Photo from the AP.
By Terrance Turner
July 27, 2021 (Updated July 31)
Simone Biles has withdrawn from the women’s gymnastics Olympic team final.
Biles dropped out today after performing a vault. She was supposed to do an “Amanar”, consisting of a layout flip and 2.5 twists, according to Vox. But she did only 1.5 twists and barely saved her landing. “I didn’t know where I was in the air,” she said later.
She scored a 13.766 — the lowest vault score of her career, according to ESPN — and then disappeared. Instead of warming up for uneven bars, Biles simply walked off the mat and left. She returned later, wearing a white sweatsuit, to cheer on her teammates. And then came the bombshell announcement from USA Gymnastics.
“Simone has withdrawn frOm the team final competition because of a medical issue,” USA Gymnastics said. “She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.” The news sent shockwaves through the Olympics — indeed, throughout the world. But the issue was not physical; it was mental. In a subsequent press conference, Biles explained her decision.
“You have to be there 100%,” Biles told reporters after the meet. “If not, you get hurt. Today has been really stressful. I was shaking. I couldn’t nap. I have never felt like this going into a competition, and I tried to go out and have fun. But once I came out, I was like, ‘No. My mental is not there.'”
“I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a backseat, work on my mindfulness,” she said. “And I knew that the girls would do an absolutely great job. and I didn’t want to risk the team a medal,” Biles explained. “I feel like I robbed them of a couple of 10s.”
She elaborated: “It’s been really stressful this Olympics games,” she said, citing “a lot of different variables’ including not having fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s been a long week. It’s been a long Olympic process; it’s been a long year. So, just a lot of different variable.s And I think we’re just a little bit too stressed out. But we should be out here having fun, and sometimes that’s not the case.”
“I don’t trust myself as much as I used to,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s age and I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics. I feel like I’m also not having as much fun. This Olympic Games I wanted it to be for myself but I came in and I felt like I was still doing it for other people. It hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”
In the end, Biles made the decision that she felt she had to. And her teammates — Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum — stepped up to fill in the gap. Initially, Chiles was going to skip the uneven bars and balance beam and Lee would skip the floor exercise. But in Biles’ absence, they had to compete across four events. In the end, Team USA took silver. Russia’s team won gold, and the British team won bronze, according to ESPN.
“I’m OK,” Biles told NBC host Hoda Kotb after the medal ceremony. “Just super frustrated with how the night played out.” Kotb asked how she was feeling; Biles said that physically she feels fine, but her emotional state varies by the moment: “Coming to the Olympics and being head star isn’t an easy feat.” She praised her teammates for stepping in and added: “We hope America still loves us!”
Biles was quoted by ESPN as saying that she will take Wednesday as “a mental rest day”. When Kotb asked if she will compete in Thursday’s individual all-around final, Biles answered: “We’re going to take it day-by-day, and we’re just gonna see.”
UPDATE (July 30, 2021): Biles did not compete in the all-around final. She is also withdrawing from both the vault and uneven bars, per KPRC. “She will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether to compete in the floor exercise and balance beam,” USA Gymnastics stated today. MyKayla Skinner will take Biles’ place.
Biles said today that she had “the twisties”, a mental block that gymnasts often face when trying to execute moves in the air. She responded on social media to those saying that she had “quit”, posting a practice video in which she attempted to compete on bars and landed on her back:
UPDATE (July 31, 2021): Biles has also pulled out of the floor exercise competition. This decision leaves balance beam as the only remaining event that she can compete in at the Tokyo Olympics. The news was announced just minutes ago (at 10:30 pm CST).
“Simone has withdrawn from the event final for floor and will make a decision on beam later this week,” USA Gymnastics tweeted Saturday night. “Either way, we’re all behind you, Simone.”