Lee Extends U.S. Gold Tradition, Andrade Wins Historic Silver

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Angelina Melnikova, Sunisa Lee, and Rebeca Andrade

All of the worries I had about the potential for chaos in the women’s all-around final were put to rest when the three contenders put together truly outstanding performances, ending with a win for Sunisa Lee of the United States narrowly ahead of Rebeca Andrade of Brazil and Angelina Melnikova of Russia.

Lee, 18, became the first Asian American all-around champion with her win here, as well as the first Hmong Olympic champion in history. She is the sixth woman from the U.S. to win an Olympic all-around title, and the fifth in a row, following in the footsteps of Carly Patterson in 2004, Nastia Liukin in 2008, Gabby Douglas in 2012, and Simone Biles in 2016.

As if competing in her first individual final wasn’t enough on its own, Lee also became the focus as the top all-around medal hopeful for the U.S. after Simone Biles withdrew, massively increasing the pressure on her in this moment. She handled it about as masterfully as she did anchoring floor in the team final earlier in the week, though, and while she said she felt her performances weren’t her best, especially on bars, what she did so well was fight back from mistakes that could have otherwise been disastrous. Her Nabieva wasn’t her strongest, but she still worked out her full difficulty bars set, and she had a couple of moments on beam where it looked like she’d come off, but each time, she took a breath, reset, and kept going.

Lee had one of her strongest performances on vault, and wrapped up the meet with a clean and strong floor routine, where she played it safe with three passes, focusing on quality over quantity to seal the gold. She showed a masterful control over one of the most difficulty programs in the world, and did it with beauty and grace under pressure.

Coming into the competition with the top all-around score from qualifications, Andrade was also under tons of pressure to perform here, and she did it beautifully, becoming the first Brazilian woman to win an Olympic medal in the history of the sport.

Andrade worked with the same difficulty as Lee, and the two were nearly tied after two events, with Andrade standing out on vault while Lee stood out on bars. While beam is probably Andrade’s weakest apparatus in general, I found her routine pretty brilliant here, and was shocked when her execution came in under an 8.0.

Going back and watching a video more closely, though, I do see lots of little things that added up, like checks and adjustments on skills that I couldn’t see from the stands, body position deductions on several of her dance and acro landings, a low front leg in her split ring jump, and then there was that large step back on the dismount…Lee had a couple of more noticeable mistakes, but overall I think it’s safe to say that Lee has a fewer of those “little things” that Andrade has, and she’s also coming in with half a point more in difficulty, giving her what she needed to take over the lead going into the final rotation.

Floor was where Andrade had the ability to take that lead back, but unfortunately, it looked like she just came in with a bit too much adrenaline, going out of bounds twice to pick up four tenths in penalties, which put her 0.135 back from the lead, but Andrade didn’t care. She said later that she didn’t think there was anything she would have done differently, adding that she was so proud of the outcome.

“I don’t mind whether it’s gold, silver, bronze, or even if I did not have a medal,” Andrade told the press following the competition. “I had a great performance.”

Melnikova was more than a point back in difficulty compared to the top two in the field, so it’s a testament to how well she performed that she managed the bronze just over two tenths back from Lee and less than one tenth back from Andrade.

Between the three, Melnikova had the best execution on bars, beam, and floor, and aside from a small issue with her mount series on beam, she was fantastic, putting up top-four scores on every event. I thought after leading the Russians to gold in the team final two nights earlier could have potentially affected her in the final, but it seems becoming an Olympic champion only fueled her fire. As the baby of the team in 2016 who missed out on the all-around final due to a weak qualifications, it’s been incredible to see the work Melnikova has done to get here over the past five years, and I’m anticipating more great performances from her in the final.

Melnikova’s young teammate, Vladislava Urazova, was also fantastic here, also putting together one of the cleanest performances in the competition to finish fourth just a couple tenths back from the podium. Urazova, who had the best beam routine of the meet and who was also fantastic on bars, unfortunately just didn’t have the floor difficulty to contend with the rest of the field, but she showed that staying clean and consistent also matters, and I think this is just the beginning for her.

Rounding out the top eight were Murakami Mai of Japan in fifth with a 56.032, Nina Derwael of Belgium in sixth with a 55.965, Tang Xijing of China in seventh with a 54.498, and Jade Carey of the United States in eighth with a 54.199.

