It was perfection that people expected from Simone Biles, who joined the ranks of legendary gymnasts by winning four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics at age 20, at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. To many people’s surprise, however, Biles unexpectedly withdrew from the U.S. team gymnastics finals on Tuesday. “We have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do,” Biles said.
Biles did not look like herself during her vault performance in women’s team competition. She executed a relatively low-level Yurchenko vault with 1 1/2 twists but stumbled forward on the landing. She did not appear to be her usual self, who nailed high-level techniques. After vault, Biles pulled out of the team final competition. Another U.S. gymnast replaced Biles in the team event but the U.S. earned a silver medal, placing second to the Russian Olympic Committee team. It was the first time that the U.S. women’s gymnastics team lost a world or Olympic team title since 2010.
During the press conference after the competition, Biles spoke about her mental health issues that forced her to make the decision to withdraw. “We had a workout this morning. It went OK. And then just that five-and-a-half-hour wait or something, I was just like shaking,” Biles said. “Once I came out here, I was like, no, mental is not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.”
The U.S. media, which had compared Biles to “superhuman,” acknowledged that she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. “She’s just a human being, after all, albeit one who can fly and flip through the air with ease and break records without breaking a sweat,” CNN said. “Biles’ decision not to compete on Tuesday is, to many spectators, a heartbreak. It is also a welcome example of an athlete setting her own limits,” The New Yorker wrote.
USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that Biles will not compete in the individual all-round gymnastics final at the Olympics, adding it support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. It remains unclear whether Biles will compete at the Tokyo Olympics or not. USA Gymnastics said Biles would be evaluated every day physically and mentally to determine whether she will take part.
Bo-Mi Im firstname.lastname@example.org