(L to R) Gold medalists Alexandra Raisman, Madison Kocian, Lauren Hernandez, Simone Biles and Gabrielle Douglas pose for photographs on the podium at the medal ceremony for the artistic gymnastics women's team competition at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 at the Rio Olympic Arena on Aug. 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The “Final Five” were a history-making bunch.
Competing at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team of Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman won a total of nine medals.
No U.S. team has topped that, and no team has won more since the Soviet Union won 10 in 1972 in Munich.
So what does a gymnast do after achieving such a feat?
Take a break.
(Well, after the 38-stop post-Olympic tour, of course)
None of the Final Five gymnasts are competing this weekend, as the P&G Gymnastics Championships are underway through Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. But all hope is not lost for fans hoping to see more of the “Final Five.”
None of the gymnasts has officially retired from the sport, and at least three have said they plan to return to training for elite gymnastics in the near future.
And if you really just want to see the “Final Five” this weekend, you’re in luck there, too. All five will be on site as part of their induction into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame. They’ll be inducted in a private ceremony on Saturday and also be recognized during the final night of women’s competition on Sunday.
Here’s a look at the 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team, and what they’re up to now.
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The good news for gymnastics fans is that Simone Biles is planning to return to the sport. Biles, the most decorated U.S. women’s gymnast, says she’ll resume training this fall at the World Champions Centre — the Houston-area gym owned by her parents — and plans to return to competition in 2018. Biles’ four-year run from 2013 to Rio was unprecedented in the sport, as she followed up three world all-around titles with the Olympic gold medal. In total she has five Olympic medals (four gold) and 14 world championships medals (10 gold). During a post-Rio break from gymnastics, Biles, now 20, has released an autobiography, taken home awards at the ESPYs and Kids’ Choice Awards, and been involved with advocacy groups promoting healthy living and support for foster children (of which she was one). She even signed on as an executive producer for her own Lifetime biopic, due out in early 2018. But for Biles fans, perhaps the most controversial moment on her post-Rio life came on May 15, when she and partner Sasha Farber were eliminated from “Dancing With the Stars” in fourth place.
It was easy to have your huge accomplishments be overshadowed by Simone Biles in 2016. Just look at Gabby Douglas. Four years after winning the 2012 Olympic all-around title as a peppy 16-year-old “flying squirrel,” a more mature Douglas came back and made her second Olympic team in 2016. It marked the first time the all-around champion returned to another Games since Nadia Comaneci did it for Romania in 1976 and 1980. Douglas, whose 2012 feat made her the first black gymnast to win an Olympic all-around title, had a more limited role once she got to Rio, but that’s not because she was limited as a gymnast. She just happened to be part of a team stacked with generational talent. Just look at the qualifying round. Of 59 gymnasts, Douglas posted the third best all-around score. She would have been a medal favorite. But because the two gymnasts who finished higher were both Americans, Douglas never had that opportunity. Originally from Virginia, Douglas is now 21 and living in Southern California. She told NBC Sports last month that she was keeping her options open for a return to gymnastics, but in the meantime she’s pursuing opportunities in acting.
“I got this,” Laurie Hernandez told herself as she prepared to mount the balance beam in the Rio team finals. And she did. The 16-year-old nailed her routine to help Team USA win its second consecutive gold medal. Then she added a silver medal in the individual balance beam four days later. By the time she returned home, the charismatic “Human Emoji” was a breakout star of the Games — a star that only rose when she and partner Val Chmerkovskiy won “Dancing With the Stars” in November 2016. Since then, the youngest member of the U.S. team has been enjoying life as she travels the country for appearances. And, oh yeah, she’s about to begin her senior year of high school. Hernandez, now 17, says she will return to the gym “soon,” but didn’t specify a timeline for a return to competition.
One “Final Five” member has competed since Rio. Madison Kocian went straight from Rio to college at UCLA, with some stops on the post-Rio tour mixed in. The team-focused NCAA environment is a departure from the ultra-competitive and individualistic elite circuit, and it’s an avenue that several Olympians have thrived in. Kocian was one of them. A 2015 world champion and 2016 Olympic silver medalist on the uneven bars, she became a top all-arounder for UCLA, earned four All-America honors and even scored some perfect 10s — all while battling a shoulder injury that she sustained at last summer’s Olympic trials. Kocian, now 20, is set to begin her sophomore year at UCLA, but she hasn’t entirely ruled out a return to elite gymnastics. “It’s just a matter of if I feel like I need to do anything else before closing that door,” she told NBC Sports last month. “It’s still open.”
Another overshadowed story from 2016? Aly Raisman not only came back to make her second Olympic team at age 22, but she quietly put together one of the best years ever for a U.S. gymnast. Embracing her “Grandma Aly” nickname, Raisman took plenty of naps as she marched her way to Rio, where she contributed three strong scores in the team final and then won an all-around silver medal. Just how impressive was Raisman? Her all-around score of 60.098 was 1.433 points higher than the third-place finisher, Aliya Mustafina of Russia. The next seven gymnasts finished within 1.433 points of Mustafina. Of course, all of that can get lost when Biles scores 62.198. Nonetheless, Raisman added a silver medal in floor exercise to go with her 2012 gold medal in the event, and now has six Olympic medals to her name. So how does one follow up a performance like that? Raisman has used her star power to promote issues such as positive body image and de-stigmatizing periods. She also has a memoir set to release in November. As far as a third Olympic Games in Tokyo? Raisman hasn’t closed the door, noting that she took more than a year off after London, and that worked out pretty well for her.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009, including the gymnastics national championships and Olympic trials every year since 2011, on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.