Legendary Year of Biles wraps up
AMONG the giggly sisterhood of the US women’s gymnastics team, everyone agrees that to finish second to Simone Biles is the same as finishing first. “If you get silver, you’re the best,” Aly Raisman said with a laugh, “because Simone doesn’t count!”
And that shared logic is how it came to be, on August 16 at Rio Olympic Arena, that the final day of Olympic gymnastics competition produced two victors in the women’s floor exercise: Biles, 19, who claimed a fourth gold medal to go with the bronze she’d earned on the balance beam the day before, and Raisman, 22, whose silver represented firstplace in gymnastics’ non-Biles division, bringing her medal haul to three.
“I’m in awe watching her, and I’ve trained with her for so long,” Raisman said of Biles after the two stepped onto the medal podium and stood side by side, one last time, at these Summer Games.
There was so much to be happy about. Biles, who’d wanted to be just like Raisman as a younger gymnast, got to share the capstone moment of her Olympics debut with her role model and US team captain. It was the second time that they’d finished onetwo here in Rio after also taking gold and silver in last week’s individual allaround final.
Both earned their floor exercise medals with tour de force performances that were rewarded with the highest marks they’d received at the Games – 15.966 for Biles and 15.500 for Raisman. Britain’s Amy Tinkler was a distant third (14.933).
“It’s pretty insane,” Biles said, eyes widening when asked how she felt about winning four golds and a bronze in her five events. “What I’ve accomplished in my first Olympics, I’m very proud of myself. I don’t know. It’s crazy.”
Given the difficulty of their acrobatic skills, Biles and Raisman were favoured to sweep gold and silver on the floor exercise. Biles is a three-time world champion in her favorite event; Raisman, the 2012 Olympic champion on floor.
Much was expected from the US women’s gymnastics team, which opened the Rio Olympics by clobbering its closest competitor, Russia, by eight points to claim a second consecutive team gold. With Biles leading the way, it concluded the Games with nine medals – more than any US gymnastics team in history.
The US men, shut out of team honours, collected three individual medals.
With her triumph on floor exercise, Biles took her place alongside just four other female gymnasts to win four golds in a single Olympics. And with a huge smile, she hopped onto the medal podium for perhaps the last time at an Olympics.
At 19, there is so much of life she wants to experience, having made the heart-rending decision at 14 to leave the public school she loved so she could train and compete like a champion-in-the-making. She is not expected to make her decision about returning for the 2020 Olympics for some time. If she decides against coming back, she could change her mind and reclaim her form, no doubt, with less than two years’ notice.
But on August 16, she didn’t want to think about the long-term future.
“First, we’re going to have some fun!” Biles said. “We might get to do some music-awards shows, walk the red carpet! We have a tour we’re all so excited about. And Aly and I have said we’re going to throw a huge pizza party once we land and watch the team finals.”
Biles had floor exercise gold wrapped up on her second tumbling pass, which included her signature double flip with her body fully extended. The scoring sheet declared her routine the most difficult staged, but Biles never let on, flipping through the air as if she were romping in a moon bounce at a birthday party, daring herself to fly higher each time.
She was in an orbit all her own on Tuesday. And she took her final bow in Rio with nothing left to prove.
– The Washington Post
Simon Biles, who won four golds and a bronze at this year’s Games, has been vaunted as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. She is 19 years old.