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Simone Biles caps remarkable return with Olympic bronze in beam final

The American was back competing after withdrawing early in the women’s team final last week, citing a desire to protect her mental health.

Simone Biles took home a bronze.
Simone Biles took home a bronze.
Image: Mike Egerton/PA

SIMONE BILES WON her seventh Olympic medal in the Ariake Arena in Tokyo on Tuesday and even by her own extraordinary standards it may be destined to be her most coveted of the lot.

The 24-year-old fought off a spatial awareness issue known as the ‘twisties’ to take bronze on the women’s beam behind Chinese teenagers Chenchen Yuan and Tang Xijing.

It capped a remarkable return to centre stage for Biles, who had not competed since she withdrew early in the women’s team final last week, citing a desire to protect her mental health.

She subsequently pulled out of the first three of the four individual finals for which she had qualified, before reasoning that she was able to give it one last shot in the final women’s event of the Games.

Biles had arrived in Tokyo with the expectation of equalling or even surpassing her historic quadruple gold medal haul from Rio in 2016.

But despite successfully qualifying for all four individual finals, she seemed far from her all-conquering best, and left the floor after one rotation of the team final after failing to land a vault.

Biles later confirmed she had pulled out due to ‘twisting’, explaining in a social media quote: “It has never transferred to bars and beam for me. This time it’s literally in every event which sucks.

“(You) literally cannot tell up from down. It’s the craziest feeling ever, not having an inch of control over your body.”

Despite beam not being regarded as Biles’ greatest strength, she has won three world titles on the apparatus, including in Stuttgart in 2019, and won a bronze medal in Rio 2016.

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She booked her place in the final as the seventh out of eight qualifiers, but was only 0.134 behind her US team-mate Sunisa Lee, who qualified in third, whilst one of those who out-scored her, Romania’s Larisa Iordache, subsequently withdrew.

Ironically Biles’ bronze medal-winning total of 14.0 was lower than her heat score of 14.066, with a series of minor wobbles in a routine of otherwise exceptional difficulty.

Competing second, she immediately ranked behind Tang, but held onto second place until Yuan, the highest qualifier, delivered a routine which scored 14.633 to take gold away from her compatriot.

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