Why is Simone Biles’ Future at the Olympics Uncertain?

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TOKYO — Simone BilesThe four-time Olympic gold medalist entered the Tokyo Games as a headliner, backed by sponsors like NBC and Visa as an unmissable star of the show. But after withdrawing from both the team final and individual all-around gymnastics events this week, citing mental health issues, a new question arose: Is this the end of the Olympics?

He has four more opportunities to compete next week, but to do so he must overcome the mental hurdle he says has caused him to withdraw from the team final on Tuesday night. Some coaches, including Jess Graba, who coaches American Sunisa Lee, say that for a gymnast whose mind and body need to be in sync, especially for complex and dangerous moves, it’s easier to recalibrate than quickly.

“Normally this sort of thing happens in practice, not in a competition, so you can take the time to figure it out,” Graba said in a phone interview Wednesday from the team’s hotel in Tokyo. – He had faced similar mental hurdles before in Tokyo.

Regarding Lee’s experience, he said: “If you have a week or two to prepare, you can probably get him back to what he needs to do.”

But in these Games Biles has no free time. And that could mean the end of an era.

Biles, who won the silver medal with his team on Tuesday night, dominated all-around gymnastics competitions. These events test individual athletes in all four disciplines to determine the most complete gymnast: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise. The last time he lost an all-round event was in 2013, when he was 16 and still wearing braces.

In Tokyo, 24-year-old Biles was expected to defend the all-around title at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and become the first woman to win back-to-back titles in 53 years. He also qualified for all four finals in each individual event at these Games next week, and was widely expected to win at least three gold.

If Biles never competes at these Games, it’s highly unlikely that he will try to honor French coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. But in An interview with The New York Times He said he was tired and stressed before he left for Tokyo, and retirement was looking more and more attractive.

Biles still hasn’t revealed its plans for next week’s events. USA Gymnastics said in an emailed statement that it will be evaluated daily to see if it will qualify for the event finals next week.

“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her courage in putting her well-being first,” the statement said. “His courage shows once again why he is a role model for so many people.”

Other gymnasts prepare to compete in his place. Jade Carey, who finished ninth in the all-around during the qualifiers, replaced her in Thursday’s all-around final.

Biles arrives at Tokyo Olympics feeling “pretty good” weight of expectations Team USA’s biggest star is against him as he gets tougher by the day. In the hours before the team final, he said he was shaking and struggling to take his usual nap.

In the end, the pressure of being recognized as the greatest gymnast of all time—someone who had to excel and always displayed incredibly complex and unique skills—was too heavy for her, she said after she pulled out of the team final.

“It’s too bad fighting with your own head,” he said.

During his vault In the first incident on Tuesday night, Biles said he was lost in mid-air and did not know where his body was relative to the ground. He ended up performing a much simpler vault than his usual daredevils. On the descent, he leaped forward to stand on his feet.

Biles told his coach and a team doctor that he wasn’t in the right “headroom” to continue as he feared injuring himself and also didn’t want to jeopardize the team’s chances of winning a medal.

“I want to get out of here, I don’t want to be dragged by a stretcher or something,” he said after the final.

There were hints of him struggling before the medal event. He made several uncharacteristic mistakes in qualifying, including stumbling on his way off the balance beam, slipping out of bounds in the floor exercise, and jumping so crookedly that he got off the mat after he landed.

He grimaced after these mistakes and even joked with his teammates, which wasn’t his usual behavior, especially when his performance wasn’t going well. Still, his skills and technique far surpassed any gymnast to challenge him, so he took first place in the qualifiers in every way.

In excerpts from the Olympic News Service after the qualifiers, Biles said his team final goal was to get into the “top three” – a particularly low expectation because the US team hasn’t lost a world championship or an Olympic in more than a decade. . “Sometimes I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders,” she said on social media the next day.

Graba said relaxation could help Biles get back into the right head area to compete, and he may need to get his skills back before he’s confident enough to compete safely. This is often done by training these skills on a soft surface, including descending into a foam pit to help the gymnast regain confidence, but the facilities at the Olympics don’t have foam pits, he said.

After the team final, Biles said he’d be leaving on Wednesday morning to be a little careful. He said that without friends or family here, it’s hard to deal with the Games. This isn’t the first time her parents have stepped into the stands at a meeting, and this isn’t the first time she’s been able to scan the stands to find them for convenience.

After one of the team alternatives, Kara Eaker, tested positive for Kovid-19 at a training camp in Japan before the Olympics, the team decided to leave the Athletes Village for a hotel near the gym. The move isolated the team. Biles and his teammates – Lee, Skinner, Carey, Grace McCallum, Jordan Chiles – had no choice but to step in as each other’s support system.

They hang out in the hallways of their hotels, gossip, create TikTok videos, play board games, and try to calm down by coloring in coloring books. Graba said they also made encouraging posters for each other, pasting them on each other’s hotel room doors.

On Tuesday, Biles had a simple piece of masking tape on his door. He said. “Smile! You’re in the Olympics!”

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