Olympics Recap: Gymnastics Event Finals, Day Two

Olympics News Rio 2016
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Simone Biles is human after all. The quest for five gold medals in a single Olympics was ended on Monday when Biles landed a front tuck off center during a routine in beam finals and had to place her hand on the beam to keep her balance. Even with what is considered a fall, Biles placed third and received a bronze medal, which somehow makes what she’s been doing at these Olympics even more impressive.

She’s been so much better than the rest of the competitors at everything but bars, that her not finishing first on an event is shocking and possibly a bigger story than if she had won. While winning five golds was a reality, Biles still has still medaled in every event she’s been in a final on in Rio. She has one more final to go, floor on Tuesday, where again she’s favored, but she won’t let the lost gold bother her. She even tweeted out after the competition that she thinks she’s having one heck of an Olympics, and she’s right.

The Biles fall came rather early in the finals lineup and opened the door for her score of 14.733 to be topped. In qualifying, six gymnasts, including Biles, topped that score, but only two would do so in the final.

Those two would be the gold medalist Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands and silver medalist Laurie Hernandez of the U.S. Wevers competed immediately after Biles, so it was made clear rather quickly Biles’s would not receive a gold medal. Wevers would score a 15.466, 0.4 higher than her score in the qualifying round. She was solid in her routine and her 16.6 start value was the highest in the competition. Wevers’s gold was the first in women’s gymnastics for the Netherlands since the team won gold in 1928 and it was the country’s first individual medal of any kind in history.

Two routines later came Laurie Hernandez, the 16-year-old phenom. Hernandez put up what was the best executed routine of the final — her 8.933 execution score was the highest of the day — but with a 0.2 disadvantage in start value behind Wevers, her 15.333 score was not enough to take the lead and the New Jersey native had to settle on silver for her first individual Olympic medal. This will be the last of Hernandez in Rio, even though she qualified fourth on floor, but behind Biles and Aly Raisman in the top two spots. However, at just 16 and so much personality, this will not be the last we see of Hernandez on the big stage.

Nothing is quicker in gymnastics than a vault. When done right, there’s nothing more exciting. During the men’s vault final, it was done right. While the women’s vault final on Sunday was about trying to top Biles, the men’s final was built upon one-upping each other, gravity and physics.

It was such a spectacle that the top two finishers, North Korea’s Ri Se-gwang and 2008 vault silver medalist Russia’s Denis Ablyazin, didn’t even have the two most impressive vaults of the day.

The final had two new vaults that had never been attempted before in competition. The first was from Kenzo Shirai of Japan. His vault — a yurchenko entry with 3½ twists — is the second vault named after him. Shirai had been training the vault for some time, but was not always completing the twists before he landed. That wasn’t a problem during this competition, as he completed the twists and took just a small step forward on his landing. He scored a 15.449 with that vault and another — like the women, the men must perform two vaults in finals — and that was enough for a third place finish.

Then there was Ihor Radivilov, who tried what might be the craziest gymnastics skill ever done — a front handspring triple front. There had been training videos of Radivilov practicing the vault and the skills was submitted for official consideration as a new skill, but the question still remained if Radivilov could land it. That question remained all the way until Radivilov’s feet hit the mat, just before he sat the vault down. But because his feet hit first, the vault counts, will be officially named after him, but even with such high difficulty — it started at a 17.0, 0.6 higher than the next most difficult vault — there were too many deductions for Radivilov to place and he finished in eighth.

35-year old Romanian Marian Dragulescu also helped put on a show. Many gymnasts, including Dragulescu, competed a vault named after the Romanian — a front handspring double front with a half twist. This was his fourth Olympics, after he missed 2012 with an injury, but he only has one medal on vault to show for it — a bronze in 2004 — even though he’s been one of the main influences on modern vault. He came so close to another medal — actually tying Shirai in third place — but he ultimately finished in fourth because of a tiebreaker and the rule not allowing duplicate medals to be given in gymnastics.

The home Brazilian crowd was lively earlier for the day’s first event when Arthur Zanetti was a medal contender during rings finals. Zanetti was the gold medalist on the event in London, though he only finished fifth in qualification. As the last competitor to go, Zanetti made his way into second place with a score of 15.766. His silver is the third individual gymnastics medal for Brazil in this Olympics, which quadruples the amount the country had before Rio.

25-year-old Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece ended the competition in first with the only 16.0 on the event, in either finals or qualification. His gold was the first for Greece since Dimosthenis Tambakos won gold on the same event in 2004. Petrounias did not have the most difficult routine of the day, but he was far and away the cleanest with the best execution score of 9.2.

Russia’s Denis Ablyazin finished in third, marking two medals for him on Monday.

Gymnastics concludes its Olympics run with the last three event finals on Tuesday afternoon. The men will compete on parallel bars and high bar and the women will compete on floor. For the U.S. Danell Leyva will be on both events, while Sam Mikulak will be on high bar. For the women, Aly Raisman will try to defend her 2012 gold medal on floor, while Simone Biles will try to get back atop the podium after Monday’s third place finish.

Dan Pizzuta is a freelance writer and former Division I gymnast at Temple University.

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