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The Moves in Sunisa Lee’s Routines That Helped Her Win Gold in Women’s Gymnastics


As the nation and the world watched, Sunisa Lee won the gold medal in the individual all-around gymnastics competition on Thursday, extending a U.S. victory streak that began when Carly Patterson earned the title in 2004.

1

Sunisa Lee

57.433

5th

1st

2nd

5th

2

Rebeca Andrade

–0.135

1st

5th

5th

7th

3

Angelina Melnikova

–0.234

4th

3rd

4th

2nd

Vladislava Urazova

–0.467

9th

4th

1st

10th

Mai Murakami

–1.401

8th

12th

3rd

1st

Lee began her competition on the vault, which she executed cleanly.





Back handspring

onto vaulting table

Back flip

with two

twists

Roundoff onto

springboard

Back flip with

two twists

Back handspring

onto vaulting table

Roundoff onto

springboard

Body is

slightly

piked on

the landing

Back flip with

two twists

Roundoff onto

springboard

Back handspring

onto vaulting table

Body is

slightly

piked

on the

landing

Back flip

with two

twists

Back

handspring

onto vaulting

table


Photographs by Emily Rhyne; composite image by Jon Huang

She landed her double-twisting Yurchenko with a slight bend in her hips — referred to as piking down — for a score of 14.6.

How each gymnast scored on vault

Lee’s win punctuated a passing of the torch in the all-around. Simone Biles, the four-time Olympic gold medalist, had withdrawn from this event and the earlier team final, citing mental health issues. “You’re going to be just fine,” Biles had told her U.S. teammates on Tuesday. “You guys have trained your whole entire life for this.”

As it turned out, Lee was better than fine.

Lee Got the Top Score on the Uneven Bars

On the uneven bars, Lee powered through to connect the complex skills that make her routine the hardest in the world.


Each gymnast’s difficulty level on uneven bars





Andrade and Melnikova

6.3

Andrade and Melnikova

6.3


Below, she is shown doing skills called the Nabieva and the Bhardwaj.


Photographs by Bedel Saget; composite image by Jon Huang

She began from an imperfect cast handstand, and used that momentum to begin the Nabieva, flinging her body high above the upper bar. After catching the bar, Lee immediately went into her next move: a midair flip and twist, the Bhardwaj, down to the low bar.

“She was off from the start,” Jess Graba, her coach, said. “She missed her cast at the beginning and that threw her timing off a bit. She had to fight the swing the rest of the way.”

Lee scored a 15.3, a tenth below her mark in the team final, though still the highest in today’s competition.

How each gymnast scored on uneven bars

“Today wasn’t my best bar routine,” Lee said after the competition. “It was very difficult and really scary because I didn’t think I was going to be able to, considering my Nabieva wasn’t even that good, but I just stayed with it.”

Lee Pulls Off a Save on the Beam

How each gymnast scored on balance beam

Lee delivered on the beam after leaning back and waving her left arm to regain her balance on her first skill, a triple wolf turn where one leg is deeply bent and the other is held out straight.

“The amount of strength, and specifically core strength, she showed to minimize that wobble and just to stay on the beam was so impressive,” said Samantha Peszek, the 2008 Olympic medalist who runs an organization called Beam Queen Boot Camp. “She fought for that beam routine, start to finish.”

Below, Lee is shown near the end of her routine connecting a side aerial with two back flips called layout step-outs.


Photographs and composite image by Jeremy White

She ended up scoring a 13.833, the second-best mark on the beam that day. After three events, Lee had taken the overall lead.

Lee Clinches the Gold on the Floor Exercise

Lee received her best floor exercise score of these Olympics, a 13.7, and became the fifth American woman in a row to win the all-around title.

How each gymnast scored on floor exercise

Below, Lee performs her most difficult floor skill, which is named for Daniela Silivas, who won six Olympic medals for Romania.






Begins first flip

with twist

Lands after second

flip with twist

Begins first flip

with twist

Lands after second

flip with twist

Begins first flip

with twist

Lands after second

flip with twist

Begins first flip

with twist

Lands after second

flip with twist


Photographs by Jeremy White; composite image by Yuliya Parshina-Kottas

She generates power through a roundoff and back handspring, and then completes two back flips and two twists in the tucked position.

Graba, her coach, said they had decided to take out a tumbling pass to minimize potential deductions. Lee’s left ankle, which she fractured last year, had been giving her trouble.

Paths to an All-Around Champion

U.S. women have dominated all-around competitions since 2004, winning 15 of 17 Olympic and world championship titles. There are many ways to secure a victory, and winners do not need to be the best on every apparatus. On Thursday, Lee placed fifth on the vault and tied for fifth on the floor exercise, but closed the point gap with her strongest events.


How the Olympic and world champions won their all-arounds

VT: Vault, UB: Uneven bars, BB: Balance beam, FX: Floor exercise

Source: Historical data from gymnasticsresults.com



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