Gymnasts are known for tumbling, but the U.S. women had quite the opposite effect on their country’s place in the medals table. On Day 11 in Rio, the final day for gymnastics, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman tacked a gold and silver onto their team’s haul, boosting it to a national-record nine overall. Not to be outdone, Danell Leyva chipped in with two medals from the men’s side.
Leyva won silvers in both the parallel bars and high bar Tuesday, giving the U.S. a total of 12 gymnastics medals in Rio, second to the 16 earned at the Eastern bloc-boycotted 1984 Games. Not bad for someone who originally made the American team as an alternate.
Biles, of course, was a lock for her history-making quintet, and she came through with another gold, this time in the floor exercise, giving her four of those and a bronze in five events. Raisman, the 2012 gold medalist on floor, took the silver Tuesday and added that to her silver in the all-around and gold in the team event. The highlight of the day for Biles, though, may have been meeting her crush, actor Zac Efron, and giving him a kiss.
Also going 1-2 for the U.S. in their event Tuesday were Christian Taylor and Will Claye, who won gold and silver, respectively, in the triple jump. For the pair, it was quite the double-up, given that they accomplished the same feat at the 2012 Games.
Jenny Simpson made her own history, becoming the first American to medal in the women’s 1,500 meters, an event added to the Olympics in 1972. Elsewhere on the track, Americans Tori Bowie and Deajah Stevens qualified for the women’s 200-meter final, Dalilah Muhammad and Ashley Spencer advanced to the women’s 400-meter hurdles final and Kerron Clement did the same for the men’s version.
Day 11 saw the end of the line, though, for high school sensation Sydney McLaughlin, who failed to make it out of the 400-meter hurdle heats. Devon Allen made the final in the men’s 110-meter hurdles but finished fifth, with his Oregon football teammates cheering him on. Now, the Ducks’ receiver is ready for some football.
Perhaps the most disappointing track and field result was posted by Erik Kynard, who brought home a high jump silver for the U.S. in the 2012 Games but finished sixth this year. However, arguably the most touching moment came when American Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealander Nikki Hamblin tripped over each other in a women’s 5,000-meter heat, then helped each other finish the race in a stirring display of sportsmanship and camaraderie.
Shakur Stevenson ensured the U.S. would get a second boxing medal in Rio by defeating Mongolia’s Tsendbaatar Erdenebat in the quarterfinals, with an approving Floyd Mayweather in attendance, no less. The 19-year-old New Jersey native is guaranteed at least a bronze, but he’ll try to give his country its first bantamweight gold since 1988. Meanwhile, D.C.-area native Gary Antuanne Russell lost after a controversial decision in the light-welterweight quarterfinals, leaving Stevenson the last U.S. man standing.
The U.S. women’s basketball team had a much tougher time with Japan than the 110-64 score would indicate, but it still reached the semifinals.
Falling in the semifinals, though, was the American beach volleyball duo of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross. It was the first loss on an Olympic beach for Walsh Jennings (she was also a member of the fourth-place U.S. indoor volleyball team in 2000), and it ended her quest for a fourth straight gold, but she will have a chance to add a bronze to her collection.
“It’s a terrible feeling,” Walsh Jennings said of her loss, and Russia’s Ilya Zakharov can more than feel her pain. The defending Olympic champion in the three-meter springboard, Zakharov saw his dive in Tuesday’s semifinals turn into a brutal belly flop — and a score of zero.
On Day 12, Adam Eaton hopes for smooth sailing as he begins his quest for a second straight gold in the men’s decathlon. Things haven’t gone very smoothly of late for the heavily favored U.S. men’s basketball team, but it will take any kind of win over an old Olympic nemesis, Argentina, in quarterfinal action, while Walsh Jennings and Ross will try to salvage their Rio showing with a bronze against top-seeded Brazilians Talita and Larissa.