Simone Biles and Aly Raisman qualify for all-around gymnastics final at the Rio Olympics, reigning champ Gabby Douglas misses out
The U.S. could’ve phoned in their routines and still walked away with the top spot. But if they had done that, it would’ve been boring. And the five women on the American gymnastics team—Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian—don’t do boring.
They slay. They went all out, performing some of their all-time best routines and at the end of the preliminary competition, they were nearly ten points ahead of China. A lead like that is unprecedented.
The U.S. team, sparkling in their sequined patriotic leotards, began on floor where they turned in one crowd pleasing routine after another.
Laurie “human emoji” Hernandez competed in her first major international competition the way she has been performing all season.
She was focused and playful, showing of the same smile and charisma that had the crowd chanting “Laurie!” at Olympic Trials in San Jose. Hernandez, who only competed on three events, was sharp as a tack on beam to earn the second highest score of the night.
Of course, everyone was waiting for the Olympic debut of Simone Biles, the three-time world champion who has won virtually every title and accolade since she became a senior gymnast. And it was worth the wait.
Biles rocked every single event, starting off with a samba-inspired floor routine (for a little Rio pandering) and then went to vault where she rocketed to the top of the vault standing with a beautiful Cheng vault, named for the first Chinese gymnast to perform it. Biles did it better than the originator.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 8, 2016
From there she hit bars and then went to beam where she stuck virtually everything. She finished as the top qualifier to the all around final by almost two points. Biles did what everyone expected her to do in Rio. Still, when everyone is expecting something, that can make it a lot harder to pull off.
But perhaps the most exciting part of the session was the showdown between reigning Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas and 2012 floor gold medalist Aly Raisman, who were both vying for the second U.S. all-around spot in the final. (Only two gymnasts per team are allowed to advance to the all around finals and the first U.S. spot was rightly assumed to belong to Biles.)
It came down to the last rotation to determine who would be getting a chance to vie for an all-around medal. Douglas, who looked strong throughout the meet, hit a very solid beam routine. And then she had to sit and wait to see what Raisman would do.
Though the 22-year-old had one big wobble, the rest of her beam routine was almost flawless, including her super hard double Arabian front dismount. Her beam score of 14.833 (which was the same score Douglas got on the event) was enough to put her ahead by nearly half a point.
What this means is that Douglas’ run at defending her 2012 Olympic all-around gold medal is over before it really ever started. It was always highly improbable that she’d be able to win a second all-around title because she had the undefeated, unstoppable Biles in her way. But I’m sure it stings she’ll never get a shot.
But Douglas’ pain and frustration is Raisman’s joy. Back in 2012, she found herself on the wrong side of a tie breaking procedure in the all-around final. She and Russian Aliya Mustafina had tied for the bronze but the IOC doesn’t allow for ties in gymnastics medal rounds. After the tie breaking procedure was applied, Raisman found herself in fourth place—with the same score as Mustafina but with no medal to show for it.
Raisman has been vocal that her comeback was, in large part, motivated by her desire to get the all-around medal she was denied back in 2012. You could sense the urgency all afternoon, as she went through the events, turning in some of her best ever performances across three apparatuses.
Though Douglas had a great competition, she simply didn’t have enough difficulty in her routines to keep up with Raisman, who had been beating her throughout 2016.
Though undoubtedly disappointed, Douglas was one of the the first to hug Raisman when she descended from the podium after her beam routine.
And Douglas still has a shot to earn an individual medal. She qualified to the event final on the uneven bars.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 8, 2016
In fact, every single member of the team earn a spot in an apparatus final, as Biles proudly noted in the mixed zone after the competition. In addition to Douglas, Kocian was the top qualifier to the uneven bar final, Raisman earned a spot in the floor exercise final, and Hernandez will be in the beam final. As for Biles—well, she not only the top qualifier to the all-around final; she earned the top qualification spot to the vault, balance beam, and floor exercise finals.
“I’m just so proud of myself and the team,” Biles said. “It’s just really exciting that we finished qualifications as well as we did.”