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Netherlands' Wevers Wins Balance Beam Gold; Hernandez And Biles Take Silver, Bronze

Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands won gold in the balance beam Monday, turning in a poised routine after several other gymnasts had notable wobbles.
Toshifumi Kitamura
AFP/Getty Images
Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands won gold in the balance beam Monday, turning in a poised routine after several other gymnasts had notable wobbles.

Simone Biles' bid for her fourth gold medal of Rio's Summer Olympics will have to wait, after Dutch gymnast Sanne Wevers took advantage of a slightly sub-par Biles performance to claim gold. Biles won bronze, and her U.S. teammate Laurie Hernandez won the silver.

Wevers, 24, overcame the nerves that seemed to hit several of the other eight gymnasts at the Rio Olympic Arena on Monday, seizing the top spot after going fourth — and then waiting as the remaining gymnasts tried to better her score.

At the start of the final, Fan Yilin of China led off with a routine that included a few bobbles. On her dismount, she took a large step backward.

Unwrapping the tape around her ankles, Fan alternated between looking at her hands with looking up at the scoreboard. When her score finally flashed up above, it was a 14.500.

Isabela Onyshko of Canada followed with a routine that also had problems — she fell sideways off the beam after a twisting flip in which her feet didn't find the middle of the beam. The crowd rewarded her immediate return to the apparatus with a big hand.

We'll say this for Onyshko and her coach: Their relationship is a good one. After a problematic routine, they smiled and talked before her score popped up: a 13.400.

Big cheers came soon after, because Biles was walking to the beam, where she's turned in some very high numbers in both qualifying and in the team competition.

Biles had several wobbles of her own, including one pass where she lost her footing on a front flip and nearly came off the beam. Her dismount was solid, although she took a small hop. Biles then awaited her score: a 14.733 — in first place, but not by much.

After that unexpectedly mortal score — Biles scored a 15.300 on the beam during the team competition — Wevers was next, and she seized an Olympic opportunity, with a smooth and artful routine that featured little of the arm-waving of the first three gymnasts.

Wevers' dismount seemed perfect: she ran toward the end of the beam, flipped backward in the air and landed with a solid thud.

Unlike her predecessors Monday, Wevers was mostly smiling as she awaited her score. The judges took a long time to turn the final score in, but when it finally came, it showed that they liked the routine, as well: Wevers scored a 15.466, putting her into the gold medal slot.

After Wevers went to No. 1, Biles' U.S. teammate Laurie Hernandez went after a top score of her own, with a cool and smooth routine that was a definition of controlled energy. Her dismount was smooth, with only a small hop backward upon landing.

Hernandez then hugged her coach and got a warm hug from a smiling Biles.

When Biles was waiting on her own score, she'd been taking deep breaths and looking thoughtful. She waited for Hernandez's score alongside her, with the two smiling and talking, knowing Hernandez had a shot at the podium. Hernandez scored a 15.333, putting her in for silver.

The gymnasts' final scores, which combine difficulty and execution, show that Wevers attempted the most technically difficult routine of the day, and that her execution was second only to Hernandez's.

Wevers, a four-time Dutch national champion in the beam, had previously finished second — between Fan and Biles — at the 2015 World Championships. She's coached by her father, and according to her bio, a balance beam move is named after her: the double spin with the other leg held horizontal, which she unveiled at the 2010 World Championships.

At the end of the day, Flavia Saraiva of Brazil took the beam and wowed the home crowd. Her routine was smooth and poised, and she elevated off the beam to heights that seemed impossible for her small frame (she's about 4 feet 4 inches tall). She pounded her dismount into the mat and smiled to the roaring crowd.

After Saraiva left the mat, she gave her competitors hugs and then went to wait for her score. It wasn't enough to get her on the podium, at a 14.533, but she smiled and waved to the appreciative crowd.

With three gold medals already won in Rio's Summer Olympics, a record for an American female gymnast, Biles will have to wait until the last individual event, the floor exercise, to try for a fourth. That final takes place Tuesday afternoon; once again, it'll pit Biles against a U.S. teammate: this time, it's Aly Raisman.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: August 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this post incorrectly said the women's floor exercise final is Wednesday. That event will actually be held Tuesday afternoon.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.