Simone Biles and Team USA artistic gymnasts get gold for diversity at Rio 2016
By Cat Cardenas
This article originally appeared Aug. 9, 2016 on the Rio2016 English-speaking site. It has since been archived on the site and is no longer available.
The women's gymnastics team final on Tuesday (9 August) is turning into a procession for an utterly dominant USA team, a team whose diversity and charisma have captured the imagination of the world at Rio 2016.
The young team is so packed with talent that even their London 2012 all-around champion Gabby Douglas missed the cut for the final; only two gymnasts from each country can qualify for the individual event on Thursday.
Douglas ranked third overall behind superstar Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. She will still compete for the team when the USA starts on the vault at Rio the Olympic Arena.
“I would have loved to go back and defend my title, however this has just been an amazing experience so far," said Douglas. "It’s been an amazing ride.”
The USA overwhelmed the field on Sunday, crushing their nearest rival, China, by almost 10 points in a sport that often crowns champions by mere fractions of points. Russia, the London 2012 silver medallists, qualified third for the team final. Great Britain, Brazil, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands also progressed and will be taking part on Tuesday evening.
All Eyes on Biles
Like the twinkling leotards of the superstar USA gymnasts she came to watch at Rio 2016, the eyes of 11-year-old Talulah flashed as she anticipated supporting Simone Biles in her quest for Olympic gold.
Standing in line with her mom, Kristie, the pre-teen gymnast from New York City waited outside the Rio Olympic Arena before the women's artistic gymnastics preliminaries on 7 August.
An 11-year-old gymnast travelled from New York City to see her idol, Simone Biles (Photo: Rio2016/Cat Cardenas)
"Simone Biles is her number one role model," said Kristie, adding her daughter has been training in gymnastics for years.
Rio 2016 is the first Olympic Games for Biles, and the whole world knows she’s the one to watch.
The three-time defending world champion and top-ranked gymnast in the world, Biles, 19, is a once-in-a-generation talent who defies gravity with her trademark move, a double layout with a half turn. Her 10 world championship gold medals are the most anyone has ever won. Excited reports expect her to "crush" the Olympic Games.
On Sunday, shortly after Biles stepped out for her first routine – her powerhouse discipline, the floor – global audiences responded by making #SimoneBiles a top-trending hashtag.
Dancing to the samba classic "Mas Que Nada," Biles charmed Brazilian audiences during her floor routine and topping her competitors with an overall individual score of 62.366, nearly two points ahead of second-place Raisman.
"Today we made everyone proud," she said.
Biles's coach Aimee Boorman, who has been training her since she was eight years old, said Biles was not nervous about stepping out onto the Olympic stage.
“It feels like worlds, and she’s done that three times already,” Boorman said. “Each year of going to worlds has built up her confidence to come out on a big stage like this."
Laurie Hernandez (left) says Gabby Douglas (right) and the older girls on the team are her role models.
A First for Diversity
Just a few months shy of being eligible to compete at London in 2012, Biles is now expected to bring home five gold medals.
"I don’t think we could ask for any more and we all have something to look forward to,” Biles said.
Douglas admits her role on the team has changed since London 2012. She, along with Raisman, are veterans now. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that the world was enthralled by the elegant gymnast dubbed 'The Flying Squirrel.' She made history as the first African-American woman to become the all-around Olympic champion.
This year, Douglas, Biles, and 16-year-old Olympic Games first-timer Laurie Hernandez comprise the most diverse gymnastics team in USA history.
For Hernandez, the first Latina woman competing on the USA team since 1984, her team-mates are a powerful example for her to follow.
“These girls are all role models to me,” she said. “I look at these girls like they’re my older sisters and I think they’ll always be role models for me.”
— CAT CARDENAS —