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Tears: Joy and Disappointment at the Rio Olympics

Simone Biles in Rio. Photograph: Silvia Vatteroni The Olympic Games are a very emotional moment. For gymnasts, it is the pinnacle of...

Simone Biles in Rio. Photograph: Silvia Vatteroni

The Olympic Games are a very emotional moment. For gymnasts, it is the pinnacle of their career. Expectations are high, and big victories, as well as bitter losses, bring about lots of tears.

In gymnastics, the Rio Olympics did not witness as many tears as London 2012. The main reason is, I believe, that many gymnasts in Rio were very happy with their silver medals, while many athletes in London saw their second place as an unbearable defeat.

Here are the tears of joy and disappointment we witnessed in Rio this summer.


Simone Biles (USA) – all around final

We never saw much emotion from the Olympic champion throughout her gymnastics career and her astonishing number of victories. But when Simone won the all around gold medal in Rio, she eventually burst into tears. It was such a deserved release of tension, she must have felt so much pressure!

Aly Raisman (USA) – all around final

It took Aly Raisman three world championships and two Olympic Games (and a total of four finals) in order to win an all around medal. She won silver in Rio. Aly started crying the moment she landed her last tumbling pass on floor, and many fans cried with her. It was so nice to see all her hard work finally paying off.

Aly Raisman in Rio. Photograph: Silvia Vatteroni

Angelina Melnikova (RUS) – team final

Angelina Melnikova had a disappointing qualification round, falling on floor and having a very shaky beam routine, and failing to qualify for any final. She however contributed greatly on all apparatuses during the team final, and Angelina shed a few tears when she realized she and her team had just won an Olympic silver medal. Melnikova was still recovering from a recent injury, and that was such a big accomplishment for her.

Sophie Scheder (GER) – uneven bars final

Sophie Scheder came into the bars final with the sixth highest score, and the hope to deliver a great routine to finish her Olympic Games. She left with an unexpected Olympic bronze medal. When she realized it, Sophie burst into tears. During the final, Scheder also showed great sportsmanship. The last competitor in the final was her teammate Elisabeth Seitz, who had the potential to strip her of her bronze medal. But Scheder cheered her on during the routine and congratulated her before the score came out.

Sanne Wevers (NED) – balance beam final

Well, Olympic champion, is there any better reason to shed tears of joy? Sanne Wevers put years of preparation into her beam routine, and delivered her best ever routine when it most counted, in the beam final at the Olympic Games. Her fans shed a few tears too!

Amy Tinkler (GB) – floor final

Amy Tinkler came into the floor final without medal expectations. Her coach simply told her to perform well, as she had nothing to lose. Amy performed one of her best floor routines ever, and earned a well deserved bronze medal. When the competition ended, she shed many tears of joy and disbelief.

Amy Tinkler with her Olympic medal. Photograph: Amy Tinkler's Instagram

Jessica Lopez (VEN) – uneven bars qualifications

Jessica competed at three Olympic Games (2008, 2012 and 2016) but had to wait until Rio to finally have her moment of glory. In qualifications, Lopez performed a beautiful uneven bars routine, which qualified her into the final in seventh place. She was the first Venezuelan gymnast to accomplish it. When the score came out, Lopez started sobbing uncontrollably in her coaches’ arms.


Shang Chunsong (CHN) – all around final

Fourth place is always the worst place where to end. When it happens during the all around final at the Olympic Games, and the bronze medal is so close but also so far away, the pain and disappointment must be unsustainable. We all felt for Chunsong, who finished fourth and burst into tears at the end of the all around competition. Every four years there is a fourth-place all around finisher, but the habit does not make it less bitter!

Elisabeth Seitz (GER) – uneven bars final

Here is another fourth place disappointment. Seitz was the last to go into the bars final. The score to beat was 15.566, which was high but achievable. Seitz, however, missed a connection towards the end of her routine, and had a few minor execution breaks throughout the routine, and narrowly (REALLY narrowly) missed out on a medal. She scored 15.533, just 0.033 behind her teammate Sophie Scheder.

Vanessa Ferrari (ITA) – floor final

And here is a third fourth-place finisher. Ferrari was fourth in the floor final at two consecutive Olympic Games: 2012 and 2016. Before the competition, Ferrari had affirmed that Rio would be her last Games, and really hoped to bring home a medal to end her career at her best. For her, however, was only another bitter fourth place. On the bright side, after the Olympic disappointment, Ferrari said she may postpone retirement, and set eyes on Tokyo!

Vanessa Ferrari in Rio. Photograph: Silvia Vatteroni

Mao Yi (CHN) – team final

The Chinese team was solidly in second place during the team final all the way through until the very last gymnast in the last rotation. Mao Yi was last up on floor, her job was to land on her feet. The routine, however, went disastrously wrong. Mao fell on her first tumbling pass, finishing also out of bounds and not having the connection value recognised, and had problems landing her last tumbling pass as well. She scored in the 12s, which dropped China into a disappointing third place. Mao was consoled by her teammates, but fought hard not to burst into tears.

Angelina Melnikova (RUS) – qualifications

Due to a recent injury, Melnikova performed poorly in qualifications, failing to qualify for any final. At the end of the competition, disappointment had the best of her, and she started crying. A few days later, however, Melnikova won silver with her team in the team final, dissipating (at least partly) the disappointment.

Angelina Melnikovain Rio. Photograph: Silvia Vatteroni

Daria Spiridonova (RUS) – uneven bars final

Russian number two. Spiridonova had a disappointing Olympics. The European and World champion on the uneven bars never really shined on her event, and fell on her transition from the low to the high bar in the event final. Spiridonova was really disappointed, and rumour has it that during a post-competition interview, her coach yelled at her and she burst into tears. See also: Rumor Has It: Andrei Rodionenko Humilated DariaSpiridonova In Front of Journalists For Failing To Deliver What Has BeenExpected of Her At The Olympics

Seda Tutkhalian (RUS) – all around final

And Russian number three. Seda was having her best ever all around competition half the way through the night. Then everything started to go wrong. Tutkhalian fell on her dismount on beam, and fell on two of her four tumbling passes on floor, scoring in the 11s, and finishing 23rd overall. We always see a lot of tears from the Russian team, but this was really a waste and a disappointment!

By Talitha Ilacqua

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