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Tokyo Olympics gymnastics in review: Biles inspires, new stars are born

Tokyo Olympics gymnastics in review: Biles inspires, new stars are born
Posted at 12:29 AM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-08 01:04:12-04

Gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics included the biggest story of the Games: superstar Simone Biles' withdrawal from multiple events to focus on her mental health, including a case of "the twisties."

Biles' decision put a spotlight on the immense pressure athletes face and how fans and media can negatively contribute to it. Other stars including Naomi Osaka, who had just returned from a two-month hiatus to focus on her own mental health, and Michael Phelps reached out to Biles in support.

Biles, potentially competing in her last Olympics, made a triumphant return to take bronze on the last day of competition on the balance beam with a routine slightly downgraded in difficulty. Throughout the Games, American teammates Suni Lee, Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner stepped up earn individual medals in her stead. 

Outside of Biles, the host nation was one of the bigger players in gymnastics, with 19-year-old Hashimoto Daiki taking over the men's individual all-around crown. His predecessor, six-time Olympic medalist Kohei Uchimura, was only competing on the high bar and shockingly fell in his qualification routine. 

The Russian Olympic Committee was the dominant team as a whole, as expected, but the Games also saw a number of athletes win the first-ever artistic gymnastics medals for their nations. 

Medal Table

 
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
China
3 3 2 8
ROC
2 2 4 8
USA
2 2 2 6
Japan
2 1 2 5
Brazil
1 1 0 2
GBR
1 0 1 2
S. Korea
1 0 1 2
Belgium
1 0 0 1
Israel
1 0 0 1
Croatia
0 1 0 1
Spain
0 1 0 1
Germany
0 1 0 1
Italy
0 1 0 1
Chinese Taipei
0 1 0 1
Armenia
0 0 1 1
Greece
0 0 1 1
Turkey
0 0 1 1

Men's Team Final

The United States men's team, comprised of Brody Malone, Sam Mikulak, Yul Moladauer and Shane Wiskus, did just about all it could in the team Olympic gymnastics final, but they never really had a chance of catching up to Russia, China or Japan without a major implosion from one of the three. 

The night got off to a strong performance for the U.S. on the pommel horse, typically its worst apparatus, and parallel bars was the team's best rotation. Mikulak scored  15.000, Moldauer a 14.566 and Wiskus a 14.700.

Malone, known for his dazzling high bar routines, led the U.S. men with a 14.633 on the apparatus, besting his 14.533 from qualification. Mikulak notched a big 14.566 and Wiskus scored a 14.000, leaving the team in fourth place after the fifth rotation. 

The U.S. was in line to best its fifth-place finish from the Rio and London Games after Moldauer scored a 14.366 on floor, followed by Wiskus' 13.466. But in the final routine of the night, Mikulak faltered on multiple occasions, scoring a 12.133, and the team fell to fifth once again behind Great Britain.

As for the race for the podium, the Russian Olympic Committee squad just barely edged out the defending champion Japan for gold, 262.500 to 262.397. The winning team included stars Nikita Nagornyy and Artur Dalaloyon — the latter was competing just three months after tearing his Achilles and had heavily taped ankles. Nagornyy, the 2019 world all-around champion, didn't score lower than a 14.366 on any apparatus, with his highest score coming on the parallel bars (15.166). 

The Chinese team, which scored 261.894 overall, got off to a slow start on floor, but made a strong recovery.

Medalists

Gold: Russian Olympic Committee
Silver: China
Bronze: Japan

Women's Team Final

The U.S. women's artistic gymnastics team was without its leader Simone Biles for most of the team final competition after Biles struggled on vault and then withdrew from the remaining three events. 

Sunisa LeeGrace McCallum and Jordan Chiles all competed on uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise to win the silver medal. The Russian Olympic Committee won gold with a team score of 169.529 while Team USA totaled a 166.096. Great Britain finished in third with a 164.096. This marked the first time in eleven years that the American women did not win the team gold in a major international competition. 

Chiles — who hadn't planned to compete on the uneven bars or beam — stepped up right after Biles' withdrawal, stuck her full-twisting double back tuck dismount and pumped her fists, scoring a 14.166. Lee put up her highest bars score of the competition in the team final, earning a huge 15.400.

The U.S. charged on through beam, where the Russian Olympic Committee team made its first major mistakes, closing the team score gap to just under a point. Both Vladislava Urazova and Angelina Melnikova fell off, scoring a 12.633 and a 12.566, respectively.

It was unlikely (but possible) the American woman could nab the win on floor, but after two strong performances Lee and McCallum, Chiles faltered, scoring an 11.700 to put the gold medal just out of reach.

Medalists

Gold: Russian Olympic Committee
Silver: United States
Bronze: Great Britain

men's all-around

Breakout Team USA star Brody Malone and Olympic veteran Sam Mikulak competed in the men's individual all-around final at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing in 10th and 12th place, respectively. 

Both Malone and Mikulak are both typically strongest on the high bar, but were both off in this final. Malone scored a 14.400, down from his 14.533 in qualifications. Mikulak, in his final high bar routine ever, scored a 13.633.

