Simone Biles’ Olympics in doubt as she withdraws from vault and uneven bars
Simone Biles has withdrawn from the vault and uneven bars event finals at the Tokyo Olympics as any further participation in the event continues to be in doubt. Biles, who withdrew from the team and all-around final, has cited a mental block on her complex skills and the need to prioritise her mental health.
“After further consultation with medical staff, Simone Biles has decided to withdraw from the event finals for vault and the uneven bars,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Saturday morning. “She will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether to compete in the finals for floor exercise and balance beam.”
It has become clear in the days since she withdrew during the team final that Biles may want to compete but she is physically incapable of doing so without potentially endangering herself.
On Friday, Biles posted a video of her attempting a double-twisting double somersault dismount into a foam pit on uneven bars in training that morning. In both videos, she lost track of herself in the air and crashed on to the soft surface. She says that previous mental blocks have taken weeks to resolve and they usually only affect her on the floor and vault. It is currently affecting her twists on all four events.
“For anyone saying I quit, I didn’t quit, my mind and body are simply not in sync as you can see here,” she wrote. “I don’t think you realise how dangerous this is on a hard/competition surface. Nor do I have to explain why I put health first. Physical health is mental health.”
Prominent gymnasts have been almost unanimous in support of her decision to withdraw. Such names include Svetlana Khorkina, the Russian great, a seven-times Olympic medallist who is usually relentlessly critical of Biles. Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan posted old videos of him similarly losing himself in the air, explaining that only gymnasts can relate to it.
He was not interested in opinions from non-gymnasts: “With the twisties comes a huge amount of anxiety,” he said. “Imagine you have qualified to the Olympic Games, you’re the favourite to win and all of a sudden you cannot do gymnastics properly. It’s probably one of the scariest feelings you can ever experience. I’ve experienced it first-hand in multiple competitions.”
Biles was the defending Olympic vault champion and the clear favourite to repeat her victory again. She will, however, be replaced by friendly faces. Mykayla Skinner, Biles’s longtime teammate who was squeezed out of the vault final by the two-per country rule, will compete in her place. Mélanie de Jesus dos Santos of France, who Biles loudly cheered for during the all-around final, will contest the uneven bars final.
“Looks like I get to put a competition Leo on just one more time,” Skinner tweeted. “Can’t wait to compete in vault finals. Doing this for us @Simone_Biles. It’s go time baby!”
There are two other chances for Biles to compete – the balance beam and floor exercise – but Biles’s floor routine is a medley of some of the most difficult twisting skills in the sport and she dismounts from balance beam with an extremely complex full-twisting double-back.