With Biles out, Russia wins gymnastics gold

TOKYO — Simone Biles roared toward the vault; the United States women’s gymnastics team in need of one of her signature knockout performances if they were going to stake an early lead on Russia in the team competition here Tuesday.

Instead, Biles bailed out of her planned attempt — a Yurchenko with 2.5 twists. She instead delivered the far easier Yurchenko 1.5. Even then, she took a massive bounce/stumble upon landing.

As judges tallied a very un-Simone like score of 13.766 — a full 1.2 below her qualifying mark — Biles walked off the mat and looked to be near tears.

She briefly left the arena floor with a USA Gymnastics trainer, only to quickly return with her wrists wrapped for an apparent return to the uneven bars, the Americans' second rotation. She then unwrapped them and put on warm-ups.

Just like that, the greatest gymnast of all time had been removed from the team competition after a single rotation.

And despite a courageous effort by the remaining Americans — Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum — a talented Russian squad seized the clear path to gold, besting the United States 169.528 to 166.096. Great Britain took bronze.

Simone Biles' exit is the story of the women's gymnastics team final, which was won by Russia. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Simone Biles' exit is the story of the women's gymnastics team final, which was won by Russia. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

NBC reported that Biles was dealing with a “mental issue” not a physical one. USA Gymnastics soon said she suffered from a “medical issue.”

"Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue," USA Gymnastics said in a statement. "She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions."

Biles did not appear to suffer any obvious physical injury during her vault and stayed at the arena, where often jumped around to cheer on and encourage her teammates. She appeared to be in no physical discomfort, although the difference between bouncing as a “fan” and competing in elite gymnastics is considerable.

The remaining Americans fought gamely to preserve the United States’ 11-year winning streak. On the strength of a return to form by Chiles and a huge bar and beam routine by Lee, they trailed by just 0.800 into the final rotation — floor, which is Biles’ best.

Russia, however, was unfazed by the pressure, delivering rock-solid performances and securing the historic upset of the U.S.. The Americans arrived as heavy favorites to win their third consecutive Olympic gold due to the overall strength of the team and, of course, the presence of Biles.

The U.S. had defeated Russia by a whopping 8.209 margin at the 2016 Olympics. At the 2019 World Championships, featuring much of the same lineups as Tuesday, the Americans won by an impressive 5.801 points.

They may have lost even with Biles — the Russians bested them in qualifying by 1.067 points on Sunday.

However, the Americans would have liked their chances if Simone was up to form.

Biles struggled (by her standards) in Sunday’s qualifying, repeatedly shaking her head, shrugging her shoulders and scrunching her face after less-than-perfect performances. She lacked the outward confidence that she’d carried in winning five all-around world championships.

Additionally, neither she nor any other American gymnast stopped to meet with the media after either podium training session or qualifying earlier this week, as past teams traditionally have.

During numerous pre-Olympic sit-down interviews, Biles often spoke of the pressure at trying to achieve perfection and push the sport to additional heights. When she repeatedly made small mistakes at the U.S. trials in late June, she broke into tears and said later she felt she had let down the fans.

There was no immediate word on whether Biles would compete in Thursday’s individual all-around competition where she sought to defend her gold medal from Rio de Janeiro. She also qualified for all four individual finals where she was favored to win at least two more golds on vault and floor.

She could be there for all of them. Or she could just retire and walk away from an Olympics that were expected to be a crowning sendoff to an otherworldly talent.

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