(L-R) Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Madison Kocian celebrate winning the gold medal in the artistic gymnastics women’s team final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on Aug. 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
Carly Patterson helped lead a resurgence of success for Team USA in gymnastics when she won gold in the all-around at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, the first U.S. woman to do so in 20 years. She will serve as TeamUSA.org’s written correspondent during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, providing her take on the women’s gymnastics competition.
The U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team has done it again! They made history in becoming back-to-back Olympic champions. And can I just say on a fashion/patriotic note how incredible these girls are looking in all red, white and blue at this Olympics?! I just love it!
I could not be more proud of the girls! Each one of them stepped up, did what they needed to do and got the job done. Most people will never be able to imagine what competing in the Olympic Games feels like; let me tell you from personal experience it is no easy task, although these girls make it look easy. No one sees the preparation and countless hours it takes behind the scenes to get to this level. To have the weight of not only your country, but the world on your shoulders and to do your job with millions of people watching…these women make competing in front of millions look effortless.
The girls started off the night strong on vault. Team USA does some of the most difficult vaults being done in the world, which gives them a higher start value, or “difficulty score,” than most other teams. Laurie Hernandez began with a double-twisting Yurchenko with great power and a controlled landing. Aly Raisman was next with another sky-high Amanar and amazing landing. Simone Biles’ vault, also an Amanar, is, no surprise, unbelievable! She is so high that I swear the cameras have to readjust just to catch it all! She landed and hugged the rest of the girls, and it was obvious from that moment it was going to be their night!
The uneven bars was next, as Team USA competed in “Olympic order” which is vault, bars, beam, then floor. Some may say bars is our weakest event, but we have incredible bar workers! Simone started us off with a hit set and a monstrous, stuck dismount. Gabby Douglas was next in the second spot, and she delivered with a giant release move you may remember seeing in London, and another stuck landing! (Judges love stuck landings!)
Bars specialist Madison Kocian, who hails from my gym, WOGA, sealed the deal with a nearly flawless bar set, complete with another perfect dismount and a big smile. These women were on a roll! I loved seeing them really work together to cheer loudly for each other during each routine and while staying focused and keeping those beaming smiles on their faces – not always easy as the whole world is watching and expecting gold.
Balance beam can be a true “make it or break it” event in our sport, especially in a three-up, three-count format, meaning each score from the three routines count for each team’s score. One fall off the balance beam can take a team out of medal contention, but for Team USA, no problem. Our lineup was Aly, Laurie and Simone, and each seemed calmer up there than most people are just walking around in normal life, not on a 4-inch balance beam! Our girls all end their tiring routines with incredibly difficult dismounts, and each seemed better than the next! Once again, it's so great to see Aly end her routine with my dismount, "The Patterson,” not to mention sticking it when it counts most! And trust me, it is very difficult to stick that landing!!
With three hit beam sets, and three giant sighs of relief, it was time for us to shine on the floor exercise! This is one event where I love to sit back and just watch the girls perform their hearts out. Team USA is the reigning world and Olympic champions on floor, so it was a perfect event for the final rotation. First up was firecracker Laurie, who sells this routine like nobody else and does sky-high tumbling. I remember the crowd chanting “Laurie” after her floor routine at Olympic Trials, and they were equally loving it here. Next was Aly, the reigning Olympic floor exercise champion. It’s no doubt Aly is world-class on this event. Her tumbling is incredible! She landed all of her passes so well and really seemed to smile and take it all in. The crowd loved it, and was loudly chanting “USA” and even “Aly!”
Finally, one routine to go, and it was Simone’s time to own the floor. She only needed a score around a 7.5 to clinch the team title, but she performed in a league of her own. I love her second pass, The Biles, which is a double layout with a half twist, a tumbling pass so powerful, it’s like Biles for miles in the air. When she tumbles it's almost as if she just floats in the air; it's so powerful yet so controlled. There was so much hype and pressure for this team to win gold, and they truly delivered even beyond expectations.
The girls and coaches waited for the official scores to come in, hugging and holding hands. The moment USA popped into first place was certainly one those five girls and all of America will never forget. The girls commanded the floor and earned that gold medal with class, style and a fierceness like none other.
But, while this team is fierce and fiery, their official name is the Final Five. This is no doubt an ode to national team coordinator and heart of Team USA, Martha Karolyi, who is retiring after these Games. The 2020 team will also only have four women on it, so The Final Five was fitting.
Just as fitting was the gold medal. You rocked it, Simone, Aly, Gabby, Laurie and Madison. Enjoy the ride!!
- Carly Patterson