Gymnastics is arguably one of the most impressive and entertaining sports on display at the Olympics, with the athletes delighting spectators with risky flips and tumbles that see them rocketing their bodies into the air – but while the risky maneuvers may look elegant in real-time, images of the athletes’ expressions demonstrate the incredible grit and determination that goes into each one.
Photos captured during Thursday’s women’s all-around final reveal the incredibly pained and furrowed faces behind each twist and turn, with stars like US gymnast Sunisa Lee, 18, and Russian athlete Angelina Melnikova, 21, making all manner of amusing expressions.
A total of 24 athletes vied for a podium finish during the very close contest at the Ariake arena in Tokyo, where they rotated through a total of four events, vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise, all of which resulted in dozens of picture-perfect faces.
In one particularly striking image, Lee, who stormed to victory in the all-around after her teammate Simone Biles, 24, withdrew from the competition, is seen grimacing down at the uneven bars while soaring through the air, having just performed a near-perfect skill on the apparatus.
Meanwhile Brazilian silver medalist Rebeca Andrade, 22, made an out-of-this world face while flinging herself into the air during a particularly complex skill on the floor.
Here, FEMAIL rounds up some of the best mid-air images from the hotly-contested final…
Concentration: Images from the Olympic all-around final on Thursday reveal the very pained expressions that many of the gymnasts were wearing while pulling off their daring routines, including newly-crowned champion Sunisa Lee, 18
Easy breezy? While the talented athletes, like silver medalist Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, make their moves look incredibly elegant and effortless, a closer glimpse at their faces reveal the incredible effort behind each skill
Forceful: Many of the women’s faces are manipulated into strange expressions by the sheer force of their bodies moving through the air at top speeds (Russia’s Angelina Melnikova is pictured)
Catching flies? British star Jennifer Gadirova, 16, appeared to let out a yell as she executed her dismount on the uneven bars
Up in the air: German gymnast Elisabeth Seitz, who finished in ninth place, appeared as though she was in pain as she hurtled through the air during a tumbling pass on the floor
A moment in time: While the gymnasts faces appear almost as a blur during the competition, such is the speed of their skills, images of the routines reveal a very different view of athletes like Germany’s Kim Bui (left) and Xijing Tang of China (right)
Flippin’ amazing! During each of their routines gymnasts like Russian athlete Vladislava Urazova twist their bodies into the air, often rotating several times before landing on the ground, beam, or bars
Under pressure: The sheer force of the movement often results in very amusing expressions, as demonstrated by Japan’s Mai Murakami (left) and French athlete Melanie de Jesus dos Santos (right)
Focus: Belgian star Nina Derwael is seen training her eyes on the uneven bars while executing an aerial skill, ensuring that she knew exactly where she needed to position herself in order to touch down without a fall
Tumble trouble? During elite competition, gymnasts – like Lee Yunseo of South Korea (left) and Derwael (right) – have to complete several tumbling passes that see them flipping upside down in the air while moving across the floor
Eyes on the prize: China’s Lu Yufei grimaced as she trained her hands and her eyes on the vault table in preparation for her aerial skill
Tuck it in! As they twist through the air, the gymnasts bring their arms in tight to their bodies in order to increase their speed and rotation, as demonstrated by Lee (left) and Urazova (right)
Just like magic! While the athletes only remain in mid-air for a matter of seconds, the images make it appear as though they are floating, like this upside-down snap of Lee
Winning look! The ferocious expression on Lee’s face proved well worth it when she soared past the competition to claim gold
Drop: At times, the images make it look as though the gymnasts are plummeting through the air – as this snap of Melnikova on the uneven bars suggests
Scream for joy! British gymnast Gadirova opened her mouth wide while flipping through the air on several of her events
Fighter: Derwael, who finished in sixth place, made a somewhat furious expression while completing this move on bars
On the move: US athlete Jade Carey, 21, is seen preparing to mount the vault (left), while Lee, from South Korea, is pictured mid-way through a tumbling routine on the floor (right)