On August 11th it was finally time for the women’s all-around final with three-time World AA Champion Simone Biles of the USA the clear front-runner for the title, while her teammate Aly Raisman was also set to win a medal and get revenge for her fourth place finish after a tie-breaker in London 2012. In the end, Biles had a fantastic competition with a final score of 62.198, becoming the first reigning World Champion to win Olympic Gold since Lilia Podkopayeva in 1996 and the first female gymnast ever to win all four all-around titles of the quad.
Out of this final was, unfortunately, 2012 Olympic Champion and 2015 World Silver medalist Gabby Douglas after qualifying in third place behind Biles and Raisman. With the two-per-country rule in place, Douglas was the third American gymnast and therefore kept out of the final. Once again this rule sparked some controversy by keeping a medal contender out of the final, after a similar incident happened in London 2012 when 2011 World Champion Jordyn Weiber finished fourth behind Douglas and Raisman and thus couldn’t compete in the final. Personally I think this is a very complicated issue, especially with all four gymnasts competing all-around in the next Olympics and the possibility of all the spots being taken by major teams, but at the same time it can be truly unfair and frustrating for those who are left out of the final even though they’re top contenders and have strong chances of winning a medal. The FIG has yet to find a solution that pleases everyone and until then we’ll continue to see extremely talented gymnasts being kept out of finals despite their strong podium potential.
For Simone Biles this was the culmination of a fantastic journey throughout the quad. Starting on one of her best events, vault, Biles performed her trademark Amanar, taking a large and uncharacteristic step forward for a score in the high-15s, while on her lowest scoring event, bars, she had a solid routine with just some leg separation on her Maloney but capped off with a stuck full-in dismount for a score just below 15. Moving on to beam, she presented another beautiful and successful exercise with just a wobble on her Barani and nearly stuck her difficult full-in dismount for a score in the mid-15s, putting her in the lead going into the last rotation. Finishing on her pet event, floor, she posted the highest score of the night with a 15.933 after a very entertaining and dynamic routine including a stuck double double as her third tumbling run. With this victory, Simone definitely sets herself as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time and hopefully will continue with the sport for a few more years (she hasn’t said anything about a retirement) so we can continue to enjoy the work of such an amazing athlete.
In second place was Simone’s teammate and 2012 most decorated American gymnast Aly Raisman. Despite a generally successful run in London, Aly finished fourth in the all-around after losing a tie-breaking procedure to Russian Aliya Mustafina (which she would encounter again in Rio) and had now the chance to get some redemption and finally win the all-around medal she never managed to achieve. Starting on vault, Raisman presented a strong Amanar with some bent knees in the air and a hop forward on the landing, scoring in the mid-15s, followed by her nemesis event, bars, where she had her usual leg separation and flexed feet issues but still scored in the low-14s. Moving on to balance beam, she had a fantastic routine with barely any wobbles and just a small hop forward on her Patterson dismount for a score in the high-14s, finishing on floor with a great performance and very controlled landings for a score in the mid-15s, which was enough to secure the silver medal with a total of 60.098. Completely aware that a hit routine would guarantee her a podium finish and in similar fashion to the 2012 team final, Aly was in tears even before she finished the last piece of her dance and immediately burst out crying as she left the mat to hug her coach, Mihai Brestyan, also visibly emotional. After finishing fourth in 2011 and 2012 and missing the all-around final in 2015 (due to the two-per-country rule), Aly finally won the all-around medal she always pursued and I’m personally beyond happy for her. Aly has been my favorite gymnast since I started following gymnastics in 2010 and I know she has many form issues and that she’s not the most beautiful or artistic gymnast but I just always loved to see her compete and have always rooted for her. She kept working on bars despite everyone telling her to ditch it and just become a specialist, she improved her Amanar, she upgraded her floor routine and she finally reached her dream of all-around glory. I just hope she will continue with the sport (she hasn’t confirmed she will retire) because she’s an incredible role model of dedication and hard work to everyone watching gymnastics.
Repeating her 2012 finish, Aliya Mustafina of Russia won the bronze medal with 58.665, once again involved in some controversial circumstances. Mustafina started on vault with a stuck DTY albeit with some bent knees and crossed legs during the flight, scoring in the low-15s, followed by her best event, bars, where she performed to her usual standard despite downgrading her Komova II to a Maloney, finishing with a nearly stuck Mustafina dismount for a score in the mid-15s. Beam is where her problems began. As has happened several times throughout this quad, Mustafina struggled to find an acrobatic series that suited her and this time didn’t even go for it after a considerable wobble on her front aerial meant she would never get credit for the connection. She ended up with just a 5.3 difficulty score after losing the 0.5 for the missing requirement, resulting in a final score in the high-13s. Unfortunately floor didn’t get much better as she also received just 5.3 in D-score and a final score in the high-13s after not finishing properly some of her turns. This low difficulty and especially the lack of a requirement in her beam routine sparked great controversy as many believe she shouldn’t be able to medal without fulfilling the basic requisites of the sport, no matter how much her first two scores manage to make up for it. As a fan of Aliya myself, I am happy she survived this whole quad through injuries and lack of motivation to finish again on the Olympic podium but her lack of an acro series is truly upsetting and her coaches should have fixed it a million years ago. She won this medal in her own right but it will always be involved in a controversy that could have easily been avoided if she had just done an acrobatic series no matter how simple.
