Simone Biles set for stunning comeback at Tokyo Olympics

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·Sports Reporter
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After withdrawing from the majority of her team and individual events at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles has announced she will compete in the balance beam. (Photo by Wang Lili/Xinhua via Getty Images)
After withdrawing from the majority of her team and individual events at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles has announced she will compete in the balance beam. (Photo by Wang Lili/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Simone Biles has not given up on her Olympics dreams for Tokyo, with USA Gymnastics announcing the 24-year-old will compete in the balance beam final.

Much of the Olympic gymnastic competition was overshadowed by Biles' shock absence from the majority of events after her first few attempts in the team competition.

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The American star dominated the Rio Olympics on her way to a strong of world championship victories heading into Tokyo, having been a favourite in most events she entered.

The balance beam is a rare event where Biles would not have been a favourite, having qualified seventh of eight competitors.

However, after describing the loss of equilibrium while twisting in the air which led her to withdraw from her other events, Biles will be keen to simply compete.

Biles was forced to withdraw from the team competition last week after a single rotation. 

She was unable to perform her planned vault — falling a full twist short of completion — and landed awkwardly, delivering a devastatingly low score for her teammates.

Biles cited a lack of “air awareness” or what gymnasts call “the twisties” that make trying to complete extremely difficult moves extremely dangerous.

“I didn’t know where I was in the air,” Biles said.

The Houston native said she had been suffering from stress, anxiety and mental health issues upon arriving in Tokyo where the immense pressure to push for perfection became too much.

“These Olympic Games, I wanted it to be about myself,” Biles said last week.

“And I came in and I felt I was still doing it for other people and it hurts my heart that doing what I love has been taken away from me to please other people.

“... I was like, ‘I am not in the right headspace [to continue to compete on team]. 

“I am not going to lose a medal for this country and these girls because they’ve worked way too hard to have me go out there and lose a medal."

Simone Biles keen for balance beam at Tokyo Olympics

An outpouring of both support and criticism followed Biles decision to withdraw from her program.

Gymnasts detailed their struggles with focus, concentration and the dreaded twisties. Others praised Biles for acknowledging mental health issues, a once-taboo topic especially for elite athletes. 

Yet still others criticised her for thinking she somehow “quit” on her team.

Biles never returned though, seemingly proving that this wasn’t about quitting an event but a deeper struggle that wiped out an Olympics she trained years — including a year longer than expected — to compete in.

She was expected to be one of the biggest stars in Tokyo and was the centerpiece of NBC’s coverage in the United States.

Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles remained in Tokyo to support her teammates, despite withdrawing from most of her events. (Photo by Cao Can/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles remained in Tokyo to support her teammates, despite withdrawing from most of her events. (Photo by Cao Can/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Instead she attempted just one doomed vault here and despite continued training and sessions with professional help was unable to get back on the mat.

She spent the rest of the time cheering on her teammates from the stands of the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, which included a number of gymnasts who were able to step into competition slots vacated by her withdrawals.

“She's handling better than I thought,” said teammate MyKayla Skinner, who won silver in vault after Biles dropped out and opened a spot in the finals. 

“Every day she has been laughing and giggling, super supportive. I'm sure when she gets home it’ll probably hit her more.

“But honestly she’s been the happiest person and I am so happy to see what all she’s been through that she's making the best of it.”

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