The comeback Murakami put on after a rough qualifications was fantastic. Finishing 23rd in prelims with a fall, Murakami came back and showed some of her strongest work on all four events to climb the rankings here to reach one of the best all-around scores of her career while also breaking the record for Japan’s best all-around finish in history, surpassing Tanaka Keiko’s sixth-place standing at both the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games.

Derwael was also very strong here, hitting a strong Yurchenko 1½ on vault as well as her typically strong work on bars and floor, but she was a bit shakier on beam than she was in prelims, holding her total score back a bit, though she recovered well within the routine to count a hit, and like Murakami, she made history as Belgium’s top all-arounder ever at the Olympic Games, breaking her own record from 2016, where she finished 19th.

Tang had a fall on beam, but made it through the rest of her routines well enough to finish in the top eight, and she hit her Yurchenko double full on vault, which she missed in the team final. Carey also fell on beam, but had a strong Cheng, clean bars, and mostly solid floor routine to finish strong.

Both German women had incredibly strong competitions, with Elisabeth Seitz placing ninth with a 54.066 while Kim Bui, competing in her first Olympic all-around final at 32, ended up 17th with a 52.998. I was also happy to see strong competitions from Carolann Heduit of France (12th with a 53.565), Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland (15th with a 53.366), and Brooklyn Moors (16th with a 53.299).

The Gadirova twins both had mistakes to hold back their total potential, with Jessica missing her flight series on beam, while Jennifer had a big break on a pirouette on bars. Still, the two placed 10th and 13th with scores of 53.965 and 53.533, respectively, and Jessica’s finish ended up being Great Britain’s best in history, breaking Becky Downie‘s 12th-place record set in 2008.

Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France was one of my podium hopefuls here, but she unfortunately looked a bit rattled in the competition, wobbling throughout most of her skills on beam, coming up short on most of her floor landings, and looking a bit out-of-sorts on bars. She did make it through without any falls, and it was great to see her fight throughout the evening, and she finished 11th with a 53.698.

Zsofia Kovacs of Hungary had a strong performance on three of her events, but fell on beam, and finished 14th with a 53.433, while Lu Yufei of China had a fall on bars, big wobbles on beam, and some iffy landings on floor to place 18th with a 52.799.

Both Italians also had some mistakes, though Martina Maggio did some of her nicest work on beam and floor, finishing 19th with a 52.565, while Alice D’Amato had several excellent passes on floor, finishing 20th with a 51.899. There was also a weird fall from Lee Yun-seo of South Korea, who fell onto the beam, but her bars were gorgeous as always, and she wound up 21st with a 51.632, tying 1988 team member Park Ji-suk as her country’s best Olympic all-arounder in history, and Roxana Popa of Spain had two falls on bars on top of a fall on beam to finish 22nd with a 51.533, but the majority of her bars was fantastic, and she was gorgeous on floor.

Jutta Verkest of Belgium finished 23rd with a 51.232, showing some excellent work on floor, while Lieke Wevers of the Netherlands, who came into the final as a last-minute replacement for the injured Ellie Black of Canada, had a shaky beam and a fall on floor, but a beautiful bars set to finish 24th with a 51.098.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

26 thoughts on “Lee Extends U.S. Gold Tradition, Andrade Wins Historic Silver

  1. Urazova’s BB was the most delightfull thing I have seen on this apparatus for years. She WAS balance beam. She doesn’t have yet the D scores on all events but TRUE talent.
    It’s a shame judges can reward Derwael’s “artistry” on FX to compensate her lack of D there but can’t apply the same for an artist on BB.
    We’ll never know if Listunova could have repeated her TF performance on all 4s but I decided a russian that hits BB three times in a row doesn’t exist.

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  2. Can we also say how gracious each one was to each other?! 😉
    As for RU, the trio of Listy, Vlada, and Gelya will go a long way! RU is in better shape now than even back in the day of vika and musty.

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    • It would probably take more than one miracle for this to happen …. the list of promising russians disintegrarting after their 1st year as seniors is endless. I definitely see Urazova compete for a couple of more years, alongisde Melnikova. Listunova we’ll see (her talent is not the question, of course, just like Grishina’s). Russia can probably do without Gerasimova. Minaeva is more like my dark horse for the years to come. I see huge talent !

