RIO DE JANEIRO – Three down, two to go for Simone Biles, as the American sensation seeks to become the first gymnast to win five gold medals in a single Olympics (only six are possible).
Biles had little trouble taking the vault here at Rio Olympic Arena on Sunday, delivering an average score of 15.966 to handily beat Maria Paseka of Russia at 15.253. Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland took home the bronze.
Biles’ mark is the highest score ever recorded in a vault final in either an Olympics or world championship.
She scored a 15.9 on her first jump, an Amanar, which requires two-and-a-half twists in the backward salto position and has a 6.3 degree of difficulty. She delivered a 16.033 on her second, the Cheng, a stretched flip with one-and-a-half twists that has a 6.4 difficulty rating.
The 19-year-old from Spring, Texas, previously won the women’s all around gold and was part of the United States championship in the team competition.
She competes in beam on Monday, while Tuesday brings floor. She has produced the highest scores in each of those disciplines throughout the week – qualifying, team and all-around.
Biles did not reach the uneven bars final (Madison Kocian and Gabby Douglas are handling that for the Americans). That is the only thing that may keep her from the perfect Olympics, perhaps leaving a carrot for her to chase in 2020 or some future gymnastics genius.
At this point, five is the goal but three will more than do. Biles jumped around and beamed at the victory, fulfilling her promise to take every day here as its own blessing and not try to focus on the totality of the potential domination. The crowd, thrilled to see a gymnast of obvious historic ability, roared every time she appeared on the big screen and went wild on each attempt.
So obvious was her victory that other competitors congratulated her even before her final score came in.
Two competitors, India’s Dipa Karmakar and Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina, attempted vault’s most difficult and dangerous leap, the Produnova, which requires two front flips and is rarely attempted. It was a long shot way to possibly medal, if not beat Biles, because it has a difficulty degree rating 0.6 above Biles’ toughest vault.
Chusovitina, a 41-year-old competing in her seventh Olympics, somehow over-rotatedand wound up landing into a somersault. She was given a 7.933 execution on the 7.000 difficulty vault. If nothing else, it was an all-in way to go out.
Karmakar, who has become a huge star in India in part for embracing the difficulty of the Produnova, nearly landed it but just under-rotated and couldn’t stick the landing. She still received an 8.266 on execution for a strong enough jump to temporarily move her into second place before winding up in fourth.