"Final Five" win one more gymnastics gold for Karolyi U.S. gymnasts and gold medallists, right to left, Simone Biles, Gabrielle Douglas, Lauren Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman pose for photographs during the medal ceremony for the artistic gymnastics women's team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez/Rebecca Blackwell)
"Final Five" win one more gymnastics gold for Karolyi
Lexile

Martha Karolyi leaned forward, her hands clutching the railing in front of her seat. Her knuckles were white, her head was tilted and her body was tense.
 
It didn't matter that the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team had already sewn up the team gold by the time three-time world champion Simone Biles saluted the floor exercise judges. This was during the final event on Tuesday night (August 9).
 
Winning isn't enough for Karolyi and never has been. For 90 seconds the longtime national team coordinator leaned one way and then another, following Biles' every move. Only after Biles' score was posted - one that served as an exclamation point on two hours of nearly flawless gymnastics - did the architect of a dynasty relax.
 
Then, something else happened, something she never saw coming. She started crying, and not just a little.
 
"I pride normally being very tough," Karolyi said. "I was 'Oh, what's happening to me? What is this?'"
 
It's goodbye.
 
The 73-year-old is stepping away from the program she has spent the last 15 years turning into one of the most dominant forces at the Olympics. Her athletes - all of whom she's nurtured from prodigies to champions - repaid her hard work with a fitting tribute of precision and tenacity.
 
Twenty-eight times in two days they stepped up to compete, and 28 times they hit. There were no falls and no major wobbles, only brilliance.
 
The U.S. posted a score of 184.897, more than eight points clear of silver medalist Russia and nearly nine more than bronze medalist China while winning its second straight Olympic title and third overall. It was a winning margin greater than the one that propelled the "Fierce Five" to victory in London four years ago.
 
The only real mystery surrounded what nickname the team would settle on before Biles stumbled upon it during a group text.
 
The group - Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez - dubbed themselves "The Final Five" as a nod to Karolyi.
 
"It's perfect," Biles said. "It's Martha's last year (and) we wanted it to be meaningful."
 
Biles admitted there were nerves before Sunday's preliminaries, though it hardly looked like it while the Americans posted the highest score by more than nine points. The only moment of tension on Tuesday came early. When Hernandez was introduced to the crowd, Raisman nudged her and told her to wave, which the 16-year-old did with a toothy smile.
 
Barely five minutes later, the youngest member of Team USA was all business. Her double-twisting Yurchenko vault - basically a roundoff onto the block followed by a pair of twists - put the machine in motion. Raisman, who won three medals in London four years ago and seemed to be on the outside looking in as recently as this spring, followed with perhaps the finest vault of her long career. When Biles drilled her Amanar and put up a 15.933 - tied for highest of the night - the U.S. was already on top of the leaderboard and everyone else was playing for second.
 
Russian star Aliya Mustafina admitted before the competition the Americans were "unbeatable." China's Shang Chunsong said her team "aimed for the silver medal," a position the Chinese seemed to have in hand until stumbling on the final rotation.
 
The U.S. hasn't lost a major international competition since 2010 and there appears to be no end in sight to their run even though Karolyi and her husband Bela are selling the training facility on their Texas ranch to USA Gymnastics.
 
Karolyi joked she's going to have to be a "normal person" in retirement and plans to poke her head in occasionally to "see if they are going in the right direction."
 
At the moment, that direction is up. Way up thanks in part to the semi-centralized system Karolyi installed. Team members and coaches visit the ranch regularly, where they receive specialized instructions. No detail is overlooked. The competition on Tuesday forced the U.S. to wait sometimes 20-30 minutes between sets. No problem. They do that at the ranch all the time.
 
"Martha does that to us," Douglas said. "It's start. Stop. Start. Stop."
 
The retirement party will have to wait. There's more gold to be won. All five Americans will compete later in the games, starting with Biles and Raisman in the all-around on Thursday. They'll get Wednesday morning off, then it's back to work. The job is not done.
 
It never is.
 
"Don't take anything granted," Karolyi said. "We want to do the very best all the time."
 
A mantra that will live on long after Karolyi takes off her USA Gymnastics sweatsuit for the last time.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did the team refer to themselves as the “Final Five?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (12)
  • bend-rhi
    8/22/2016 - 09:03 a.m.

    That is so amazing.

  • jacobs-rhi
    8/22/2016 - 09:10 a.m.

    I think it is because that is the last time all of them will be together. I think it is sad for Karolyi to be leaving.I think they will miss her.

  • courtneyd-rhi
    8/22/2016 - 09:24 a.m.

    cause there was only five finalist for USA. Martha was retireing so they wanted to impress her buy winning gold again. The artical was really inspiring.

  • sheldonc-rhi
    8/26/2016 - 08:56 a.m.

    The retirement party will have to wait. There's more gold to be won. All five Americans will compete later in the games.

  • dyllind-rhi
    8/26/2016 - 08:57 a.m.

    The 73-year-old is stepping away from the program she has spent the last 15 years turning into one of the most dominant forces at the Olympics. The competition on Tuesday forced the U.S. to wait sometimes 20-30 minutes between sets. No problem. They do that at the ranch all the time.

  • ellaj2-bla
    9/15/2016 - 10:17 a.m.

    The team refers themselves as the "Final Five" because since Karolyi is leaving they are the last five. Since Martha is leaving they want to win the gold to impress her and make her happy. This article I think is very inspiring. Martha is finally retiring and selling the ranch to the gymnastics. This must be very hard for her since she has done this for 15 years. They all want to do their very best and that's what they do.

  • mollyb1-bla
    9/15/2016 - 10:33 a.m.

    The team referred to themselves as the "Final Five" because Karolyi is leaving and the team of five is there is left. They are the last ones to compete. In my opinion, this article was very well written and very interesting to read. I used to be a gymnast myself, so I really enjoyed reading this article.

  • erinh-bla
    9/15/2016 - 12:03 p.m.

    I love this article. The team called themselves the final five because it was Karolyi's last year. They wanted it to be special. This article was very inspiring. They beat Russia by 8 points and China by 9. That's crazy.

  • summerg-bla
    9/16/2016 - 09:36 a.m.

    I like this article because i can relate to it, because i am a gymnast too!(level 7) When i did my first compition when i was 4 i was really nervous and anxious. This helps me understand that if i think of having a future as a gymnast, which i do, then i need to understand what it takes to be a pro.

  • tcosb-wim
    9/16/2016 - 12:13 p.m.

    The team called themselves the final five because it was five of them and it was Martha's last year.

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