Two Chinese gymnasts climbed to the top two spots on the Olympic podium on Tuesday, collecting their country’s first medals in the women’s gymnastics competition in its final event.
Guan Chenchen won the gold medal on beam, edging teammate Tang Xijing. They pushed American superstar Simone Biles to third place in the process.
“I actually didn’t expect to get a medal,” Guan said. “My coach said to me, ‘This is your first time at the Olympics and nobody knows you, so go ahead and do your best.’”
The Chinese are usually fierce competitors for the coveted team medals. But this year, they slipped to seventh place in that competition last week.
The Chinese men’s gymnastics team won a total of six medals, more than any other nation.
After the women’s victory on Tuesday, the gymnasts said they were grateful for bringing equipment home.
“I actually started gymnastics a lot later than the others so I think it’s a good result for me,” said Guan, who is 16 and has been doing gymnastics since 2010. “Although this competition is very tiring, I am very happy with this result.
Their victory was in some ways overshadowed by Biles. Tuesday’s balance beam competition was her first appearance at the Olympics since she had retired from the team event a week ago, citing mental health issues that made her punitive routines dangerous.
Guan said Biles is his hero. They sat next to each other in a press conference after the event, and Biles tried to bring attention back to Guan and Tang. She said she was honored to be sitting next to them.
“They did absolutely amazing,” Biles said. “I’ve seen them train so hard, so they definitely deserve one and two.”
Both gymnasts thanked their coaches who they said guided them through injuries, difficult times and anxiety.
“Today I tried not to think too much about the outcome. I just did my best. Even though there were a few small mistakes, I am very happy that I was able to win a medal here, ”said Tang, who is 18 and added that she was eagerly waiting for the world to watch her. again at the Paris Olympics in three years.
“It’s,” Tang said, “that’s really my goal.”