and bronzes.
Aliya Mustafina, the star Russian gymnast and uneven bars specialist, who won gold in the apparatus at the last Olympics, was quoted in the report as saying that the victory of the Final Five was a foregone conclusion.
“We competed with the understanding that the U.S. team were stronger than us. So we understand – they won.”
The Chinese team echoed Mustafina when Shang Chunsong glowed in praise of Simone Biles while admitting that silver is the medal they were hoping for.
“We were trying for silver. That’s what we were aiming for. I think [Simone] is amazing, and she’s like a legend. She’s so strong.”
The highlight of the Final Five’s performance on Day Four was the floor exercise. The New York Times reported that the reason the Americans were allowed to end their series on the floor is because they were the top qualifiers to the finals.
Laurie Hernandez started her charming routine with a wink and a smile, bringing a rare combination of artistic swiftness and choreography into her routine.
Then came Simone Biles, who won hearts with her trademark and eponymous double-layout led half-twist and blind landing move — the “Biles” — by the end of which there was not a single doubt that the five-point lead in the U.S. scoreboard had translated into an even bigger one which would end in a gold.
Gabby Douglas and Madison Kocian delivered beautifully on the uneven bars.
The defending all-around Olympian gold medalist and the 2015 world uneven bars champion executed some of the most difficult twists and tumbles to give the U.S. its first lead in the final exercies.
Final Five team captain Alexandra Raisman gave an almost perfect balance beam performance that was replicated by Hernandez and Biles.
There has not been a single team, since the Soviet’s golden age of dominance in gymnastics, to have so convincingly swept medals and captured imaginations as the Final Five have. As the women go on to the individual apparatus finals, there can be no doubt that more medals are in store. Especially for Simon Biles, who remains as humble amidst her greatness, as in the post-medal tweet below.
[Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images]