The worst-case scenario for the United States women’s gymnastics team suddenly became real early on Tuesday morning in the States. All-time great Simone Biles withdrew from the competition after a major mistake on vault, dealing a major blow to the American’s hopes for a gold medal.
USA Gymnastics announced that the four-time Olympic gold medalist left the women’s team finals with a “medical issue” during the event. Following the competition, where the United States held on for silver behind the Russia Olympic Committee, it was revealed that Biles withdrew due to struggles with her mental health.
Following the women’s final, Biles, 24, met with reporters to explain her decision to and revealed that she wasn’t in the right headspace to continue competing.
“I didn’t want to go into any of the other events second-guessing myself,” Biles said, per the Associated Press. “So, I thought it would be better if I took a step back and let these girls go out there and do their job.”
Biles cited the importance of being mentally sound in a sports like gymnastics that is taxing both physically and emotionally. She explained that she felt the need to protect herself from potential further damage on other disciplines.
“Whenever you get in a high stress situation, you kind of freak out,” Biles told reporters, via CNN. “I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being.”
“We have to protect our body and our mind,” Biles added, clearly emotional at the result. “It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.”
BREAKING: Simone Biles says she withdrew from #TokyoOlympics gymnastics team final because she wasn't in the right headspace to compete. "I didn’t want to go into any of the other events second-guessing myself,” the American gymnast said. https://t.co/bbjDKlpVbu
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 27, 2021
With Biles sidelined, Team USA struggled to keep pace with a deep Russian team that held on for the gold, despite a few mistakes from the Russians on balance beam. Subsequent blunders from Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles during their floor routines stymied the U.S. comeback attempt and locked the group into the silver medal.
The remaining three American gymnasts performed admirably after their leader withdrew, even with their mistakes in the team’s final discipline. McCallum, Chiles and Sunisa Lee all put together strong routines throughout the competition with Biles cheering fervently on the sidelines.
Biles expressed her desire to defend her gold medal in the individual all-around on Thursday, but it remains to be seen if she’ll be ready to compete. The United States team plans to take a mental rest day on Wednesday prior to the individual competition.