Final Five Squad Goals: How the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team Can Inspire Us All to Be Better at Life

Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian put on a clinic in more than gymnastics in Rio

By Natalie Finn Aug 14, 2016 2:00 PMTags
Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, Gymnastic Olympian Team 2016 RioE! Illustration/Harry How/Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Watching the Final Five compete over the past week, we've learned a lot.

Oh, we're still mostly in the dark about what an Amanar really is or where all those deductions are coming from if not from a blatant hop. We mean learned a lot about life. Namely, if we all woke up today and started treating each other the way the members of the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team interact, then that would be a step in the right direction for society.

Even in their so-called lesser moments, this squad—dubbed the "Final Five" because at the 2020 Summer Olympics only four gymnasts will compete for team gold—has been the picture of more than just grace under pressure. Add to that patience, endurance, tolerance, perseverance, loyalty, kindness and a brand of selfless generosity that can't help but inspire.

Here are some of the real-life lessons that have sprung forth from all the tumbling:

2016 U.S. Olympic Portraits

How to Cope When Everyone Says You're Finished: Basically, according to all media and expert commentary heading into the 2016 Rio Olympics, the other gymnasts—including everyone else on Team USA—were just competing to stand on either side of Simone Biles on the medal podium. If that isn't enough to put a damper on the competition before it even begins, we don't know what is. But truly elite athletes not only can suck it up and tune that out, though that's certainly important if they want to salvage their own shot at enjoying the Olympics, they're also able to rally around a superstar like Biles, taking pride in her success as well as their own.

And that's exactly what her teammates did.

Moreover, there's nothing wrong with a little competition among friends, particularly if it helps you get fired up to reach your own personal best. While only a maximum of two members from each country were eligible to qualify for the all-around final (more on that later), all five members of Team USA qualified for at least one individual event final as well.

Because if the game's still to be played, you're the only one who can count yourself out.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

How to Be a Team Player: While it wasn't till after the qualifying round that each member of Team USA knew what her role would be going forward, once the scores had been earned, Simone, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez had their marching orders. And one by one, they went out and got the points and secured a second straight Olympic team gold for the United States.

Because once you've joined the team, you commit to the team.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

How to Cede the Spotlight and Move On: One year's Olympic sweetheart is the next Olympics' supporting player. Gabby Douglas, who was 16 when she won all-around gold in London, came to Rio knowing that Simone Biles would be getting all the attention—and she seemed to have a much easier time handling her new role than the media did. Maybe her body language couldn't win in the court of public opinion, yet there she was winning her second straight gold medal with Team USA.

Because it's all about living in the now.

Best Reaction Faces at the 2016 Rio Olympics
Sipa via AP Images

How to Come in Second Like a Champ: Raisman, who lost out on the all-around bronze in 2012 in a heartbreaking tiebreaker, was in Rio for redemption. No matter that she was up against her own teammate in the event this year, and that no one expected anyone but Simon Biles to win gold. Aly still turned in the performance of a lifetime in the all-around final and silver never shined so brightly. Better yet, she and Simone were supporting and cheering each other on throughout.

Because you won't want to look back on such an amazing day and wish your attitude had been better or that you had appreciated it more.

Move Over, Lochte and Phelps! Simone Biles and Aly Raisman Are the Olympics' Newest Friendship Goals
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

How to Shut Out the Haters: While Gabby showed up and did her job, she was facing the short end of the media stick from day one. Or since before day one, actually, having already been the subject of "Did she deserve it?" commentary when she was picked for the Olympics team over 18-year-old Ashton Locklear. Then Twitter took her to task twice on Team USA's gold-winning night: first for not having a polished-enough hairdo (that happened in London too), and then again when she didn't put her hand over her heart during the national anthem (though it's Pledge of Allegiance protocol that historically requires the gesture, not the anthem). Basically every move she made and every look on her face was under scrutiny. Our own office is divided over whether she was getting mercilessly picked on or whether she wasn't helping her own PR cause.

But guess what? Gabby also reminded us that you're allowed to be human, even on the biggest sporting stage in the world, and everyone who loved you before is going to continue to love you after just the same.

So maybe she was a little bit over it in the end. Wouldn't you be? And yet, on she'll press on today in the uneven bars final, the only apparatus she appeared on during the team final. You know, which she was so indifferent to she only scored a phenomenal, superhuman 15.766.

Gabby even had to block out the well-meaning to-do when there was angry chatter about how unfair it was that, despite her being ahead of most of the rest of the field when it came to qualifying for the all-around final, only two girls from each team could make it—and the only two people better than her were Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. 

"I'm not disappointed at all," she said in an interview after coming in third overall in the qualifying. "I have no regrets."

Because she did everything she could and that was all she could do.

Athletes Crying at the 2016 Rio Olympics
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

How Not to Crack Under Pressure: Simone Biles held it all in until the end, finally allowing herself to get emotional after managing to live up to the world's assumptions and win all-around Olympic gold. She's only been carrying the entire gymnastics community and her country's expectations on her mighty but teeny-tiny shoulders for the past three years, since winning her first all-around gold at the World Championships.

Simone, of course, is just that good, so good that self-doubt may be a non-issue for her. Still, let's imagine for a hot second that she feels the pressure sometimes. There were even a few unfamiliar minutes when she wasn't in first place Thursday night. What do you do? Well, in case anyone missed it and wants to know what focus, purpose and steely calm look like...You've got Simone Biles' all-around performance.

So next time you have a presentation to give or a fear to conquer, just remember that you don't have to execute a double layout with a half-twist and a blind landing called "The Biles." Anything else is a piece of cake.

Because even if you stumble one day, it doesn't mean you can't be back at your best tomorrow. 

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