American gymnast Simone Biles has spoken on her shock withdrawal from the artistic all-round team event at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday, when the US went on to finish second behind Russia.
Four-time Olympic champion Biles pulled out after her opening vault at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, returning with her tracksuit on and playing no further part as the American team saw their decade-long dominance end in her absence.
Initial reports suggested Biles, 24, had injured her right ankle, although there were conflicting claims that she had withdrawn due to “mental health issues”.
An official USA Gymnastics statement described the problem vaguely as a “medical issue.”
Simone Biles back in warmup gear, cheering on her teammates after she told them she pulled out of the team competition final. “It is not injury related” and apparently her coach said “it’s a mental issue that Simone is having,” per NBC commentators just now. #TokyoOlympicspic.twitter.com/WdBgVBnF5m
— Monica Alba (@albamonica) July 27, 2021
Official statement: “Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”Thinking of you, Simone! pic.twitter.com/QA1GYHwWTv
— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 27, 2021
After withdrawing, Biles was seen cheering on teammates Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles enthusiastically from the sidelines.
She also graciously congratulated the Russian team after their victory.
A clip circulating on social media purported to show a conversation between Biles and a US team trainer before she made her decision to withdraw, in which the gymnastics star appeared to say “I can’t get up there.”
Biles herself has now commented, telling BBC Sport: “Yes, I’m okay. Just dealing with things internally that will get fixed within the next couple of days.
“But [I’m] super proud of how they [my teammates] stepped up to the plate tonight and worked.”
Asked whether she will be back for the individual events on Thursday, Biles replied: “Yes, thank you.”
In separate comments to US outlet TODAY, Biles sounded less certain about her continued participation, saying: “Physically, I feel good, I’m in shape.
“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.”
Biles also told reporters that she did not want to be “dragged out of here on a stretcher.”
“Even though it’s so big, it’s the Olympic Games. But 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,” said Biles.
“I just don’t trust myself as much as I used to. And I don’t know if it’s age – I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics.
“I feel like I’m also not having as much fun and I know that.”
Should she compete, Biles will be aiming to defend the title she won in the all-round competition in Rio five years ago.
Biles had entered the Tokyo Olympics as one of the faces of the Games, even being given her own ‘GOAT’ emoji in recognition as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time.
However, after an uncharacteristically sloppy performance in qualifying, Biles had alluded to the pressure she was under.
“I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times,” she had written.
“I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The Olympics is no joke!”
Concerns will now focus on the state of Biles’ physical and mental health, and what that means for her participation in the individual events in Tokyo.
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