Jade Carey wins gold in floor exercise for the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics
Everyone tried to lighten the mood after the darkest moment of Jade Carey’s gymnastics career. Her father told her to let it go. Teammate Simone Biles, very familiar with unexpected setbacks, said there was nothing to do but flourish in her next routine.
By Monday morning, Brian Carey, Jade’s father who doubles as her coach, could tell by the steely assurance in his daughter’s eyes that she was ready to move on at these Tokyo Olympics from her stumble in the vault the previous day.
“I told her, ‘You might feel like yesterday was one of the worst days of your life,’ ” Brian Carey recalled, “ ‘but today can be one of the best days of your life.’ ”
Simone Biles will compete in the event final for the balance beam on Tuesday after withdrawing from the team and all-around finals because of “the twisties.”
The chance at a turnabout would come several hours later in the floor exercise. As Jade Carey opened her routine with a double-twisting double layout, the energy inside a nearly empty arena intensified with each perfectly executed move.
The small contingent of U.S. athletes and staff sitting in one corner roared, finally delivering a standing ovation as Carey completed her routine. She thrust an arm triumphantly into the air and waited for what seemed likely to come next.
A gold medal. Redemption. Dreams fulfilled.
Carey had it all after her score of 14.366 topped Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari (14.2) and Mai Murakami of Japan and Viktoriia Listunova of the Russian Olympic Committee, who both scored 14.166. Murakami’s medal was the first for a Japanese female gymnast in 57 years, dating to the 1964 Tokyo Games, but the bigger revival belonged to Carey.
“Coming back from a day like [Sunday],” said Carey, her first Olympic medal draped around her neck, “I’m really proud of myself for being able to put that behind me and finish with probably the best floor routine I’ve ever done in my life.”
Carey’s performance gave the Americans their third consecutive Olympic gold in the floor going back to the 2012 London Games. It also further salvaged what’s largely been an unsettling performance here for the U.S. given Biles’ withdrawal from many events, citing spatial awareness difficulties, before she announced she would compete in the balance beam finals Tuesday.
Having finished eighth in the all-around competition, Carey’s struggles deepened Sunday when she stumbled on the vault runway, saving herself from injury by somehow completing a perfunctory skill.
“I tripped, I guess, in my hurdle or right before,” said Carey, who finished eighth in the event after she was also shaky on her second vault. “I don’t really know, it’s kind of a blur right now.”
Afterward, the 21-year-old from Phoenix avoided reporters on her way out of the arena. She took some food to her room and her father tried his best to give his daughter space while also consoling her. Carey’s teammates reminded her that she was a great vaulter and could come back from the disappointment.
“Simone, especially, was helping me let it go and move on,” Carey said. “She just said, ‘You know, it happened and you can’t do anything about it and let’s go out and kill floor.’ So that’s what I did.”
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She was second in the rotation leading to a lengthy wait to find out she had won. Ferrari, who went fifth and had posted the top qualifying score, also invigorated the crowd with a dazzling performance that failed to overtake Carey. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, who went seventh, had won gold in the vault and silver in the all-around but could not add to her haul of medals after finishing fifth.
That left Carey standing atop the winners’ podium, having replaced disappointment with the memory of a lifetime.
“It’s easy to say, hard to do, so I’m super proud of her,” Brian Carey said. “She just was able to refocus and get back after it.”
Jade will next compete for Oregon State, but not before a more urgent undertaking: finding better breakfast options. She said she had oatmeal and peanut butter Monday but was longing for something more satisfying.
Whatever she decides to eat, it will be the breakfast of an unlikely champion.
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