The Truth Behind The U.S. 'Final Five' Gymnastics Team

Fresh off of its gold medal performance in the team event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, America's "Final Five" women's gymnastics team is the talk of the world. These five young women—ranging in ages from 16 to 22—have worked their entire lives to achieve their dreams of Olympic gold, and they've succeeded. But what goes on behind the scenes in the lives of Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Gabby Douglas, and Madison Kocian? Let's take a closer look to discover the truth behind the legends.

The team name has two meanings

Before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro kicked off, the ladies of the U.S. women's gymnastics team told fans they had chosen their team nickname, but refused to reveal it. "We'll announce it after the team final," teased Raisman. After winning the team final event with a massive 184.897 points, the women gathered in front of the cameras to triumphantly announce, "We are the Final Five!"

Many viewers were unaware of the dual significance behind the name. Team USA has been overseen by Martha Karolyi for 16 years, and she will be retiring as the team's coordinator following the Rio Games, meaning the Final Five was her final squad. In addition, this talented group of women will truly be the final team of five athletes to ever compete at the Olympics. In 2015, the International Gymnastics Federation voted to reduce the size of Olympic gymnastic teams from five members to four, beginning with the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Laurie Hernandez's bionic knee

Though she's the youngest member of the Final Five, 16-year-old Laurie Hernandez has already had to make a major comeback from an injury. In 2014, she suffered a dislocated knee, torn patella ligament, and bruised medial collateral ligament from a vault. Doctors utilized a section of ligament from a cadaver during knee surgery! She dazzled throughout the Rio Olympics and, in addition to team gold, earned a silver medal on the balance beam.

Raisman's longevity

At 22, Raisman is considered old for a world-class gymnast. After taking a year off from gymnastics following the 2012 Olympics in London, Raisman trained 32 hours a week to return to top form for Rio. Her hard work paid off. Raisman's performances catapulted the team toward gold, and she also won silver medals in the individual all-around competition and the floor exercise.

Raisman's age and dedication are not the only signs of her maturity. She's known as a team player who relentlessly supports her fellow American gymnasts, even when they are in direct competition with her. She was the team's captain during the 2012 games in London, and reprised that role in 2016 at Rio.

Raisman's endless mothering of the team has earned her the nickname "Grandma Aly" from her teammates. Douglas jokingly told Team USA, "she goes to bed [early] and takes a lot of naps and sleeps a lot and is just, you know, a health nut," adding, "She definitely keeps everyone in tune a little bit, and she gives very good advice if someone's nervous. She's sort of the one who's always looking out for everybody and looking out for how do we do things a little bit better."

Douglas: history maker

At the London Games In 2012, Douglas made history when she became the first black woman in Olympic history to win the gold medal in the individual all-around event. She was also the first American gymnast to win gold in the individual all-around, the team competition, and in individual competition at a single Olympic Games. With the Final Five's team win in Rio, Douglas, 20, joins Raisman as the only American gymnast to win team gold in two consecutive Olympics.

Dominique Dawes, a 1996 Olympian and the first black woman to win a team gold in women's gymnastics, was particularly proud of Douglas' accomplishments. She served as a commentator for FOX Sports during the 2012 games, and began to cry on live television following Douglas' win in London. Dawes explained, through her tears, "I'm so thrilled to change my website and take down the fact that I was the only African-American [women's gymnast] with a gold medal."

Biles may be the best gymnast in history

At only 4 feet 9 inches tall, 19-year-old Biles is the shortest of all 555 athletes representing the United States at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Her early life wasn't easy—her mother struggled with substance abuse problems, and Biles and her sister were placed in foster care prior to her grandparents adopting them. But Biles small stature and troubled childhood have not prevented her from becoming a powerhouse in gymnastics. She has won 14 gymnastics medals at the World Championships—the most in U.S. history. In Rio, Biles added an Olympic team gold, individual all-around gold, and gold medals in the floor exercise and vault, plus a bronze on the balance beam to her impressive career tally.

As if that weren't enough, Biles has joined an even more exclusive club: gymnasts with a skill named for them. In 2013, she completed a double layout with a half twist during her floor exercise at the World Championships. Because that skill had never been performed successfully in a world competition, the International Federation of Gymnastics added it to its code of points with her name attached. From that point on, the skill was known as "The Biles."

Kocian: not just the bars expert

Though Kocian was brought aboard the Final Five primarily for her strength on the uneven bars, that event is just a small portion of her talents. The 19-year-old's high scores at the Olympic trials and at the 2016 U.S. Championships positioned her perfectly to join the squad as a reliable all-around tour de force. Kocian may have flown under the radar in years past, but she has since flown straight into Americans' hearts, winning a silver medal in the individual uneven bars final in Rio and playing a huge role in the team's gold.

Their ethnic diversity

The Final Five is the most racially and ethnically diverse team of women to compete for the United States in gymnastics. Biles and Douglas are black; Hernandez is a Latina of Puerto Rican descent—the first US-born Latina to compete in Olympic gymnastics since 1984—and Kocian and Raisman (who is also Jewish) are both white. In a sport where prominent gymnasts and leaders continue to perpetuate racial stereotypes about race and gymnastics ability, the U.S. team's gold-medal efforts in Rio shatter those prejudices and serve as an example for aspiring gymnasts around the world.

The women of the Final Five understand their position as role models. As Hernandez told The Guardian, "I feel I could be a role model to other Hispanic gymnasts interested in the sport, but I also want them to understand the importance of being focused, determined and not giving up, despite all the struggles." Douglas gets it, too. She told USA Gymnastics, "I never would have thought I would have so much influence on these little girls, especially African-American girls. To be able to inspire other athletes is amazing."