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Tearful Simone Biles withdraws from gymnastics team event citing mental health reasons

The team representing the Russian Olympic Committee won the gold medal in Biles’ absence.

Simone Biles.
Simone Biles.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Updated Jul 27th 2021, 3:45 PM

GYMNASTICS SUPERSTAR SIMONE Biles said “mental health” concerns had led to her withdrawal from the women’s team final at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.

“I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and my wellbeing,” the 24-year-old American said after her team were beaten by the Russian quartet in her absence.

Biles exited the final at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre after a lacklustre opening vault and walked off the competition floor before returning a short time later.

The US team immediately withdrew her from the rest of the final.

After she joined her teammates to collect their silver medals, four-time Olympic champion Biles confirmed she had not been injured.

She said: “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 this Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself,” she said, as she began to cry.

“It just sucks that it happens here at the Olympics Games… with the year that it’s been, I’m really not surprised the way it played out.”

The four-time gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Games qualified for all finals available to her but her performance in preliminary rounds on Sunday was littered with uncharacteristic mistakes.

In a candid Instagram post on Monday the 24-year-old said she was feeling the pressure during Sunday’s qualifying.

“I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times,” Biles wrote.

“I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard…the Olympics is no joke!”

Biles had been bidding at these Games to become the first woman in more than half a century to retain the all-around title, and had a realistic chance of equalling Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s record of nine Olympic gold medals.

Biles has spoken openly about her battle with depression after revealing she was among the hundreds of gymnasts sexually abused by former US team doctor Larry Nassar, who is now serving a life prison sentence.

She said Tuesday that therapy and medicine had helped her, but had not been enough.

“I feel like that’s all been going really well but then whenever you get in a high stress situation you kind of freak out. You don’t really know how to handle all of those emotions, especially being at the Olympic Games.”

“Once I step up onto the mat it’s just me and my head, dealing with the demons in my head.”

A statement from USA Gymnastics said Biles was suffering from an unspecified “medical issue” and would now face daily assessment to determine whether she will continue her Olympic campaign.

Biles has qualified for all finals available to her in Tokyo. The next is the all-around event on Thursday.

“We are going to take it a day at a time and we’ll see what happens,” she said.

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In a recent multi-part documentary series posted on Facebook, Biles also revealed she had been bothered by a right ankle problem this year after landing awkwardly during training in May.

“Right now, what we’re dealing with is I just have a lot of fluid built up in there,” Biles said during the episode.

“There’s nothing we can do at this point. We don’t have time for rest, we don’t have time for shots and all of that stuff, so tape it is.”

With Biles out of competition, the team representing the Russian Olympic Committee won gold ahead of the United States, winning by more than three points. 

Led by Angelina Melnikova, the Russians emulated their men’s team who won gold 24 hours earlier.

Britain won a surprise bronze medal, their first medal in the team event in 93 years. Their team featured Alice Kinsella, daughter of former Republic of Ireland football international Mark Kinsella, and twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova, who were born in Dublin. 

© – AFP, 2021, with reporting by Gavin Cooney 

Updated at 15.00 with results of the team event; Updated at 15.44 with reaction from Simone Biles; Updated at 17.24 with further reaction from Simone Biles. 

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