RIO DE JANEIRO: US sensation Simone Biles confirmed her status as the world s best gymnast as she added the Olympic women s all-around to her team title in Rio on Thursday.
There were tears all round as the tiny 19-year-old Texan crushed her rivals with a powerful display of acrobatics and tumbling which kept the all-around title in US hands for a fourth straight Olympics.
Biles led a US 1-2 in the Rio Olympic Arena ahead of Aly Raisman with Russia s Aliya Mustafina taking her second straight Games all-around bronze.
Biles finished 2.1 points, ahead of 22-year-old Raisman, who missed the podium in London 2012 after a tie-break for third spot with Mustafina.
“You never know the feeling until it hits you,” said an emotional Biles.
“It means the world to me.”
For Raisman silver felt like gold against a rival who has reigned since 2013 with 14 world medals — ten in gold.
“No one goes into this thinking they can beat Simone,” said the Bostonian.
Victory kept Biles, three time all-around world champion, on track for a record five women s golds with vault, beam and floor finals to come.
The United States also became the first country to win the all-around title four consecutive times — Carly Patterson in Athens 2004, followed by Nastia Liukin in 2008 and Gabby Douglas, 2012.
All-around is the summit of women s gymnastics, a battle across vault, uneven bars, beam and floor between 24 of the sport s top athletes.
Standing just 1.45m (4ft 9ins) the bubbly Texan with the big smile threw down the gauntlet with a nerveless performance two days after helping the US women to a second straight team gold in her first Olympics.
She launched her challenge by nailing a difficult Amanar vault scoring 15.866 despite a wobbly landing, to lead Raisman by 0.233.
Mustafina, pulled out 15.666 on the uneven bars on which she is reigning Olympic champion, to lead 0.034 at the half-way point as Biles hit 14.966 on her weakest apparatus.
Biles surged in front again with 15.433 on the beam as Mustafina dropped back. The American led by 1.533 going into the final floor rotation on which she is the reigning three-time world champion.
The Russian scored low to allow Raisman, the Olympic floor champion, to pull ahead with a flawless routine, finishing in tears after four near-flawless routines.
“I had to tell her to stop, because I knew I d start crying. I had to focus,” said Biles who finished by leading the way with her high-speed tumbling Samba performance that earned a standing ovation.
Tearful teammates then clutched each other as they waited for the scores — Biles scoring highest (15.933) after also topping the vault and the beam.
“When I woke up this morning I walked into Ali s room and said I have a very good feeling about today and she said me to ,” Biles revealed.
Raisman admitted that her London heartbreak had lifted her to take her fifth Olympic medal.
“It s very special to finally be on the podium.”
She added: “We re basically like sisters and will have this forever.”
Mustafina, 21, took her sixth Olympic medal over two Olympics.
“It s a pleasure to compete against Simone, but it s very, very difficult.
“I think I will never be able to (beat her). She has very good (start values), her jumps are very good, and she is always stable.”
Douglas, 20, failed to make the cut to defend her title despite finishing third in qualifiers behind Biles and Raisman. Only two competitors can compete per nation in the final.