With two high-flying vaults that made complicated, gravity-defying moves look simple, Rebeca Andrade won the vault final on Sunday at the Tokyo Games, bringing Brazil its first gold medal ever in women’s gymnastics.
Her Olympics just keep getting better.
Last week in the all-around final, Andrade, 22, won the silver medal, finishing just behind the American Sunisa Lee. She dedicated that silver medal, the first Olympic medal of any color for Brazil in women’s gymnastics, to her country, her coaches and her medical staff, which had helped her get to these Games after yet another serious injury to her right knee.
Andrade won with a score of 15.083 points. MyKayla Skinner of the United States, who is retiring after these Olympics, finished second, for the silver medal. Yeo Seo-jeong won bronze for South Korea, and is the first medalist for South Korea in women’s gymnastics.
In 2019, Andrade needed her third surgery in four years to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and missed the world championships because of it. Without her, her Brazilian team did not qualify for Tokyo. And she only qualified for these Games just in June, as an individual.
That last-minute effort to compete in Tokyo was worth it: Andrade’s best performance at her last Olympics, the 2016 Rio Games, was 11th in the all-around.
Her first of two vaults was a Cheng, which is a roundoff onto the springboard, a half twist onto the vault, and a front layout with 1½ twists. Her second was an Amanar, which is a roundoff onto the springboard, a back handspring onto the vault, and a back layout with 2½ twists. She didn’t stick either landing, but her execution and height helped her get high scores.
With Simone Biles out of the competition with a mental health issue, Andrade’s toughest competition going into the vault were two Americans: Jade Carey and Skinner.
Carey, who finished second in vault qualifying last week, appeared to adjust her run-up to her first vault — which was supposed to be a Cheng, but she ended up bailing out of it and completed only a Yurchenko tuck, which is one somersault with no twists. Stunned and nearly in tears, she kept her composure long enough to perform a second vault, but that landing had one big step to it. Her overall score, 12.416 points, left her out of the medals.
Skinner was just as stunned, but in a the opposite way. Last week after qualifying, she thought her Olympics was over — and her career was over — when she finished fourth in the vault. Because only two gymnasts per country advance to the finals in the all-around and each apparatus, she was left out of the finals after Biles and Carey had finished ahead of her in qualifying.
In an Instagram post, Skinner, who is 24 and was an alternate at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, said she was heartbroken at how these Olympics turned out for her.
“This closes the book on my gymnastics career, and my only regrets were things outside of my control. So no regrets,” she wrote. “For now I will just try to fill the hole in my heart.”
But on Saturday, when Biles withdrew from the vault, Skinner gained the chance to dress in her competition leotard one final time and see if she could win.
She posted on Instagram once again: “Doing this for us @Simone_Biles. … It’s go time baby!”
At last, Skinner — whom Lee called the team’s “grandma” because she has so much experience on the national team — will go home to Arizona with a long-awaited Olympic medal around her neck.
Maggie Astor contributed reporting.