US Women’s Gymnastics: The Final Five
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After an incredible gold medal finish to the 2012 London Olympic Games, the new Team USA had some big shoes to fill this summer in Rio. Just barely beating Russia in the team all-around and losing to them on the uneven bars in 2012, the USA women were determined not to let 2016 go to the Russians. With two returning gymnasts and three fresh faces, the United States planned to unleash their secret weapons to secure the gold medal.
Simone Biles, 19, has been the world all-around champion for the last three years. Between her Olympic and World Championship debuts, Biles has accumulated 19 medals, making her the most decorated American gymnast. Her gymnastics career began at age six when her grandparents sent her to a day camp and the teacher suggested she stick with it. At the Olympic trials, she annihilated the competition, finishing 1st in floor and vault and 4th on beam and bars. Simone placed 1st in the all-around, earning her the only automatic spot on the team. In Rio, Simone won the all-around gold medal with a score of 62.198, along with gold medal routines on vault with a 15.966 and on floor, also with a 15.966. Biles medaled in all five events that she competed in, receiving four golds, and a bronze on beam after a slip that caused her to grab the beam. To complete her 2016 Olympic games, Simone carried the US flag in the closing ceremonies.
Gabby Douglas, 20, is one of two returning members of Team USA and the defending Olympic all-around champion. Similarly to Simone Biles in 2016, Douglas won the all-around at the 2012 Olympic trials, automatically qualifying her for a spot on the team. In 2012, Gabby became the first African American in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion. After a rough start at the 2016 trials with 7th place in the all-around and 11th on beam, Douglas finished 3rd on bars and 6th on both the vault and floor. Although she did no compete in the all-around and lost her uneven bars event final, she proudly represented herself in the team all-around, contributing to the team gold.
Aly Raisman, 22, is also a returning Olympian as well as the reigning floor champion. Aly’s gymnastic career began at the age of two, looking up to the 1996 “Magnificent Seven” who also finished with team gold. Coming out of the 2012 London Games with two golds and a bronze, Raisman had high expectations for Rio. She finished strong at the trials, scoring 2nd on floor and 3rd on beam, and vault. In the floor exercise finals she scored a 15.500 and in the individual all-around she outscored Aliya Mustafina of Russia, gaining two additional silver medals.
Laurie Hernandez, 16, is a new member of Team USA and is also the first Puerto Rican woman to make the team. In 2014, Hernandez signed with the University of Florida but recently turned down the offer to go pro on August 3, 2016, just before the Olympics. Laurie ended the trials with strong performances, earning her 1st on beam, 3rd on floor, 4th on vault. On August 15, in the balance beam event finals, Hernandez received a score of 15.333, resulting in a silver medal. Laurie will appear on season 23 of Dancing with the Stars partnered with Val Chmerkovskiy.
Madison Kocian, 19, is a first time member of the US Olympic team and the 2015 world champion on the uneven bars. She will be attending UCLA this fall to compete at the NCAA level. With her only big win at the trials being 1st on bars, some were unsure if she could qualify. With a specific skill set on the uneven bars, Kocian was the heavy favorite. She did not disappoint with a score of 15.833, but it was just shy of a gold medal performance, and ended up taking home silver.
Following ample amounts of blood, sweat, and tears, Team USA won the team all-around event, finishing ahead of Russia and China with a combined score of 184.897. The group coined “The Final Five” after the announcement that they won the team all-around gold medal. Some think the name refers to fact that the following Olympic Games will only have teams of four, while others believe the name is aimed at their coach, Martha Karolyi, who is retiring from the profession after over 10 years of being an Olympic coach. Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez will most likely compete for a second Olympic appearance; Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas will likely retire due to their age and Madison Kocian will likely not make another appearance due to her limited event choices. Let’s hope for another gold in Tokyo!