Simone Biles bounces back, but falls short of gold

Simone Biles smiles at a teammate during the final day of women’s competition in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for gymnastics in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., June 27, 2021.

Lindsey Wasson | Reuters

Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles fought back her fears and returned to competition Tuesday but fell short in her quest for Olympic gold in the balance beam competition and instead brought in a bronze medal.

Widely considered the world’s best gymnast, Biles, 24, overcame a few small wobbles during her routine, and smiled broadly as she landed on the mat when it concluded. She waved at photographers and the crowd, and hugged her teammates and competitors alike.

Teammate American gymnast Suni Lee, 18, wobbled on the beam but managed ultimately to maintain her balance.

“Confidence Suni you’ve got it,” Biles said to Lee before the younger gymnast took to the floor.

Earlier, Biles revealed she was still suffering from “the twisties” and “literally cannot tell up from down.” But there was no obvious sign of any such anxiety as she went through her paces and did her stretching exercises.

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The balance beam competition began at 5:50 p.m. (4:50 a.m. ET) at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo.

Biles stunned spectators last week by withdrawing during the team gymnastics final. She said the emotional toll of the Tokyo Games, not a physical injury, prompted her to withdraw.

“Physically, I feel good. I’m in shape,” she told Hoda Kotb on NBC’s “TODAY” later. “Emotionally, it varies on the time and moment. Coming to the Olympics and being head star isn’t an easy feat.”

After that, Biles pulled out of other events including the individual all-around and uneven bars finals, raising fears that she was through with the Games.

Her announcement Monday that she was returning to competition was celebrated by fans the world over.

The Tokyo Olympics were meant to be a showcase for the four-time gold medalist. Instead, Biles found herself thrust into the conversation around mental health and sports.

“For anyone saying I quit, I didn’t quit, my mind and body are simply not in sync as you can see here,” Biles wrote Friday in an Instagram post. “I don’t think you realize how dangerous this is on hard/competition surface. Nor do I have to explain why I put health first. Physical health is mental health.”

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