American Simone Biles' Run at Olympic History Ends With Bronze on the Beam
After Monday's misstep, the Final Five gymnast won her record-tying fourth Olympic gold on Tuesday.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Simone Biles felt her right foot slip. Then her left.
As she reached down to steady herself on the balance beam — her first visible misstep during an astonishing Olympics that includes three gold medals and some of the most boundary-pushing gymnastics ever — one thought ran through her head.
"Wow, Simone, that's five-tenths," Biles said.
And that's it. Nothing more. Sure, winning a record five gold medals in Rio de Janeiro would have been cool. Yet going 5 for 5 was always somebody else's deal. It wasn't hers. Her only regret in earning bronze during the beam final on Monday centered on those five seconds when she found herself scrambling to try to recover from a wobbly landing following a front flip.
"I'm not disappointed in the medal that I received, because anyone would love to have a bronze at an Olympics Games," Biles said. "But I'm disappointed in the routine that I did and not so much the whole entire routine, just the front tuck I guess. Because the rest of the routine was pretty good."
Even if it wasn't quite good enough to stand atop the podium for once. Her score of 14.733 was well behind the 15.466 put up by Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands and the 15.333 teammate Laurie Hernandez posted while grabbing silver. Biles won't leave Brazil with five golds — something no female gymnast has ever done — and she's totally OK with it.
"I think you guys want it more than I do," Biles said matter-of-factly after Monday's event. "I just want to perform the routines that I practice."
But Biles got one more shot Tuesday in the floor exercise final, where her victory let her join Larisa Latynina, Vera Caslavska and Ecaterina Szabo as the only women to win four golds during an Olympic meet.
She put the finishing touches on one of the greatest Olympics by a gymnast to capture her fourth gold of the games with a showstopping performance in the floor exercise on Tuesday.
Biles embraced her longtime coach shortly after her routine — which included a tumbling pass named in her honor and a Brazilian-themed segment intended to play to the crowd in Rio — and beamed when her score of 15.966 was posted.
Teammate Aly Raisman followed with a 15.500 to give her a third medal during Rio and six overall in her Olympic career. The 22-year-old team captain — who was second in the all-around to Biles last week — waved to the stands as she walked off the floor, likely for the final time as a competitor.
The medals gave the American women nine during the meet, the most ever by the U.S. at an Olympics.
Amy Tinkler of Great Britain earned bronze, though the day — and really the Olympics — belong to Biles. While she admitted she was a bit tired on Monday after her only one real mistake of the games — a wobbly landing on beam that cost her a shot at gold — Biles hardly looked it during her signature event.
Buoyant in a glittery red, white and blue leotard, Biles spent 90 seconds showcasing her talent. She doesn't tumble so much as fly, her 4-foot-8 frame soaring over the white mat as if she was trying to touch the video board three stories above. She plans to take a break following the closing ceremonies and try to adjust to a life that will never be the same after nine days that elevated her from gymnastics' best-kept secret to star.
The 19-year-old completed an extraordinary stretch that included a team gold for the Final Five as well as individual golds in the all-around and vault and bronze on balance beam. Her five medals tie the most for an American female gymnast in a single Olympics and her four golds tie an Olympic record shared by four others.
Even if Biles had nailed her beam routine, there's no telling whether she would have matched Wevers and Hernandez. Wevers was stunning while working across the four-inch slab of wood four feet off the ground, calling it the performance of her life, one that ended with a hug from Dutch King Willem-Alexander and a phone call from the prime minister.
"To be out there and do my best routine ever in such a big final was amazing," Wevers said.
It needed to be for Wevers to edge Hernandez. The 16-year-old is the youngest member of the "Final Five," who have turned the Rio Olympic Arena into a showcase highlighting the widening gap between the U.S. women's gymnastics program and the rest of the world. Yet she hardly looked overcome by the moment as she dazzled on her favorite event while securing a seventh medal for the American women.
"I'm very comfortable when I'm up there," Hernandez said. "It's incredible to be able to tumble on four inches of wood."
It's something that comes second nature to Hernandez, who regularly turns any random street curb into a chance to practice. She did it on her way to the venue on Monday, helping calm any lingering jitters.
"I don't really think about it," she said. "I could probably sprint on the beam if I want to."
The medal also gave the relentlessly charismatic Hernandez a chance to step into the spotlight after national team coordinator Martha Karolyi opted to keep her budding star out of the all-around competition during qualifying. Hernandez accepted the assignment without complaint, her voice among the loudest in the arena during Biles' gold-clinching floor exercise. Biles returned the favor after Hernandez stuck her dismount, the two good friends laughing during the seemingly interminable wait for the score.
"She does those same exact routines in practice," Biles said. "I'm so glad she could share that with the world and show how hard she's been training."
Hernandez turned professional shortly before arriving in Rio and could fill the void at the top of the U.S. program if Biles decides to take a break after the games. True stardom awaits her once she returns home, a notion Biles is vaguely aware of but trying to tune out. She still considers herself "normal" even as other Olympic athletes stop her in the village to pose for selfies or say hi.
Aug. 16, 12:40 p.m. PT: Updated with Tuesday's events