Tokyo: The United State’s 24-year-old superstar, Simone Biles, on Wednesday quits of a second Tokyo Olympics gymnastics competition as to protect her mental health, raising serious doubt over her participation in the rest of the Games.
A day after her shock exit from the team event, USA Gymnastics said she had also withdrawn from the individual all-around competition at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre. The American arrived in Japan as one of the headline acts of the pandemic-postponed 2020 Games, shouldering an immense weight of expectation as she pursued a record-equalling nine career Olympic titles.
But she withdrew from the team competition after a shaky opening vault, and her struggles mean she may be unable to add to the four gold medals she won at the 2016 Rio Games.
“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in order to focus on her mental health,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement.
The US federation said a decision on whether Biles, who will be replaced by Jade Carey, would compete in individual event finals would be taken following daily evaluation.
“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritising her well-being,” the statement said. “Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”
After pulling out of the team event on Tuesday, in which she won a silver as a result of starting the final, Biles said she had to “do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health”.
“I just don’t trust myself as much as I used to, and I don’t know if it’s age,” she said. “I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics.”
Support for the gymnast poured in from around the world following her withdrawal from the team final.
Michelle Obama tweeted: “Am I good enough? Yes, I am. The mantra I practice daily. @Simone_Biles, we are proud of you and we are rooting for you. Congratulations on the silver medal, Team @USA!”
Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao tweeted: “Once a champion, always a champion. God Bless @Simone_Biles.”
Home fans are still coming to terms with Tuesday’s defeat for Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, who was playing her first event since withdrawing from the French Open citing mental health issues.
Biles’s problems overshadowed the sporting programme on the fifth day of action on Wednesday.
Katie Ledecky, who won four gold medals at the Rio 2016 Games, lost her 200m freestyle crown to Ariarne Titmus, two days after also ceding her 400m title to the Australian.
But she regrouped to annihilate the field in the first women’s 1500m held at an Olympics, finishing more than four seconds clear of US teammate Erica Sullivan.
Ledecky, 24, is the fourth female swimmer to claim six Olympic gold medals, with her first coming in the 800m freestyle at the London 2012 Games.
Titmus, nicknamed “Terminator”, is emerging as one of the stars at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre as Australia shot up the medals table.
The 20-year-old, who touched in a new Olympic record time of 1min 53.50sec, still has the 800m freestyle and the 4x200m relay to go in a gruelling programme.
Japan’s Yui Ohashi completed a medley double, winning the 200m event to go with the 400m gold she secured on Sunday, while world record-holder Kristof Milak powered to the men’s 200m butterfly gold.
Britain’s freestyle swimmers brought the morning session to a thrilling climax, narrowly missing out on a world record in the 4x200m freestyle as they beat the Russian team by more than three seconds.
Australia also won gold medals in the men’s four and women’s four rowing events to lift their overall Olympic tally to six, moving move them up to fifth in the table, with Japan and China leading the way on 11.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten won the women’s time trial on the course around Mount Fuji after being left red-faced on Sunday when she mistakenly thought she had won the road race.
And defending rugby sevens champions Fiji set up a mouthwatering final against New Zealand, due to take place later in the day.
New Zealand crushed Britain 29-7 while Fiji saw off the challenge of Argentina 26-14.
Fresh from leading the Russian gymnasts to a narrow men’s team win over Japan, world champion Nikita Nagornyy will again face home hope Daiki Hashimoto in the men’s all-around competition.
In men’s basketball, the United States bounced back to hammer Iran 120-66 after they fell to a strong French team for their first Olympic defeat in 17 years.