“Okay, before we walked out, I thought I was going to vomit,” Aly Raisman announced after the conclusion of Sunday’s women’s gymnastics qualifications, in Rio. At this confession, her four teammates dissolved into giggles of agreement.
“Um, in the back, I thought I was gonna die,” Simone Biles admitted.
“Yes!” Raisman replied. “In the bathroom, when me and you were in the bathroom, I asked you, ‘Are you okay?’” Raisman paused. “And I was like, ‘Me neither.’”
At that point the gathered women began sharing their nerves-before-competition stories, talking over each other with giddy mentions of the shaking hands and near-vom experiences that came when they finally—finally—found themselves on the Olympic stage. “We just sat there,” Biles said, recalling those tense pre-competition moments, “and we were like”—and then the three-time all-around world champion, the woman an NBC commentator referred to earlier in the evening as “the greatest of all time,” made a dramatic shruggie gesture. In response to which: Her team giggled some more.
NBC’s roving cameras caught that off-stage exchange—superhumans, acting in a decidedly human fashion—after the five women had clinched the U.S.’s spot to compete for team gold in Rio. But the athletes (also known as “Team USA,” the “Fierce Five: Redux,” and “The Most Dominant U.S. Gymnastics Team Ever Assembled”) didn’t merely secure the team’s place in the finals, and they didn’t merely come away with a first-place ranking heading into the competition that will determine who wins medals. Instead, they smashed through the high expectations set for them. And yet here they were, after their big, if unsurprising, victory, commiserating and confessing and laughing and acting, in the end, like exactly what they are: a group of young—very young—women.