Simone Biles withdraws from vault and uneven bars finals


Biles, arguably the world’s greatest gymnast, retired from Olympic competition in Tokyo to focus on her mental health. The 24-year-old explained in a series of Instagram posts that she has the twisties, a mental block in gymnastics in which competitors lose track of their positioning in the air.

“After further consultation with medical staff, Simone Biles has decided to withdraw from the event finals for vault and uneven bars,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Twitter.

“She will continue to be assessed on a daily basis to determine if she will compete in the finals for the floor exercises and the balance beam.”

The women’s vault and bars finals are scheduled for Sunday, the women’s floor final is Monday and the beam final is Tuesday.

MyKayla Skinner, who had the fourth best vault score in qualifying, will compete in the vault final for the United States alongside Jade Carey, who finished with the second best score, according to USA Gymnastics.

“We remain in awe of Simone, who continues to handle this situation with courage and grace, and all the athletes who mobilized in these unexpected circumstances,” the statement added.

Biles first withdrew in the women’s gymnastics team final on Tuesday, citing mental health issues as she tried to protect “her body and mind”.
A day later, she withdrew from Thursday’s all-around final. Biles was one of the favorites to win gold in this event, having won all of the individual competitions she had competed in since 2013.
Following USA Gymnastics’ announcement on Saturday, Skinner said in an Instagram post: “Looks like I’m going to be able to host a Leo competition once again. I can’t wait to make the Vault Finals.”
Ranked behind Biles and Carey in the qualifying round, Skinner initially did not qualify for the vault final due to the limit of two athletes per country. She thought her career as a competitive gymnast was over.

Skinner said she was “doing this for us,” tagging Biles in the Instagram post. “It’s time baby!” she added.

“It’s downright petrifying”

In a series of Instagram stories on Friday, Simone Biles shared videos – which have since been deleted – of herself grappling with her uneven bars runs and answering questions about the twisties.

Biles said his recent bout of twisties started the morning after the preliminary competition. She said she had been affected by it before, stating in a post: “By the way, he’s never transferred to bars and beams for me. He strictly likes the floor and the vault.” Then she added, “But this time it’s literally about every event. Which sucks … really bad.”

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In two of those now-deleted videos, Biles could be seen struggling with outs on the uneven bars.

In the first video, she says she was supposed to do an extra turn and a half on her way down. Instead, the video shows her landing on her back on the mat.

A separate video shows another descent, in which she says she still needed to perform another half-twist, and she falls to the mat in apparent frustration.

She said the videos were taken on Friday morning in training. In another post, she added, “It’s honestly petrifying to try and do a skill but not have your mind and body in sync.”

Biles said getting rid of twisties “varies over time” and for it usually lasts two weeks or more, adding that it is “something that you have to take literally day in and day out, in turn”.

“I have to focus on my sanity”

In an emotional interview after Tuesday’s tag team final, Biles broke down in tears as she explained her decision, putting the issue of mental health at the forefront of the 2020 Olympics.

“Anytime you find yourself in a high stress situation, you panic a little bit,” Biles told reporters Tuesday. “I have to focus on my mental health and not put my health and well-being at risk.

“It just sucks when you fight with your own head.”

Earlier today, Naomi Osaka – who has also spoken openly about her own mental health issues – was eliminated from the Olympic women’s tennis tournament.

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