'Final Five' win gymnastics team gold in Rio
If there was any question that the U.S. has the best women's gymnastics team in the world, it was answered today for the fifth time.
With two consecutive Olympic golds and world championships titles in 2011, 2014 and 2015, the U.S. women have made a seemingly unbreakable habit of winning. And not just edging out their competitors by a few tenths, but leading the competition from start to finish and claiming victory by multiple points.
Throughout the team final at the Rio Olympics, 2012 Olympians Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, along with first-time Olympians Madison Kocian, Laurie Hernandez and Simone Biles, looked focused but confident, never faltering under the weight of the world's or their expectations.
It was all part of their strategy, Raisman explained in a pre-Olympic interview. "We’re going in as the best team in the world," Raisman said. "So we should carry ourselves that way, not be scared and shaky because we have that pressure. It should be the opposite.
"You know, you walk in like you’re number one and I think that’s intimidating to everyone else."
The other teams in the final gave their best efforts to make a run at the long-reigning queens of the sport, but nearly every team suffered a fall over the course of four events.
Not the U.S., who clocked 12 hit routines over the four events. They started with a nearly-stuck Amanar vault, the one made famous by McKayla Maroney in 2012, from Raisman. Next up was uneven bars, where Kocian and Douglas earned two of the highest uneven bars scores of the day. Hernandez, Raisman and Biles all scored over 15 points on balance beam, looking a little less steady than usual but keeping in control.
Finally, floor, again with Hernandez, Raisman and Biles. Raisman is the reigning Olympic champion on floor while Biles is the reigning world champion, and they showed why. Raisman stuck nearly every landing while Biles nearly flipped to the rafters in her routine that uses music from the movie Rio.
They finished with a team total of 8.209 points. It was the largest margin of victory since the "Perfect 10" scoring system was replaced by the current open-ended scoring method was implemented in 2006. They easily surpassed the previous record of 5.066 points, set by the Fierce Five in London.
Russia finished in second place, followed by China in third. It was Russia's second consecutive silver, while China was missed the podium in London but won team gold at their home Olympics in Beijing.
After the score was announced, the women huddled together and cheered in unison, "We are the Final Five!"
Rio will be the last Olympics to see five-member gymnastics teams. In Tokyo, each team will have only four members. Thus, this will be the last U.S. team to win Olympic gold with a five-member team.
The name could also refer to the coming retirement of Martha Karolyi, who was the head coach of the Magnificent Seven and the national team coordinator of U.S. women's gymnastics since 2001. They will be the final team guided to greatness by Karolyi, the legendary Romanian coach who's been credited with the much of the U.S.' success over the last 15 years.
Watch the Daily Dismount to see the medal ceremony and hear Olympians Courtney Kupets Carter and Jonathan Horton recap all the action of today's team final. Joining them will be 2008 Olympic silver medalist Samantha Peszek, reporting from Rio.