Simone Biles didn’t quite feel like she truly belonged to the Famous U.S. Olympian Club. She admitted to feeling a “little nervous” around the likes of swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky during a recent photo shoot.
She was underestimating herself.
Another gold-medal performance by the transcendent talent suggested the club membership had expanded with proper justification. Biles sparkled and soared in her celebratory floor exercise routine Tuesday and won her fourth gold medal here. U.S. teammate Aly Raisman took the silver and 16-year-old Amy Tinkler of Britain the bronze.
Biles’ takeaways from Rio: five medals, four of them gold and one bronze. The teenager from Spring, Texas, joined three other women in winning four gymnastics golds at an Olympics, last accomplished 32 years ago by Ekaterina Szabo of Romania.
“It’s pretty insane of what I’ve accomplished my first Olympics,” Biles said. “I would never rank myself. It’s weird.”
Everyone else seems to be trying. The 22-year-old Raisman, three years older than Biles, offered an opinion.
“She’s crazy. I can’t believe that she has four gold medals,” said Raisman, defending Olympic champion on the floor exercise. “It’s amazing. It’s hard to put into words. I don’t even consider myself competing against her. It’s like she’s on another level. She’s incredible. I’m in awe watching her and I’ve trained with her so long.”
If not for Biles, Raisman would be the face of gymnastics from Rio, having won her third medal of the Games and sixth of her career. Biles beat Raisman, 15.966 to 15.500 on the floor exercise.
U.S. teammate Laurie Hernandez finished ahead of Biles on the balance beam Monday, winning silver to Biles’ bronze. Hernandez joked with Raisman, who also finished second to Biles in the all-around event.
Said Raisman, quoting Hernandez: “If you get silver again, you’re the best because Simone doesn’t count.”
The U.S. won 12 medals in gymnastics — nine by the women, three by the men — the most in one Olympics. Danell Leyva won two silvers Tuesday afternoon, finishing second to Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine on the parallel bars and to Fabian Hambuechen of Germany on the high bar.
Leyva went last on the high bar and knocked U.S. teammate Sam Mikulak, of Newport Coast, off the podium, into fourth.
“It’s a dream come true,” Leyva said. “Nobody has a perfect day. But this was as close to perfect as I possibly could have done.”
Leyva, a bronze medalist in the all-around in 2012, was named an alternate after the trials, making the team when John Orozco suffered torn knee ligaments in training. Leyva said the two medals were “as much for him [Orozco] as they were for me.”
Leyva’s own status was in question before the nationals and trials when he suffered deep wounds to his calf when he tried to break up a fight between his two dogs and missed critical training time.
“When I had the dog on my leg, I said, “Really, right now?’” Leyva said. “He [the doctor] said he’s never seen anyone heal that quickly.”
There was more drama for Leyva at the Olympics when he fell off the high bar in the team final. He blamed himself for the team not making the podium, but that instinct was misplaced because the U.S. was essentially out of it after the first rotation.
“This was absolutely a redemption, not only for me but for the team as well,” Leyva said.
For the gymnasts, it was almost like graduation from the Olympic bubble. Biles and Raisman will be taking time to consider their futures and there was a feeling of a chapter closing. Aimee Boorman, Biles’ coach said she was not going to cry “right now.”
“It’s kind of like sending your kid off to college,” Boorman said. “You know you are still going to see them. But you just don’t know what their life is going to be. You’re excited for what they’re going to experience.”
Raisman’s coach, Mihai Brestyan, presented his case for his star gymnast to push forward to Tokyo in 2020.
“I hope she’ll be back,” he said. “Who knows? She still has a good shot for the next four years, I believe in my soul. I hope this time she will continue: 26 is not old.
“She says all the time, ‘Twenty-two, I am old.’ No you are not.”
Raisman: “I just said I get better with age, so maybe I will.”