Updated: August 1, 2021 1:25:41 pm
Angelina Melnikova, the Russian women’s gymnastics team leader counted a fall on the Floor Exercise at the Rio Games all around team qualification five years back. She was 16 then. Post that Olympics debut, Melnikova would shore up her scores on all apparatus, steer the Russian team to World Championship silver and pick the ‘Elegance’ prize for harmonious movements – independent of medals gymnasts win.
On Tuesday on the highest stage, Melnikova needing 10.535 on the floor, for Russia to seal their gold, stuck her landing, beat her closed fist against her heart and won the country its first team gold since disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Simone Biles who stepped back after feeling uncertain post her Vault, had scored a mammoth 15.800 rounding off the Rio team final. And it will remain in the realms of conjecture if Russia’s 3.5 point win over the USA could’ve been bridged with Biles’ doing her brilliant things – Russia scored 41.498 on the floor, while US had 38.866.
America’s runaway gold in Rio by 8 points though was being visibly chipped at, over the last few seasons – the Russians won the World junior Championships. Their youngest, Viktoria Listunova, 16, brought out her triple twist, double layout on the floor rotation to go 14.166, a significant improvement from qualification. And it can be said that the Russians got done what was needed, despite bumps on the balance beam, to nail their first team Oly gold since 1992, as Tchaikovsky’s No 1 hit the high notes.
The men’s team had won first gold in 25 years yesterday, beating back Asian giants Japan and China. The women floored the Americans for the first time in 11.
Before the floor kicked off for both, ROC led by 0.800, as Grace McCallum stayed in bounds for 13.500 on her first pass double double.
This used to be Cue Biles at Olympics and World Championships where her champion routines would seal the title for Americans, and she had 1.433 over every Russian in team Qualification. Vladislava Urazova was steady with her 13.366, which reduced Russian lead to 0.66. Biles’ replacement, the teenaged understudy, Jordan Chiles, would then sit on her tumbling pass and stutter out, for a 11.700. Russia’s teen Listunova would top up her Qualification, and despite Suni Lee’s 13.666, the Americans would finally, collectively fall short.
Biles could have made up the deficit, but the Russian collective might and composure prevailed.
“The impossible is possible now. We still can’t believe it’s happening,” Angelina Melnikova would say. “Of course are very happy.” It was a stellar rebound from that fall at 16.
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