The U.S. women’s gymnastics team, led by Simone Biles, solidified Olympic gold-medal expectations by dominating Sunday’s qualifying round and finishing nearly 10 points ahead of China.
Biles nailed her dynamic vault, balance beam and floor sets to record the highest all-around score. Teammate Aly Raisman was second, edging 2012 champion Gabby Douglas for the United States’ second spot in Thursday’s all-around final.
All five members of the team advanced to individual event finals: Biles in vault, Biles and Raisman in floor, Biles and Laurie Hernandez in beam and Douglas and Madison Kocian in uneven bars.
“I’m very pleased, everything went 100 percent, but we don’t take anything for granted,” said team coordinator Martha Karolyi, emphasizing that qualifying scores do not carry over to Tuesday’s team final. Karolyi wants a second consecutive team gold in what she’s said will be her last Olympics.
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The Americans wore sparkly blue-and-red leotards adorned with sequined stars and stripes and seemed elated by their lack of nervousness.
“The girls were so prepared, not just physically but mentally,” said Biles’ coach, Aimee Boorman. “They were calm and really trusted their skills.”
▪ Biles: The three-time world champion from Spring, Texas, scored a total of 62.366 points, finishing first in vault, beam and floor and secured her opportunity to win five gold medals in Rio.
Her maneuvers included an Amanar and Cheng on vault, her trademark “Biles” tumbling run on floor and a full-twisting double back dismount on beam.
“She squealed when she came off beam,” Boorman said. “She’s a rock star in training, never makes a bobble, and she wanted to hit it. I actually saw errors but she was thrilled.”
Biles, shortest on the team at 4-8, said she felt no pressure.
“It didn’t feel like the Olympics because I concentrated on one event at a time just like at any other meet,” she said. “I did my second vault well and my beam was one of the best routines I’ve ever done.”
▪ Raisman: The double-gold medalist from 2012, scored 60.607 points, well behind Biles but almost half a point ahead of Douglas. She performed an Amanar vault and her dazzling opening tumbling run of one and a half somersaults to an Arabian double punch layout.
“It came down to Aly and Gabby for all-around and Aly showed more difficulty and better gymnastics,” Karolyi said. “She finally got confidence with her vault.”
▪ Douglas: America’s sweetheart at the 2012 London Games, Douglas said she had no regrets about her comeback. She recorded her best score, 15.766, on uneven bars.
“I’d love to defend my title but I’m honored that people have gravitated to my story,” she said. “Everyone knows struggle and that it can be a little rocky sometimes – for me it was very rocky – and people are drawn to that and inspired.”
Said Karolyi: “I’m very proud of Gabby.”
▪ Hernandez: The 16-year-old from New Jersey hit her double pike dismount on beam and captivated judges and spectators with her charisma on floor.
“It just comes out of my personality,” she said. “I’m a bubbly person and when I’m enjoying myself it comes through.
“This is the closest team I’ve ever seen. We bring out the best in each other.”
▪ Kocian: Picked for the team for her prowess on the United States’ weakest event, the uneven bars, Kocian led all with a score of 15.866 and wrapped up her routine with a Stalder full pirouette to a full-twisting double back.