The Rio Olympics: Gymnasts Hit the Floor

Wow! I can’t believe we’re here!

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Not just here, in Rio, a city founded by giant steampunk spider monsters (according to the opening ceremonies interpretive dance medley), but also HERE on Foolish Watcher, a spiffy new television destination. Also founded by giant steampunk spider monsters. True facts!

Although Doubles Recapping is not an Olympic Sport (yet), I do believe Therese and I are the World Record holders. A new home means new rules, though. For the previous four Olympic Games we’ve recapped, we consulted the schedule of events and tried to evenly disperse all the good nights between us. These Games, our fifth, are more of a grab bag of whomever is available to sit through five hours (five hours!) of Olympic programming on a Sunday night.

Imagine my delight when I realized I’d be recapping a night full of gymnastics and swimming. Not a volleyball in sight. Here’s the rub: It was mostly qualifying matches and semifinals and bizarre cutting back and forth between events like we were watching it in Brandon Stark warg vision. Or maybe that’s just the bottle of Skinnygirl Margarita I had. Either way, I wasn’t exactly following the night’s events super, super closely, but you’re not here for sports commentary (god, I hope), you’re here because we’re not afraid to ask the tough questions about the Olympics. Questions like: Is Michael Phelps more or less fuckable now? (We say more!)

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The human fish (not him, him) actually made his Rio debut in last night’s programming, and NBC is making sure we don’t miss it. It’s not his individual debut, just part of the men’s relay team, but if there were any lingering doubts if this half-giant/half-house elf/half-porpoise has still got it, his performance in the second leg of the men’s 4×100 relay will certainly shut those down real quick. He gave his teammates plenty of space to snatch that gold when he swam his leg in 47.12 seconds, which was even more impressive to watch than it sounds.

If you’re not a Phelps phan, there’s another American set to dominate the pool: Katie Ledecky. The 19-year-old swimmer took home gold in London in the 800m freestyle, but since then she’s set 12 world records. In last night’s 400m freestyle, Ledecky obliterated the competition, racing far ahead the other women in the pool, and what seemed like a full body-length ahead of the world record. Clocking in at 3:56, Ledecky is only the second woman to swim the 400-meter in under four minutes, alongside Italian Federica Pellegrini, who cracked four minutes while outfitted in one of those cheater bodysuits everyone was wearing back in the day that apparently made you swim faster and have since been banned. They were like the Olympic equivalent of snap bracelets. Or JNCO jeans.

Also in the pool, American Dana Vollmer had her sights set on becoming the first American swimmer to win gold after giving birth. Unfortunately, she only manages to snag the bronze in the 100m butterfly. But, it is a nice segue into the new INSANE “Thank You Moms” commercial, which might as well be a sequel to The Day After Tomorrow.

Let’s see, let’s see, what else went down in the pool? Conor Dwyer won a semifinal. Olivia Smoliga qualified for the 100m backstroke. Ryan Murphy (not him, him) and David Plummer qualified for 100m backstroke. Townley Haas qualified for the men’s 200m freestyle and won gold in having a really bougie first name.

Then there’s Cody Miller. We get a lot of information on his “deformity” (his word!), pectus excavatum, a condition where the sternum and ribs don’t develop normally. It results in this little indent in his chest that could have made it impossible for him to swim because it decreases his lung capacity and it could have even compromised his heart, but instead they theorize it helped his arms and chest to grow in such a way that he’s an even better swimmer! Maybe! That sounds like science! Look, buddy, I’ve sat through so many packages on every single part of Michael Phelps’ body and how it specifically evolved to make him a manfish, your little chest divot is not impressive. The only part of Michael Phelps’ anatomy I haven’t heard Matt Lauer breathlessly narrate a package about is, in fact, his package. (How is it, in 2016, despite all his tomfoolery and years of rakishness, somehow, none of Michael Phelps’ dick pics have surfaced?)

Anyway, Miller gets a bronze, losing the gold in the men’s 100m breaststroke to adorable ginge Adam Peaty of Great Britain.

There were also some flashes of women’s synchronized diving, but I literally have no idea what happened or what it was for or who won, because no Americans were competing, so NBC didn’t bother showing it to us in any kind of discernible order or narrative. Some women are in sync, some are not in sync. They all lipdive sync for. their. LIVES!

OK, OK. Let’s towel off and leave the pool for some gymnastics.
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Here’s where shit gets real. Even though this is just a qualifying round, it is a thrill to see the U.S. Women’s team destroy. Seriously. Simone Biles is literally the best gymnast in the world. She’s predicted to win FIVE gold medals. She has a move named after her. And she’s not even 20 years old. I’m a full decade older than her, on my second bottle of Skinnygirl and have been wearing the same pajamas for two days straight.

These young women are amazing. Full stop. No snark. Biles ruled every single apparatus in the rotation. Her floor routine was so seismic, chaos theorists will assert it was the effect of a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere on the other side of the Earth. She was so dominant that by the time she reached the beam, she could have literally fallen twice and still qualified for the all-around. But, she didn’t fall. Of course she didn’t.

It’s not just Biles, though. The whole U.S. team is insanely good. Unfortunately, only two competitors from each country can qualify for the all-around. Biles was a lock, so the number two spot was up for grabs between Aly Raisman and 2012 gold medal-winner, Gabby Douglas. Both women turned in exceptional performances, with Raisman just barely edging out Douglas. So, even though Douglas captured the third-best score out of any female gymnast competing in Rio, she won’t have a shot to defend her gold in the all-around.

All of the U.S. women qualified for individual events, and the team heads into the team finals in a very comfortable first place, with the next nation, China, scoring nearly TEN FULL POINTS less in this qualifying round. Essentially, that means I could tag in, duckwalk across the floor and the team could still probably win gold.

There are other, notable, non-U.S. women competing in gymnastics, as well. There’s Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan, competing in her SEVENTH Olympics at the age of 41. Fun fact: Chusovitina is widely considered the Helen Mirren of gymnastics in my apartment, by me.
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There’s also Ellie Downie from Great Britain. Girl took a SPILL during he floor routine, landing square on her neck in a very scary looking botch. She jumped in the air, landed on her head, but then got up and kept going for a bit in a sort of haze. She had to stop her routine and be helped off the floor, but then! She came back! She came back from that and did TWO VAULTS! And then qualified for the all-around! Don’t let the sparkles fool you; gymnasts are tough AF.

Tomorrow, Therese is back on deck to recap Monday’s events, including Phelps’ phirst individual event and men’s gymnastics team final. Oh, and volleyball!

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