Let’s be honest: The vibes at these Olympic games have been pretty fucked. They are taking place amid a surging pandemic in a city that doesn’t want them, and all of the events being held in empty arenas has sucked a tremendous amount of fun and energy out of each competition. If you’re an American sports fan, the vibes have been even worse. The live events are all broadcast at ungodly hours, Katie Ledecky is no longer dominating every distance in swimming, and the biggest story of the games thus far has been Simone Biles needing to withdraw from the team and individual all-around finals. But this morning, finally, we got some good vibes.
Those vibes were provided by American gymnast Sunisa Lee, who just won the gold medal in the women’s all-around final. She finished the event with a total score of 57.433, edging out Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade (57.298) and Russia’s Angelina Melnikova (57.199). What was remarkable about Lee’s win was just how cooly and competently it was delivered. She didn’t win the gold by blowing everyone away with an unexpectedly glorious performance, but by nailing all the little things and doing what needed to be done.
Lee was in fifth place after vault, the first rotation, but quickly made up ground on the uneven bars. Lee’s uneven bars routine is the most difficult in the world, and it was absolutely necessary for her to nail it if she was going to have any hope of holding off the rest of the field in the last two rotations. Lee did just that, powering through some nervy moments that could have resulted in bigger errors and scoring a 15.3, the highest score of the day.
Lee held strong on the beam, which was a particularly brutal event today. Several gymnasts struggled with their routines and fell off the beam completely, which led the announcers to only half-jokingly suggest that someone should check on it to make sure it wasn’t crooked. Lee managed to stay on throughout her routine, and if there was one moment from today that you could point to and say, “That’s where she held it all together,” it might have been when she nearly lost her balance after completing a dreaded triple wolf turn. But Lee somehow managed to fight off gravity and momentum and stay on the beam. That was enough to earn her the second-highest beam score of the competition, a 13.833.
Lee was in first place heading into the final rotation, floor, but at that point even the most jingoistic viewer had to concede that it was unlikely she would finish the day with a gold medal. Andrade, who was just a few tenths behind Lee, is a dominant performer on floor and needed only to get through her routine without any sizable mistakes in order to surpass Lee and lock up the gold medal. But Lee didn’t make it easy for her, scoring a 13.7 with an essentially mistake-free routine. Floor was one of Lee’s vulnerabilities coming into the games, due to an ankle injury that robbed her of some of her explosiveness, but she got progressively better throughout these games. Today’s 13.7 improved on her 13.433 from qualifying and her 13.666 in the team all-around final.
Andrade still had a relatively clear path to the gold medal, but she needed to walk it. She did not do that! Andrade stepped out of bounds on not one, but two of her tumbling passes, which earned her a trip to deduction city and a score of 13.666. And that’s when, at long last, the vibes got good:
The Olympics will probably go right back to sucking as the day progresses, but Lee’s performance is something to hold onto. She went out there, she kicked ass, she refused to let up, and now she’s a gold medalist.