Gymnastics: Simone Biles settles for bronze
Rio de Janeiro — 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 would have been cool. Yet going 5-for-5 always was somebody else’s deal. It wasn’t hers. Her only regret in earning bronze during the beam final Monday centered on those five seconds when she found herself scrambling trying 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 routine, just the front tuck, I guess. Because the rest of the routine was good.”
Even if it wasn’t quite good enough to stand atop the podium for once. Her score of 14.733 ended up well behind the 15.466 put up by Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands and the 15.333 “Final Five” teammate Laurie Hernandez posted while grabbing silver.
Biles won’t leave Brazil with five golds — something no female gymnast has done — and she’s totally OK with it.
“I think you guys want it more than I do,” Biles said. “I want to perform the routines I practice.”
Biles will get one more shot today in the floor exercise final, where a victory would let her join Larisa Latynina, Vera Caslavska, Ágnes Keleti and Ecaterina Szabo as the only women to win four golds during an Olympic meet.
It’s heady territory for a 19-year-old who couldn’t help but sigh as the admitted perfectionist waited for her score to flash.
“She wasn’t happy with it,” coach Aimee Boorman said. “She doesn’t like to make mistakes.”
Even if Biles had nailed her routine, there’s no telling if she would have matched Wevers and Hernandez.
Wevers was stunning working across the 4-inch slab of wood 4-feet off the ground, calling it the performance of her life, one that ended with a hug from Dutch King Willem-Alexander and a 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” that have turned the arena into a showcase highlighting the widening gap between the U.S. women’s 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.”
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 Monday, helping calm any lingering jitters.
“I don’t think about it,” Hernandez said. “I could probably sprint on the beam if I want to.”
There will be a sense of relief today when Biles finishes her floor routine, an event where she’s the reigning world champion and put on a display during the all-around final that coach Martha Karolyi called the closest thing to perfection in the sport.
One momentary lapse Monday did nothing to diminish Biles’ extraordinary time in Rio.
Simone Biles’ run at five golds at one Games in gymnastics fell short, but she still can join select company with four*:
Věra Čáslavská, Czechoslovakia, 1968
Ágnes Keleti, Hungary, 1956
Larisa Latynina, Soviet Union, 1956
Ecaterina Szabo, Romania, 1984
* American Anton Heida (male) is the only gymnast with five gold medals won at one Games in 1904