Gymnastics superstar and defending Olympic champion Simone Biles has withdrawn from Thursday’s individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Games to focus on her mental well-being.
The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team finalfollowing one rotation, on vault. She cited her mental health as the reason when speaking to the media following the competition.
“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in order to focus on her mental health,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday. “We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”
Biles had been the overwhelming favorite to repeat as individual all-around champion. But her status was left in doubt after Tuesday’s outing, and she told the media she wasn’t sure if she would be able to compete on Thursday.
Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American, behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals.
USA Gymnastics said Biles will be evaluated before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events. Biles qualified for the finals on all four apparatuses, something she didn’t even do during her five-medal haul at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. Vault and floor exercise — the first two individual events — are scheduled for Sunday. Biles won gold in both events in Rio.
The 24-year-old Biles came to Tokyo as arguably the face of the Games, following the retirement of swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. She topped qualifying on Sunday despite piling up mandatory deductions on vault, floor and beam following shaky dismounts.
She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. The weight became too heavy after vaulting during team finals. She lost herself in midair and completed 1½ twists instead of 2½. She consulted with U.S. team doctor Marcia Faustin before walking off the field of play.
When Biles returned, she took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles, and turned into the team’s head cheerleader as the U.S. claimed silver behind the Russian Olympic Committee.
“Once I came out here [to compete], I was like, ‘No, mental is not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,'” Biles said following the medal ceremony.
The decision leaves the door wide open for the all-around, a title that was long considered a foregone conclusion. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil finished second to Biles during qualifying, followed by Lee and ROC’s Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova. The four were separated by three-tenths of a point on Sunday.
Carey now finds herself in the final, capping a remarkable journey for the 21-year-old from Phoenix. She spent two years traveling the globe in an effort to pile up enough points on the World Cup circuit to earn an individual nominative spot, meaning she would be in the Olympics but technically not be part of the four-woman U.S. team.
Carey posted the second-best score on vault and the third best on floor during qualifying, earning trips to the event finals in the process. Now, she finds herself competing for an all-around medal while replacing the athlete considered the greatest of all time in the sport.
By D’Arcy Maine