Sunisa Lee, the new women’s Olympic all-around champion, said that Simone Biles and her older teammates gave her some key advice in a tense moment shortly before her final. “They told me to just go out there and not worry about anything else because I was starting to put a lot of pressure on myself,” she said.
“I feel like people kind of put that pressure on me, that I had to come back with that medal. So I tried not to think about it and that’s what they told me to do; just focus on myself and do what I want to do because that’s when I compete the best.”
It was an emotional day for all of the top all-around gymnasts. The silver medallist, Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, said she had considered retirement after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament three times in her career.
“It’s obvious that I wanted to give up,” she said. “It’s not easy to go through one surgery let alone three surgeries but the support I had from my family and my coaches was huge. I cannot thank them in words but perhaps I could do through my performance. You spend lots of time [rehabbing] and you have the feeling that you’re lagging behind. When I told myself that Tokyo was my goal, I was sure that I would get better and I would be here.”
Lee, who is of Hmong descent, became the first Asian American gymnast to win the all-around title and Andrade is the first Brazilian Olympic all-around medallist. Daiane dos Santos, a pioneering former Brazilian gymnast, hailed the significance of Andrade being a black woman on Brazilian TV channel Globo. “Brazil’s first medal in a world gymnastics championship was black. Brazil’s first medal in women’s gymnastics was black. This is very important. They said that we couldn’t be in these places,” she said.
Jessica Gadirova, meanwhile, continued her excellent Games by becoming the first British gymnast to finish in the top 10 of an Olympic all around final, coming 10th. “It is quite cool to become the first one to do it. I was a bit annoyed I had the fall on [the] beam but I tried to perform the best I could,” she said. “I never did a world ranking competition before, but doing one now it just shows me where I stand and how much I need to improve. It gives me more realisation where I belong in gymnastics.”