Publication date : 04/08/2016
10:30 p.m.: Once again, to cap off the day, here's a handful of quotes from the women in the Mixed Zone:
"My dream was to come to the Olympics for a second time, and to just enjoy it and soak it all in. The first time, you're so focused on the routines. You have no time to see everything. So the second time, I want to soak it all in." -- Kim Bui, Germany
"In the last three months, I did 1,000 repetitions of the move, and now it is the easiest vault for me. This vault is now well-known in India, and that makes me very happy. Not many in the country knew about this until recently, and now I hope that this vault becomes more famous than me in India." -- Dipa Karmakar, India, on training the extremely difficult Produnova vault
"It's an honour. I am only the second woman in history to carry the flag for our country at the Olympic Games, so this is going to inspire me to do even better in the competition." -- Ana Sofia Gomez Porras, Guatemala, on being her country's flagbearer during Friday's Opening Ceremony in Rio
"I've probably never felt better going into a competition. I'm healthy and mentally strong and ready. In gymnastics there is always going to be something to improve on, but I've added everything I've wanted. I've added my 6.3 (start value) bars routine. I'm also doing beam, which is a miracle in itself." -- Brittany Rogers, Canada
The Kohei effect
8:30 p.m.: Though poised to be among the most illustrious athletes of the Summer Games themselves, Americans Aly Raisman and Gabrielle Douglas -- both two-time Olympic gold medallists in their own right -- were starstruck after catching a glimpse of the superstar sprinter Usain Bolt in the Olympic Village, according to teammate Simone Biles.
"He walked into the cafeteria, and Aly and Gabby about flipped the dinner table and screamed 'It's Usain!' like little girls," Biles recounted to the media following women's podium training. "I was like, 'You guys, you have to calm down, you know what it's like to be in that position?' But it was very cool."
Biles herself admits to getting a bit fluttery around reigning Olympic men's champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan. "Everyone knows who he is," she said. "He's a legend and it's very exciting to watch him in competition. It's awesome seeing him around the Olympic Village because he's just so chilled, and every time he's in the cafeteria he's like, 'Yeah, like whatever, you know.' He just carries himself very well and we all look up to him, because he's a normal human being like the rest of us but he's done so much.
"We say, 'Hey, Kohei' every time we pass him, and he just does a head nod."
Brazil dreams of team finals
8:00 p.m.: For the record, Daniele Hypolito didn't plan it this way. The 31-year-old's retirement party from Gymnastics was scheduled a long time ago; it just kept getting pushed back.
"I really love Gymnastics, so I just kept going," said Hypolito, who made her international debuts for Brazil in the late 1990s and earned the country's first-ever World medal, a silver on Floor, in 2001. "I just took it four years at a time. I said to my mom, 'Oh, well, let's try for the Olympics in Sydney,' and then, 'it would be nice to go to Athens as well,' and so on."
And so on. Hypolito extended her career one last time in 2009, when Rio was announced as the 2016 Olympic host city. She was 25 at the time, already one of the oldest athletes on the international circuit, and the Games were a full seven years away.
Still, the Olympics were being held for the first time in South America, and Hypolito wanted her final flips to be performed at home, for the Brazilian public.
"We absolutely want to make it to the team final," she said. "As we compete in the third of five subdivisions, it will be all about waiting after our competition, but should be possible to get there. Today we had some mistakes, but that's why it is called podium training. That is not a big deal in a training."
Japan, Canada, France finish off the day
8:00 p.m.: Now in the gym: Canada, Japan and France, the final three teams who will contend for one of the eight spots to Tuesday's Women's Team final.
The Canadians are led by experience: both Ellie Black and Brittany Rogers helped them achieve a best-ever fifth place finish four years ago in London. They are especially strong on Vault this time around, opting for unusual vaults that will give them a slight advantage over most other nations if they do them well.
Ponor: 'Gymnastics for me is like a drug'
7:15 p.m.: Catalina Ponor left the Rio Olympic Arena in tears in April, devastated by the Romanian team’s failure to earn a spot for the Games at the Test Event. Three months and half later, the triple Olympic champion from 2004 is back in Rio, where she is not only the sole female gymnast from a country deeply associated with the sport, but also the Romanian flagbearer at the opening ceremony.
