Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman did everything they set out to do in Rio in 2016, bringing home Olympic team gymnastics gold and adding a collection of individual gold, silver and bronze medals to the take. Neither their success nor the attention they received because of it was limited to the Olympic Games, however.
From their history-making triumphs to meetings with celebrities to winning “Dancing with the Stars,” here’s a look at 16 times the “Final Five” ruled the world in 2016.
Aly Raisman Is Not Your Average “Grandma”
Raisman was lovingly called “grandma” by her teammates because of her “advanced” age of 22, her early bedtimes and her love of naps. She hardly performed like a grandma, however, the three-time medalist from the 2012 Games even saying many times that she’s only gotten better with age. With Biles and Douglas sitting out the all-around competition at the U.S. Classic in early June, Raisman was already in full-steam-ahead mode and earned her first all-around title since winning the same event in 2012. The solid showing at that competition was a harbinger of things to come, as Raisman proved at the coming national championships, Olympic Trials and ultimately the Olympic Games that she had, indeed, gotten better with age.
Gabby Douglas Makes History By Qualifying For Rio
Fans had reason to doubt Douglas’ chances when she returned to the sport in 2015. After all, no Olympic women’s all-around champion had successfully returned to the Games for a second time since Nadia Comaneci in 1980, and no American woman had returned to a second Games in gymnastics since Amy Chow and Dominique Dawes in 2000. But history wouldn’t hold her back. Douglas, who became the first black gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title in 2012, was named to her second Olympic team after the trials in July. She joined Raisman in returning to a second Olympic Games in Rio.
Introducing The “Final Five”
The U.S. women were heavy favorites coming into the Games, having won every major international team competition since 2011, and they quashed any talk of an upset right away. The quintet led from start to finish, ended on top of the leaderboard on every apparatus and finished with a total of 184.897 points. Their margin of victory over second-place Russia was an amazing 8.209 points. When the competition ended, the gymnasts hugged, waved to the crowd then came together to announce, “We are the Final Five” — the nickname a nod both to the retirement of U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and the fact that in 2020 Olympic gymnastics teams will consist of just four members.
Biles And Raisman Take Gold, Silver In All-Around
Biles and Raisman became the second American duo ever to finish in the top two spots in the Olympic all-around competition, joining Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, who did it in 2008. The outrageous 62.198-point win — 2.1 points better than Raisman — was a coronation for Biles, who came to Rio with an unprecedented three straight world all-around titles to her name. The silver medal was vindication for Raisman, who four years earlier lost out on an Olympic all-around medal due to a tiebreaker. The image of Raisman with her hands on her head crying tears of joy at the end of her floor routine, the moment she knew she’d captured silver medal, became an enduring image from the competition.
Biles Vaults To Gold
There are very few gymnasts in the world who can perform an Amanar vault, a 2.5 twisting Yurchenko with a blind landing. Biles makes it look easy. The 4-foot-8 dynamo nailed her Amanar in the individual vault finals and followed it up with the equally difficult Cheng en route to her third gold medal of the Games. It marked her first global vault title, after winning two silvers and a bronze at world championships. Her two-vault average of 15.966 was more than .7 points higher than the 15.253 scored by silver medalist Maria Paseka of Russia. With the medal, Biles also surpassed Shannon Miller as the most decorated gymnast in U.S. women’s gymnastics history.
There Is Nothing Uneven About Kocian’s Bars
Kocian and Russia’s Aliya Mustafina were both favorites to win the uneven bars gold medal in Rio, and the result indeed came down to the smallest of margins. Mustafina, the defending Olympic champion in the event, came in with a one-tenth higher start value. But Kocian’s beautiful performance earned her an execution score of 9.133, just slightly ahead of Mustafina’s 9.100 mark. Combined together, though, Mustafina held off Kocian 15.900 to 15.833, and Kocian came home with a silver medal. The Texan bars specialist had previously scored a career-high 15.933 in the team competition to help the “Final Five” win gold. Kocian’s uneven bars silver came a year after she was part of an unprecedented four-way tie for gold at the world championships.
Hernandez Has Got This
Hernandez raised her arms, placed her hands on the balance beam and said to herself, “I got this,” just before lifting herself into a splits to begin her routine in the women’s team final. Although it was her first major international competition as a senior, she did have it. Nicknamed “the human emoji” for her facial expressions and outgoing personality, Hernandez handled the pressure like an old pro, having already helped the United States win team gold. Now, going sixth out of eight in the individual beam final, and after teammate Biles had to grab the beam to prevent a fall after an under-rotated somersault, Hernandez was nearly flawless in her routine and won the silver medal (Biles won bronze). One of the youngest athletes competing in the Games, 16-year-old Hernandez also became the first U.S.-born Hispanic athlete to compete in women’s gymnastics since Tracee Talavera in 1984.