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      • Listunova and Grishina are very different: Grishina didn’t succeed in getting on the beam in London (she had asked Mustafina to replace her), while Listunova saved the Russian team on the beam…

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        • I agree they are different and you are right. I compared them only based on pure talent and Grishina’s was absolutely huge. What I meant was not only mental (yes Listunova is MUCH more the fighter). It’s also how they grow physically and emotionnally … like around 16/17 … turning senior is a whole bunch of things. And – not only Russia, but Russia has the “leadership” on that field – many young seniors are lost in this sport after their 17s. But I really really hope Listunova keeps going like the star she is right now.

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  3. Where can I watch the finals afterward? I’m on the east cost and they are in the middle of the night… and unfortunately, I can’t find any full competition videos to watch it the next day 😦
    Thanks so much for your blogs, Lauren! ❤

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    • When you say you’re on the east coast, I’m assuming you’re American? nbcolympics.com has all of the streams archived on the website. You can go to the gymnastics page and should be able to find replays there.

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      • It’s still on nbcolympics.com. You can choose the primetime coverage, the full coverage that was done live and broadcast on Peacock, or an apparatus feed. Definitely watch the coverage of the actual event rather than the primetime coverage. They showed a lot more gymnasts and the commentators, while not great, were at least better than primetime. The only thing you miss is the videos of the family watch parties. I love those but you can google to see them.

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    • I paid 4.99/month for peacock premium. Once the Olympic is over you can cancel it. Peacock premium has the gymnastic program in archives and you just click replay to watch it.

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  4. Isnt Suni also the first Asian in general to ever win the WAG AA title? Not just Asian American, Hmong, but ASIAN EVER TO WIN THE WOMENS AA AT THE OLYMPICS? I know Nelli Kim is half Korean BUT was 2nd to Nadia, and 2004 Zhang Nan was 3rd and 2008 Yang Yilin was 3rd as well.

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    • I didn’t want to make that claim without knowing for a fact if there are other Olympic AA champions who have Asian heritage. I think it’s correct, but don’t know for sure (especially because I have a friend from the Central Asian area of Russia and she is part Asian even though she is white-passing). I think it’s fair to say for sure that she’s the first East or Southeast Asian, and I don’t think any of the Soviet champions are Asian, but again, didn’t want to make this claim for sure without knowing 100%.

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      • The great Nelli Kim was born in Tadjikistan, part of Asia with Sakhlin Korean descent
        Elvira Saadi was from Uzbekistan, also in Asia
        (I hope it’s related to your post Lauren !)

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      • I do believe Suni is the first ever Asian to win. But thats a lot of 23andme for each past winner to be 100% sure – smile. Curious as I looked at the MAG history and they have had 8 Asian men to win the AA at the Olympics. Why do you think there is such a difference with the women?

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  5. Latest update: simone has withdrawn from vt and ub ef. Skinner is back in!
    As her coach said, this is not exactly how you want the opportunity, but you take it! I can’t wait to see carey and skinner in the vt final as well as suni again in the ub ef!!!

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    • Maybe Tom was a complete sage to have pick skinner for the +1 individual to back up on vt ef? lol… if you look at everyone competing at trials regarding having 3 persons competing to back up on any EF, there is really no one better or available that has as good of a chance in any event as skinner is on vt!

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      • Very strong US back up for sure, as expected, but none at all on UB/BB/FX (because who expects Biles to compete these two later events ?). We’ll know at the very end if Foster was a ‘sage’ …
        Glad Skinner gets this final experience.

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        • I think anything positive that comes from the team choice is definitely not a function of Tom being ‘sage’. I thought that well before Simone’s issues. I think he figured he could choose the team he wanted rather than the team that made strategic sense because it wouldn’t matter since there was Simone.

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        • It’s hard to blame Foster for not having found the right strategy, because it seems to me (now) the only right one would have been to have Biles as an individuel and Skinner on the team. But he would have been sort of a genius to imagine this … nobody did, and would have required nuts he may not have.
          Had Biles stated sooner she wanted to compete for herself and not for the system (or the “people” or whatever/whoever) it would have helped him (actually maybe she did …. that would be another story).

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  6. Does anyone know how the warming up before the AA went for Biles? There was little surprise when she didn’t compete on bars among coaches and team mates. Did they know it was going to happen?

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