The U.S. women’s gymnastics team has taken silver in the women’s team final, behind the team from Russia, after U.S. star Simone Biles suddenly pulled out of competition after the first rotation due to a medical issue.
This marks the first time in a decade that the U.S. women’s team has not come out on top in major international competition. It has won every Olympics and World Championships event since 2011.
Biles’ departure from competition was a devastating blow for her three teammates, who are all first-time Olympians. She was expected to compete on all four apparatuses, and teammates stepped in for her on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise.
The final score for the Russia Olympic Committee was 169.528, winning gold, and the U.S. scored 166.096 for silver. The U.S. narrowed the Russians’ lead during the balance beam but was unable to catch up after a difficult rotation on the floor exercise. Great Britain won the bronze.
“Simone has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement to NPR. “She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”
After pulling out, Biles remained in the arena wearing white warmup gear, rather than the team leotard, and hugged her teammates. She could be seen jumping to celebrate their strong performances and was not limping when she walked between apparatuses.
She had a rocky start on the vault, scoring 13.766 and taking a large step on the dismount. In Rio, she scored 15.933 on the same apparatus.
In the three other events she was expected to compete in, Jordan Chiles stepped in on the uneven bars and balance beam and Sunisa Lee competed on the floor exercise.
On the uneven bars, Chiles pulled out a strong performance, sticking the landing and scoring 14.166. Lee, a specialist on the uneven bars, secured an exceptional score — 15.400 — providing the team with much-needed good news.
In the third rotation, on the balance beam, Chiles also put a strong score on the board when she stepped in for Biles again. Solid scores from Grace McCallum and Lee helped to narrow Russia’s lead.
But on the floor exercise, a heartbreaking fall from Chiles after a tumbling sequence resulted in a penalty and a score of 11.700. The combined scores from Lee (13.666) and McCallum (13.500) weren’t enough to catch the team from Russia.
In the qualifier two days ago, the team from Russia was also in the lead — which was viewed as very surprising given the longtime dominance of the U.S. women.
The team had several stumbles in the qualifier, including multiple penalties from Biles. She still posted the top score of that day.
It’s not clear whether Biles will compete in the individual events or the all-around individual final, which she won at the Olympics five years ago.
Biles qualified for all five individual finals in Tokyo. The women’s all-around competition is slated for Thursday, and the vault and uneven bars kick off the individual competitions on Sunday.
Biles was facing huge expectations for her performance in Tokyo. “I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The olympics is no joke!” she said on Instagram ahead of the team final.