Biles And Raisman Finish 1-2 On Floor
As the “Final Five” became the final two at the end of the gymnastics competition, Biles and Raisman once again found themselves both teammates and competitors in the floor exercise final. So impressive had Raisman been on floor throughout the Games that only Biles, with her gravity-defying tumbling passes, was going to beat her. The pair didn’t disappoint, delivering one last show-stopping performance apiece to become the first Americans to win gold and silver on the floor. Raisman, having won gold in the event in London in 2012, also became the first American to medal on floor in back-to-back Games, and her six Olympic medals put her second to only Shannon Miller.
Biles Carries The Flag
The only time during the Games when Biles looked a bit unsure of herself was when carrying a U.S. flag that was bigger than her during the Closing Ceremony. Chosen by a vote among the Team USA athletes, Biles became only the second gymnast to carry the American flag during the opening or closing ceremony, and the first female gymnast. Alfred Jochim was the flag bearer during the Opening Ceremony of the 1936 Games.
Zac Efron Surprises His Biggest Fan
Biles told “TODAY” show host Hoda Kotb that she would “pass out” if Kotb brought out the object of her biggest celebrity crush, and moments later Kotb did just that. Biles first admitted her love for actor Zac Efron during an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and the movie star later tweeted the 19-year-old gymnast a good luck message before Olympic Trials and again during the competition. Tweeting out pictures from the meet-and-greet, Biles wrote, “he kissed me on the cheek just letting y'all know,” “on cloud 9,” and “just call me mrs.efron already.” Efron met and posed for photos with all the members of the team, and the girls later jokingly started planning Biles’ and Efron’s wedding on Facebook Live.
Mingling With Musicians
The “Final Five” showed off a different look at MTV’s Video Music Awards, where Biles, Hernandez, Kocian and Raisman walked the red carpet all dressed up before presenting the award for best female video to Beyoncé (who gave each of the girls a hug). The girls also used social media to document their encounters with a host of other famous musicians and personalities including Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Ariana Grande, Rita Ora, Ansel Elgort, Fifth Harmony and Ashley Graham.
The "Final Five" On Tour
Following the Games, the members of the “Final Five” embarked on their victory tour, which included not only television appearances and trips to New York City and Washington, D.C., but also the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions. The 36-city tour kicked off in mid-September in Spokane, Washington, and wrapped up in mid-November in Boston. Joining the “Final Five” were members of the men’s Olympic team, the rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline teams and legendary Olympians, including Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson.
Hernandez Meets Her Idol
Hernandez had a big fangirl moment of her own when singer Tori Kelly surprised her backstage prior to a Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions performance. Hernandez practically ran away when the “Dear No One” singer appeared from around a corner. Hernandez posted photos of her posing with Kelly with the caption “Literally just met the person I've always looked up to omgg.”
Hanging With POTUS And FLOTUS
When you rack up the Olympic medals the way the U.S. women did, you get to meet some pretty cool people (besides Zac Efron). Four of the five members of the team traveled to Washington, D.C., where they visited and took over the White House Instagram account. Hernandez practiced her dance moves in the East Wing and the gang (minus Douglas, who was recovering from having her wisdom teeth out) stretched to loosen up before meeting Barack and Michelle Obama, vice president Joe Biden and first dogs Bo and Sunny. The gymnasts also Instagramed themselves juggling fruit with the First Lady and showing off their splits with POTUS, who proved to be not quite as limber as the ladies when he attempted his own splits.
Hernandez Wins “Dancing With The Stars”
First Olympic gold and silver medals, then the mirror ball. Hernandez and partner Val Chmerkovskiy edged IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe and former NFLer Calvin Johnson doing the foxtrot and the Argentine tango on the final night of the reality competition. Hernandez is the youngest winner in the history of the show and joined Shawn Johnson as the only dual Olympic gymnasts and DWTS champions. Nastia Liukin and “Final Five” teammate Raisman each finished fourth when they competed on the show.
What an incredible week💛 pic.twitter.com/2IcuNoCDiw— Laurie Hernandez ➶ (@lzhernandez02) November 23, 2016
Raisman Says Yes To Underwood
Former NFL tight end Colton Underwood, now a free agent, asked Raisman out in a very public way, posting a video on social media in August that ended up going viral. His then-Oakland Raiders teammate Andrew East is married to Shawn Johnson, so Underwood thought a double date might be in order whenever Raisman’s schedule slowed down and she found herself in Northern California. Raisman tweeted her thanks and said she was looking forward to meeting him, and then the pair showed up together on the red carpet in mid-December for the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Ceremony in New York. They revealed that they’d been dating since the VMAs in August.
@Colt3FIVE thanks for the sweet video.... looking forward to meeting you :)— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) August 21, 2016