TOKYO, July 27 – Simone Biles’ bid for a record six gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics ended abruptly on Tuesday when she dropped out of the women’s team final after one vault and watched as the United States surrendered their title to Russia.
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It was a stunning and disappointing start to the Olympics for the U.S. women, who had expected to dominate the final as they had not been beaten in a major team competition since 2011.
But the entire event was turned on its head in an instant when Biles, the world and Olympic all-around champion, completely mistimed her opening vault to earn a low score of 13.766.
It was a setback the U.S. never recovered from as Russia, competing as representatives of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) because the country was stripped of its flag and anthem for doping offences, claimed the team title for the first time since the Unified Team at the 1992 Barcelona Games. The U.S., winners in 2012 and 2016, settled for silver and Britain claimed the bronze.
Despite taking a single vault, Biles will add a silver medal to the five she won at the Rio 2016 Games, including four golds.
But the 24-year-old American’s bid to become the greatest female Olympian of all-time with 10 golds was over and perhaps her entire Tokyo Olympics.
The International Gymnastics Federation said Biles would play no further part in the team event, but confirmed she would still receive a medal if the U.S. ended up on the podium.
USA Gymnastics said the 24-year-old’s continued participation in the Games was uncertain.
“Simone has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue,” said USA Gymnastics. “She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”
Biles’s competition got off to a bad start with a disappointing score of 13.766 on the vault in the first rotation. All three Russians scored higher, as did her U.S. team mates.
Stunned and close to tears, Biles, gold medal winner on the vault at the Rio Olympics, sat dejected in a chair as coaches and team mates surrounded her before moving onto the uneven bars sitting second, 1.067 behind their Russian rivals.
Biles, however, appeared to be more than simply disappointed, leaving the arena with the trainer as her team mates warmed up.
By now coaches and officials sprinkled throughout the Ariake Gymnastics Centre had begun to chatter as Biles reappeared minutes later slipping into her warm-up gear.
Her coaches later told NBC Sports that she was physically fine, but done for the night.
The pressure of chasing history had begun to take a toll on Biles, who posted on social media after Sunday’s uninspired qualification effort that she felt she was carrying the weight of the world.
“It wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it,” Biles wrote on Instagram. “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times.
“I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha!
“The Olympics is no joke!”
There was an instant outpouring of support for Biles on social media.
“Gratitude and support are what @Simone_Biles deserves,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Twitter. “Still the GOAT and we are all just lucky to be able to see her in action.”
Biles has qualified for every event in Tokyo and is scheduled to defend her all-around title on Thursday with four apparatus finals during the second week.
While USA Gymnastics would not confirm if Biles would be on the start list on Thursday some of her fellow gymnasts said they fully expect to see her in the all-around.
Six golds are now out of reach but Biles could still equal the record of nine held by Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina over three Olympic Games – Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964.
“This is very unusual for her, but if you’re under a lot of pressure it can affect your body,” said Japan’s Mai Murakami. “I think she decided to save her body for later this week, for the All-around and apparatus.”Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Ossian Shine, Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond
JULY 27, 2021
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Categories: World News