Simone Biles competed in these Olympics as Tokyo’s premier athlete; a person who creates a new lexicon and limits. Her supremacy seemed indisputable.
The sight of her marching stone face out of the gym arena yesterday, fussy avoiding eye contact with those who wanted to ask questions about her performance, was a salutary reminder that no one is above the competition. The uncertainties of sport are what makes it so appealing.
Some perspective is needed. Biles made three extraordinary false steps, with flawed jumps on the beam and vault, as well as a twisting double back flip that sent her flying outside the lines to the floor.
Simone Biles gave her rivals hope for a rare day off for the American at the Olympics
The 24-year-old made unusual mistakes during her beam, jump and floor exercises
However, Biles could have five golds around her neck by the end of the game on Tuesday dinsdag
She failed to finalize the uneven bars. Nevertheless, she still finished first in the all-round qualifier and was able to win five golds in the final on Tuesday.
But there was evidence of mortality and possibly even complacency. After the jump on the jump that caused her right foot to fall off the mat, came a lively facial expression that is destined to become one of the iconic clips of this Games.
Biles rolled her eyes and gave a sheepish grin. At the time, it was hard to avoid thinking that talking about her insurmountableness had only taken away a fraction of the competitive advantage.
Her landing was the most shocking. Biles had barely been to the arena at the time and was backpacking the Americans in a way that suggested impatience to compete.
The loud contingent of her compatriots at the Ariake Gymnastics Center gasped as she landed off the mat and even the beige raised competition floor.
Her awkward landing, several inches below the level of the mat, could have damaged her ankle ligament.
There was redemption on the vault, where her second appearance was the most notable of the day – although so far there has been no sign of the highly anticipated Yurchenko double pike that no woman has ever attempted in competition.
But on beam, which has always put her to the test, she flipped her full-twisting double somersault backwards, stumbling out of the landing position and racked up a clearly disappointing 14,066 points, the seventh best performance of the day in that discipline.
There’s no time to regain your balance or catch your breath when you’re Biles. Blushing after the floor display, the 24-year-old waved her hand at herself.
The Russian female gymnasts outdid their American counterparts on an interesting day
A camera crew from the stadium immediately loomed over her and she regained her public personality and blew a kiss to the seating area.
It didn’t help that her teammates were clearly below their expected level, adding to what had become a US National Inquisition by the end of the day as the gymnasts representing Russia qualified for the team event ahead of them.
Divided opinion, USA Gymnastics performance director Tom Forster was held accountable – he admitted Biles’ stepping outside the boundaries hadn’t exactly helped.
When asked how the team could improve for tomorrow’s final, he said: “Repair steps on the floor. Simone took three big steps and I’ve never seen her do that. These things are all repairable.’
But it was a much worse day for Jordan Chiles, whose 32nd place in the all-around standings was way below expectations of members of a US team.
MyKayla Skinner, controversially preselected for individual disciplines and not the team event in the US, will now not win a medal, despite outperforming Grace McCallum, who did make the team.
It was also a day to forget for the likes of Jordan Chiles (pictured) and Grace McCallum
Strangely enough, Forster insisted that selection decisions were not made on the basis of medals alone. “We didn’t make decisions about a few tenths for a medal,” he said. Many Americans would think he should have done that.
The hand-wringing was a long way from the refreshing result for the young British team, who had competed three hours earlier.
17-year-old twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova had minimal experience with international competition.
But their outstanding performances put them both in the All-Round finals for the top 24 gymnasts from the qualifier. They also helped Great Britain to the final for the top eight teams.
It was on the floor that the sisters’ supreme confidence was most evident, with Jessica’s score in that discipline being fourth best in qualifying and less than a tenth of a point behind Biles.
The joy the couple expressed afterwards, in an interview with Sportsmail, contrasted sharply with the Americans’ reluctance to speak.
Twins Jennifer (pictured) and Jessica Gadirova both made it to the all-round final
“I love making floors so much,” said Jennifer, who finished tenth there. ‘I like performing. Not many people can because they are so nervous and find it difficult to interact with other people through their emotions. I think that’s something me and my sister are really good at and really work on.”
She was one place outside the top eight, which would have seen her reach the floor final, though Jessica made it by a big margin.
The decision to leave Becky Downie out of the team remains controversial. The uneven bars score – where Downie excels – was 2,400 lower than qualifying for the world championship last year.
It was a particularly tough session for Alice Kinsella, whose disappointing landings in uneven bars and jump left her visibly upset.
Biles and Co will definitely be back with something to prove. “We had to work on some things before the final,” said Foster, who insisted his team hadn’t taken winning for granted. “This could be a good awakening for us. And we’ll take it.’