Tokyo — Trouble started early. A step beyond the limits of floor exercise here. A short landing there.
During the two hours of Sunday, some mistakes were barely noticed, others were stripped naked so that the world could see them, and they continued to pile up and build Aura USA gymnastics over the last decade. Was scraped off. Not even the best athletes of all time have been unaffected by the reality of sports that cannot achieve perfection.
For 11 years, Americans flew around the world, at least in terms of competition, and went home with gold-filled suitcases.
It may still happen at the Tokyo Olympics. But for the first time in a while, it doesn’t seem to happen without a fight.
Russia achieved a staggering record in qualifying, scoring a top score of 171.629. This is more than one point above the US total of 170.562. Olympic champion Simone Biles beat teammate Sunisa Lee in third place to take the lead in all rounds, while Americans have given another name on the team’s standings for the first time since the 2010 World Championships. I looked up and ended the session.
“This wasn’t the final,” said Tom Forster, high-performance director in the United States. “This was in the finals, so this could be a great awakening for us. We take advantage of it.”
China, France, Belgium, England, Italy and host country Japan also advanced to the final on Tuesday night. The journey of the Olympic legend Oksanachusobitina is over. A 46-year-old woman from Uzbekistan failed to compete in the record 8th Olympic vault final.
Athletes, judges and managers stood up to salute Chusobitina as she got off the floor. She waved to the crowd with tears before taking a picture with the person she wanted.
“I’m saying goodbye to sports,” said Chusobitina. “It’s a kind of complex emotion. I’m alive and happy. I’m here without injury. And I can be independent.”
What Americans have done in team competitions for 10 years. After barely challenging in the two Olympic quads, they suddenly became friends.
Forster raised his eyebrows following last month’s Olympic trial and said it was not a problem to be in the top four in the overall rankings than the teams that could score a little higher by hiring specialists. rice field. He reasoned to sacrifice a tenth or two here, or as he took over in 2018, it would be a problem based on the history of the explosive victory of Americans at the World Championships. There wasn’t.
“We thought it was a good order, and I’m still feeling good about it,” Forster said, and he added later, “it’s all going to work.”
This has always been the case since Biles joined the predominant program in 2013. When the format changes to three-up / three-count, everything will be reset in the finals. The pressure will increase. And Americans have found a way to prosper under it.
I was finally frustrated in the almost empty Ariake Gymnasium. At least by their towering standards.
Even Biles was not immune.
The 24-year-old star broke through the all-round with a total of 57.731 and made it to the finals in all four events, but it wasn’t easy. She made a tumbling pass on the floor exercise, then fully backpedaled from the mat, and then basically did the same on the vault. She responded to the uneven bars with a solid set, but the spectacular balance beam routine ended with a temporary roll-up after she got off.
Biles, who came to Japan as the face of the US Olympic movement, and perhaps the Olympics itself, paid tribute to the judges and stepped off the podium with a smile that looked like a combination of relief, irony, and frustration.
There were many around.
Jordan Childs’ relentless and consistent run led her to the spot of the team after a big mistake at the bar and a fall on the balance beam. Grace McCallum has pushed the floor limit. Lee lost two scores (vault and floor) in the team’s match, but her electric bar set jumped to third place behind Biles and Rebeca Andrade in Brazil.
Perhaps the most illustrious thing for Americans was the spectacular performance by Jade Carrie. After winning the nominative case at the World Cup circuit, Carrie, who competed personally, won the spot in the vault and floor exercise finals, but the finals are limited to two athletes per country, so all-round. I just missed it.
Carrie’s decision to pursue individual berths symbolizes the depth that Americans enjoyed while in hegemony. But they no longer seem to be cornered by excellence in the market.
ROC’s performance provided evidence that a former gymnastic superpower is in the midst of a resurrection led by 21-year-old Angelina Melnikova. Even better, the Russians survived the balance beam relatively unscathed.
A four-inch piece of wood, four feet off the ground, is where the country’s gold medal has disappeared in recent years, but it wasn’t a big deal in qualifying. The only serious mistake happened when Lilia Ahaimowa dropped out at the end of the acrobatic series. No big deal. The Russian was allowed to drop her score.
In the final, the situation is different when there is no margin for error. Melnikova emphasized that he didn’t want to predict what would happen if the medals were on the line, but he believes that what has long been unvoted for Americans will be much more compelling.
“We want (we want to win),” Melnikova said. “We will also struggle and fight. We should. That is our expectation.”
And suddenly it looks feasible.