RIO DE JANEIRO – America’s Olympic golden girl finished the gymnastics competition as she should, winning another Olympic gold medal.
Simone Biles stood on the podium here at Rio Olympic Arena for a record-tying fourth time after sweeping to the championship in floor with a score of 15.966. She became the first woman gymnast since 1968 to win four (out of six possible) gold medals at a single Olympics, adding floor to team, all-around and vault. She also won bronze in balance beam.
Fellow American Aly Raisman took home the silver with a score of 15.5. The two U.S. gymnasts had overwhelmed the competition this week with power tumbling and a new level of athleticism just as the sport’s judges have evolved into rewarding such skills more than the traditional artistic approach.
Amy Tinkler of Great Britain won bronze.
For Biles, it was a return to form from Monday when she lost balance while completing a front flip on the beam, costing her a chance to become the first female gymnast to win five golds. There were no mistakes on Tuesday, her sky-high jumps and meet-best 8.933 degree of difficulty (Raisman’s, for example, was 8.675) leaving the Brazil audience alternating between gasps of disbelief and roars of appreciation.
The 19-year-old from outside Houston steadfastly had tried to take each day as it came – whether it was competition or practice. It allowed her to prevent the totality of what she accomplished from overwhelming her with pressure and distractions.
Now that it’s done, though, Biles is expected to leave Rio as a breakout star and a major endorser. Only two other women have won four gymnastics golds in a single Games: Vera Caslavska of then-Czechoslovakia (1968) and Agnes Keleti of Hungary (1956).
More than the history associated with the accomplishment, however, was the way it was done. Biles is the finest tumbler the sport has seen, making her brilliance both easy to spot and impossible to ignore.
“Her height [on jumps] is very superior to anyone I have ever seen in my life,” said 73-year-old Bela Karolyi, who has coached gymnastics for over four decades including all-time greats such as Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton.
For Raisman it was the continuation of a dream Games. At 22, she worked to return to the Olympics after the 2012 London Games. While not in the category of Biles, she leaves Rio with a gold (team) and two silvers (all around, floor). The Needham, Mass., native maximized her potential.
For the U.S. to go 1-2 in the floor was a fitting conclusion to the last Olympics under team coordinator Marta Karolyi, Bela’s wife. The U.S. took gold in five of the six events here. Only gold from Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands on beam prevented the sweep.
Karolyi has long called Raisman one of her all-time favorite gymnasts to coach. And Biles is unquestionably among the greatest ever.
“She really ranks on the top,” Marta said. “For me, Nadia Comaneci is our first Olympic champion and then Simone as my last Olympic champion, those are the two.”
The Karolyis won’t be back for the U.S. at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Biles might, though, which means a sport that never thought it could go this high, could go higher.