GOLDEN GIRLS: Russian team clinch Olympic gymnastics title to end US dominance in dramatic final after Biles withdraws
The Russian women's gymnastics team claimed a dramatic gold medal in the artistic all-round final in Tokyo, ending America's run of two consecutive titles at the Olympics.
A tense final at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre witnessed the shock early departure of American four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles, who pulled out after the opening vault.
The US team described Biles as having a "medical issue" and the 24-year-old star continued to support her team from the sidelines, although her departure had undoubtedly dealt a huge blow to her team.
Commenting to reporters, Biles herself later cited mental health concerns as being a factor in the decision to withdraw.
The Russian team of Angelina Melnikova, Vladislava Urazova, Viktoria Listunova and Lilia Akhaimova – competing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) due to WADA sanctions – went on to triumph ahead of the US in second and Great Britain in third.
Russia ended with a total score of 169.528, with the US on 166.096 and Britain on 164.096.
The US team had won five successive world championships and also gold at the past two Games, with Russia settling for silver both times.
But this time in Tokyo it was vice versa, with the first women's all-round team gold for Russia as an independent country following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Their success repeats the feat of their male counterparts in Tokyo on Monday, which was a first Olympic gold medal for the men's gymnastics team since 1996 in Atlanta.
Heading into Tuesday's final, the US team – so dominant for the past decade – had appeared surprisingly fallible, qualifying in second spot behind their Russian rivals.
That had included an uncharacteristically sloppy performance by Biles, whose early departure on Tuesday piled further pressure on her teammates Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles.
Despite a brave effort in the absence of their taliswoman, they were unable to top a Russian team led by the superb Melnikova.
On sealing victory, the Russian team erupted into cheers and tears of joy, and were gracefully congratulated by the American team and coaches, including Biles.