TOKYO, Japan — Simone Biles came to Tokyo as the star of the US Olympic movement and perhaps the Games themselves.
It all came to a stunning halt in the women’s gymnastics final on Tuesday night. A wonky vault to start the competition left her huddling with the US team doctor before heading backstage for a few moments.
When she re-emerged, she hugged her teammates, took off her bar grips and put on a sweatsuit, having been dropped from the three concluding rotations.
She later said “mental health” concerns had led to her withdrawal from the women’s team final at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.
“I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and my wellbeing,” the 24-year-old American said in tearful comments after the competition.
USA Gymnastics said in a statement Biles had been withdrawn from the final because of an unspecified “medical issue” and would be assessed daily to determine whether she can continue in the Games. She is still slated to compete in individual events.
“I love you guys, I’ll be fine,” Biles could be heard telling teammates after pulling out. “You go out there and kick ass.”
A short time later, despite a valiant effort from Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles, the US’s long run atop the sport was over.
La estadounidense Simone Biles tuvo que retirarse del evento por una lesión.pic.twitter.com/xN5WaTc4kQ
— El Diario (@eldiario) July 27, 2021
Biles confirmed she had not been injured.
“I just don’t trust myself as much as I used to, and I don’t know if it’s age. I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics,” she said.
“I feel like I’m also not having as much fun, and I know that this Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself,” she added, as she began to cry.
“It just sucks that it happens here at the Olympics Games… with the year that it’s been, I’m really not surprised the way it played out.”
The team representing the Russian Olympic Committee surged past the US to gold, posting a score of 169.528 to capture the country’s first Olympic title since Barcelona in 1992.
Biles had arrived at the Tokyo Games with hopes of bettering the Olympic gymnastics record of golds for a single competitor, held by Soviet great Larisa Latynina.
The Americans drew within eight-tenths of a point through three rotations even with Biles serving as head cheerleader. ROC, however, never wavered on the floor. And they erupted in joy when 21-year-old Angelina Melnikova’s floor exercise score assured them of the top spot on the podium.
Even without Biles, the Americans managed to hang in there for silver. Great Britain edged Italy for bronze.
The Russian victory came a day after ROC men’s team edged Japan for the top spot in the men’s final.