Sensational Biles leads USA to gold

The majestic Simone Biles landed the first of a possible five Olympic gymnastic golds in Rio by helping the United States win the women’s team title on Tuesday night.

The 19-year-old led the dominant Americans to an expected victory as Great Britain’s women had to settle for fifth place, joining their male counterparts in missing out on a medal.

Biles produced the best vault, beam and floor routines of the competition as the US led from start to finish, finally winning by a huge margin of more than eight points.

The team, also comprising Lauren Hernandez, Alexandra Raisman, Gabrielle Douglas and Madison Kocian, took gold with a score of 184.897, with Russia taking silver and China bronze.

Britain took bronze at last year’s World Championships in Glasgow and there was little separating them from the medals here, but mistakes cost the quintet of Ruby Harold, sisters Elissa and Rebecca Downie, Amy Tinkler and Claudia Fragapane dear.

They missed a medal by just over one-and-a-half points, finishing with a score of 174.362.

But this American team, in their stars and stripes leotards glittering with a sprinkling of crystals, are a class apart. More in fact.

“The three favourites are USA, USA and USA”, said the commentator before the event got under way. He was not wrong.

And the effortlessly elegant Biles, standing at 4ft 8ins, is their outstanding performer.

Fragapane, the four-time Commonwealth champion, described her as “incredible”, while Rebecca Downie said she was “on another level”.

“I personally don’t think I felt any pressure or expectations because I had this wonderful team behind me,” said Biles afterwards.

“I don’t think we could have been any more ready.”

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The teenager from Columbus, Ohio, was raised by her grandfather and his wife – to her they are mum and dad – due to her biological mother’s drug and alcohol addiction.

Her family were in the crowd to witness her first Olympic gold.

“My brother was wearing American flag pants, it was very hard to miss him,” she said.

Biles was the first African-American to be world all-around champion and the first woman to win three world all-around titles in succession.

She has the most gold medals ever won by a female gymnast in the history of the World Championships with 10 and is favourite for five Olympic crowns in Rio.

She will be – if she is not already – one of the faces of the Games.

The Brazilian fans noisily cheering on the energetic hosts certainly provided a boisterous atmosphere inside the Rio Olympic Arena.

The US had already established a healthy lead after the first rotation, Biles leading the way with a score of 15.933 in the vault, with Britain lying third following their uneven bars routine.

For Biles on the vault read Kocian on the uneven bars, who produced the same score to help the favourites extend their lead.

A fall from Elissa Downie on the beam proved costly for Britain, though, as they dropped back to fifth at the halfway point.

Biles’ near flawless beam of 15.300 kept the US on course for inevitable victory, while Britain remained fifth with one rotation to go and they could not improve.

Eighteen-year-old Fragapane believes, though, that Britain are on the up.

“A lot of the Americans get mid 15s and I feel like Britain are coming towards that a little bit more. We just need a few more years and I feel like we’re up there,” she said.

Fittingly it was Biles who performed the final routine of the night on the floor for the US.

A breathtaking display, met by roars of delight from the flag-waving American fans in the crowd, resulted in a score of 15.800 as she was embraced by her team-mates, the gold secure.

One down, four to go for Biles. Her team-mate Douglas warned her in the winner’s press conference that things were going to get “crazy”.

Press Association Sport

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