Reuters/Rio de Janeiro
Simone Biles showed off her sassy moves and explosive tumbles on the floor exercise to win a record-equalling fourth gold at the Olympics yesterday. A day after a wobbly performance on the balance beam ended the American’s hopes of leaving Rio with a record haul of five golds for a female gymnast, she was back on form to capture the floor title with 15.966 points.
Aly Raisman completed a one-two for the United States by earning 15.500, while Briton Amy Tinkler burst into tears after a crowd-pleasing floor display to Kenny G’s version of the song Oh, Pretty Woman earned her the bronze. However, there was no doubting who was the star of the show. A sultry routine full of hip-swinging moves to samba music had the Brazilian crowd on their feet as she flew high into the air to execute her trademark element, a soaring double layout with half-twist at the end.
Cries of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ accompanied each of her complex tumbling passes, she drew gasps of admiration as she balanced her entire body weight on her right toes while spinning around twice and had the audience roaring their approval as she bounced her bottom off the floor to strike her final pose.
The ear-to-ear grin, which had disappeared on Monday after she ended up with bronze on the beam, was back on show again and Biles gave the crowd a thumbs up as she waited for her score. The mark that did flash up not only earned her a fifth medal at her debut Games, it was also the highest score of her four floor performances over the past 10 days.
The 19-year-old team, all around, vault and floor exercise champion became the first woman in 32 years, and fifth overall, to win four golds at a single Games. The Soviet Union’s Larisa Latynina (Melbourne 1956), Hungary’s Agnes Keleti (Melbourne 1956), Czech Vera Caslavska (Mexico City 1968) and Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo (Los Angeles 1984) were the only other women to have four golds at a single Games.
On Monday, Biles was beaten into third place on the beam by Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands. The US star fought to stay on the apparatus during her routine, scoring just 14.733 points. It handed the 19-year-old her first defeat in a final of the apparatus since 2013. “You guys want it more than I do,” she said of the bid for five gold medals.
Wevers, 24, surged to gold with 15.466 points ahead of American Lauren Hernandez, who won silver with 15.333, giving the Netherlands just a second women’s Olympic gold — 88 years after the Dutch team’s victory.
Wevers unexpectedly found herself in the limelight as she was congratulated in person afterwards by King Willem-Alexander, and took a phone call from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “He just said he was really proud of me,” she said of the monarch.
Despite getting off to a strong start the 1.45m (4ft 9ins) Biles lost her balance and put her hands down on the beam after landing a front somersault. “Everyone would love to have a bronze at an Olympics. I’m just disappointed with my routine. I don’t really know what happened,” said the Texan.
Becoming the first American woman to win three gold at the same Games, she admitted the reaction to her successes back home had been overwhelming. “It’s scary and exciting and a little bit overwhelming,” she said.
Wevers took to the beam immediately after Biles and decided to change her strategy as she hit all her spins, jumps and acrobatic skills. “The plan was to go all-out, but then I saw Simone making mistakes,” said Wevers, a silver medallist behind Biles at last year’s worlds.
“After seeing her score, I knew I had to change my strategy. I knew that I needed to go all out, to do my highest difficulty. But after I saw her I said ‘maybe play it safe’. To do the performance of my life and to do it at an the Olympics is unbelievable.”
Hernandez, 16, got her second medal after gold with the US team, but tiny Brazilian star Flavia Saraiva, standing just 1.33 metre (4ft 4in), finished off the podium in fifth. Triple Olympic champion Catalina Ponor, attempted to win the title she won in 2004, but wobbled to seventh.
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