Simone Biles will return to compete in the balance beam event final Tuesday, a week after she withdrew from the women’s team gymnastics competition to protect her physical and mental well-being. USA Gymnastics made the announcement late Monday afternoon.
Biles, 24, won five medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics and was expected to dominate the competition in Tokyo. She had a few mistakes in the qualifying phase and then performed an alarmingly crooked vault in the first rotation of the team event. She scratched from the event after that, saying she did not feel physically and mentally able to continue because she didn’t know where she was in the air. Without her, the U.S. won a silver medal behind the Russian Olympic Committee.
“We are so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam final — Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!!” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “Can’t wait to watch you both!”
Biles had qualified for the all-around final as well as the finals on each of the four apparatus. However, she withdrew from the all-around, floor exercise and uneven bars finals and explained her problem as having “the twisties,” which can occasionally hit gymnasts and cause them to lose their sense of where they are while twisting or tumbling.
The balance beam final will be the last women’s event, sandwiched between the men’s parallel bars final and the men’s horizontal bars final.
In Biles’ absence, Lee won the women’s all-around gold medal. Biles’ replacement in the vault final, MyKayla Skinner, won silver in that event.
Skinner said after winning her medal Monday that she anticipated Biles would compete in the balance beam final. “That’s the plan,” Skinner said.
Biles has been leading cheers for her teammates from the stands at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre and she was especially vocal Monday, when Skinner won a silver medal in the vault final and Lee won bronze on the uneven bars.
“It’s so weird because I’m not used to seeing her in the stands. Seriously cool to see her love and support and see her cheering us on,” Skinner said Monday. “I knew she was going to be the loudest one in there tonight because she was like, ‘I want you to make podium. I want you to medal.’
“She’s just been so awesome the last couple days and after everything she’s gone through, it’s really cool to see how strong she’s being. I’m like, how are you so strong after this? I’d be in my room bawling every single night. So just to see how amazing she’s dealt with everything and all the horrible comments, how people are responding to her, she’s definitely one strong cookie and she’s definitely inspired me in so many ways.”