Sunisa Lee of the United States grabbed the Olympic gold medal in the women’s all-around gymnastics final on Thursday in Tokyo, surging to the top of the field with a near-perfect floor exercise in the final rotation.
Lee, with a total score of 57.433, kept the gold with the U.S., after teammate and defending champion Simone Biles bowed out of the event to focus on her mental health. Biles was in the stands at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre to cheer on Lee and Jade Carey, who took Biles’s place in the all-around final. Carey finished in ninth place.
Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, who led the competition after the first two rotations, stepped out of bounds twice during an otherwise strong floor routine, grabbing enough points to win silver, her country’s first medal in women’s gymnastics.
Angelina Melnikova of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) capped a strong day for the Russian women, winning the bronze ahead of teammate Vladislava Urazova.
Canadian Brooklyn Moors of Cambridge, Ont., finished the all-around final in 16th place.
“It feels crazy,” Lee told CBC Sports after the competition. “Nobody ever thought that this would happen.”
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Lee said she was “sad” when Biles pulled out of the competition, knowing she wouldn’t be competing alongside her mentor and idol, “but we are all super-proud of her and she’s still amazing.”
WATCH | Sunisa Lee wins all-around women’s gymnastics gold:
‘Really happy with how everything went’
Moors was the lone Canadian in the competition, after Halifax’s Ellie Black withdrew on Wednesday after re-injuring her left ankle during practice on Tuesday.
Black was practicing on the beam and ended up “a bit crooked” on the dismount, she told a Zoom press conference on Wednesday, landing a bit short. She suffered the same injury as last month, a sprain of the deltoid ligament, and a bone bruise.
She will rest and get treatment in the hopes of returning for the beam final on Aug. 3.
Black was in the stands for Thursday’s event to cheer on Moors, and even decorated Moors’s backpack with inspirational messages.
One message was a drawing of Moors with the words “Go B!!!” and “Always here for you, Love Ellie.” Another message said “Smile + have fun! Enjoy the moment.”
After the competition, Moors said she remained in command of her nerves.
“I’m super-excited right now,” she told CBC Sports. “I didn’t have a perfect day but I’m really happy with how everything went still.
Lee had been dealing with ankle injuries
The bronze medal for Melnikova followed a surprise win by the ROC in the women’s team final on Tuesday. Biles opted out of that event after one vault, citing the need to focus on her mental well-being. She later announced her decision to drop out of the all-around final.
An American had won each of the last four Olympic titles. The last non-American to win was Simona Amanar of Romania in Sydney in 2000.
Biles, 24, opened the door for the world’s top competitors when she bowed out of Thursday’s competition, which came down to the wire.
Andrade’s near-perfect Cheng vault gave her an early lead, but Lee used her spectacular uneven bars set — the hardest one currently being done in competition — to pull closer.
Lee, an 18-year-old Hmong-American from Minnesota, nailed her beam routine after nearly tumbling off during a wolf turn, with the cameras capturing Lee gripping the beam tightly with her foot to stay on. Her score of 13.833 moved her in front of Andrade heading into the floor exercise.
Going first on the floor, which was the final rotation, Lee opted for a routine with three tumbling passes instead of four, hoping better execution would override any potential tenths she gave up by not doing a fourth pass.
Lee had been dealing with ankle injuries for much of the past year and was visibly limping at last month’s U.S. championships.
Her 13.700 was strong, but it left an opening for Andrade.
The 21-year-old Brazilian, two years removed from a third surgery to repair a torn ACL in her knee, had the best floor score of the contenders during qualifying. Yet she bounded out of bounds with both feet at the end of her first tumbling pass, and she stepped out again on a subsequent pass.
Needing a 13.802 to win, she received a 13.666 instead, extending the U.S. dominance in one of the marquee events at the Olympics. The Americans have won each of the Olympic finals since Carly Patterson triumphed at the 2004 Athens Games.
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