Tuesday was circled on the calendar for many gymnastics fans around the world. The women’s team final would take place in Tokyo and the USA looked to defend the gold medals won in 2012 and 2016. This would also be the first women’s team final with the new team regulations. In these Olympics, teams have been cut from five members to four. When the team final rolled around on Tuesday, it was much different than any fans expected. Although the Russian Olympic Committee team qualified ahead of the United States heading into the team final, many expected the defending champions to walk out victorious once again.
The USA and ROC’s first rotation of the day was on vault. After an uncharacteristic mistake, Simone Biles left the competition floor with the Team USA doctor. She seemed to have lost her positioning mid-air and thankfully landed on her feet to avoid major injury. She withdrew from the team event due to health concerns. It was originally suspected that Biles sustained a physical injury during the first rotation. It was later clarified that while Biles was feeling alright physically, mentally, she wasn’t in a place to continue the competition. This is an incredibly hard call for an athlete to make, especially during the Olympic Games but it was the necessary move for her well-being at that moment. The pressure placed on her over the last year has been immeasurable. Biles prioritized her mental health during the biggest competition in the world and she should be commended for that. Biles advocated for herself in one of the toughest situations possible and there is hope that her courage will inspire other athletes to make similar decisions when necessary. There has been no official word on Biles’ status for the remainder of the games as she is set to compete in each of the next five competitions. The hope is that she will compete but her mental and physical health are the most important thing.
It was up to Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum to complete the remainder of the competition. It was encouraging to see Biles on the sidelines cheering her team on even while unable to compete.
Lee had a fantastic day for the United States. She scored 15.400 on the uneven bars with her incredible routine and pulled out a score of 13.666 on floor after not preparing to participate in the rotation. With Biles out, Lee led Team USA beautifully and displayed what a force she is.
The ROC team continued their run, securing high scores on each apparatus. As a team and as individuals, they peaked at the perfect time with solid performances across the board. Their team consisted of Angelina Melnikova, Viktoriia Listunova, Vladislava Urazova and Liliia Akhaimova. Melnikova, their leader, is the lone member of the 2016 Olympic team who returned to the Games.
Floor was the final apparatus for the USA and ROC. Melnikova was the last athlete to compete on the floor and she pulled out exactly what her team needed. They waited for the final score to show up and it solidified a gold medal for ROC and a silver for the United States. Biles was the first American to walk over to the gold medal winners and congratulate them on their well-deserved victory. This was a special moment for both teams. The battle between the USA and the ROC was exciting and made for top-end performances from each side.
Great Britain rounded out the podium, claiming the bronze medal. China was originally favoured to be in the mix for the bronze but they fell out of contention and the race was between Italy, Japan and Great Britain.
The individual all-around final will take place on Thursday and gymnastics fans hope to see Biles back, healthy and able to compete alongside the top gymnasts from various countries.