SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The likely rival for U.S. gymnast Simone Biles in the vault competition at next year's Paris Olympics extended her winning streak on Tuesday.
Brazil's Rebeca Andrade, also a friend of the American star, won an expected gold medal in her favorite event at the Pan American Games.
It was the Brazilian's first gold at the biggest multi-sports event in the Americas, where she is considered among biggest stars competing. Looking effortless in execution, Andrade scored 15.333 in her first vault, a nearly perfect Cheng, which gymnastics manuals describe as one of the toughest to perform.
Other competitors, like Dominican Camil Betances, looked shocked after Andrade's first vault, a feature frequently seen when Biles performs her arts.
“That was just phenomenal,” Betances said after the competition. “I was glad just to be there to see it. Rebeca and Simone are up there, I am sure the vault in Paris will be great.”
The Brazilian's second vault got a 14.633 score. Her average of 14.983 beat silver medalist's Jordan Chiles of the U.S. by 0.833.
Mexico's Natalia Escalera claimed the bronze medal.
“Every medal is special,” Andrade said. “It was a deserved gold, right? You can always improve, but I think the first vault was (perfect).”
Later, Andrade won silver in the uneven bars, which is not her favorite event. American Zoe Miller took the gold medal.
Earlier this month, the 24-year-old Andrade defeated Biles to take the vault gold at the world championship in Antwerp. Three years ago, the Brazilian won the Olympic gold in Tokyo in the event in which the most decorated American gymnast in history did not take part.
Biles won four other gold medals only on the final day of the gymnastics world championships, including dominant performances on the balance beam and floor finals, but lost to Andrade then by 0.201 after flying backward in her first vault. She has a record 37 medals at the world championships and Olympics.
The Brazilian said she doesn't want to think about the Olympics just yet.
“It is still a bit far, let's talk about that next year,” Andrade said jokingly. Biles' coach, Cecile Landi, has said the American also doesn’t want to speak in detail about the Olympics yet to protect herself.
Andrade lost her first battle with the U.S. team on Sunday, when Chiles finished as the winner in the all-round competition. The Brazilian chose to sit out the floor exercise to protect her knees, which have gone through difficult surgeries three times in her career.
Before the medal ceremony in Belgium, the American graciously pretended to place a crown on the Brazilian’s head. Days later the two were photographed dancing together at a party. Andrade repeatedly says Biles is an inspiration to her, not only for her talents, but also for her stance on mental health.
“She (Biles) is more than a great gymnast, she is a great person,” Andrade said Sunday after her all-round team silver medal in Santiago. “I just want us to keep having fun as we do what we do.”
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