Tokyo, Aug 1, 2021 — Sunisa Lee will have her carry-on stuffed with medals when she heads back to the United States.
The 18-year-old Olympic gymnastics champion from Minnesota added a bronze in the uneven bars finals on Sunday. Lee earned a silver in the team competition on Tuesday before grabbing gold in the all-around on Thursday.
Lee has endured a bit of the usual whirlwind that comes with the territory when you win an Olympic title. The three days since her star-making triumph has featured the usual trappings of instant fame: from the social media shoutouts by celebrities to a crush of new followers on Instagram to a series of interviews.
She and Nina Derwael of Belgium are the two best bar workers in the world, their routines are jam-packed with a series of difficult connections and releases strung together with such ease it seems like they’re making it up as they go along.
Wearing a dazzling crystal-laden blue leotard, Lee led off and wasn’t quite as crisp as usual. She failed to connect a couple of elements early in her set, costing her tenths of a point along the way.
Derwael, a two-time world champion in the event, was a little more fluid. Her 15.2 was easily the highest of the night and gave Belgium it’s first-ever gold in artistic gymnastics.
It was simply the last in a series of historic firsts in the event finals.
All-around silver medalist Rebeca Andrade of Brazil gave her country its first-ever Olympic gold in gymnastics by soaring to victory in vault. Andrade’s Cheng — where her block is so big it seems as if she just leapt off the catwalk above the competition floor — received a 15.166 even though she stepped out of bounds on her dismount. She followed with an Amanar that finished with a couple of tiny hops that gave her a two-vault average of 15.083.
McKayla Skinner, who only entered the competition after teammate and defending Olympic champion Simone Biles opted out of the finals so she could focus on her mental health, claimed silver. The 24-year-old Skinner confidently drilled her Cheng and Amanar and the medal finished off a remarkable comeback story.
Skinner was an alternate on the 2016 Olympic team before heading to college at Utah. She returned to elite competition in 2019 but was sidetracked during the pandemic when she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and then pneumonia last winter. She made the Olympic team as a “plus-one” and only missed the vault finals because International Gymnastics Federation rules that permit only two athletes from one country in each final and Skinner finished behind Biles and Jade Carey in qualifying.
She didn’t look like a fill-in during the final competition of her career. She is retiring after the Games.
Yeo Seojeong of South Korea took the bronze.
Israel earned its first medal in gymnastics — and just the second gold medal in the country’s Summer Olympic history — when Artem Dolgopyat edged Rayderley Zapata of Spain in the floor exercise final. The two gymnasts finished with the same score (14.833) but Dolgopyat claimed gold because he did the more difficult routine. Xiao Ruoteng of China took bronze to go with the silver he earned in the men’s all-around and the bronze China won in the team finals.
Max Whitlock of Britain defended his Olympic title on pommel horse with a dazzling set that earned him a score of 15.533, the highest on any event of the night. Lee Chih Kai of Taiwan earned silver, with Kazuma Kaya of Japan winning bronze.
The event finals continue on Monday with the men’s vault and still rings finals and the women’s finals in floor exercise. Biles, the defending Olympic champion on the event, removed herself from the competition. The decision opened the door for first reserve Jennifer Gadirova to compete against her sister Jessica in the finals. – AP