RIO DE JANEIRO — In what could be best described as a coronation rather than a competition, the remarkable Simone Biles led the United States to its second consecutive gold in team women’s gymnastics on Tuesday by a record margin of 8.209 points.
The depth and brilliance of the Americans was on display throughout, as the team of Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian took a .700 lead on the field after the first apparatus and continued to extend it throughout.
It was up to 4.026 after two and 4.961 after three, as the rout was on. The United States finished with a total of 184.897. Russia (176.688) won silver. China (176.003) took home the bronze.
The previous Olympic record for margin of victory was 5.066 set by the 2012 American team.
Due to a decided advantage in degree of difficulty, the Americans didn’t need to be perfect to win. They were close anyway, though, with no major gaffes and just a few minor mistakes. This was not an event full of drama, just excellence.
The victory was a crowning achievement for national team coordinator Marta Karolyi, who at 73 is set to retire after these Games. Since taking over for her husband, Bela, at the turn of the century, the U.S. had turned into a gymnastics juggernaut both on the individual and team level that has left the rest of the world unable to maintain a competitive level.
Biles was the American anchor, the only member to perform in all four disciplines, batting clean up on three of them. The 19-year-old from Spring, Texas, and UCLA delivered team-high scores on vault (15.933), balance beam (15.300) and floor exercise (15.800) and showed a level of gymnastics that far exceeds anyone else in the world. Her gold-clinching final performance on floor left her teammates bouncing and cheering in jubilation and the gymnastics hall on its feet in appreciation of history unfolding.
Biles is expected to dominate individual competition the rest of the Olympics, favored to win not just all-around gold but take first on three apparatus competitions. If she does that, she will become the first female gymnast to capture five gold medals in a single Games.
Raisman, of Needham, Mass., and Douglas, of Virginia Beach, Va., were also members of the 2012 gold medal team, returning, in part, for an afternoon like this.
Raisman was solid as ever on vault (15.833), beam (15.000) and floor (15.366). Douglas, the all-around champion at the London Games, participated in bars and delivered an impressive 15.766. Kocian, the team’s bars specialist out of Dallas, brought the house down with a brilliant 15.933.
Meanwhile, New Jersey’s Laurie Hernandez, who was bypassed for Douglas for all-around qualifying, proved her overall skill by competing in three events vaults (15.100), beam (15.233) and then floor, where her typically electric performance delighted the crowd and the judges (14.833).
It was that kind of effort for the Americans, overwhelming favorites due to their combination of individual genius, depth of talent and mental focus. They met those expectations and then some, setting a new standard in women’s gymnastics for future teams — in the States or anywhere — to chase.
The gymnastics competition continues the rest of the week, with the women’s all-around on Thursday, where Biles and Raisman are favored to go gold-silver.
On Sunday, Biles will compete in vault, while Kocian and Douglas will go for gold in uneven bars. Monday will feature Biles and Hernandez on beam and Tuesday will conclude with Biles and Raisman on floor.