Simone Biles: ‘Seminal moment’ in sport as gymnast withdraws from two of her four individual Olympic finals

Simone Biles appears increasingly unlikely to return to action at the Tokyo Olympics after announcing her withdrawal from Sunday’s individual finals in the vault and uneven bars.

Simone Biles appears increasingly unlikely to return to action at the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: AFP via Getty Images
Simone Biles appears increasingly unlikely to return to action at the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: AFP via Getty Images

The 24-year-old has not competed since she pulled out of the women’s team final on Wednesday after one rotation, citing mental health concerns.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement: “Today, after further consultation with medical staff, Simone Biles has decided to withdraw from the event finals for vault and the uneven bars.

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“She will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether to compete in the finals for floor exercise and balance beam.

Simone Biles has announced her withdrawal from two of her four individual Olympic finals. Picture: Gregory Bull/AP

“We remain in awe of Simone, who continues to handle this situation with courage and grace, and all of the athletes who have stepped up during these unexpected circumstances.”

Biles, for now, is still scheduled to compete in the uneven bars final on Monday and the beam the following day.

Biles, who was a vocal presence in the Ariake Arena when cheering her team-mate Sunisa Lee to all-around gold on Friday, said in a social media post on Friday that she was continuing to suffer from a phenomenon known as ‘twisting’.

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The four-time defending Olympic champion wrote: “It has never transferred to bars and beam for me. This time it’s literally in every event which sucks.

“(You) literally cannot tell up from down. It’s the craziest feeling ever, not having an inch of control over your body.”

If Biles does rule herself out of the floor final, Britain’s Jennifer Gadirova will step up from first reserve to join her sister in the competition.

Biles’ decision has been welcomed by the British Athletes Commission (BAC) chair Vicki Aggar as a “seminal moment” in sport.

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“For one of the highest-profile names at an Olympic Games to, whilst in the running for a fifth career gold medal, put her mental health first is a huge statement,” Aggar said.

“Her courage can now ensure that the conversation can move on even further; that athletes can feel more comfortable speaking out about such issues; that decision-makers within sport will find it impossible not to factor in mental health considerations when building an environment for training or competition.

“For all Simone Biles’ countless extraordinary achievements, pushing forward the conversation on mental health and providing a courageous and unprecedented example to current and future athletes around the world, may just turn out to be her most important.”

The BAC represents over 1,200 elite athletes and offers independent support, including mental health assistance where it is needed.

‘Twisting’, or ‘twisties’ as it is sometimes known, is a mental block suffered by gymnasts in which they lose their spatial awareness in the middle of performing.

Given the danger involved in some of their manoeuvres it is a terrifying and dangerous condition.

“I seriously cannot comprehend how to twist,” Biles said during her social media Q&A session on Friday.

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She posted videos on Instagram of her training session, in which she attempts twisting dismounts from the uneven bars but fails to land on her feet both times.