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Simone Biles withdrew from the women’s gymnastics team finals at the Olympics, citing the mental strain the intense competition was causing.
“I just never felt like this going into a competition before,” Biles said during a news conference following the Americans’ silver medal win.
Biles said the stress she has felt throughout the long Olympic process — the groundwork to qualify for Tokyo was already in place last spring when coronavirus postponed the Games — and the difficult situation on the ground in Japan without any family and friends around for support.
“It’s been very stressful, this Olympic Games, just as a whole,” she said. “I think we’re just a little bit too stressed out, but we should be out here having fun and sometimes that’s not the case.”
On Tuesday, Biles and her teammates — Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum, and Jordan Chiles — did a workout in the morning and had a five-and-a-half hour wait until the medal competition began. Biles said after the events that she was shaking during the break and had trouble resting.
In the first rotation, the Americans were assigned the vault. Biles — who is considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time — was set to go last, and was supposed to do an “Amanar,” a vault that begins with a roundoff back handspring onto the table followed by 2½ twists. She seemed to change her mind in mid-air, doing just 1½ twist instead. She huddled with the trainer after dismounting.
She returned to the competition floor several minutes later with her right leg wrapped, and took her bar grips off, hugged her teammates, and put on a jacket and sweatpants. Biles remained on the floor with her team after withdrawing as the team lost out on gold for the first time since 2008.
USA Gymnastics told USA Today that the reason for Biles’s withdrawal was a due to a medical issue, but she refuted that idea after the events.
“No injury, thankfully, and that’s why I took a step back,” she said. “Because I didn’t want to do something silly out there and get injured so I thought it was best if these girls took over and did the rest of the job, which they absolutely did, they’re Olympic silver medalists now and they should be really proud of themselves for how well they did last minute, having to go in.”
Biles’s exit made it much harder for the US to win gold. In the team finals, three scores count, but the team can decide which of its four gymnasts competes on each apparatus (beam, bars, vault, and floor).
When Biles withdrew, teammates Chiles, McCallum, and Lee had to jump on extra apparatuses to finish out the rotations. Chiles replaced Biles on uneven bars and balance beam.
The Russian Olympic Committee won its first gold since the Unified Team topped the podium in Barcelona in 1992. Read more here.
It’s unclear if she’ll be able to compete in the women’s all around on Thursday. USA Gymnastics said she will be “assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”
Biles finished on top of the all-around qualifying on Sunday, but suffered some rare missteps. She stepped all the way off the mat following a tumbling pass on her floor exercise, then basically did the same on vault. She responded with a solid set on uneven bars, but a spectacular beam routine ended with her taking three major steps backward following her dismount.
That’s not an understatement — Biles is the unquestioned star of the Tokyo Games and the face of Team USA.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Katie McInerney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac.