The United States had a tough road to climb entering the women’s gymnastics team final. It got a lot harder without star Simone Biles.
A wonky vault to start the competition left Biles huddling with the U.S. team doctor before heading backstage for a few moments.
When she re-emerged, she hugged her teammates, took off her bar grips and put on a sweatsuit while dealing with what USA Gymnastics described as a “medical issue.”
Her teammates — Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles, and Grace McCallum — made a valiant effort to shore up the United States’s push for the top of the podium, but fell short.
The US missed out on gold after winning two straight in Rio in 2016 and London in 2012. The Russian Olympic Committee won its first Olympic gold since the Unified Team topped the podium in Barcelona in 1992.
The Americans drew within eight-tenths of a point through three rotations even with Biles serving as head cheerleader. ROC, however, never wavered on floor. And they erupted when 21-year-old Angelina Melnikova’s floor exercise score assured them of the top spot on the podium.
Russia beat the United States by almost 3.5 points, finishing with a team score of 169.528, ahead of the U.S. at 166.096. The victory for the athletes from Russia comes a day after the men won gold in their team final.
In a surprise, Great Britain edged Italy to win bronze.
In the first rotation, Biles bailed on her planned Amanar vault, opting for an easier one in mid-air and then struggling with the landing. The rare miscue by the Olympic champion allowed the gymnasts from Russia to open up a one-point lead after the first rotation.
Vault has long been a strong suit for the U.S. and Biles is the defending Olympic and world champion in the event. Yet the Russian athletes have made up considerable ground since the 2019 world championships.
Chiles stepped in to replace Biles on bars in the second rotation, scoring 14.166.
The team representing the Russian Olympic Committee stunned the Americans during qualifying, becoming the first team in 11 years to beat the U.S. in any portion of a major international competition.
The Russian athletes collapsed in joy after Angelina Melnikova’s floor routine score assured them of the top spot.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.