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Biles' Olympics in doubt as 'medical issue' forces shock exit

  • Published at 02:55 pm July 27th, 2021
USA's Simone Biles competes in the artistic gymnastics balance beam event of the women's qualification during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo on Sunday AFP

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

Simone Biles' participation in the rest of the Tokyo Olympics was plunged into uncertainty on Tuesday after she dramatically withdrew from the team final won by Russia's women with a "medical issue".

The American superstar exited the final at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre after a lacklustre opening vault and briefly left the competition floor, before returning.

The US team replaced her in the three concluding routines on the uneven bars, beam, and floor.

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

"Simone has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue," the statement to AFP said. "She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions."

Biles spent the remainder of the competition enthusiastically cheering on her teammates who took silver with the bronze going to Britain, their first medal in the event since 1928.

She said she had had faith in her teammates Grace McCallum, Jordan Chiles and Sunisa Lee.

Biles has qualified for all finals available to her in Tokyo but her performance in preliminary rounds on Sunday had been 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!"

If Biles is unable to continue in Tokyo, it would mark a stunning turn of events at a Games she had been strongly expected to dominate.

She had been bidding 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.

Prior to the Olympics, Biles revealed she had battled depression after revealing she was among the hundreds of gymnasts who had been sexually abused by former Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar, who is now serving a life prison sentence for his crimes.

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."

The US team, clearly unbalanced by the drama surrounding their talismanic leader rated by many as the greatest gymnast of all time, were foiled in their bid for a third straight Olympic title after wins in London and Rio.

With Biles watching on, the Americans approached the concluding floor exercise less than a point behind the Russians.

But when Jordan Chiles failed to win the judges' approval with her performance it was all over.

Russia, who under the Soviet era dominated this event from 1952 to 1980 winning eight straight Olympic titles, prevailed with a total of 169.528. The  US scored on 166.096 and Britain had 164.096.

Led by Angelina Melnikova, the Russians emulated their men's team who won gold 24 hours earlier - the first time in Olympic history one country has won both titles.

"We still can't believe it's happening. The impossible is possible now," said Melnikova, adding: "We worked extremely hard, we were basically in a closed training camp for a year and a half, working for this moment."

Competing under a neutral banner due to their country's doping suspension, Russia were ending a sequence of domination by the US women in world and Olympic finals stretching back to 2011.

Biles received her silver medal, but the big question on everyone's mind was whether she would get the chance to add to her collection in Thursday's all-around final and the four apparatus finals to come.

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