What was thought to be simply impossible in the run-up has happened: The Russian gymnasts won the team final in Tokyo.
For the first time ever - the Commonwealth of Independent States prevailed in Barcelona in 1992 - the most coveted of all medals in gymnastics competitions goes to Russia.
How did that happen?
US superstar Simone Biles canceled the competition after the first device.
The reasons are still unclear.
It all happened very quickly: Russia and the USA started on the vault. Biles as the last of the three US girls. Which jump would she show? When the scoreboard jumps to 5.8 - the initial value - it is clear: Biles is playing it safe in the team final, choosing the Amanar, a Yurchenko with two and a half screws. It's the easiest jump out of their impressive repertoire. Biles runs, jumps and lands extremely low and badly.
An irritated, somewhat empty-looking look, Biles hops off the podium as usual, coach Laurent Landi grabs her shoulder from behind and seems to calm her down.
Then the rating: A 5.0 is displayed as the initial value.
Hardly anyone noticed that at first, also because it is so unlikely: Simone Biles had turned one longitudinal axis less gymnastics than planned.
Russia went to the bars one point ahead.
One point equals a fall, everything was still open.
Biles cheers the team on
The great unrest was yet to come: It was not Biles who turned on the bars, but Jordan Chiles. In the team finals only the first three gymnasts listed on the official start list usually start. However, according to the regulations, it is allowed - spontaneously and without giving reasons - to replace the fourth starter. Someone tweeted that Biles, who is close to the gang with her teammates, said: “You are completely okay without me!” A few minutes later, the USA Gymnastics Association confirmed that she was abandoning the competition.
The bar is doing well for the US. Chiles replaces Biles with a clean lecture. Biles himself stays in the interior and cheers on her team. Things are going even better for Russia on the parallel bars, which is no surprise given that the Russians are superior to the USA in terms of technology and execution. Meanwhile, speculation is sprouting: A gymnastics blogger from the USA reports that Simone Biles has already performed gymnastics with "broken toes". In fact, her right big toe was taped for the jump.
Aside from the fact that the news remains unconfirmed, given the multitude of bones broken from fatigue, including shins and hips, that US gymnasts have used to win Olympics in the past, it would be unlikely that a toe would be Simone Biles of all people should stop. Commentators at NBC, the US broadcaster worth billions of dollars in broadcasting the Olympics, say Biles' withdrawal was "not because of injury, but for some other reason."
While the whole world is wondering what's going on, the competition just goes on. The Russian gymnasts realize that winning this competition is indeed an option. That doesn't make it any easier. While the US substitute gymnast, here again Jordan Chiles, who, by the way, trains together with Biles at the World Champions Center in Texas, which belongs to Biles' family, is doing her lecture quite confidently, 16-year-old Vladislav Urazowa falls from the beam - one point deducted, the protrusion melts.
The decision is made on the floor mat. Out of sheer enthusiasm for new twists and somersaults by Simone Biles, one had recently almost forgotten how beautiful gymnastics can be on the floor when the choreography of an exercise actually has something to do with the music, when gymnastic elements are performed precisely, and this semblance of effortlessness, called grace, determines the minute and a half exercise. Wladislawa Urazowa, European champion Viktoria Listunowa, also only 16 years old, and Angelina Melnikowa are doing just that.
The US girls fight bravely, Simone Biles laughs and looks quite relaxed again. But there is no end to speculation. Former gymnast John Roethlisberger, who comments for NBC streaming service Peacock, writes that Bile's withdrawal was "not due to injury, but because of a mental cause." Shortly thereafter, the US federation reacted again: It was a “medical thing”, which could mean physical as well as psychological problems: “It will be examined daily to ensure that it is medically fit for competition.” Russia wins almost three and a half points ahead.
Shortly afterwards Thomas Bach and World Gymnastics Federation President Morinari Watanabe appear in the interior. The IOC President seems to be interviewing Simone Biles, then they pose for the photographers with the Russian winning team. What a bizarre competition. At the award ceremony, Simone Biles is also on the podium, but for once not in the middle. The US team is satisfied, but no comparison with the overjoyed Russians - and incidentally also the British women, who have won bronze almost unnoticed through all the events. The all-round final will take place on Thursday. The favorite is, at least in theory, Simone Biles.