Mikulak's best event was the parallel bars, where he scored a 14.966. That was down from his huge 15.433 in qualification. Although Malone had a low parallel bars score (13.466) he debuted a new mount to begin his routine, and the skill will be named after him in the Code of Points.

As for the actual race for the podium, it all came down to the final event with leaders Xiao RuotengNikita Nagornny and Daiki Hashimoto all on the high bar.

Xiao scored a 14.066 on the high bar, including a three tenths deduction. Nagornyy would have needed to score over 14.400 to overtake Xiao for the gold medal, but just missed out with a 14.366.

Hashimoto needed a 14.566 to overtake both Nagornyy and Xiao (he was 15.033 in qualifications) and got it, delivering a gold for the host nation. Hashimoto, 19, is the first teenage man to win an Olympic all-around.

Medalists

Gold: Hashimoto Daiki
Silver: Xiao Ruoteng
Bronze: Nikita Nagornyy

Women's all-around

With Simone Biles out, Suni Lee stepped up to continue the American streak of excellence in the women's individual all-around.

Lee was crowned the Olympic all-around champion after nailing her uneven bars set and hitting her floor routine in the final rotation of the individual competition. Her total score of 57.433 was enough to edge out Brazil's Rebeca Andrade, who looked to have the advantage heading into the fourth event.

Andrade outscored Lee on floor in qualifications, but the Brazilian landed two tumbling passes out of bounds and did not score high enough to overtake the American. Lee's gold is the fifth straight for the American women in the all-around, following Carly Patterson in 2004, Nastia Liukin in 2008, Gabby Douglas in 2012 and Simone Biles in 2016.

Russian Angelina Melnikova claimed the bronze with a 57.199. Jade Carey, who took the reigning champion Biles' spot in the final, recovered well from a fall on beam in the third rotation to finish strong on floor and end the competition in eighth.

It was an emotional win for Lee, who overcame harrowing family circumstances — including her father becoming paralyzed from the waist down in an accident, and the loss of both an aunt and uncle due to COVID-19 — in the run-up to the Games.

Medalists

Gold: Suni Lee
Silver: Rebeca Andrade
Bronze: Angelina Melnikova

Event finals

On the first night of gymnastics event finals in Tokyo, MyKayla Skinner won a silver on the vault while Suni Lee claimed bronze on the uneven bars. Skinner, who was competing as an individual specialist, was pulled out of a short-lived retirement when Simone Biles withdrew from the vault competition. The silver is her first Olympic medal. 

Lee was the first athlete up in the bars final, and though she did not link all her skills together the way she did during previous performances, she scored high enough to earn the bronze.

In the men's event finals, American specialist Alec Yoder finished sixth on the pommel horse while Yul Moldauer also finished sixth on floor exercise. 

Floor ended in dramatic fashion, as a tiebreak was used to decide the Olympic champion. Israel's Artem Dolgopyat came away with the gold with Spain's Rayderley Zapata taking the silver. 

On the second night of event finals, all eyes were on the 21-year-old Jade Carey, as she was the only American competing.

After making an uncharacteristic mistake during the vault final that resulted in her finishing off the podium, Carey made the most of her final medal opportunity. Her floor routine featured the most difficult tumbling of all eight gymnasts competing in the final, and although she did not debut the laid-out triple-double, the highly difficult new skill she has been training, she executed multiple double-twisting passes with ease for a 14.366.

Two men's event finals also crowned new champions. On rings, China's Liu Yang won gold while South Korea's Shin Jea-Hwan stood atop the vault podium after a tiebreak. 

The final night of event finals was by far the headliner, with Biles making her return and Sam Mikulak competing in the last Olympic event of his career. 

In his final chance to try for his first Olympic medal, Mikulak finished sixth on the parallel bars with a 15.000. Brody Malone, competing on his signature high bar, had a strong shot for a medal with a 14.200, but was ultimately pushed to fourth place when Hashimoto Daiki hit another big routine. 

Biles, who hadn't competed in over a week, came back and nailed a routine with a slightly downgraded difficulty, hanging on to third place with a 14.000 behind China's Guan Chenchen (14.633) and Tang Xijing (14.233).

Women's Medalists

Event Gold Silver Bronze
Vault Rebeca Andrade MyKayla Skinner Yeo Seo-Jeong
Bars Nina Derwael Anastasia Ilyankova Sunisa Lee
Floor Jade Carey Vanessa Ferrari Mai Murakami/Angelina Melnikova
Beam Guan Chenchen Tang Xijing Simone Biles

Men's Medalists

Event Gold Silver Bronze
Floor Artem Dolgopyat Rayderley Zapata Xiao Ruoteng
Pommel Max Whitlock Lee Chih-Kai Kazuma Kaya
Rings Liu Yang You Hao Eleftherios Petrounias
Vault Shin Jea-Hwan Denis Ablyazin Artur Davtyan
P. Bars Zou Jingyuan Lukas Dauser Ferhat Arican
High bar Hashimoto Daiki Tin Srbic Nikita Nagornyy

 

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