On vault Maria Paseka was the 7th to perform out of 8 gymnasts present in the final. Prior to her participation she most likely felt the same way as she had during the team final as it was clear that a medal was within her reach if she delivered her vaults.
By the time it was Maria’s turn Hong Un Jong had fallen in her fail-attempted Triple Twisting Yurchenko and the “Produnova” vaults of Chusovitina and Karmakar had failed to get them into medal contention. Paseka’s main rival was Giulia Steingruber who was in the lead after vaulting a 5.8 and 6.2 difficulty vaults. Maria had higher difficulty with 6.4 and 6.3 vaults so it was clear that not only a medal, but a silver medal (because everyone knew Simone Biles was going to win, no suspense there) was perfectly plausible.
Again Maria was tested with delivering not only a medal but the correct medal, if she had poorly executed vaults she could still get a bronze medal but that was not what Russian gymnastics fans wanted to see, they wanted to see a Russian gymnast delivering to her full potential.
Maria’s biggest test was her first vault, the Cheng, since in qualifications it was so poorly executed that she had been surpassed by her teammates who had only 5.8 difficulty vaults. While the vault still had execution problems in the air it was stuck, though a neutral deduction of 0.1 was applied for having a foot outside the line yet it was much better than her qualification vault where she had steps and incurred in a 0.3 neutral deduction.
So half the medal was in her pocket, only the Amanar to go and she’d be a silver medalist. While the Amanar in the vault final was not as beautiful as the one in the team final as she landed it with a very big step back, it was still a silver medal worthy vault.
Going into the bars final Russia had two very big hopes of medals however the colors were hard to predict since the final was set to be very tight.
Aliya Mustafina was third up in the final and her beautiful work along with her 6.8 difficulty score easily earned her the lead with a 15.900. Next up was her closest competitor Madison Kocian, who had a 6.7 difficulty and a very well executed routine however she did not manage to outscore Mustafina as she finished 0.067 behind her. From that moment on the gold was secure for Aliya as none of the remaining competitors had ever scored as high as a 15.900.
However Aliya expected company in the podium as teammate Daria Spiridinova was the 7th gymnast up out of 8 competing. Daria was entering the final as one of the four 2015 World Champions in the event plus Gabrielle Douglas, who had been third in qualifying, made a big mistake, so the road was open for Daria Spiridinova as her qualification score was 0.117 higher than what Sophie Scheder, the current gymnast in third place, had.
While Daria is not known for her consistency on any other event, her fall from the uneven bars in the transition from the low to high bar was very surprising as she had never fallen from the uneven bars at a major international competition before.
Sophie Scheder’s jaw and Daria Spiridinova hit the ground at the same time as Sophie immediately knew that the bronze medal would be hers or in a worst case scenario her teammate’s Elisabeth Seitz who was the last gymnast up. In the end it was Sophie Scheder who claimed bronze.
Aliya Mustafina, the graceful and strong leader of the Russian Team, achieved three unexpected historic marks:
- She equaled the exact placements from four years ago: gold on bars, silver with the team and bronze in the all-around.
- She also equaled the number of Olympic medals her historic predecessor Svetlana Khorkina has: Seven.
- Became the first Olympic champion to successfully defend her title four years later just like Khorkina did in Sydney 2000 when she defended her 1996 Uneven Bars Olympic Title.
While it is rather likely Mustafina will take a break after Rio we can only hope it is not a definite retirement since she could break another few records in four years time. Plus the Russian Team will definitely need her leadership and fans all around the world will enjoy very much watching her truly artistic gymnastics, once again
This is the final appearance of the Russian Women’s Artistic Team in Rio 2016 since none of the gymnasts in the team qualified to the Beam or Floor final. So the Russian medal count is:
- 1 Gold: Uneven Bars (Mustafina)
- 2 Silvers: Team & Vault (Paseka)
- 1 Bronze: All-Around (Mustafina)