We’re used to perfection from Simone Biles but the American superstar sparked concerns on Tuesday night when she pulled out just minutes into the women’s team gymnastics final in Tokyo.
The USA started on the vault – the place Biles has gone where nobody ever has before with the incredible Yurchenko double pike – but the four-time gold medallist baulked on her first attempt.
The bizarre incident meant she only completed 1.5 rotations instead of 2.5 and failed to stick the landing. Biles was clearly irked and grimaced on her way back the side, earning a 13.766 — what was the lowest score of all six American and ROC (Russian) competitors.
USA Gymnastics later confirmed Biles would not play any further part in the final.
“Simone has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue,” a statement said. “She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.
“Thinking of you, Simone!”
America dealt with her exit admirably though. Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum and Sunisa Lee Grace fought through adversity to win a memorable silver medal, behind Russia and ahead of Great Britain.
Nobody could quite believe what they’d seen from the undisputed queen of gymnastics, who has done things in the sport nobody thought possible.
American Olympics reporter Callie Caplan said Biles “looked near tears as she walked off the podium”.
“Simone Biles got lost in the air during her last warm-up vault and bailed out of the Amanar early. She just did the same during competition, completing 1.5 twists instead of 2.5,” Caplan tweeted.
Shelia O’Connor added: “Did…did Simone Biles just bail out of her vault?” with a shocked hands-on-face emoji.
US sports columnist Nancy Armour said: “OMG. Simone bailed out of the Amanar, does a 1.5. Nearly lands it on her knees. And looks as if she’s about to cry as she comes off the podium, Cecile immediately goes and puts arm around her.”
American TV presenter Hoda Kotb said “the place was just stunned” at the devastating development.
The plot thickened when Biles soon walked off the competition floor with a team trainer, sparking speculation she’d suffered an injury.
Her teammates walked over to the uneven bars and were forced to compete without her. Chiles was supposed to sit out the bars portion of the night but had to scramble to take part because of Biles’ absence.
Before moving on to the beam, USA Gymnastics confirmed Biles had withdrawn from the competition due to a “medical issue”.
In the final stages of the bars, Biles returned to the floor but had put her white team tracksuit on because she was done for the night. She walked with the team around to the beam and supported her comrades as they tried to claw their way up the leaderboard.
Just because Biles was out of action it didn’t mean she wasn’t going to contribute. She cheered louder than anyone as she encouraged Team USA to power on towards a medal.
The rest of the team’s mood wasn’t dampened as they rose to the challenge. They hugged Biles and the quartet engaged in animated chats, looking like they were having the time of their lives.
Brilliant Biles in a league of her own
Biles underscored her greatness at this year’s US Classic by becoming the first woman ever to pull off a Yurchenko double pike — a complex, gravity-defying vault that no other woman has attempted in competition.
Unfortunately for Biles, the judges weren’t as enamoured with her vault as everyone else, as they gave it a provisional scoring value of just 6.6. There have been suggestions the low score was delivered because the International Gymnastics Federation wants to protect athletes’ safety by discouraging them from attempting a move as difficult as what Biles pulled off.
Then there’s the train of thought if Biles is the only person on the planet capable of pulling off such extreme vaults, she will simply be impossible to beat if the judges deem them worthy of more points.
“I feel like now we just have to get what we get because there’s no point in putting up a fight because they’re not going to reward it,” Biles said at the time.
“They’re too low and they even know it. But they don’t want the field to be too far apart. And that’s just something that’s on them. That’s not on me.
“They had an open-ended code of points and now they’re mad that people are too far ahead and excelling.”