Her personal story is full of false retirements and true comebacks, but after an Achilles injury last fall the 28-year-old ondered if this time it was really the end. "Gymnastics for me is like a drug: when you go to rehab and you finish and after that you want it again,” Ponor said after the podium training. "It is my family. I grew up with this. I've been at training camps all my life, with teammates and coaches, and it's pretty hard after you leave Gymnastics to just stay home and to not see your teammates or coaches, because your coaches are the ones who are working with all the generations and you miss that. I missed Gymnastics too, being in competition, feeling the emotions."
If she misses her teammates in Rio, she can find some small solace in loneliness. “It took a little pressure off my shoulders because I don't have to carry a team,” she said. “If I make mistakes by myself then it's on my hands. If I don't do anything, it's my fault."
The American experience
7:00 p.m.: The U.S. women weren't fazed by the bright green backdrop of the Rio Olympic Arena, the fact of being at the Olympic Games, or anything else. The reigning World and Olympic champions were unflappable during their podium training session, hitting 20 out of 20 routines across the four events.
The American arsenal includes Simone Biles, the three-time World champion who is on many people's best of all time shortlists even though the Games have yet to begin. There's Gabrielle Douglas, the 2012 Olympic All-around champion, and team captain/mother hen Aly Raisman, who like Douglas returned home from London with two gold medals in her luggage. Madison Kocian, the team's specialist on Uneven Bars, has won three World titles during the past two years.
Even the baby of the team, 16-year-old Laurie Hernandez, recorded nary a wobble under the lights of the Rio Olympic Arena, in spite of never having competed at a major senior international competition. "I kind of see how all the other girls are reacting to it, and they've been to lots of bigger meets," Hernandez said. "They take control of what they're doing. It's not anything different than what we do at practice, so I'm not too pressured."
"We just talk about everything being normal," said U.S. coach Aimee Boorman, who is also Biles's personal coach. "They do these routines thousands of times, these skills over and over again. My job right now is to keep them focused on what they're doing and in a positive frame of mind. They all have one thing that makes them click, to hit their routine, and I try to pick up those cues. The way we train, we would expect them to hit 20, because they put up the numbers in the workouts."
And in the competition too -- or so they hope.
A big moment for Steingruber, Switzerland
6:30 p.m.: As one of her country's main medal hopes in Rio, Giulia Steingruber knows attention will be riveted on her as she attempts to become the first Swiss woman to win an Olympic medal in her sport.
"I have high expectations for myself," the 22-year-old said. "My goal is to make three finals -- All-around, Vault and Floor. In the final anything can happen. I just don't want to make big mistakes. But in the end, it comes how it comes."
Steingruber had a taste of what it's like to have the eyes of a nation turned to her earlier this spring, when she won two gold medals at the European Championships in Bern, Switzerland. She'll get another Friday evening as she leads the Swiss delegation into Maracana Stadium as her country's flagbearer during the Opening Ceremony.
The IOC decision regarding eligible Russian gymnasts in Rio
6:20 p.m.: The International Olympic Committee has officially approved 20 gymnasts from the pool of eligible Russian athletes to compete here in Rio. The 20 include 10 Artistic gymnasts, seven Rhythmic gymnasts and three Trampoline gymnasts. Click here to see the names.
USA, the Netherlands and friends
5:00 p.m.: Now in the gym: Team USA, the Netherlands and two mixed groups of individuals, including Venezuela's Jessica Lopez and Greek star Vasiliki Millousi, both Olympic veterans.
The U.S. women are led by 2012 double Olympic gold medallists Gabrielle Douglas and Aly Raisman, as well as three-time World champion Simone Biles, whose performances in Rio have been hotly anticipated.
The Ferlito show
3:30 p.m.: Carlotta Ferlito flirted with being a reality TV star. Beginning in 2011, the 21-year-old let television cameras into her gym and home for the popular MTV series "Vite Parallele" (Gymnasts - Parallel Lives).
But in the end, her love of Gymnastics won out over fame. "The show was proposed to me, and at the beginning I didn't know it would be so successful, so I accepted and it went pretty well," Ferlito said. "But some people liked to say that I was an actress and no longer an athlete, so I decided to quit the show and focus just on sports. I think I'm pretty focused and prepared now. When I'm in the gym I'm just the athlete, and outside I'm everything else."
