Sunisa Lee, the fifth consecutive American woman to win the Olympic title, beat Rebeca Andrade from Brazil in a heated final. Simone Biles, the defending champion, watched from the stands.
Lee's score of 57.433 was enough to surpass Andrade who won the first all-around gymnastics medal by a Latin American gymnast, but she missed out on gold because she twice stepped out of bounds during her floor routine. Two days after leading ROC's team to gold, Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova won bronze.
Lee and the Americans won a silver medal in that event. Biles was forced to withdraw after she realized she wasn't mentally ready to compete in one rotation.
Biles pulled out of the all around final too, which led to the shocking sight of Biles, the gymnast who is considered to be the greatest ever, watching from the stands the largest meet in five decades, alongside Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum and MyKayla skinner.
Biles, 24, was absent from the Ariake Gymnastics Centre floor. This gave the women 24 who took to the floor at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre a chance at the podium. Biles had won every major international competition since 2013, except for the 2017 world championships. This was five years after she triumphed in Rio de Janeiro.
But even though Lee, Andrade, and the rest were nervous, it didn't show. Andrade's Cheng vault was near perfect, but Lee used her incredible uneven bars set -- currently the most difficult in competition -- to get closer.
Lee, an 18 year-old Hmong-American girl from Minnesota, ate her way through a nervy beam routine. While performing a wolf spin, which is basically a seated spin, she almost fell off and had to suction cup both her feet to the wood slab for stability. She was able to score 13.833 and move ahead of Andrade as she entered the floor exercise.
Lee chose to do a first routine that included three tumbling passes rather than four. She hoped better execution would outweigh any potential tenths lost by not performing a fourth pass. Andrade was able to take advantage of the 13.700 she had.
Two years after a third surgery to fix a torn ACL in her leg, the 21-year old Brazilian had the highest floor score among the qualifiers. She stumbled with both her feet after her first tumble pass. Her right foot stepped onto the blue carpet and off the white mat.
To win, she needed a 13.802 but received a 13.666. This extended the U.S. lead in the Olympics' marquee event. Since Carly Patterson's victory at the 2004 Athens Games, the Americans have won every Olympic final.
Biles was highly favored to continue that streak, but she opted out. Lee, who suffered from ankle injuries that were so severe she could barely walk at times last month during the U.S. championships, took over the reins. During the Olympic Trials' second night at the end June, she beat Biles.
One month later, she was standing on the podium as one the new faces in a sport that is becoming more diverse in America. She joins Gabby Douglas and Biles in 2016 to become the third consecutive woman of color to win Olympic gold.
Jade Carey, who was replaced by Biles in the finals of the U.S. team's volleyball tournament, placed ninth.