On the other end of this controversy is fourth place finisher Shang Chunsong of China. Shang had a very solid exhibition on all four events but unfortunately finished just over a tenth behind Mustafina after some debatable scores on bars and beam. Starting on balance beam, Shang performed all her moves with confidence taking just a small hop on her triple twist dismount for a score in the high-14s, followed by floor exercise where she still didn’t get her 3.5 twists completely around and had some low landings on her Barani and double pike dismount, scoring in the mid-14s. On vault she presented a nearly stuck FTY but her low difficulty meant she couldn’t reach the 14s on this event, while on bars she posted her highest score of the night (15.233) after a hit routine capped off with a stuck full-in dismount. Compared to other gymnasts, Shang’s scores were a bit low even though she didn’t have any major mistakes, which immediately lead to some discussion around the gymternet, accusing the judges of favoring the American and Russian gymnasts. Like in qualifications, the Chinese girls seem to be more heavily deducted than some of their competitors, which has kept some of them out of event finals and now outside the medals. This situation needs to be solved quickly as all gymnasts should be judged on the same level and nation or body type bias shouldn’t have a place in the sport. In the meantime, let’s hope Shang will continue training and eventually win the all-around medal she definitely deserves.
In fifth place, with the best result ever by a Canadian gymnast at the Olympic Games, was 20-year-old Ellie Black. Starting on uneven bars, Black had some leg form issues on her Pak, as well as some short handstands and a step forward on her dismount but still managed a 14.500, while on beam she had a very solid routine with just some short leaps and helicopter legs of her 2.5 twists dismount scoring in the mid-14s once again. Moving on to floor she had a very expressive performance with very controlled landings for a score in the low-14s, before finishing on vault with a front handspring layout full landed with the tiniest of hops for a score in the high-14s. After such a great competition, Ellie managed a 58.298, less than four tenths away from the podium, getting an Olympic diploma for Canada and helping ease the disappointment of missing the team final.
In sixth place was Shang’s teammate Wang Yan who managed to overcome the inconsistency issues that plagued her earlier this year to have a fantastic showing for herself and for her team in Rio. Starting on vault, Wang presented a double twisting Tsukahara landing with her chest a bit low and taking a step out-of-bounds for a score the high-14s, while on bars she had a hit routine albeit with low difficulty for a score in the high-13s. Moving on to beam, she once again managed to stay on and nail all her skills, finishing with a triple twist dismount with a small hop back and scoring in the mid-14s, before ending her competition on floor with her highest score of the night (14.900) after sticking two of her tumbling passes. As one of the youngest gymnasts in this competition, Wang Yan did an amazing job hitting all her routines and showed tremendous potential for the future so hopefully she will continue to improve in years to come and help the Chinese team to great outcomes.
In seventh place was 30-year-old Jessica Lopez of Venezuela, achieving the best result ever for a Venezuelan gymnast. Starting on beam, Lopez had a solid routine with only minor wobbles on her switch half and front aerial and a hop forward on her 2.5 twists dismount, for a score in the high-13s, while on floor she received a low-14 after some landing deductions on her under-rotated triple twist. On vault, she presented a DTY for a high-14, before finishing on her best event, uneven bars, with her top score of the night: 15.100. Jessica also managed to become the first gymnast from her country to qualify for an Olympic event final (bars, of course) and keeps improving her results despite being at an age where most gymnasts aren’t even competing anymore. Jessica hasn’t talked about retirement yet so maybe she’s planning on following Chuso’s footsteps and just continue forever.
Rounding up the top 8 was Japan’s Asuka Teramoto. Starting on bars, Teramoto had some leg separation issues and some short handstands but still managed a score in the mid-14s, while on beam she had a solid and confident routine for a score in the low-14s, due to some lower difficulty than in qualifications. Next on floor she had a low-14 before finishing on vault with a 15.100 for her Rudi, her best score of the night. Following Japan’s fourth place finish and with the next Olympics taking place in Tokyo, women’s gymnastics in Japan continues to improve and Asuka has everything to continue to lead her team and hopefully become medal contenders in four years time.
Unfortunately, just like the men’s all-around final, this competition was marred by the withdrawal of Jade Barbosa of Brazil due to an ankle injury sustained on floor. She was checked out by the Brazilian team doctor and it appears to be just an inflammatory reaction that should be healed soon after some rest. On a not so serious note but equally sad was Seda Tutkhalyan’s meltdown. The young Russian has always struggled with inconsistency but managed to pull herself together during qualifications and team finals, leading fans all over the gymternet to raise their expectations for her all-around performance. However, after very good results on vault and bars and a solid beam routine, Tutkhalyan fell on her double pike dismount, moving next to floor where she had two falls, low landings and out-of-bounds issues for just a 10.966, bringing her down to 22nd after qualifying in 5th. Nonetheless, Seda is a very young gymnast and just like her older teammate Ksenia Afanasyeva has said of herself, some gymnasts become better as they mature and grow into their twenties so hopefully that will happen with Seda and she will help team Russia to great results in the next quad.
Overall, this wasn’t as exciting as the men’s all-around final, with the top 2 gymnasts very much expected to finish as they did but it was still a great display of gymnastics with athletes from very different countries putting their best effort forward to represent their nation. In the end, this final celebrated the amazingness of Simone Biles, the spontaneous and giggly American that challenged the limits of gymnastics, proving this sport still has new heights to reach and new boundaries to conquer. Here’s hoping that trend continues for many years to come.
Full results here.