Gymnastics

The End of an Era of American Gymnastics

Try not to allow her ballet dancer to bone design and ethereal hair-radiance fool you into thinking 21-year-old Russian acrobat Angelina Melnikova is something besides an outright monster. Last Thursday, Melnikova got back to Japan—a meager two months in the wake of grabbing group gold and individual all-around bronze at the Tokyo Olympics—and hit extraordinary schedules on each of the four occasions to guarantee the title of 2021 World All-Around Champion.

Melnikova’s victorious climb to the summit of the 2021 platform denotes the initial time a Russian (sorry, a Russian Gymnastics Federation agent; the country you became more acquainted with this late spring as the Russian Olympic Committee or ROC is still actually prohibited!) has consumed that specific space since the notorious Aliya Mustafina in 2010. Yet, it likewise denotes whenever an American acrobat first hasn’t since Mustafina’s triumph. Jordyn Wieber asserted the title in 2011, edging past Russian extraordinary Viktoria Komova by a razor-flimsy 0.033 edge; bespectacled legend of our souls Morgan Hurd tumbled from relative lack of clarity to top the award remain in 2017; and in a real sense each and every year there was a Worlds between the finish of the aughts and presently, that title went to an American you’ve most likely never known about by the name of Simone Biles.

Indeed, until Biles’ courageous withdrawal from a few occasions in Tokyo unexpectedly transformed those Games into a lively challenge—bringing about the merited worldwide superstardom of, among others, shock gold medalists Rebeca Andrade, Suni Lee, and Jade Carey, just as the ROC’s emotional group triumph—the U.S. aerobatic program was considered relentless by pretty much everybody. Pretty much everybody, that is, yet head Russian ladies’ mentor Valentina Rodionenko, whose scorching remarks about the American crew in mid 2021 ended up being perceptive, if lacking subtlety for past Boris-and-Natasha–level waste talk. (It merits bringing up here that paying little heed to Rodionenko’s remarks, the temperament in Tokyo’s Ariake Arena between the supposed passing opponents was sweet.)

Thus, with Russia’s Olympic gold new in the brain, when Melnikova poked aside rising American stars Leanne Wong and Kayla DiCello (the last of whom won bronze notwithstanding a fall!), the principal question leaking out of the mouths of a USA-driven easygoing vaulting being a fan is most likely: What occurred? Is the U.S. program bound at this point? Was that it?

All things considered, it’s confounded. Furthermore, the many reasons it’s confounded sketch out a captivating image of a future where American aerobatic is, without a doubt, not totally about winning large worldwide meets. (Despite the fact that, to be reasonable, it is exceptionally plausible that beginning one year from now, American gymnasts might continue winning enormous global meets, yet not by Biles-level edges.)

In this way, above all else, let me be Lake Baikal–clear: Wong and DiCello didn’t lose the World Championship—winning a silver and bronze decoration isn’t “losing,” however the facts really confirm that Melnikova won, yes. Furthermore, she won since she is, as of now, awesome. Had Brazil’s Andrade or Japan’s Mai Murakami picked to contend in the overall challenge at these Championships, that probably won’t have been the situation. Either or both might have thumped Wong and DiCello off the platform inside and out, as well. However, they didn’t contend in the overall, and Melnikova did, perfectly.

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