If, somehow, you managed to avoid getting spoiled for the women’s all-around gymnastics final, NBC’s primetime coverage of the Rio Olympics on Thursday likely had your stomach doing Gabby Douglas-esque somersaults.
By the time Bob Costas shifted the home audience from gymnastics to swimming, the all-around competition had reached its halfway point — and frontrunner Simone Biles was, surprisingly, not at the top of the leaderboard. Nor was Aly Raisman, who had fallen to fourth place after her vault and uneven bar performances.
Sure, Russia’s Aliya Mustafina only led Biles by 0.034 points. Sure, the remaining exercises — balance beam and floor routine — were two of Raisman and Biles’ strongest. But still, an all-around gymnastics final that didn’t end with one or both of Team USA’s competitors on the podium simply seemed wrong.
That’s why it was doubly exhilarating to watch as the U.S. ladies clawed their way to the top of the leaderboard, finishing the evening with both gold and silver medals (for Biles and Raisman, respectively). Though it would be easy to attribute the girls’ success to some fatal errors by their competitors — someone get Russia’s Seda Tutkhalyan into therapy, stat! — it’s impossible to deny the agility, precision and beautifully-stuck landings that put Biles and Raisman atop the podium.
Even more memorable than their astonishing athletic skill was the girls’ unfiltered emotion as they realized they’d both performed floor routines strong enough to win the top two prizes. “That was the best double-turn of my life!” Raisman squealed as she stepped off the mat, while Biles burst into tears immediately after nabbing the gold. Perhaps their all-around success wasn’t the most unexpected moment of the Rio games, but it was certainly one of the most unforgettable.
Here are some other buzzed-about moments from Day 6 of the Rio games:
* Longtime swimming frenemies Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte faced off for the final time in an Olympic pool during the men’s 200-meter individual medley. Phelps, with a time of 1:54.66, walked away with yet another gold — his 22nd (!) — while Lochte failed to earn a spot on the podium, nabbing fifth place. (We’ll just blame that on the blue hair dye.)
* Speaking of swimming — and Olympic moments that make us verklempt — U.S. competitor Simone Manuel tied Canada’s Penny Oleksiak for the gold medal in the women’s 100-meter freestyle, with a record time of 52.70 seconds. Manuel, whose emotional post-swim interview likely had you ugly-crying on the couch, is the first African-American woman to win an individual gold medal in Olympic swimming.
* The men of Fiji’s rugby sevens team took home the gold medal — the nation’s first piece of hardware since joining the Olympic games in 1956.
* Kayla Harrison became the first U.S. judo competitor to win the gold medal at back-to-back Olympic games, besting France’s Audrey Tcheuméo (who earned silver) and Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar, Harrison’s longtime rival who settled for the bronze.
What was your favorite moment of this day of Olympic competition? What are you most looking forward to in the games? Let us know in the comments!