Sports

Simone Biles Is Out of U.S. Team Competition in Tokyo [UPDATED]

Simone Biles withdrew from team competition Tuesday.
Simone Biles withdrew from team competition Tuesday. Screenshot
Going into the Tokyo Olympics, we Houstonians were blithely certain that the most accomplished gymnast to ever come out of this town, 24-year-old Simone Biles would once again dominate the Women’s Gymnastics competition.

But that assumption was upended Tuesday morning when Biles abruptly pulled out of the competition. The announcement of this decision came after a shaky performance during the U.S. Women’s Team first team rotation of the four-event team finals.

Biles is usually a powerhouse, the kind of athlete who pulls off the seemingly impossible (for example see either of the two moves that are named for Biles and had never been performed by a female gymnast during competition before she nailed them) and always sticks the landing.

That reliability had been missing during the team portion of the women’s gymnastics competition, including a vault performance on Tuesday where she failed to stick the landing, taking a large step and sinking her score to just 13.766. While this would be a potentially decent score for some gymnasts it was shock for Biles who is hailed as the world’s best gymnast. It also further endangered the U.S. domination of women’s gymnastics as the Russian team vied for the top honors.


And then she was out of the team portion of the games entirely, with the reasons for her withdrawal still unclear.

USA Gymnastics, the entity that oversees the American teams, issued a statement that does little to clear up what prompted this move:

"Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions."
Now it's an open question whether we’ll be seeing Biles come back and compete for gold during the individual competition where she has qualified to compete in all five events.

If she doesn’t, though, this moment of her withdrawal could be seen as another turning point for Houston, marking the first time since Mary Lou Retton put U.S. gymnastics on the map in 1984 that we may come out of the Olympics without a new Houston-connected star to celebrate. (Due to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal that rocked U.S. Gymnastics in 2016, the Karolyi training camp that brought so many talented youngsters to Houston is now defunct, and it remains to be seen if the Spring gym Biles trains at will ultimately replace it in the U.S.A Gymnastics universe.)

It’s still unclear what prompted Biles to withdraw, let alone whether she will ultimately be cleared to compete next week. She had noted via Instagram on Monday that she was feeling a lot of pressure this time around after another uneven performance during the preliminary round of the team competition stating that it “wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it.”

After Tuesday’s announcement, Biles stayed in the arena during the rest of the team competition wearing her white warmup gear rather than the U.S. leotard, hugging her teammates and jumping up and down without any sign of a limp to celebrate when anyone did well.

The U.S. team scrambled to fill her spot on the rest of the four-event competition on Tuesday. In the end, without Biles as the team anchor—the other team members are all new to the Olympics—the Russian team took the gold, ending more than a decade of U.S. domination of the sport.

Update 11:30 a.m. : Hours after her surprising withdrawal from the U.S. women's gymnastics team competition, Biles clarified that it wasn't a physical injury that prompted her to pull-out of the competition. 

When asked if she had been hurt during a vault that went awry — Biles was slated to do an Amanar, a difficult move with two and a half twists, but didn't complete the move during her turn at the vault and stumbled upon landing — she said that only her pride had been injured and explained that she opted not to continue competing because of concerns over her mental health.

"After the performance I did, I just didn't want to go on," she said. "I didn't want to go out and do something stupid and get hurt." It's still unclear what this means for the all-around individual competition. "We're going to take it a day at a time and see what happens," Biles said.

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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray