Biles, Vernyayev and Hambüchen Close With the Final Golds
(3 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)

After a major break on balance beam yesterday but still winning bronze, Simone Biles capped her first Olympics on a high note with the floor exercise title. Not even a couple of shaky landings could prevent her from taking her fourth gold of the Rio Olympics, and fifth medal overall. She easily defeated U.S. teammate Aly Raisman, who hit a sensational routine, 15.966-15.500. Great Britain's Amy Tinkler won the bronze (14.933), the first Olympic floor medal for a British woman.

Biles joins an exclusive club with her quartet of golds. Romanian Ecaterina Szabo won four in 1984, a games that was boycotted by the Soviet Union, the top team at the time. The only other women to win four golds were Vera Caslavska (Czechoslovakia) and Larisa Latynina (USSR). In 1968, Caslavska claimed the titles in the all-around, vault, uneven bars and floor exercise. She also won silvers with her team and on balance beam. In 1956, Latynina won with her team and in the all-around, floor exercise and vault. She also won the silver on uneven bars and the bronze in a second team competition. (There were two separate team competitions in those games.)

Tinkler's routine included a full-twisting double layout, a tucked double-twisting double back, a 1.5 twist through to double tuck and a double pike, all with solid landings. She held off Italy's Vanessa Ferrari, who competed last. And had she not buckled slightly on her double pike dismount, Ferrari might have claimed the bronze (14.766).

Rounding out the eight-gymnast field in order were Wang Yan (14.666), Erika Fasana (14.533), Mai Murakami (14.533) and Giulia Steingruber (11.800). Wang's tumbling was excellent, mounting with a tucked double-double and hitting her 1.5 twist through to triple twist-punch front perfectly. Murakami, first up, also mounted with a tucked double-double but her second pass of full-twisting double layout landed low. Fasana stuck her tucked double-double mount, but her 6.1 D-score was one of the lowest in the field. Steingruber had a rough performance, falling her tucked double-double mount and her tucked full-in dismount.

Biles' four golds is the most by an American gymnast in the Olympics, and it will be interesting to see if she continues the sport after Rio. The conversation of whether she is the best gymnast of all time has begun. And while there is little doubt her skill level is at an all-time high, she will have to continue her career a bit longer to achieve such a superlative. With Gabby Douglas on the 2016 Olympic team, Biles witnessed first-hand how difficult it is to defend an Olympic all-around title. But given her winning margins in the all-around during this quadrennium, a healthy Biles could have an excellent shot at repeating at Tokyo 2020.

Parallel Bars

One positive of competing first in an event final is that you have nothing to think about other than your routine. Another advantage is putting pressure on the rest of the field with an incredible set, which American Danell Leyva did on p-bars. His only mistake was minor — an extra hand placement after his clean peach-full — and he stuck his double front dismount. His routine is unique in that it lacks the double somersaults within the bars, but he makes up for it with a smart combinations built around peaches and giants. So when he posted an opening 15.900, the stakes were raised immediately.

Romania's Andrei Muntean could not compete with Leyva's 6.9 D-score and scored 15.600/6.6. Deng Shudi of China was next, and despite his 7.2 D-score, he scored 15.766 with a wild peach-half and bent knees on his double pike (hop).

2015 world p-bar champion You Hao (China) was next, and his 7.4 D-score made him the favorite. He was immaculate throughout his difficult routine until the dismount, when he landed his barani-out like a sack of potatoes. He made the skill but his legs gave out and he collapsed onto his back.

David Belyavsky of Russia matched the leader's 6.9 of difficulty but not his execution. He scored 15.783 to slip into second place. Always original, Belyavsky threw a Richards (front uprise-Diamidov), a superb Bhavsar and a barani-out (hop).

Oleg Vernyayev followed and ended Leyva's dream of becoming an Olympic champion. Despite a few shaky peaches (big arch after one of them), the Ukrainian's 7.1 D-score saved him. After sticking his barani-out, Vernyayev smiled in satisfaction. He took the lead with 16.041.

Only Manuel Larduet (Cuba) and Ryohei Kato (Japan) remained, and neither was clean enough to climb into the medals. Larduet had a big break on a peach-half, and Kato finished his peach rather low. Larduet was fifth and Kato seventh.

Horizontal Bar

German veteran Fabian Hambüchen was drawn to compete first, and his high bar rival, Epke Zonderland (Netherlands) would follow. Would two of the medals be decided in the first two routines? One of them was.

Hambüchen swing through a clean set with the requisite Cassina and Kolman release skills. And when he landed his layout double-double, it looked like a stick until he stood up and shuffled both feet back. With a 7.3 D-score, he posted a 15.766, a strong score but not unbeatable

Zonderland, the defending Olympic high bar champion, was next and caught his Cassina, which he tried to link to a Kovacs. His hands, however, did not fully grasp the bar on the latter and he peeled off in a nasty fall. He remained down for a while but gamely resumed his routine with 6.9 worth of difficulty and stuck his layout double-double (14.033).

Great Britain's Nile Wilson, the European high bar champ who swings with great control and form, posted an impressive 15.466/6.8 to sit in second. His Cassina and Kolman had perfect form, and he stuck his layout double-double. His only mistake was a low Takemoto.

Sam Mikulak (USA) followed and added the Cassina he had taken out during the team and all-around competitions. He caught it well and tossed a clean Kolman too. His only mistake was a low half-Takemoto and a hop on his dismount (15.400/6.8). His score put him in third with four gymnasts to go.

Oleg Vernyayev (Ukraine) finally showed the exhaustion and emotion of several days of competition. He swung through his set but  fell to his knees on his dismount. He finished eighth with 13.366.

Francisco Barretto Junior of Brazil got the crowd cheering after his exciting routine, but his E-score (8.308) killed his medal chances.

Two Cuban natives remained: Manrique Larduet and Danell Leyva (USA). Larduet was armed with a 7.0 D-score and a triple-twisting double dismount, but his execution mark was weak (8.033) for a 15.033.

That left Leyva to process what was at stake, and he did just that. He swung with great amplitude on his layout Kovacs and Kolman, negotiated his pirouettes with one minor alteration, and landed with a small hop on his dismount. He matched Hambüchen's 7.3 D-score but came up short in execution. Still, his 15.500 bumped Wilson to bronze and Mikulak off the podium. That made two silvers for Leyva, who was originally named an alternate to the team.

For the 28-year-old Hambüchen, who has made the high bar final in all four of his Olympic experiences, his gold in Rio completed the set. He claimed the bronze in Beijing in 2008 and silver in London four years ago.

 

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