Rio de Janeiro: Simone Biles’s bid for a record five women’s gymnastics gold medals in Rio ended Monday when the US star was beaten into third place on the beam by Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands.
Biles — a gold medallist in the team, all-around and vault — fought to stay on the apparatus during her routine, scoring just 14.733 points.
It handed the 19-year-old her first defeat in a final of the apparatus since 2013.
“You guys want it more than I do,” she said of the bid for five gold medals.
Wevers, 24, surged to gold with 15.466 points ahead of American Lauren Hernandez, who won silver with 15.333, giving the Netherlands just a second women’s Olympic gold — 88 years after the Dutch team’s victory.
Wevers unexpectedly found herself in the limelight as she was congratulated in person afterwards by King Willem-Alexander, and took a phone call from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
“He just said he was really proud of me,” she said of the monarch.
Despite getting off to a strong start the 1.45m (4ft 9ins) Biles lost her balance and put her hands down on the beam after landing a front somersault.
“Everyone would love to have a bronze at an Olympics. I’m just disappointed with my routine. I don’t really know what happened,” said the Texan.
Becoming the first American woman to win three gold at the same Games, she admitted the reaction to her successes back home had been overwhelming.
“It’s scary and exciting and a little bit overwhelming,” she said.
Wevers took to the beam immediately after Biles and decided to change her strategy as she hit all her spins, jumps and acrobatic skills.
“The plan was to go all-out, but then I saw Simone making mistakes,” said Wevers, a silver medallist behind Biles at last year’s worlds.
“After seeing her score, I knew I had to change my strategy.
“I knew that I needed to go all out, to do my highest difficulty. But after I saw her I said ‘maybe play it safe’.”
She added: “To do the performance of my life and to do it at an the Olympics is unbelievable.”
— Pump up –Biles still has a chance for a record-equalling fourth gold in Tuesday’s floor final.
Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina (1956), Czech Vera Caslavska (1968) and Romanian Ecaterina Szabo (1984), have all also won four gold medals at the same Olympics.
“I still have the floor to come. I’m a little tired. The floor always pumps me up,” said the ten-time world champion.
Hernandez, 16, got her second medal after gold with the US team, but tiny Brazilian star Flavia Saraiva, standing just 1.33 metre (4ft 4in), finished off the podium in fifth.
Triple Olympic champion Catalina Ponor, attempted to win the title she won in 2004, but wobbled to seventh.
North Korea’s Ri Se-Gwang won the men’s vault with Greece’s Eleftherios Petrounias the rings title.
The 21-year-old Ri, who had been poker-faced during the execution of his two vaults, had tears in his eyes as he stood to attention on top of the podium giving a military-style salute as the national anthem played.
Russia’s Denis Abliazin won silver for his second consecutive Games medal on vault after London 2012.
It was his third medal in Rio after silver in the team with Russia and rings bronze.
Japan’s Kenzo Shirai snatched bronze ahead of Romanian veteran Marian Dragulescu. Both scored 15.499 points on vault with Shirai achieving a higher execution score.
Reigning Olympic champion Arthur Zanetti of Brazil had to settle for rings silver with 15.766.