The day after the crowning of Japan as the new Olympic Team Champions, it was time for the women to fight for the title of best gymnastics team in the world. Qualifying in first place by nearly ten full points and hoping to continue their winning streak started in 2011, the USA were the clear favorites for Gold and they eventually won the competition with an eight point margin to Silver medalists Russia, with China taking home the Bronze medal.
Unfortunately absent from this final was Romania who didn’t even manage to qualify a full team for the Games after disastrous performances at 2015 World Championships and the Test Event early this year. This immediately put an end to the medaling streak the Romanians had been having at the Olympics since 1976, never missing the team podium at the biggest stage of the sport until today. In light of these circumstances, they were awarded a single spot in Rio which eventually went to Catalina Ponor after 2015 AA Bronze medalist Larisa Iordache couldn’t completely recover from her hand injury to get back to her top shape. Other notable absentees were Canada and Italy, who missed out after some mistakes, while France and Belgium just didn’t have the difficulty to contend for a spot in the final.
Coming in as reigning World and Olympic Champions and with no real competition to match their results, the Americans were fully expected to lead this race and lead they did. Starting on their top scoring event, vault, the USA presented a solid DTY from Laurie Hernandez to score in the low-15s, followed by two Amanars from Aly Raisman and Simone Biles, both scoring in the high-15s. Moving next to bars, Biles was first up, performing on all four events for the first time in a team final and scoring in the high-14s after sticking her full-in dismount, followed by bars specialists Gabby Douglas and Madison Kocian, who posted scores in the mid to high-15s after hit routines and stuck dismounts from both gymnasts. Despite being their lowest scoring event, balance beam didn’t count any mistakes, starting with a solid routine from Raisman capped off with a stuck Patterson dismount, followed by another hit from Laurie Hernandez and a slightly shaky routine from Biles, all scoring in the low-15s. Finishing on floor, the Americans wrapped up their competition with three difficult and engaging routines, starting with Hernandez and her sassy choreography, followed by reigning Olympic Champion Raisman and her amazing first pass, and obviously concluding with reigning World Champion Biles and her insane power to unequivocally take home the Olympic team title for the second time in a row.
Repeating their 2012 finish, Russia managed once again to take the Silver medal despite missing out on the podium at last year’s Worlds and being forced to deal with several injuries and retirements in the past few weeks/months. Starting on their best event, uneven bars, Angelina Melnikova was first up, followed by 2015 World Champion Daria Spiridonova who only executed her lower difficulty routine, both scoring in the low-15s, leaving Aliya Mustafina to make up for it, which she did with a score just below 16 after a hit routine and sticking her eponymous dismount. Unfortunately balance beam wasn’t as successful with Melnikova scoring just above 13 after falling on her layout and taking several steps back on her double pike dismount, while Mustafina and Seda Tutkhalyan had mostly hit routines for scores in the mid to high-14s. Beam wasn’t, however, their lowest scoring event. That was floor exercise, despite not counting any major mistakes, which just goes to prove how problematic floor is for Russia right now. Starting off with Melnikova once again, she was able to make up for her errors on beam by posting the highest score on this event (14.266) for her team after a beautifully performance, while Tutkhalyan didn’t go beyond the high-13s after some wonky landings on her double pike and double tuck passes and Mustafina scored exactly 14 due to some trouble on her turns, which forced her to do a new leap series to try to get some extra points there. Going into the last rotation in fourth place, the Russians had to hit all their vaults and expect other teams to make mistakes, which is exactly how things turned out. Both Melnikova and Mustafina presented nice DTYs with small hops to score around 15, while 2015 World Champion Maria Paseka, who’s in Rio just for vault, performed a nearly stuck Amanar, albeit with her usual leg issues, to score 15.700, improving their qualifications score by two points and edging out China by just over sixth tenths.
The Bronze medal went to 2015 Silver medalists China, despite a small improvement from qualifications. Starting on vault, the Chinese presented two solid DTYs from Mao Yi and Tan Jiaxin and a somewhat low double twisting Tsukahara from Wang Yan, all scoring in the mid to high-14s. Bars, however, despite being their top scoring event, didn’t go as well, with Shang Chunsong falling on her Gienger and scoring in the low-14s when she has the potential for high-15s, while Tan had some late pirouettes to score just below 15 and Fan Yilin was the most correct of the three for 15.733. They recovered well on beam with Wang performing a solid routine albeit with some wobbles and a slightly underrotated and low triple twist dismount for a score in the mid-14s, followed by Shang and Fan, both with beautifully hit routines for the exact same score of 15.066, putting them in second place over two points ahead of Japan and three points ahead of Russia. Unfortunately this margin wasn’t enough to secure the Silver medal as their floor specialist Mao had a fall on her 3.5 twists to front pike, landing completely out-of-bounds to lose 1.5 points just on that first pass. Shang and Wang both had mostly hit routines with just some low landings and underrotated twists but couldn’t score beyond the mid to high-14s and it just wasn’t enough to surpass Russia and maintain their Silver from 2014 and 2015.