Ferlito, along with 2006 World champion Vanessa Ferrari and Erika Fasana, is one of three Olympic veterans on the Italian team, and she's relishing every minute of her second Olympic experience. "When I was in London I was so young. I can barely remember anything from the competition. I was so stressed," she said. "I'm pretty prepared this time and I hope I can do well for me and of course for the team. I improved almost everything, every apparatus."
Three questions with Martha Karolyi
3:15 p.m.: Like her most successful protégées, U.S. National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi has attained that echelon of fame where one becomes known solely by one’s first name.
The U.S. women roll into Rio as the defending Olympic champions in both the team and All-around competition. But Martha takes nothing for granted, keeping the gymnasts and her goals for the team, modest.
Q: Was three-time World champion Simone Biles always this good?
Martha Karolyi: “Simone from the very beginning was an extremely bubbly child, full of energy, but sometimes her energy level was so high that she couldn’t control the outcome of her big skills. So what we did through the years was to make sure that we disciplined her movements, because for her punching and flying was not a big deal, but once you’re up, you have to come down somehow.
We worked a lot on that and we worked also on the details and her understanding that Gymnastics is based on all the detail work, and needs all the patience to work on the small things instead of just being happy that we were throwing the big things.”
Q: You’ve been working with mostly adolescents for more than four decades. Has the adolescent changed at all?
Karolyi: “I don’t really know. In the last years we have had more and more mature gymnasts who have wanted to come back and wanted to stay for another Olympic quadrennium. And I’m very pleased to see this versus many years before, where you just did one Olympic season and then you were done and you could not wait to get out.”
Q: In the future, how would you like to see the sport of Gymnastics continue to evolve?
Karolyi: “I think Gymnastics is in the right place. I don’t know why we want to fix permanently, and be pushing in this direction or pushing in that direction. I think really the name of the sport is Artistic Gymnastics, but also it’s combined from acrobatics and dance skills. And I don’t think it’s good to overemphasize this or that side.
“I think it has to be a good balance in between the two. We are not Rhythmic gymnasts, so we cannot say that turning around or leaping is more important than flipping. Or the other way around – you cannot just throw big acro skills and not be able to do a switch ring. So I think the balance is very important, and I also think that no matter what kind of code of points comes out and whatever changes happen, the responsibility of the leaders of each country is to analyse, understand the code and find ways to live with it.”
More with Martha:
Ferrari revs for Rio
2:45 p.m.: For her third Olympic appearance, Vanessa Ferrari is returning to her roots.
Ferrari became the first Italian woman to win a World All-around title in 2006, where she ended her winning run with a Floor Routine to the dramatic "Nessun Dorma" from the opera Turandot with a flourish. Ten years later, the same music -- and similar choreography -- will accompany her on Floor Exercise in Rio.
Ferrari finished tied for bronze on Floor at the London Olympics in 2012, but was relegated to fourth place after losing the tiebreak due to a lower execution score. In spite of lingering leg problems, the 26-year-old has stubbornly pursued her Olympic dream.
"I had these problems last fall, but afterward I returned to practice and day after day, I kept going," she said. "I've had to change the way I train, to pratice a certain way. But when I have to do something, I do it."
Great Britain, Brazil, Germany and pals
2:30 p.m.: In the gym now: World bronze medallists Great Britain, as well as host nation Brazil and Germany.
Britain will start on Uneven Bars, Brazil on Balance Beam and Germany on Floor Exercise, where they will be led off by 2012 Olympic veteran Elisabeth Seitz. First up on Balance beam for Brazil will be 31-year-old Daniele Hypolito, who has competed at every Olympics since 2000, while Great Britain will rely on sisters Becky and Ellie Downie to bring in big scores on Bars.
India's Dipa Karmakar, one of only two women doing the immensely difficult Produnova vault, is also in this subdivision and starts on her best event.
Photos of the moment: Sign language
Russia and Italy in the arena
11:45 a.m.: Subdivision 2 of 5, featuring reigning Olympic silver medallists Russia and Italy, is in full swing.
