The United States and its brilliant “Final Five” delivered on expectations and then some in a sensational record-breaking evisceration of the competition to take a second straight Olympic gold in the women’s gymnastics team final on Tuesday. And U.S. team’s domination of women’s gymnastics in Rio is set to continue on Thursday in the individual all-around final.
For an idea of how far ahead of the competition the Americans are right now, consider the fact that in qualifying at the weekend, U.S. team members registered the three best all-around scores. It is the great misfortune of Gabby Douglas that only two gymnasts from each country are allowed into the final, meaning she will not be able to defend the title she won in London four years ago. Laurie Hernandez can similarly count herself unfortunate to miss out having finished second at the U.S. trials.
But whoever made it to the final would almost certainly be competing for just silver and bronze. Just as the U.S. dominated the team final, Simone Biles is set to do the same in in individual all-around. Indeed it could be just the second of a record five gold medals the 19-year-old picks up to surely cement her place as the greatest female gymnast in history.
There is good reason why Biles is an overwhelming favorite to blitz the field on Thursday. First of all there is the fact that she has won three successive world all-round titles, a feat never before managed, not even by the legendary Svetlana Khorkina. In qualifying, Biles was nearly two points clear of her closest rival and recorded the best score on three of the four apparatus – vault, beam and floor – something she repeated in the final itself. Biles is not so much competing against her fellow gymnasts as she is competing for perfection.
Prevented by regulations from taking a clean sweep of medals, the U.S. is still expected to take home silver as well as gold. Aly Raisman will compete in her second all-around final and will be desperate to take home a medal in Rio after the huge disappointment of London. Four years ago, Raisman missed out on bronze by the smallest of margins having remarkably recorded the same score as Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, but losing out after the scores for each gymnast’s top three apparatus were tallied.
Raisman finished second in qualifying in 2012 just as she has done in 2016. And Mustafina will again be one of her biggest rivals for a spot on the podium. As well as bronze in London, the now 21-year-old Mustafina took home gold for her uneven bars routine and a bronze for her floor exercise. She and compatriot Seda Tutkhalian represent the hopes of a Russia team that finished second behind the U.S. in the team final.
For China, Shang Chunsong had a tough time in qualifying but, having still been recovering from a fever that threatened her participation in the Olympics, will look to be get among the medals on Thursday. There will be a cause for the home fans to rally behind, too, after Brazilian Rebeca Andrade finished the best of the non-Americans in qualifying.
Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Individual All-Around Final Schedule
Vault: Rebeca Andrade (BRA), Aly Raisman (USA), Simone Biles (USA), Wang Yan (CHN), Aliya Mustafina (RUS), Seda Tutkhalian (RUS)
Uneven bars: Isabela Onyshko (CAN), Mai Murakami (JPN), Eythora Thorsdottir (NED), Eslisabeth Black (CAN), Asuka Teramoto (JPN), Elisabeth Seitz (GER)
Balance beam: Lieke Weavers (NED), Giulia Steingruber (SUI), Jessica Brizeida Lopez Arocha (VEN), Shang Chunsong (CHN), Jade Barbosa (BRA), Marine Brevet (FRA)
Floor exercise: Louisa Vanhille (FRA), Elissa Downie (GBR), Nina Derwael (BEL), Vanessa (Ferrari (ITA), Sophie Scheder (GER), Carlotta Ferlito (ITA)
Vault: Downie, Derwael, Ferrari, Scheder, Ferlito, Vanhille
Uneven bars: Raisman, Biles, Wang, Mustafina, Tutkhalian, Andrade
Balance beam: Murakami, Thorsdottir, Black, Teramoto, Seitz, Onyshko
Floor exercise: Steingruber, Lopez Arocha, Shang, Barbosa, Brevet, Wevers
Vault: Lopez Arocha, Shang, Barbosa, Brevet, Wevers, Steingruber
Uneven bars: Derwael, Ferrari, Scheder. Ferlito, Vanhille, Downie
Balance beam: Biles, Wang, Mustafina, Tutkhalian, Andrade, Raisman
Floor exercise: Thorsdottir, Black, Teramoto, Seitz, Onyshko, Murakami
Vault: Black, Teramoto, Seitz, Onyshko, Murakami, Thorsdottir
Uneven bars: Shang, Barbosa, Brevet, Wevers, Steingruber, Lopez Arocha
Balance beam: Ferrari, Scheder, Ferlito, Vanhille, Downie, Derwael
Floor exercise: Wang, Mustafina, Tutkhalian, Andrade, Raisman, Biles
Start Time: Thursday, 3 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: NBC (delayed for primetime at 8 p.m. EDT)
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com