Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles plans to compete in Tuesday’s balance beam final at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
The move follows Biles’s earlier decisions to withdraw from three individual even finals, and from the women’s gymnastics team event last Tuesday, citing mental health issues. “Once I came out here, I was like, no the mental is not there,” she told reporters, per ESPN’s Michele Steele. “I had to let the girls do it.” Team USA went on to win a silver medal in the event, with the Russian team taking gold.
USA Gymnastics initially said that Biles pulled out from the team final “due to a medical issue.” But in interviews after the event, the 24-year-old clarified that she is physically uninjured but wasn’t in the right place mentally to compete.
Physically, I feel good, I’m in shape,” she told NBC News’s Hoda Kotb. “Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment. Coming here to the Olympics and being the head star isn’t an easy feat, so we’re just trying to take it one day at a time and we’ll see.”
The 24-year-old also told reporters in Tokyo after the event that she’s felt more nervous recently while competing, and “at the end of the day it’s like we want to walk out of here, not be dragged out of here on a stretcher.” She continued, per The Guardian:
“It does suck when you do feel the weight of the world and you feel like there are no outlets for the amount of training that we do. We were totally prepared, but it just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head. Like, you want to do it for yourself but you’re still too worried about what everybody else is going to say, on the internet and stuff sometimes. So I just had to stay off of it for the past couple [of] days.”
Biles added: “I felt pretty comfortable coming into the Olympics and I don’t really know what happened. Just going through each of the days and the training it’s just felt a little bit tougher. Going out there tonight could’ve gone a bit better, because warm-up wasn’t that bad. I was struggling with some things but it wasn’t too bad. But once I got out here, its was just like … you know what, I’m going to take a back seat, these girls [can] go out there and do their thing and they did it.”
Biles is considered the best gymnast of all time, but something seemed awry as she competed in Team USA’s first rotation in the finals. The AP reports: “She was supposed to do an ‘Amanar,’ a vault that begins with a roundoff back handspring onto the table followed by 2 1/2 twists. She seemed to change her mind in mid-air, doing just 1 1/2 twist instead.”
Biles put on her gear for the next event, the uneven bars, but then left the arena after talking with a coach and a doctor. She returned with a strapped foot and sat on the sidelines in a track suit. Teammate Jordan Chiles was subbed in for Biles on bars.
Biles’s exit meant that her teammates – Chiles, Grace McCallum, and Sunisa Lee, had to perform in each event. The Washington Post noteed that “Lee had not planned to do floor, and Chiles was not in the lineup on bars or beam.” Chiles delivered a strong bars rotation, and Sunisa Lee scored a 15.400 with her difficult routine, her best score ever.
Still, losing Biles derailed the Americans’ attempt to claim a third straight Olympic title. They came in second, scoring 166.096 to the Russians’ 169.528. Great Britain took bronze. This is the Russians’ first gold in the event since the Unified Team won in Barcelona in 1992.