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US Olympic gymnastics champ Biles withdraws from all-around competition

Superstar will not defend her title on Thursday; no decision yet on her participation in individual apparatus contests next week, for which she is in all 4 finals

Simone Biles, of the United States, watches gymnasts perform at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, July 27, 2021. (Ashley Landis/AP)
Simone Biles, of the United States, watches gymnasts perform at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, July 27, 2021. (Ashley Landis/AP)

TOKYO — Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic title.

The American gymnastics superstar withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready.

Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals.

The organization said Biles will be evaluated daily before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events. Biles qualified for the finals on all four apparatuses, something she didn’t even do during her five-medal haul in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The 24-year-old came to Tokyo as arguably the face of the Games following the retirement of swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. She topped qualifying on Sunday despite piling up mandatory deductions on vault, floor and beam following shaky dismounts.

She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. The weight became too heavy after vaulting during team finals. She lost herself in mid-air and completed 1 1/2 twists instead of 2 1/2. She consulted with US team doctor Marcia Faustin before walking off the field of play.

When she returned, she took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles and turned into the team’s head cheerleader as the US claimed silver behind the Russian Olympic Committee.

“Once I came out here (to compete), I was like, ‘No, mental is not there so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,'” Biles said following the medal ceremony.

USA’s Jade Carey competes in the artistic gymnastics balance beam event of the women’s qualification during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo on July 25, 2021. (Martin BUREAU / AFP)

Support for Biles poured in from around the world following her withdrawal from the team final.

Michelle Obama tweeted: “Am I good enough? Yes, I am. The mantra I practice daily. @Simone_Biles, we are proud of you and we are rooting for you. Congratulations on the silver medal, Team @USA!”

Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao tweeted: “Once a champion, always a champion. God Bless @Simone_Biles.”

Her decision opens the door wide open for the all-around, a title that was long considered a foregone conclusion.

Rebeca Andrade of Brazil finished second to Biles during qualifying, followed by Lee and Russians Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova. The four were separated by three-tenths of a point on Sunday.

Carey now finds herself in the final, capping a remarkable journey for the 21-year-old from Phoenix. She spent two years traveling the globe in an effort to pile up enough points on the World Cup circuit to earn an individual nominative spot, meaning she would be in the Olympics but technically not be part of the four-woman US team.

Carey posted the second-best score on vault and the third-best on floor during qualifying, earning trips to the event finals in the process. Now she finds herself competing for an all-around medal while replacing the athlete considered the greatest of all-time in the sport.

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