Five American Olympic champions in the last five Games and all different: Sunisa Lee joined the long list of gymnasts from her country with an Olympic gold on Thursday in Tokyo, at only 18 years old and under the gaze of her predecessor, Simone biles, sitting in the stands of the Ariake Stadium.
Lee was crowned with only 135 thousandths of advantage over Brazilian Rebeca Andrade, the first female Olympic medalist in the history of her country and all of Latin America.
The American won with 57,433 points, by 57,298 for Andrade and 57,199 for Russian Angelina Melnikova, who won team gold last Tuesday.
The Spanish Roxana Popa finished the contest in 22nd place
Andrade marched ahead to the halfway point of the competition and entered his final exercise with the gold options intact, but two outings from the mat in his floor routine gave Lee the title.
The american succeeds her partner Simone Biles as champion, who withdrew from this contest due to anxiety problems. Before her, Gabby Douglas in 2012, Nastia Liukin in 2008 and Carly Patterson in 2004 also won gold for the United States, in this latest winning streak.
The Spanish Roxana Popa finished the contest in 22nd place. She got to march in the sixteenth position, but two falls in the asymmetrical ones prevented her from finishing higher in a final that is a triumph for a gymnast who, with multiple knee surgeries, was practically retired.
After the withdrawal of Biles from this final, Andrade remained as the finalist with best mark in the qualifying round, therefore aspiring to everything. He had been aiming for excellent manners for months, after recovering from a torn ligament, and arrived in Tokyo in a state of grace.
Sharing passage through the devices with Russians and Americans, the Brazilian always had a reference clear of what her podium options were. Therefore, his first place at the end of the initial rotation, the jump, was a warning that the afternoon had something big in store for him.
He did a well-executed Cheng (note of 15,300) and followed with asymmetrical loose and clean releases, with a well-collected start and better dunk (14,666). Despite the push of the two best in the world in this discipline, the world champion Nina Derwael (15,266) and Lee herself (15,300), Andrade overcame half the contest at the top, although with a minimum income of 66 thousandths over Lee.
The balance beam, which she faced with a smile and with an unseemly assurance of what was being played, lowered her to third place. The tent exit was somewhat low and forced her to take a step back. She was surpassed by Lee, who presented more difficulty than Andrade, and by Russian Vladislava Urazova, splendid on the 10 cm of the beam.
In the closing, on the ground, Urazova faltered (13,400) and lost the podium place in favor of her teammate Melnikova (13,960). Lee grew up and secured at least the silver with 13,700. Andrade needed a 13,802 to be gold and stayed at 13,666 that placed her in an unprecedented second place in the history of her country.
Until today, only 19 countries had stepped onto the Olympic podium in women’s artistic gymnastics. Some don’t even exist anymore, like the Soviet Union, which tops the list. Brazil is, thanks to Andrade, the first Ibero-American country to access this exclusive club.
The South American country had so far achieved four Olympic medals, one gold, two silver and one bronze, in this sport, all in men’s events.
The first was Arthur Zanetti’s gold ring at the London 2012 Games. This was not only Brazil’s debut in the gymnastics medal table: in 112 years of Olympic history, no Ibero-American gymnast had reached the podium.
The great specialist in rings obtained the silver in that same apparatus in Rio 2016, the Games in which Diego Hypolito and Arthur Mariano were silver and bronze on the ground.