What we learned: Artistic gymnastics wrap-up from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Suni Lee of the U.S. and Japan's HASHIMOTO Daiki claimed the sport's two individual all-around crowns as the world's best gymnasts: we reflect on artistic gymnastics' most memorable moments at Tokyo 2020, recap the medals, and look forward to Paris 2024. 

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Artistic gymnastics at Tokyo 2020 was full of twists and turns – quite literally. It was an event that was supposed to be all about gold medals for USA's Simone Biles, but her performance in Tokyo turned into something bigger than gymnastics.

Men's competition saw surprises, too, with the reigning world and European all-around champion Nikita Nagornyy of ROC suffering a shock defeat to the teenaged HASHIMOTO Daike of Japan.

Here’s our wrap-up of all the action.

Top five artistic gymnastics moments at Tokyo 2020

Here are some of the highlights from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which took place in 2021.

1 - ROC wins both men’s and women’s team gold medals.

In the first two medal rounds of artistic gymnastics, ROC came away with both the golds, setting up a successful Games. The men’s team had not won since Atlanta 1996, while the Unified Team won women’s gold in 1992.

Both the men's and women's finals were dramatic showdowns that came down to the final routines. In men's competition, it was a heated battle between hosts Japan and ROC. When Nikita Nagornyy took to the floor exercise, he did not yet know the exact score he would need to secure the gold medal. In dramatic fashion, he mistimed his third tumbling, changing his final element to one he had planned later in his routine.

The 2019 world all-around champion thought fast and added a more difficult pass - one he hadn't completed since 2018 - to ensure the gold for his team.

On the women's side, Angelina Melnikova needed just over a 10.500 to clinch the gold. Her tears were already flowing before she exited the floor exercise mat, knowing she had done enough.

“I was so focused when I went to the floor," she said. "I did my utmost for that. I knew that I could do it, so I did it. I was sure of myself.”

2 - Biles withdraws from team event to focus on mental health, returns to take balance beam bronze

After withdrawing from the women’s team event after one rotation, Team USA’s Simone Biles sparked a worldwide conversation about mental health. Though she withdrew from the individual all-around final and three apparatus medal rounds, the Rio 2016 Olympic champion made a triumphant return to competition on the final day of artistic gymnastics scoring a bronze medal on the balance beam.

"Definitely bringing a light to the conversation of mental health, it's something that people go through a lot that is kind of pushed under the rug," said Biles when asked whether her seventh Olympic medal or the conversation she has sparked in Tokyo was more important. "I feel like we're not just entertainment, we're humans as well and we have feelings."

Biles admitted that her withdrawal, though necessary, had not been easy.

"It's not easy giving up a dream of five years and not getting to do it. It was really, really hard," she explained. "I've never been in the stands, so I just wasn't used to it so to have one more opportunity to compete meant the world."

3 - HASHIMOTO Daiki continues Japanese men’s legacy.

Teenager HASHIMOTO Daiki followed in the steps of UCHIMURA Kohei, giving his nation its third straight men’s all-around title at the Olympic Games. Days later, he added a gold medal on the horizontal bar. His two gold medals at a single Games in men's gymnastics are the first for Japan since 1984.

A relative newcomer, Hashimoto only competed in three events at the most recent world championships in 2019. But since that time, he has emerged as his team's leader. In April, he captured the all-around crown at the Japanese national championships, marking him as one to watch.

Though it could be easy to compare him to the legendary Uchimura, he wants to create his own legacy.

“I’d like people to see me as me,” Hashimoto told Olympics.com in an exclusive interview. “And Uchimura-san is still not finished, so I hope people can support us individually.”

4 - Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade scored a historic gold medal

Brazilian Rebeca Andrade became the first woman from her country to win gold in Olympic gymnastics competition, and just the second Brazilian ever, when she claimed the women's vault crown.

Days earlier, she won the silver medal in the all-around final, a first for a South American.

It had been a long road back to the Games for Andrade, who also competed five years ago at home at Rio 2016. She suffered her third ACL tear in June 2019, throwing Tokyo 2020 in jeopardy. She hadn't even qualified to the Games until early June 2021.

Her injury - and the global COVID-19 pandemic - taught the superstar a lot about perseverance.

"I've overcome a lot of things and each time I overcame something tough, I was more determined to come back, I wanted to win even more," Andrade told Olympics.com in October 2019.

Andrade served as Brazil’s flag-bearer at the closing ceremony.