Both teams are led by Olympic veterans -- Russia has four-time London medallist Aliya Mustafina, and Italy 2006 World champion Vanessa Ferrari, now at her third Olympic Games. This subdivision also includes 2015 European champion Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland and Catalina Ponor of Romania.
Chusovitina: No 'business as usual' at the Olympics
11:30 a.m.: It will be a sad Monday for Gymnastics, the day that Oksana Chusovitina calls it quits. When that Monday will arrive, even Chusovitina isn't quite sure.
It won't be this Monday, at least not if the 41-year-old Uzbek attains her objective of making the Vault final at her seventh Olympic Games, a record in Gymnastics.
Even after more than 25 years on the world level -- Chusovitina won two gold medals at the 1991 World Championships, at a time when many of her competitiors in Rio weren't even born -- Gymnastics is not business as usual for the sport's grande dame.
"Every competition is new," she said after podium training. "I love this sport. I always have fun doing Gymnastics."
But all good things come to an end, and someday even Chusovitina will hang up her grips for good. Why a Monday? "Monday is a tough day," she said. "But I won't continue like this. These are my last Olympic Games, and after Rio I won't do any more competitions."
10:30 a.m: Among the 98 competitors taking to the field of play today, there are:
6 Olympic champions:
Catalina Ponor (ROU/3: Balance Beam, Floor and Team 2004. Ponor also hasa silver medal on Floor and Team bronze from 2012)
Gabrielle Douglas (USA/2: All-around and Team 2012), Alexandra Raisman (USA/2: Floor and Team 2012, she also won bronze on Beam in 2012)
Alyia Mustafina (RUS/1: Uneven Bars 2012, also Team silver medal and All-Around and Floor bronzes from 2012), Oksana Chusovitina (former EUN, GER and now UZB/1: Team 1992, also a silver medal on Vault from 2008), Hong Un Jong (PRK/1: Vault 2008)
1 other Olympic medallist:
Maria Paseka (RUS/Team silver 2012 and bronze on Vault 2012)
11 World Champions:
Simone Biles (USA/a record 10 titles: 2013,14,15 All-around and Floor, 2014/15 Beam and Team)
Oksana Chusovitina (former EUN, GER and now UZB/3: Floor and Team 1991, Vault 2003), Madison Kocian (USA/3: Uneven Bars 2015 and Team 2014/15), Aliya Mustafina (RUS/3: All-Around and Team 2010, Beam 2013)
Gabrielle Douglas (USA/2: Team 2011/15), Alexandra Raisman (USA/2: Team 2011/15)
Fan Yilin (CHN/1: Uneven Bars 2015), Vanessa Ferrari (ITA/1: All-Around 2006), Hong Un Jong (PRK/1: Vault 2014), Maria Paseka (RUS/1: Vault 2015), Daria Spiridonova (RUS/1: Uneven Bars 2015)
China, Belgium open the show
10:15 a.m.: Now in the arena: China and Belgium, who will kick off the women's competition Sunday morning in Women's qualification. China finished fourth at the 2012 Olympic Games and second at the 2015 World Championships, while the Belgian women are making their first team appearance at the Olympics since 1948. China will begin on Balance Beam, Belgium on Uneven Bars.
This subdivision, the first of five who will train today, also contains two acclaimed gymnasts competing as individuals: Uzbekistan's Oksana Chusovitina, who is competing at a record seventh Olympic Games, as well as 2008 Olympic Vault champion Hong Un Jong of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Both are planning extremely ambitious vaults. The morning competition will not lack for fireworks.
Here's today's podium training schedule:
Women's Gymnastics: How does it work, anyway?
10:00 a.m.: Haven't watched Gymnastics since the last Olympics? Just getting into the sport? Take a moment to watch the video below to get a feel for how competition works.
By the numbers
A second morning in Rio
RIO DE JANEIRO, 9:45 a.m.: With one day to go before the Games of the XXXI Olympiad begin, the 98 women who will grace the Olympic stage in two days get their chance to take their marks today inside the Olympic arena.
Podium training is especially important in Gymnastics because it allows the gymnasts to train their routines using the same equipment and under the exact same conditions that they will compete in.