Tokyo Olympics Gymnastics: Russia Olympic Committee wins women's team gold

It was only fitting that Melnikova bossed her floor routine and scored 13.966 to carry the ROC to the gold medal.

Viktoriia Listunova of Team ROC competes in balance beam during the Women's Team Final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre.   -  Getty Images

The Ariake Gymnastics Centre was packed. Well, within the permissible limit while adhering to COVID-19 protocols. The legion of journalists and officials had united to watch the poster girl of modern-day gymnastics, Simone Biles, compete in the women’s team event. But it was the unassuming Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team that snatched the gold medal.

Eight teams were competing across four disciplines, simultaneously, but all eyes were on Biles. Everyone craned their necks to see Biles perform the vault, a routine she has made her own. The six-time Olympic medallist attempted a vault with a difficulty level of five and was supposed to do two-and-a-half twists, but managed only one-and-a-half and uncharacteristically took a huge hop on landing. She walked off the mat, visibly unhappy, with a pout. The judges rated her performance a 13.766 out of a possible 15, a shockingly low figure for the most decorated American gymnast of all time.

“You have to be (mentally) there 100 per cent, or 120 per cent. Because you can get hurt if you’re not there even the slightest bit. Even in my vault, I did a one-and-a-half...I had no idea where I was in the air. I could have hurt myself. It was just very uncharacteristic of me. I knew I was not in the right headspace and that I had to take a step back,” she would say after the event. She withdrew after her vault, saying she was not feeling mentally well. 

READ| Tokyo Olympics Gymnastics: Simone Biles on track for six golds

On the other end of the hall, the ROC was oblivious to the fact that Biles had pulled out. “We realised she was injured only when we saw that she did not wear her grips for the uneven bars event,” Angelina Melnikova, who is the sole remaining member of Russia’s 2016 Olympic team, said.

The ROC made its intentions clear. Suni Lee and Jordan Chiles performed exceptionally well for the USA but weren't able to catch up. It was only fitting that Melnikova bossed her floor routine and scored 13.966 to carry the ROC to the gold medal and snap the USA’s 11-year dominance.

The ROC won by a massive 3.432-point margin, merely 24 hours after the men’s team also won gold. The ROC has won seven gold medals and is fourth on the overall medal tally.

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