Rebeca Andrade Wins Gold for Brazil in the Vault
TOKYO – On a night of unexpected joy mixed with unexpected disappointment, Brazilian gymnast Rebeca Andrade won her gold medal in vaulting at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday and wondered if it was real.
And Sunisa Lee of the United States, who won the women’s all-around gymnastics last week, looked back on her performance on uneven bars on Sunday and wished it had been real.
Andrade, from a family of eight children whose mother worked as a chambermaid, had just won Brazil’s first-ever gold medal in women’s gymnastics. She had done so just a month after qualifying as an individual for those Games, competing here without a Brazilian team and on a right knee that had undergone three operations for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the past six years.
And now Andrade, who is celebrated as a hero in Brazil, has accomplished more than she ever imagined at these Olympics – or in her career, really. She has a gold medal in vault to add to the silver medal she won last week in the all-around. Although she repeatedly thought of retiring because of her injuries, the pain was worth it, she said, especially because she became a role model for black girls and women in her life. country.
“I don’t really know what to say,” Andrade said, looking dazed. “I couldn’t imagine getting on the podium.
MyKayla Skinner, an American, won silver in vault, and Yeo Seo-jeong won bronze for South Korea to become the country’s first medalist in women’s gymnastics. It surprised them both that they got on the podium.
For Skinner, it was even a surprise to be at these Games, and even bigger to be in the final on Sunday.
Skinner, who was a substitute at the Rio Olympics and cried every night watching her teammates compete, spent time in hospital in January with pneumonia as she battled Covid-19. She missed a month of training but still made the US team last month as a Vault Events Specialist.
In Tokyo, so close to her lifelong goal of winning an Olympic medal, she initially failed to advance to the final after finishing fourth overall in the preliminary round. Simone Biles and Jade Carey had finished ahead of her, and a country can only send two gymnasts to each final.
She wrote on Instagram: “For now, I’ll just try to fill the hole in my heart.” And she started packing for a flight home.
But USA Gymnastics told him to wait. Biles, the four-time Olympic champion, had withdrawn from the team final, citing a mental health issue, and her status for the remainder of the Games was unclear. A day before the vault final, Biles retired, allowing Skinner to take her place as the second American in that event.
This long-awaited shot for an Olympic medal was finally hers, and on Sunday she took advantage of it by coming close to nailing two big jumps.
Finally, Skinner, 24, who is called the “grandmother” of the team because she has so much experience in the national team, will return to Arizona with an Olympic medal. She retired and said she and her husband, Jonas Harmer, are considering starting a family.
“I’m sad, but it’s time for me to move on, ”Skinner said. “I’m ready.”
The other two Americans competing on Sunday night were less satisfied with their performances.
Carey, of Phoenix, was second on vault in qualifying but stumbled while preparing for her first vault on Sunday and ended up doing it. She was only able to muster a Yurchenko fold, which is a flip and no twists. The score, 11.933, took her out of the race for a medal.
Later that night, before the uneven bars final, Lee was tired and nervous. Two days earlier, she had won the all-around gold medal and now had another chance at individual gold. Coming into the uneven bars, she was considered a favorite and her toughest routine was the toughest in the world. Winning the event was what she had trained for.
But she failed to relate her first skill to her second, and her routine began to crumble. She said she could have easily jumped bars and quit, which she probably would have done in training, but held on to finish the routine in the biggest competition of her life. She ended up putting on a watered-down performance that was nothing like the spectacular one she had planned.
Her score of 14.5 was almost a point lower than the 15.4 she got for bars in the team final last week. It was, however, still good enough for her to win the bronze medal. Nina Derwael, double world champion on uneven bars, won gold, the first Olympic medal in women’s gymnastics of any kind for Belgium. Anastasiia Iliankova of Russia was second for the silver medal.
Afterward, Lee admitted that she couldn’t help but feel devastated, as if she had let everyone down.
“I don’t want people to think I’m not grateful for this bronze medal because I really am,” she said in a one-on-one interview as tears flowed on his face. “But I came here to win gold on bars, and that was supposed to be my thing. That’s what I came to do, and people pressured me to do it. Winning the all-around was what Simone was supposed to do.
She added, “This is all so overwhelming. I didn’t expect my Olympics to be like this, and now I’m really sad that I didn’t do the barre routine that I came here to do.
Since winning the all-around on Thursday, Lee has been inundated with media inquiries, including TV interview after TV interview, and hasn’t got much sleep. She said she would delete Twitter from her phone because the comments were stressing her out and “is not good for me.”
She was so distracted heading into the final, she said, that she forgot the special USA team sneakers she was supposed to wear on the podium and ended up borrowing Carey’s shoes for the ceremony.
Lee, who will compete in the balance beam final on Tuesday, said she tries to keep her below-average performance on Sunday in perspective. But it was hard.
Yes, she won the all-around title, one of the most prestigious gold medals of all the Summer Olympics. And yes, she led the U.S. team to a silver medal last week when Biles retired after the first event.
She had planned to shout out her frustrations about the uneven bars and get up in the morning refocused. A glance at his hands, however, will remind him of his night of humility.
Watching all the other gymnasts finish their routines, Lee had been so upset that she tore off the long acrylic nails she had on each of her fingers. The fingernails were white and three of them had Olympic rings meticulously painted on them.
She left the arena on Sunday night with them tucked away in her backpack.
Maggie Astor contributed reports.
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