Ninety-one women from 53 nations competed on the balance beam in last week’s qualifying. The top eight (with a limit of two per country) have advanced to today’s final. Larisa Iordache, the Romanian star who qualified fourth but who’s been dealing with an ankle injury, withdrew from the final. First reserve Urara Ashikawa of Japan will take her place.
Here’s the final start list:
1 Ellie Black (CAN)
• Qualifying score 14.100 (6th)
Finished 44th at 2016 OG, 26th in 2012. Placed 10th at 2019 WCh, 5th in 2018, 8th in 2017, 7th in 2015 and 2014. Gold at 2014 CWG. Gold at 2015 PanAm Games, silver in 2019. In other events – 12th in vault at 2020 OG, 54th in uneven bars, 30th in individual all-around and 10th in team. She said she has no plans to retire. ‘I always say age is just a number.’
2 Tang Xijing (CHN)
• Qualifying score 14.333 (2nd)
Finished 83rd at 2019 WCh. Gold at 2018 Youth OG. In other events – 7th in individual all-around and team at 2020 OG, 13th in uneven bars, 20th in floor. Silver in individual all-around at 2019 WCh, 4th in team, 11th in uneven bars. Bronze in uneven bars at 2018 YOG. Her older brother began to train in gymnastics and she was scouted by a coach when she went to a session with her brother.
3 Simone Biles (USA)
• Qualifying score 14.066 (7th)
Bronze at 2016 OG. Gold at 2019, 2015, 2014 WCh, bronze in 2018, 2013. In other events – silver in team at 2020 OG, 9th in vault, floor, 11th in uneven bars, 25th in all-around. Gold in floor, vault, team, all-around at 2016 OG. Gold in floor, vault, team, all-around at 2019 WCh. Holds record for most medals  and most gold medals  won by an artistic gymnast of either gender at WCh.
4 Sunisa Lee (USA)
• Qualifying score 14.200 (3rd)
Finished 12th at 2019 WCh. In other events – gold in individual all-around at 2020 OG, silver in team event, bronze in uneven bars. Gold in team at 2019 WCh, silver in floor, bronze in uneven bars. In August 2019, she won the uneven bars at the national championships and dedicated the win to her father John, who had recently became paralysed from the chest down after falling off a ladder.
5 Urara Ashikawa (JPN)
• Qualifying score 13.900 (12th)
In 2019/2020 WCup season, won at Baku, Melbourne and Turnier der Meister. In other events – DNS in uneven bars and floor exercise at 2020 OG, DNF in individual all-around. She took up gymnastics seriously in grade two of primary school at Mizutori Gym in Japan.
5 Larisa Iordache (ROU)
5 Larisa Iordache (ROU)
• Qualifying score
Finished 6th at 2012 OG. Placed 23rd at 2015 WCh, 5th in 2014, 7th in 2013. Gold at 2020 and 2013 European Ch, silver in 2014 and 2012. In other events – bronze in team event at 2012 OG. Bronze in individual all-around at 2015 WCh, silver in 2014. She returned to competitive action in late 2020 after tearing her achilles tendon in 2017. ‘It was hard to perish for so long but now I am fine.’
6 Vladislava Urazova (ROC)
• Qualifying score 14.000 (8th)
Finished 11th at 2021 European Ch. Placed 4th at 2019 Junior WCh. Finished 16th at 2018 Junior European Ch. In other events – gold in team event at 2020 OG, 4th in individual all-around, 9th in uneven bars, 10th in floor. Silver in uneven bars at 2021 European Ch. Gold in uneven bars and team at 2019 Junior WCh. Took up the sport at age four. ‘Create a dream and it will create you.’
7 Flávia Saraiva (BRA)
• Qualifying score 13.966 (9th)
Placed 5th at 2016 OG. Finished 6th at 2019 WCh, 17th in 2018. Silver at 2018 PanAm Ch. In other events – DNS in uneven bars at 2020 OG, DNF in individual all-around. Bronze in floor, team and individual all-around at 2019 PanAm Games. She grew more than eight centimetres following the 2016 Olympics. ‘I now can swing better and do some transitions I had problems with before.’
8 Guan Chenchen (CHN)
• Qualifying score 14.933 (1st)
First-time Olympian. Finished 31st at 2019 Junior WCh. In other events – silver in team event at 2019 Junior WCh, 6th in vault, 13th in uneven bars and 14th in floor exercise. She was an active girl at a young age and tried several sports. A family member recommended her parents introduce her to gymnastics. Her sporting idol is American gymnast Simone Biles.