Simone Biles’ bid for a record six gold medals at the Tokyo Games has ended in shock fashion when she dropped out of the women’s team final after one vault and watched as the United States surrendered their title to Russia.
It was a stunning and disappointing start to the Olympics for the US women, who had expected to dominate the final as they had not been beaten in a major team competition since 2011.
But the entire event was turned on its head in an instant when superstar Biles, the world and Olympic all-around champion, completely mistimed her opening vault to earn a low score of 13.766 then withdrew.
It was a setback the US would never recover from as Russia claimed the team title for the first time since the Unified Team at the 1992 Barcelona Games while the US, winners in 2012 and 2016, settled for silver and Britain the bronze.
Despite taking a single vault Biles will add a silver medal to the five she won at the Rio 2016 Games, including four golds.
But the 24-year-old American’s bid to become the greatest female Olympian of all-time with 10 golds was over and perhaps her entire Tokyo Olympics.
USA Gymnastics said the 24-year-old’s continued participation in the Games was uncertain.
“Simone has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue,” said USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.” It did not specify the medical condition.
Biles had been leading the Americans’ defence of their women’s gymnastics team title, and was looking to add to her haul of four gold medals won at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
All three Russians who took part in the vault scored higher than Biles, as did her US teammates.
Stunned and near to tears Biles, gold medal winner on the vault at the Rio Olympics, sat dejected in a chair as coaches and team mates surrounded her before moving onto the uneven bars sitting second 1.067 behind their Russian rivals.
Biles, however, appeared to be more than simply disappointed leaving the arena with the trainer as her team mates warmed up on the uneven bars.
By now coaches and officials sprinkled throughout the Ariake Gymnastics Centre had begun to chatter as the world and Olympic all-around champion reappeared minutes later slipping into her warm-up gear.
With Biles on the sidelines her spot was filled by Jordan Chiles as the US title defence continued.
Winning the six golds on offer in Japan would have lifted Biles to 10 – one more than Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina’s women’s record of nine gold medals won over three Olympic Games – Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 – and confirmed her status as the greatest gymnast of all time.
The US had dominated the team event in recent major championships but there have been warning signs flashing in Tokyo.
Led by Biles, the reigning world and Olympic all-around champion, the U.S. had been expected to saunter away with the team title for a third successive Games, but an uninspired display in Sunday’s qualifying that saw the resurgent Russians shine sparked rumblings that the American reign was in danger.