Russian Team Beats Team USA in Women’s Gymnastics at Tokyo Olympics

Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova smiles as she sticks her final landing on her floor routine during the all-around final.

The Russian Olympic Committee’s women’s gymnastics team stunned Team USA in the final by winning the team gold medal.

On July 27, the ROC’s team, headlined by 21-year-old Russian team veteran and 2016 Olympic team silver medalist, Angelina Melnikova, won their first team gold medal since 1992, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This stunned Team USA, who had not lost the team final since 2008.

Team USA was highly favored to win gold in the team final in large part due to 24-year-old team veteran and seven-time Olympic medalist (including four gold medals), Simone Biles, who is arguably the best gymnast in the world. However, after a poor vault in the qualifying round, Biles withdrew from the rest of the team competition to focus on her mental health.

“I felt like it would be better to take a back seat,” Biles said. “I didn’t want to risk the team a medal because they worked way too hard for my screw-ups.”

Despite this setback, Team USA’s gymnasts remained within a point of the ROC’s team for the remainder of the competition until Melnikova put up a stellar 13.966 point floor routine, clinching the team gold for the ROC.

“I knew that it was depending on me and I was feeling overwhelming happiness and I knew I did it,” Melnikova said. “I knew I had done my job.”

Melnikova cried tears of joy upon seeing her score posted and was congratulated along with the rest of her Russian teammates by Biles and the other Americans. Both teams hugged and high-fived each other in a display of sportsmanship after the final scores were posted.

The ROC finished with a total of 196.528 points, nearly 3.5 points ahead of Team USA, who finished with the team silver. Great Britain finished with the team bronze.

Melnikova went on to win bronze in both the individual all-around and floor competitions. Biles returned to win bronze in the individual beam competition.