With the withdrawal of US female gymnast Simone Biles and the inelegant retirement of legendary Japanese male gymnast Kōhei Uchimura, 32, the men’s and women’s team finals had a few surprises. Two Asian Americans–Yul Moldauer and Sunisa Lee, head for individual apparatus finals this weekend with Lee competing tomorrow (Thursday) for all-around.
Seven-time Olympic medalist Uchimura was on the Japanese men’s team as an individual event specialist (high bar) and not part of the team competition which is composed of Olympic newbies. Uchimura had competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics winning a team and an all-around silver. At the London Olympics in 2012, he earned a team silver, a gold for all-around and a floor silver. In the 2015 Rio de Janeiro games, he got a team gold and an all-around gold.
Both men’s and women’s team Olympic gold went to Russia, a country that in normal times wouldn’t even be there. Officially, Russia as a country isn’t competing. It’s the Russian Olympic Committee because Russia as a country has been banned from international competition until 2022 because of the widespread doping of athletes.
In the men’s team final on Monday, Russia won with a 262.500 score against Japan’s 262.397. This is the closest team final since the international Gymnastics Federation changed the scoring system in 2006. Great Britain finished third and, for the third straight time, the US finished fifth. The US had been fourth on Saturday with Japan, China and Russia ahead of them, but those scores don’t count for the finals.
Wednesday, at the men’s individual all-around final, you won’t see Korean American Yul Moldauer. He’s qualified for the floor exercise. Men’s floor exercise final is Sunday, Aug. 1.
Biles withdrew after the first rotation which had the US women in vault. Biles posted a 13.766, which was not the lowest score for that event (Belgium’s Jutta Verkest earned 13.466 and China’s Xijing Tang a 12.600, Jin Zhang, at 14.066 and Yushan Ou, a 12.700), but it was the lowest score for the US team.
In the team finals, three team members compete. Besides Biles, Jordan Chiles (14.666) and Grace McCallum (14.3) posted scores on vault. Asian American Sunisa Lee, 18, did not compete on this apparatus. Without Biles on board, Lee was the gymnast who led the team to a silver medal. Lee posted the team high score in the uneven parallel bars with 15.4 (Chiles had 14.166 and McCallum, 13.7). On balance beam, Lee earned a 14.133 (Chiles, 13.433 and McCallum, 13.666). On floor, Lee earned 13.666 (Chiles 11.7 and McCallum, 13.6).
Women’s all-around final is Thursday, July 29. Biles qualified for this event, but she will not compete. Jade Carey will replace her. Lee qualified for the all-around as well uneven bars (Sunday) and balance beam (Tuesday). Lee had already made Olympic history as the first Olympic gymnast of Hmong descent.
Other women of Asian descent competing for all-around include Yun-seo. Lee of South Korea, Kim Bui (Vietnamese mother and Laos father) of Germany, Mai Murakami of Japan, Xijing Tang of China, Yufei Lu of China.