Simone Biles was forced to withdraw from the women’s team final at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday due to an unspecified medical issue after struggling on her opening vault. The four-time Olympic champion’s withdrawal leaves questions over whether she will be able to compete – and do so at a high level – for the remainder of the competition.
In her absence, the Russian Olympic Committee clinched the gold medal, comfortably defeating a USA team that performed admirably without their biggest star. It marks the first time that the United States have lost a major gymnastics team competition since 2010.
Amid rumours Biles left the competition due to a mental health issue, USA Gymnastics put out a statement saying her she had withdrawn on medical grounds. “Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue.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,” read the statement.
In the opening rotation, Biles had attempted her trusty Amanar vault, one she has almost never missed. However, as she launched herself into the air her form deteriorated and she only managed one and a half twists before a messy landing. The judge gave her an extremely low score of 13.700.
Biles was immediately surrounded by her coaches, before being whisked away from the arena by one of the team’s trainers. When she returned, she played no further part in the competition but throughout the night she appeared in good spirits, continually cheering for her teammates.
Up against a ROC team that had already outscored USA in the qualifying competition with Biles, the Americans rallied behind solid performances, particularly from Sunisa Lee. But they were unable to overcome Russia’s supremacy and a sublime performance from 16 year-old Viktoria Listunova.
Great Britain, meanwhile, secured a shock bronze with brilliant performances from Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova, Amelie Morgan and Alice Kinsella.