Placing fourth, just outside the podium by less than two points was Japan with their best Olympic finish since 1968. Starting their competition on floor, the Japanese counted a score in the low-14s from Aiko Sugihara, followed by a mid-14 from Mai Murakami and a high-13 from Sae Miyakawa after some low landings and out-of-bounds. Moving next to vault, they counted a score in the high-14s for a solid DTY with a small step back from Murakami, followed by two Rudis from Asuka Teramoto and Miyakawa, both with scoring around 15, while on bars they hit all their routines for scores in the mid-14s to exactly 15 and some great fist pumping and smiles everywhere. Finishing on beam, Murakami posted the exact same score as in qualifications (13.833), while Aiko Sugihara and Asuka Teramoto both had super solid performances for scores in the mid-14s. Despite missing out on the podium, the Japanese girls were incredibly happy with this result and celebrated immensely, proving that success is a relative concept.
In fifth place were 2015 Bronze medalists Great Britain. Starting on their best event, the uneven bars, the Brits counted two scores in the mid to high-14s from Ruby Harrold and Ellie Downie after some leg form issues and an extra swing from the younger Downie, followed by a 15.400 from Becky Downie after a hit routine with a stuck full-in dismount. On beam, things didn’t go so well for them, with Ellie falling on her standing arabian for a score in the low-13s, while Claudia Fragapane had a very wobbly exercise and Becky had a somewhat tentative routine and an underrotated double pike dismount, both scoring in the low-14s. Next on floor, Amy Tinkler posted their best score on the event (14.466) after a solid routine marred by some low landings, with Ellie improving massively from qualifications where she had a nasty fall and Fragapane having solid effort despite some out-of-bounds issues, both scoring in the low-14s. Finishing on vault, all gymnasts presented solid DTYs for scores in the high-14s to low-15s, with Ellie sticking her landing and ending their competition on a high note. Unfortunately this wasn’t enough to repeat their 2015 medal but these girls should all be very proud of themselves and their accomplishments and I hope we get to see British gymnastics improve even more in the near future.
In sixth place was Germany with roughly the same score as in qualifications. Starting on beam, Elisabeth Seitz totally hit her routine for one of her highest scores, 14.000, followed by Tabea Alt and Pauline Schaefer, both scoring in the mid-14s, while on floor scores were a bit lower with Seitz posted in the high-13s and Kim Bui in the mid-13s, finishing with Schaefer and her beautifully choreographed to ‘River flows in you’ routine for a score in the mid-14s. On vault, they presented three different vaults, with a FTY from Sophie Scheder for a score just below 14, a front handspring layout half from Schaefer for a low-14 and a DTY from Tabea Alt for a high-14. Finishing on their best event, uneven bars, the Germans counted a 14.900 from Kim Bui before unleashing their two specialists Scheder and Seitz for scores in the mid-15s, which allowed them to finish sixth, their best result at the Olympics since 1964. After missing team finals last year and having to qualify through the Test Event, it was really satisfying to see them make finals in Rio and place sixth less than three points outside the podium.
In seventh place were the Netherlands, the surprise finalists of 2015 and again this year, who had the second highest E-score average (behind the USA), proving you can still achieve great results when you perform simpler skills with near perfect execution. Starting on floor, the Dutch immediately amazed the crowd with their beautifully choreographed routines from Lieke Wevers, Céline van Gerner and Eythora Thorsdottir, all scoring in the high-13s, moving next to vault where they presented a FTY from Lieke for a high-13, followed by a Yurchenko 1.5 from Vera van Pol with a big step back for a score in the low-14s and a great DTY from Thorsdottir for 15.000. On the uneven bars, van Gerner, Thorsdottir and Sanne Wevers all performed solid routines for score in the mid-14s, while on beam they had their best total with a low-14 from Lieke, a mid-14 from Thorsdottir and a huge 15.250 from Sanne to achieve their best Olympic finish in 68 years. It’s truly remarkable the breath of fresh air the Dutch gymnasts have brought to the sport of gymnastics, proving it is possible to work the current code in a way that’s not solely based on acrobatic skills but that also values dance, choreography and interpretation to create a beautiful and artistic performance that truly elevates the sport to a whole new level.
Finally in eighth place was host country Brazil. Despite qualifying in fifth, the Brazilian girls had some errors throughout team finals losing about two points from their qualifications score. Starting on beam, they had to count a score just above 13 after a fall from Jade Barbosa, with Daniele Hypolito scoring in the low-14s and Flávia Saraiva hitting her routine but not as great as in qualifications for a high-14. Next on floor, it was Rebeca ‘Beyoncé’ Andrade who unfortunately put her hands down on her double pike dismount for a score just below 14, while Barbosa and Saraiva both hit their routines for scores in the low to mid-14s. Moving on to vault, Brazil presented two DTYs from Lorrane Oliveira and Barbosa to score in the mid to high-14s, before launching Andrade’s big Amanar with just a small step to the side for a 15.400. Finishing on bars, the girls managed three hit routines even though this is usually their most problematic event for scores in the low-14s from Barbosa and Oliveira and a high-14 from Andrade to finish their performance in front of their home crowd with a good show. The Brazilians really took advantage of their crowd support, interacting with them whenever possible and putting on a great show that hopefully will get more and more people interested in the sport in their country.
Despite last year’s upset by Great Britain, the Olympic podium was still occupied by Big 4 countries, maintaining the traditional order of things in the sport of gymnastics. Nevertheless, countries who usually don’t make finals managed to pull through, showcasing the increasing diversity of the sport and proving the efforts to bring gymnastics to new places has been quite successful. Here’s hoping that in four years time we will witness even more diversity and tight competition amongst all participating countries.
Full results here.