TOKYO — 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.
The star finished behind gold medalist Guan Chenchen and silver medalist Tang Xijing, both of China. Guan took the gold with a score of 14.633, ahead of Tang 14.233.
Widely considered the world’s best gymnast, Biles, 24, moved smoothly and precisely through her routine barely wobbling, and smiled broadly as she landed on the mat when it concluded. She waved and blew a kiss at photographers and the crowd, and hugged teammates and competitors alike.
Biles now ties the record for the most Olympic medals won by a U.S. gymnast, Team USA tweeted shortly after she bagged the bronze. She scored 14.000.
Teammate Suni Lee, 18, wobbled on the beam but managed ultimately to maintain her balance, scoring 13.866.
“Confidence Suni you’ve got it,” Biles said to Lee before the younger gymnast took to the floor.
Lee will return home with three medals in her debut Olympics having won gold in the individual all-around, bronze in the uneven bars, and silver in the U.S. women’s team gymnastics finals.
There were hugs all around in the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo as competitors from all nations supported each others triumphs.
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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“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.”