With this vignette on triple medalist Angelina Melnikova of the Russian  Olympic Committee International Gymnast Online continues “Tokyo Takeaways,” a series of flashbacks featuring behind-the-scenes quotes from personalities at the recent Olympic Games in Tokyo.

A. Melnikova Olympic Games Tokyo 2020


Angelina Melnikova

Angelina Melnikova got a satisfying reality check when her Russian Olympic Committee squad romped to victory over the favored U.S. squad in the team final.

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“It was the first time that we were competing for gold, not for silver,” said Melnikova, who led the ROC to a 3.432-point win over the U.S. “The impossible is possible now.”

While Simone Biles’ withdrawal from the team final due to mental-health concerns after one apparatus (vault) certainly reduced the potential scoring disparity between the two teams, ROC’s victory included two falls on balance beam. The Russian gymnasts also ranked first in qualifications, where they outscored the U.S. by 1.067 points.

Melnikova attributed the ROC’s triumphant performance in Tokyo to pandemic-framed training circumstances at Round Lake, the Russian national team training center near Moscow.

“For the last year-and-a-half, because of COVID-19, we were basically in a closed training camp, working very hard without seeing our families or having normal lives,” said Melnikova, a member of the Russian teams that finished a distant second to the U.S. at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the past two world championships. “Of course it was worth it, and maybe it was for the best, because we were more focused in practice.”

Two nights after the team final, Melnikova captured bronze in the all-around final which she said produced worthy gold and silver medalists.

“It was a very interesting competition because it was a mystery as to who would be the champion,” Melnikova said. “I’m extremely happy for (gold medalist) Sunisa Lee (of the U.S.) and (silver medalist) Rebeca Andrade (of Brazil). They were very good and I knew my difficulty score wasn’t as high, maybe, so I’m happy for them.”

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Last Words

Melnikova also benefited from the vocal support she received from Biles, who encouraged her from the stands, and in turn wished Biles well in her recovery.

“Of course I heard her,” said Melnikova, who went on to win a third medal, bronze on floor exercise, in the apparatus finals. “I was very happy to hear (Biles cheering) because I admire her. I wrote her a message of support, because I think it’s such a pity. I really hope she will get better because I admire her gymnastics.”

For the all-around final, Melnikova said her team’s win in Tokyo helped her maintain an appropriately high level of energy and confidence.

“It was way easier to compete with one gold medal already behind me,” she said.