RIO DE JANEIRO - “Even in slow motion, her execution is absolutely impeccable.”
Those were the words of the Rio Olympic Arena's public address announcer when they were showing the replay on the big overhead scoreboard of the floor exercise performed by two-time world champion gymnast American Simone Biles. It was a spectacular routine that closed the competition and gave her a clear victory for the individual all-around gold medal Thursday evening.
The 19-year-old Biles was nearly overcome with emotion when she realized she had won the Olympic title.
“Everything hit me at once when I realized I had finally done it.” Biles said. “And I've been dreaming of it for a couple years now. It was unreal how it happened and I was just so excited.”
Biles had a total score of 62.198 points, which included the highest mark of the evening in the floor exercise (15.933). Her combined score for the uneven bars, vault, balance beam and floor was 2.1 points ahead of teammate and one of her best friends Aly Raisman (60.098), who got the silver medal. Aliya Mustafina of Russia won the bronze (58.665).
Performing in the same group of six gymnasts with Biles and Raisman, Mustafina took the lead from Biles after the vault and uneven bars.
“Some of us don't really even pay attention to the scores. I mean it is what it is.” said Biles. “You can only control your performance and not the scores you get.”
And although her floor exercise was nearly perfect, Biles said she was most happy with her routine on the balance beam, the most difficult of the four apparatuses. And it was the one that put her back in first place.
She and Raisman dominated three of the four apparatuses, taking the top two spots on the balance beam, vault and floor.
Raisman, the 2012 London Olympics floor exercise as well as team gold medalist, showed she still has it with a crowd pleasing routine. She was overcome with emotion as she walked off the mat to give her coach a long, hard hug, knowing her gymnastics career at age 22 is nearing an end.
When Biles completed her routine, the two embraced each other tightly, broke out into big smiles and waved to the crowd.
“I think that we're just so close, so if you were to ask, I think Aly as well as me, we had both won gold in that moment,” said Biles.
“The whole time we've been here together that's been our goal to go 1-2,” said Raisman.” It's just really cool that we were both able to do it. And the whole entire day we were hugging each other and telling each other we love each other. No matter what, at the end of the day we're basically like sisters and we'll always have this moment forever.”
And Raisman pointed out how warmly the two Americans were treated by the spectators.
“It was just incredible to be in Brazil and have the crowd give us a standing ovation. You wouldn't expect that anywhere in the U.S. (if foreign gymnasts beat Americans at a meet) but we got it here. So it was really magical and I will always cherish it.”
Both Raisman and Biles also won gold earlier in Rio as the United States won the women's team gymnastics title. And Biles is now the fourth different American gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title in the past four Summer Games, an unprecedented streak by any nation.
There was a huge disappointment for the home crowd. During the second rotation of the four routines, Brazil's Jade Barbosa injured her ankle on a landing while performing her floor exercise. You could hear the partisan crowd gasp. They shouted her name repeatedly as she went to the side of the mat and starting crying, knowing she could not continue. She was rolled off the arena's competition floor in a wheelchair, with the crowd again chanting her name as she exited.
The highest finishing Brazilian gymnast was Rebeca Andrade in 11th place (56.965).
Women artistic gymnasts will compete for individual apparatus medals next week.