RIO DE JANEIRO — If it were up to Aly Raisman, the U.S. would be credited with gold medal A and gold medal B in the floor exercise finals Tuesday. Not because Raisman thinks she’s the best. Quite the contrary.
“I think it was after all-around and before floor, [teammate] Laurie Hernandez was like, ‘If you get silver again, you’re the best because Simone doesn’t count,’ ” Raisman recalled with a laugh. “We just don’t consider ourselves competing against her. … It’s like she’s just on another level.”
Both levels were put on display as the Olympic gymnastics competition came to a close with Simone Biles and Raisman repeating the gold-silver finishes they had in all-around with stirring performances on floor to bring the team total to nine medals, a U.S. women’s gymnastics record.
In addition to the dominating team gold-medal performance (eight points over silver medalist China), Biles won four individual medals (three gold, one bronze), Raisman won two silver, and Hernandez and Madison Kocian won one silver apiece.
“There’s probably a list of things we’ve all done well here,” Biles said when asked to rank, “but I think me and Aly put the cherry on top.”
Both gymnasts received their high scores of the competition: a 15.966 for Biles, and for Raisman, who won Olympic gold in floor in 2012, a 15.5.
For Biles, who received a thunderous ovation from the Olympic Arena crowd in introductions, floor was a fitting conclusion. Bouncing through a routine with the most difficult start value in the competition, the 19-year-old shook off the fact that she had taken part in every day of Olympic gymnastics competition, and soared to heights that drew audible gasps during each of the three times she performed it.
Aly Raisman earned the silver behind the incomprable Simone Biles. Biles finished the games with four golds and a bronze medal. Alex Livesey/Getty Images
“I think it was actually good that floor was last because she can get a little amped up on floor and then she has a harder time controlling the landings,” Biles’ coach Aimee Boorman said. “So being a little fatigued was actually better for her landings because she can still get up in the air pretty high.”
“High enough to walk under,” Boorman said.
As for nerves, it was a nonfactor for a performer who consistently embraced the entertainment element of her sport. Sending Biles out to her final routine in Rio, Boorman’s instructions were simple.
“I said, ‘Last performance of the Olympics. Go do your thing.’ ” Boorman said. “And I just think that’s how she approached it.”
Biles said there was a sense of relief upon finishing her routine but another emotion might have been stronger.
“It’s kind of sad how fast this whole thing went,” she said. “I’ve competed every single day of the competition, but you just keep pushing and keep going. I’m excited that it’s over, but I’m kind of sad, too.”
It was a similar feeling for Raisman as she followed two competitors later, second-to-last.
“It was really special because it was the best floor routine I could have possibly done,” she said. “I haven’t gotten a 15.5 since I’ve been here, so it was really awesome and it was just a really great way to finish. …
“Marta [Karolyi, the U.S. national team coordinator] told us we were the final two, so she expected us to finish with a bang.”
The Latino-American gymnast, part of the now-famous Final Five, returns home with a couple of medals to a country where everyone knows her name.
For Raisman, who ranks second among U.S. gymnasts with six Olympic medals [three in London, three in Rio], the obvious question is whether this was the final performance of the 22-year-old’s career, or at least her Olympic career. The only plan she would reveal for sure was a pizza party to be hosted by her and Biles, and a team final viewing party when they return home. But she sure didn’t sound like an athlete about to retire.
“I just say I get better with age so maybe I will [continue],” Raisman said. “I feel like it’s obviously very hard to get to this point and it’s not always fun. It’s getting back into this crazy shape that we’re in right now. But I love gymnastics, I really enjoy competing and I surpassed my expectations and everyone else’s. So I’m definitely on a high right now. But I think I’ll take some time off, take a break and then we’ll come back to the gym and see how it goes.”
Raisman’s coach Mihai Brestyan said he, too, was sad watching Raisman walk off the floor, but hopeful.
“I hope she’ll be back because I think she learned something from the previous Olympic Games … and she still has a good shot for the next four years,” he said. “I believe that in my soul. At the level she is now, young kids are coming up but with no experience. It would be very hard to catch up.
Raisman will be 26 in 2020 when the Summer Games are held in Tokyo.
“Twenty-six is not old,” Brestyan said. “She says all the time ‘I’m 22, I’m old.’ And I say, ‘No, you’re not. This is the best body, the best brain, the best experience you can have. If you can put all this together, you’ll be the best and at the end of the day. She proved she can.”
So too did her U.S. teammates who will lose Karolyi as their coordinator but are not expecting a drop-off in the next four years.
“I feel fantastic,” said Karolyi, who is retiring with the Games’ conclusion. “I think the girls did an excellent job and again made a statement about the high level of U.S. Gymnastics. I’m so proud of these girls. And I’m so proud this training system in the U.S. really showed the superiority and competitiveness with the other systems. So I’m going out very happy and very satisfied.”
For Biles, it was even simpler than that.
“I just hope people remember our passion and drive for the sport, and our good sportsmanship with each other,” she said. “[We believe] just to have fun with it and I think that’s what we all did and I think that’s why we were so successful.”