How the Fierce Five Olympic gymnastics team got its nickname

Fierce Five Olympic Gymnastics Team
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The 2012 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team, which earned gold in London, was at first known as the “Fab Five.”

That’s what media dubbed Gabby DouglasAly RaismanJordyn WieberMcKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross, whose triumph highlights NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week coverage on Thursday night. A full schedule is here.

But Fab Five had already been taken by the University of Michigan men’s basketball team of the early 1990s, which for a time featured five freshmen in the starting lineup. Jalen Rose, a member of that basketball team, took issue with it being reused.

“To use the nickname just points and screams of lazy journalism by the national media, that’s really what it is,” Rose said during the London Olympics, according to a podcast. “It’s no fault at all of the young gymnasts. But I really wish they would have come up with an even more creative tag for them and their gold medal pursuit.”

They did. Fierce Five.

Raisman penned the origin of the original nickname in her 2017 autobiography.

“The media had initially dubbed us the ‘Fab Five,’ but that nickname already belonged to a basketball team,” Raisman wrote. “We wanted something different, something that represented what we were. We were combing our brains — and several online thesauruses — for the right moniker.”

A sampling of the brainstorming: The Fantastic Five. The Friendly Five. The Fearsome Five. The Frrrreaky Five.

Raisman wrote that Maroney came up with “Fierce” while the team was in the Athletes’ Village before the Opening Ceremony.

“‘Fierce!’ McKayla exclaimed,” Raisman wrote. “She shut her laptop with a snap and looked up, her eyes shining. The rest of us stared at her. ‘That’s it! Fierce — the Fierce Five,’ she said. ‘That’s what we are.’

And that’s what we became.”

Douglas and Raisman would return for the Rio Olympics. That group was dubbed the “Final Five” because it was national team coordinator Martha Karolyi‘s last Olympics and because the Olympic team event roster size would drop from five to four in 2020. Team sizes will go back to five in 2024, but that was decided after the Rio Games.

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MORE: Kyla Ross’ gymnastics career comes to abbreviated end