5 - Max Whitock defends his pommel horse title from Rio 2016

Team GB's Max Whitlock won a second-straight gold medal on the pommel horse, after taking the title five years ago at Rio 2016. The medal gave him his third medal on the event at the Olympic Games and his sixth overall. Whitlock is the first man in 41 years to repeat as Olympic champion on the event, after Zoltan Magyar won in 1976 and 1980.

"It feels so, so strange. A very surreal feeling," Whitlock told Olympics.com afterward. "It's like a whole kind of weight has been lifted off my shoulders now."

It hadn't been all smooth sailing for the Brit, who took silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and failed to medal at the Europeans in 2018. Earlier this year, he crashed out in the preliminary rounds at the European Championships and failed to make the final.

"There was so much outside pressures - with expectancy to bring back the gold, to retain the title. I didn't stop hearing that," Whitlock explained. "And my own pressures. I really kind of felt my pressures ten times more than I ever have this time.

"I think that's because I know what it feels like to win gold," Whitlock continued. "To do it again, is 10 times harder."

One last look at Oksana Chusovitina

The legendary Oksana Chusovitina competed in her eighth and – what she promises – final Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The 46-year-old was part of the Unified Team that won gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games, an event held 11 years before Tokyo 2020 Olympic all-around champion Suni Lee of the United States was even born.

Hello, Paris 2024

Though she didn’t have the Games she might have dreamed about, ROC’s Viktoria Listunova promises to be one to watch in the years ahead. The 16-year-old made her senior international debut earlier in 2021, grabbing the European all-around title.

For the men, Japan’s KITAZONO Takeru, who won five Youth Olympic Games gold medals in 2018, has a promising future ahead, as well.

When and where to watch artistic gymnastics replays on Olympics.com?

Want to relive the magic of the artistic gymnastics competition at Tokyo 2020? We’ve got you covered: olympics.com/tokyo2020-replays

Simone Biles
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

When do Suni Lee and HASHIMOTO Daiki compete again?

Japan’s newest men’s gymnastics superstar HASHIMOTO Daiki says he plans to compete at October’s home World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, where he hopes to win world gold.

Women’s all-around champion Suni Lee has not signaled her intent to compete at the worlds in 2021, but told reporters she was hoping for a return to the global meet in 2022 or 2023. She didn’t rule out another run at the Olympic Games either.

Tokyo 2020 artistic gymnastics medallists

Women:

Team:
GOLD: ROC
SILVER: USA
BRONZE: GBR

All-Around:
GOLD: Suni Lee (USA)
SILVER: Rebeca Andrade (BRA)
BRONZE: Angelina Melnikova (ROC)

Vault:
GOLD: Rebeca Andrade (BRA)
SILVER: MyKayla Skinner
BRONZE: YEO Seo-jeong (KOR)

Uneven Bars:
GOLD: Nina Derwael (BEL)
SILVER: Anastasia Ilyankova (ROC)
BRONZE: Suni Lee (USA)

Balance Beam:
GOLD: GUAN Chenchen
SILVER: TANG Xijing
BRONZE: Simone Biles

Floor Exercise:
GOLD: Jade Carey (USA)
SILVER: Vanessa Ferrari (ITA)
BRONZE: MURAKAMI Mai (JPN), Angelina Melnikova (ROC)

Men:

Team:
GOLD: ROC
SILVER: JPN
BRONZE: CHN

All-Around:
GOLD: HASHIMOTO Daiki (JPN)
SILVER: XIAO Ruoteng (CHN)
BRONZE: Nikita Nagornyy (ROC)

Floor Exercise:
GOLD: Artem Dolgopyat (ISR)
SILVER: Rayderley Zapata (ESP)
BRONZE: XIAO Ruoteng (CHN)

Pommel Horse:
GOLD: Max Whitlock (GBR)
SILVER: LEE Chih-kai (TPE)
BRONZE: KAYA Kazuma (JPN)

Still Rings:
GOLD: LIU Yang (CHN)
SILVER: YOU Hao (CHN)
BRONZE: Eleftherios Petrounias

Vault:
GOLD: SHIN Jea-hwan (KOR)
SILVER: Denis Ablyazin (ROC)
BRONZE: Artur Davytana (ARM)

Parallel Bars:
GOLD: ZOU Jingyuan (CHN)
SILVER: Lukas Dauser (GER)
BRONZE: Ferhat Arican (TUR)

Horizontal Bar:
GOLD: HASHIMOTO Daiki (JPN)
SILVER: Tin Srbic (CRO)
BRONZE: Nikita Nagornyy (ROC)