US gymnast Simone Biles pulls out of team competition; ROC takes title

Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Olympics

TOKYO — Superstar gymnast Simone Biles, considered a lock to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles and lead the U.S. women to a third straight team gold medal, was scratched from the team competition on Tuesday for reasons that remain unclear. Without her unparalleled power and skill, the U.S. women’s team finished second to the athletes of the Russian Olympic Committee.

USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body in the United States, issued a statement that said Biles had withdrawn from the team final competition “due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.” That contradicted NBC announcer John Roethlisberger’s comment during the telecast that network personnel had been told by a team coach or coaches that Biles’ issues were mental rather than physical.

With Jordan Chiles stepping in for Biles and the U.S. lineup juggled to adjust for Biles’ absence, the U.S. women put up a spirited battle but finished second. The ROC, as the team is known here, had 169.528 points, to 166.096 for the U.S. women and 164.096 for Great Britain. The ROC swept the men’s and women’s team competitions here.

Biles left the competition floor at Ariake Gymnastics Centre after the first of four rotations in the team event Tuesday night. When she returned she removed her hand grips, indicating she wouldn’t take her scheduled turn on the uneven bars.

Biles, a five-time medalist at the 2016 Rio Games, had experienced problems with her vault in her warmup. Her difficulties returned when the competition began. She did a relatively simple Yurchenko vault with one-and-a-half twists and landed in a deep crouch, almost sitting, before she took a big hop forward. After the U.S. women completed their vaults, Biles and a trainer left and went backstage.

Wearing a warmup jacket and warmup pants over her red, white and blue leotard, Biles returned as her teammates were warming up for the uneven bars. She hugged them and encouraged them as Chiles replaced her.


Chiles, an incoming UCLA freshman, had struggled on the uneven bars during team qualifying on Sunday but she responded well under intense pressure on Tuesday with a clean routine that got 14.166 points. However, Chiles fell during her floor exercise routine and got a score of 11.700 points.

Biles, who has won more world championships medals (25) than any other gymnast, had been expected to dominate the Tokyo Games. She qualified for the all-around final, which will be contested on Thursday, and all four event finals.

Biles, 24, recently spoke about feeling intense pressure to succeed here, and she has figured prominently in NBC’s promotions of the Tokyo Games. She also has said she is still dealing with trust issues regarding USA Gymnastics after having been sexually abused by former national team doctor Lawrence Nassar, who abused hundreds of women and girls before he was sentenced to prison.

Biles stayed on the floor with the team and after the competition was seen talking to Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, before the medal ceremony.


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