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By: Andrea Yan

In honor of the upcoming gymnastics World Championships, I will be ranking the last 5 Olympic All-Around Champions. A United States gymnast has won 9 of the last 11 world championships and the last 5 Olympics. In chronological order: Carly Patterson (2004), Nastia Liukin (2008), Gabby Douglas (2012), Simone Biles (2016), and Suni Lee (2020).

Number 5- Carly Patterson (Athens 2004)

This ranking has nothing to do with her gymnastics ability, but rather the judging criteria at the time. In 2004, routines were still judged on a 10.0 scale so execution was valued higher than difficulty. As a result, her routines were not as hard as the other gymnasts on this list.

Number 4- Nastia Liukin (Beijing 2008)

Nastia was the first person to win the Olympics under the new scoring system, in which you can score higher than a 10.0, and difficulty of skills was valued higher. Her dad owns WOGA (World Olympic Gymanstics Academy), where she trained during her career. Her mom and dad were both Soviet gymnasts, and her dad was a double-gold Olympic champion. It is safe to say, she had a legacy to live up to. Her execution is what won her the gold medal; her difficulty was below the other gymnasts. Her win being ranked number 4 has to do with the fact that other champions had outside circumstances that made their wins more of an impressive feat.

Number 3- Gabby Douglas (London 2012)

Gabby Douglas had to make many sacrifices to get to the Olympics. She was born in Virginia but made the move to Iowa in order to train with a coach that led Shawn Johnson to the Olympics. Her family stayed in Virginia, so she had to stay with another family whose daughters also trained at the same gym. Going into the Olympics, gabby was a dark horse. Everyone expected her teammate Jordyn Wieber to win the Olympic after winning the World Championships the year before. After Wieber failed to qualify for the all-around finals, it seemed as if a Russian gymnast would take the crown. However, Douglas stepped up on the big stage and won the gold medal. What makes her win outstanding is that she is the first African- American woman to become individual Olympic all-around champion.

Number 2- Suni Lee (Tokyo 2020)

Suni Lee is the daughter of a refugee, who immigrated to the US from Laos. In 2019, days before she competed in her first senior competition, her dad fell off a ladder and was paralyzed from the waist down. Despite this, she ended up placing second only to Simone Biles. She said that “I was thinking of my dad the whole time, and to do it for him because I knew that he would be so proud.” Going into Tokyo, everyone expected Simone Biles to win. Every. Single. Person. However, during team finals, she got the twisties (where you get lost in the air while twisting) and had to withdraw from all subsequent events except for balance beam finals. Everyone knew how dominant the US was in women gymnastics, and no one wanted the domination to end. After Biles had withdrawn from the competition, all the pressure that was on her, transferred over to Lee. Lee had just graduated high school a couple months earlier, and now, she was on the biggest stage with all the pressure on her. She stepped up to the pressure and put out her best performance, when it mattered.

Number 1- Simone Biles (Rio 2016)

Is this even debatable? The most decorated gymnast of with 32 total World and Olympic medals, 23 of them gold. Not only is she an amazing gymnast, she is also an advocate many issues. She grew up in a foster home so she is very passionate about providing for children in foster care. Additionally, she was a victim of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar and as a result, has been very outspoken about her experiences even taking the issue to the Supreme Court. As a result of her accomplishment both in and out of the gym, she is the youngest person to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Both her magnificent gymnastics and the commitment she has to speaking out about injustices makes her undoubtably the GOAT of gymnastics.


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