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U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team Wins Gold Medal


Today the world's best women gymnasts competed in team finals at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Going in, the Americans were ranked No. 1 in everything - vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. And here is where we will offer a spoiler alert. Those of you who want to wait for the tape delay tonight on NBC should turn the volume down for the next few minutes. For the rest of you, we are joined by NPR's Russell Lewis, who is at the vent. Hi, Russell.


SHAPIRO: OK, so spoil this for us. How did the U.S. team do?

LEWIS: Well, is it any surprise if I tell you that they won gold, and they won gold convincingly. It was the largest margin of victory in an Olympic women's team final since the Soviet Union - remember when we used to call it that?

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Right.

LEWIS: ...Defeated Czechoslovakia - remember when we used to call it that?

SHAPIRO: Oh, that used to be a country.

LEWIS: ...Back in 1960. This is how good the U.S. was tonight - the U.S. team. And really, let's name all of the gymnasts on the team - so Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian.

The U.S. posted the highest combined score on each of the four apparatuses. So that's the vault, the uneven bars, the balance beam and the floor exercise. When you do that, Ari, you're going to win.

SHAPIRO: We know that seven other teams competed in the team finals. Traditionally Russia and China are gymnastics powerhouses. You said the U.S. win was convincingly. How close were these other teams?

LEWIS: Well, in a word - no, not even close. I mean Russia did end up winning the silver, and China took the bronze. But let's do some math here. The U.S. scored just shy of 185 points. Russia took the silver eight points behind. China took the bronze.

Eight points behind - Ari, this is a sport that is routinely measured in tenths of a point, in hundredths of a point. And the U.S. won the finals by eight points. That's how good the U.S. was tonight.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about one member of the team specifically - 19-year-old Simon Biles. This is her first Olympics, and before it even started, commentators were calling her the best ever. Did she fulfill expectations?

LEWIS: You know, there are no shortage of superlatives when it comes to Simone Biles. I mean at 19, she's already a superstar. And there are some who argue that she might be the best gymnast of all time. She's the reigning three-time world champion. She - you know, she could win five golds this Olympics - five golds. I mean that just sort of says something about, you know, who she is and how good that she is.

In fact when she was on the floor exercise, she was the final competitor tonight. Other athletes from other countries were watching her compete, were standing up, clapping and cheering because that's how well she did tonight.

SHAPIRO: And many opportunities yet ahead to medal. What's coming up?

LEWIS: Well, the all-around competition - the individual all-around competition is on Thursday. Simon Biles will be competing along with teammate Aly Raisman. There are individual event finals also for several days this week. Simon will be competing in the individual event finals on vault, on balance beam and on floor exercise.

Biles won't be alone in the event finals. On the uneven bars - Madison Kocian and Gabby Douglas. On the balance beam - Laurie Hernandez. And on the floor exercise with Simon Biles - Aly Raisman. So, Ari, there is lots more gymnastics to go here in Rio.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Russell Lewis, who is at the women's gymnastics team final at the Summer Olympics in Rio - thank you, Russell.

LEWIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.

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