Simone Biles. You are probably tired of reading about her through the Olympics. But we are not tired of writing about her. It just can't be said enough. There is so many reasons to admire her. She had no reason to come to the sport after the Rio Olympics, she was the most decorated gymnast, the 'great of all time', was doing skills most could not. While bringing laurels for Team USA, she was dealing with the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. She came out as a 'survivor'. After being failed to be protected by USA Gymnastics multiple times, she came back to the sport. As an advocate for the younger generation, the survivors, to bring a new light to USA Gymnastics.
After a break, she came better than ever, with new skills, incredible gymnastics and a voice she used to bring USA gymnastics back together. She came to Tokyo as the star of the Games. She suffered from the 'twisties', used her voice and actions to then advocate for mental health. If all this was not enough, she showed grit and perseverance on the last day of gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics by competing in the balance beam final and winning bronze.
This is what makes an athlete a champion. More than the medals and the skill, it is their ability to make a mark. She has done just that and more. The bronze she won on beam, although a 3rd place for Simone unlike her usual gold medal finishes, sure felt more meaningful than any gold ever could. Because, often times, the adversity and the ability to come back from it is a bigger victory than the medal itself. Simone downgraded her beam dismount to an easier one and one that she was more comfortable with. After the beam final, Simone remarked, "(The bronze) means so much more than all the golds because I have pushed through so much the last five years and the last week in Tokyo. It was emotional and I was really proud of my myself."
Simone and her coaches, Laurent and Cecile Landi have been through hell dealing with the events of the last week and coming to this point. It was satisfying but probably one of the hardest things they have had to do. When asked what was next for them, Cecile was caught saying, "Therapy. Probably some for me too, it's been a hell of a week."
The balance beam final
Apart from the drama surrounding Simone during the beam final, there were multiple other solid competitors fighting for the gold. It was a stacked field of gymnasts and surprisingly, we got through a beam event final with absolutely no falls from any gymnast. A uncommon sight for a beam final. But lovely to witness, nonetheless.
The Chinese absolutely nailed their routines in this final, and came away with gold and silver. Tang Xijing, 2019 World all-around silver medallist was first up and showed high difficulty and beautiful positions in her skills to post a high starting score. Last up, was her teammate, Guan Chenchen, a fan favourite, who was put onto the Chinese team for her beam routine specifically. 16 year old Chenchen did not disappoint! She came in as the number one qualifier and also had the highest difficulty of the field. Sky high skills, solid connections and lovely artistry meant the gold would hands down go to her! It was even greater to see fellow gymnasts excited to see her nail her routine and awarding big hugs to her when she was done! Especially, Simone Biles and Sunisa Lee.
In classic gymnast fashion, Chenchen performed the most difficult gymnastics skills on essentially a four inch piece of wood, but tripped while posing for pictures after winning gold! Ha!
Biles' teammate and newly crowned all-around champion, Suni Lee fought her way through her beam routine with a big wobble on her series. She managed to make an incredible save on the wobble, which would usually result in a fall. However, the wobble meant she wouldn't challenge for a medal on the event.
Canadian gymnast, Ellie Black, performed a great routine and was solid on he rlandings after injuring her ankle just a few days prior but was slightly short of medal contention with other gymnasts having a higher difficulty score. Gymnasts Flavia Saraiva from Brazil, Ashikawa Hiraiwa from Japan and Vladislava Urazova from ROC also had a good routines but small wobbles here and there meant they would not be able to sneak their way into medal contention either.
That concluded gymnastics at the Ariake Gymnastics Center at the Tokyo Olympics! Sayonara from us and we hope to see you in Paris 2024 in three years!