Simone Biles closed out her 2020 Olympic Games with a bronze medal on the balance beam.
After missing the finals on vault, uneven bars and floor exercise, as well as the all-around, Biles made her return to competition Tuesday — the last day of events for artistic gymnastics. She was greeted by a huge ovation from her teammates and hundreds in the Ariake Gymnastics Centre and went third of eight competitors on the event.
“It wasn’t easy pulling out of all those competitions,” Biles said. “People just thought it was easy, but I physically and mentally was not in the right head space, and I didn’t want to jeopardize my health and my safety because at the end of the day, it’s not worth it.
“My mental and physical health is above all medals that I could ever win. So to be clear, to do beam, which I didn’t think I was going to be, just meant the world to be back out there. And I wasn’t expecting to walk away with the medal. I was just going out there doing this for me.”
It was the seventh career Olympic medal for Biles, who tied with Shannon Miller for the most by an American in gymnastics. Biles chatted briefly with IOC President Thomas Bach after accepting the medal and then wiped away tears.
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“We’re not just entertainment, we’re humans,” she said. “And there are things going on behind the scenes that we’re also trying to juggle with as well, on top of sports.”
Biles, 24, displayed a slightly altered and less difficult routine than the one she performed during qualifying, but was solid throughout and needed just a small hop on her double pike dismount. She blew kisses to the crowd at its conclusion.
She received a 14.000, finishing behind Chenchen Guan (14.633) and Xijing Tang (14.233), both of China.
The reigning Olympic titleholder in the all-around, as well as on vault and floor, and a 15-time individual world champion, Biles was widely expected to win multiple gold medals entering the Games. She qualified for all individual events, including in first place in the all-around, last week.
She had withdrawn from the team final July 27, following the first event on vault, and said she had experienced “a little bit of the twisties” and no longer trusted her ability to compete.
Biles later opted out of the all-around competition, as well as the three other event finals. In a series of posts to her Instagram account Friday, Biles explained she was still experiencing the phenomenon in which gymnasts feel like they get lost in the air, and said her “mind and body are simply not in sync.”
“I was OK with missing finals because I knew I couldn’t do it,” she said Tuesday. “My problem was why my body and my mind weren’t in sync, and that’s what I couldn’t wrap my head around. Like, what happened? Was I overtired? And just like, where did the wires not connect?
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“And that was really hard because it’s like, I trained the whole life. I was physically ready. I was fine. And then this happens, and it’s something that was so out of my control.”
Biles’ status for Tuesday’s beam final remained uncertain until Monday, when USA Gymnastics announced she would be competing, alongside teammate Sunisa Lee, in the final women’s artistic gymnastics event of the Games.
Biles has been seen and heard cheering on her teammates at every event over the past week, and they have lauded her leadership and grace despite the circumstances.
“It’s seriously cool to see her love and support and her cheering us on,” said MyKayla Skinner, who replaced Biles in the vault final, winning silver. “And I knew she was going to be the loudest one in there [on Sunday] because she’s like, ‘I want you to make podium, I want you to medal.’ And she’s just been so awesome in the last couple of days. And after everything she’s gone through, it’s really cool to see how strong she’s being.
“So just to see how amazing she’s dealt with everything and all the horrible comments and just how people are responding to her. She is definitely one strong cookie, and she’s definitely inspired me in so many ways.”
Skinner and their other teammates were heard returning the favor loudly on Tuesday, and yelled loudly for Biles (and Lee) throughout. Lee, who won the all-around title as well as a bronze medal on bars, finished fifth on beam.
Biles has not confirmed her future plans in the sport following these Games, including the 2024 Paris Olympics, aside from a headlining tour across the U.S.
“Paris is definitely not in my mind frame because I think there are so many things that I have to work on for myself first,” she said.
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