After a stumble during the first rotation of Tuesday’s team gymnastics final, Simone Biles withdrew from the night’s competition as the U.S.’s gold-medal-level domination in the event came to a close. The revered gymnast, who medaled five times in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, had planned to do a Yurchenko vault with two and a half twists, but only completed one and a half, landing with a large step. Biles left the arena with a trainer and returned with a sweat suit before representatives from USA Gymnastics informed the media of her withdrawal.
The team’s remaining competitors, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles, and Grace McCallum, performed well despite the shock, but failed to close a gap with the Russian Olympic Committee that emerged after the first round of competition. Ultimately, the U.S. team took home the silver medal. Before Biles withdrew, Chiles was not planning to compete on the bars and balance beam and Lee had not been planning to do her floor routine. Chiles improved from Sunday’s qualifying rounds, with Biles on the sidelines giving out chalk and high fives.
In a statement, USA Gymnastics cited medical reasons for her decision. “Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue,” the statement read. “She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.” Biles said her reasons weren’t related to a physical injury. “Physically, I feel good, I’m in shape,” she said on Today. “Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment.” Biles qualified for the individual all-around competition in first place, and for the finals in all four apparatuses, and is expected to compete for those events on Thursday.
Though Biles is widely regarded as the best female gymnast in history—and has acknowledged it with a goat emblem on her leotard at competitions in 2021—she has also spoken about feeling more stress as she has aged and spent more time in the spotlight. “Sometimes you get caught up in [the] moment and it’s just scary because I go out and I’m like, ‘Can I do it again? Can I be this good?’” she told NBC’s Hoda Kotb in April.
She added that one reason why she decided against retiring before this summer’s Games was the aftermath of Larry Nassar’s 2018 conviction for decades of sexual abuse of athletes, including many well-known gymnasts from the U.S. national team. In 2018, Biles said that she was among those whom Nassar molested. “I feel like if there weren’t a remaining survivor in the sport, they would’ve just brushed it to the side,” Biles said. “But since I’m still here, and I have quite a social media presence and platform, they have to do something.”