U.S. wins gold in women’s gymnastics
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Martha Karolyi leaned forward, her hands clutching the railing in front of her seat. Knuckles white. Head tilted. Body tense.
It didn't matter that the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team had already sewn up the team gold by the time three-time world champion Simone Biles saluted the floor exercise judges during the final event on Tuesday night.
Winning isn't enough for Karolyi. Never has been. For 90 seconds the longtime national team coordinator leaned one way and then another, following Biles' every move. Only after Biles' score was posted – one that served as an exclamation point on two hours of nearly flawless gymnastics – did the architect of a dynasty relax.
Then, something else happened. Something she never saw coming. She started crying. And not just a little.
"I pride normally being very tough," Karolyi said. "I was 'Oh, what's happening to me? What is this?'"
The 73-year-old is stepping away from the program she has spent the last 15 years turning into one of the most dominant forces at the Olympics. Her athletes – all of whom she's nurtured from prodigies to champions – repaid her hard work with a fitting tribute of precision and tenacity.
Twenty-eight times in two days they stepped up to compete. And 28 times they hit. No falls. No major wobbles. Nothing but brilliance.
The U.S. posted a score of 184.897, more than eight points clear of silver medalist Russia and nearly nine more than bronze medalist China while winning its second straight Olympic title and third overall, a margin greater than the one that propelled the "Fierce Five" to victory in London four years ago.
The group – Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez – dubbed themselves "The Final Five" as a nod to Karolyi.
"It's perfect," Biles said. "It's Martha's last year. We wanted it to be meaningful."