In typical Simone Biles fashion she stuck the landing. The American gymnastics superstar won bronze during the balance beam final on Tuesday, one week after she removed herself from several competitions to focus on her mental health.
Biles earned her seventh career Olympic medal — tying her with Shannon Miller for the most by an American in gymnastics.
She drilled a slightly watered-down version of her routine in front of a crowd which included IOC President Thomas Bach.
Biles, using a double-pike dismount — no twisting required — posted a score of 14.000. That was good enough for the bronze medal.
Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee of the United States finished fifth. The 18-year-old Lee won three medals in Tokyo, including silver in the team final and bronze on uneven bars.
The “GOAT” Biles, arrived on the floor about 90 minutes before the competition began. She wore her typical red, white, and blue leotard emblazoned with nearly 5,000 crystals, and of course that GOAT symbol as well.
If she was nervous it hardly showed. She warmed up as if it was just another day back in the gym her family owns in the northern Houston suburbs.
She twice hopped onto the beam to do a run-through of her routine and she stuck her double-pike dismount to applause from the stands and the flashing of dozens of cameras.
Biles, arrived in Tokyo as the face of the U.S. contingent in Japan and perhaps the Games themselves. Yet the brilliance she’s summoned so easily for so long during her run atop the gymnastics game came undone after qualifying on July 25.
On July 27, Biles bowed out of her vault during the first rotation of the team finals. The stunning exit sent shockwaves through the sport and Olympic Games and inspired some enlightening and long overdue conversations about mental health.
She says it was for protection purposes as she was having difficulty locating herself in the air. She later described the phenomenon as “the twisties” and subsequently pulled out of the all-around, uneven bars, floor exercise and vault finals.
Biles, spent the last week continuing to train, while also being evaluated by team physician (Dr Marcia Faustin) and doubling as lead cheerleader for a U.S. women’s team that has racked up some serious hardware in her absence.
Her return to competition on the balance beam served as a possible fitting ending to her Olympic experience. She also earned bronze five years ago, as she reached down to grab the 4-inch piece of wood after she’d slipped. The decision did cost her gold but assured her of a fifth medal and the one, in retrospect, she said she’s the most proud of.
While she hasn’t officially announced her retirement, she hinted she may wanna stick around in some fashion until the 2024 Paris Games to honor coaches Laurent and Cecile Landi, who both are French, but a long layoff awaits the greatest gymnast the world has ever witnessed.
She’ll be headlining a post-Olympic tour through the fall but also stressed recently she plans to stay close to the sport.
If Tuesday was her official goodbye, she did it on her terms. Just like she has for the better part of her elite eight-year career which pushed the boundaries of gymnastics and saw her achieve the kind of crossover success typically reserved for sprinters like Usain Bolt and swimmers like Michael Phelps.