US women's gymnastics team claims silver in team final after Simone Biles withdraws at Tokyo Olympics

US women's gymnastics team claims silver in team final after Simone Biles withdraws at Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO — No reign lasts forever and the end, when it finally comes, is always a shock.

For the U.S. women to end here, in this fashion, though, was simply unfathomable.

Simone Biles withdrew from the team competition after struggling on vault, ending whatever chance the U.S. women had to win their third consecutive Olympic title. They finished with silver, the first time since the 2010 world championships that the Americans did not win the team title at a worlds or Olympics.

Russia won the gold, its first since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

There were hints after qualifying that the Americans might be in trouble. They had six major errors, including three by Biles, and finished more than a point behind the Russians, a team that is much improved from 2019, when it finished nearly six points behind the U.S. women at the world championships.

But there is trouble, and then there is this.

In warmups for vault, the U.S. women’s first event, Biles bailed on an Amanar. The 2½-twisting somersault is one of the most difficult vaults being done, but is so second-nature to Biles she could probably do it five minutes after getting out of bed.

When it came time for her to compete, she bailed out mid-air, doing only 1½ twists. Cameras captured her teammates’ mouths dropping open in shock, knowing that not only was something wrong with Biles, their chances for the gold medal were probably gone.

Teams have to count all three scores on each event, and Biles got a 13.766. Instead of running up the score on the Russians, the U.S. women found themselves already down by a point.

Biles looked as if she was fighting tears as she came off the podium, and coach Cecile Landi immediately went and put an arm around her shoulder. Biles was seen talking with the team doctor, Marcia Faustin, for several minutes before they left the competition floor.

Biles came back as the U.S. women were warming up for uneven bars, exchanging hugs with her teammates before taking off her grips – a clear sign she wasn’t going to do bars – and putting on her warmup pants.

In a text to USA TODAY Sports, USA Gymnastics spokeswoman Carol Fabrizio said Biles was withdrawing “due to a medical issue.”

“She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions,” Fabrizio said.

Biles stayed on the floor to cheer on her teammates, and if the rest of the U.S. women were fazed by the uphill task they faced, they didn’t show it.

Jordan Chiles, who filled Biles’ spot on bars and balance beam, was dancing to China’s Lu Yufei’s floor music, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and Biles soon joined in. The U.S. women were yelling and jumping up and down as if they were at an NCAA meet rather than the Olympics, and they were practically strutting as they moved from event to event.

But it's not confidence that decides gold medals, it's scores, and the U.S. women simply didn't have high enough ones to dig themselves out of their early hole. They went into the final event, floor exercise, trailing by eight-tenths, but to have any hope of catching the Russians, they needed perfect performances from all three gymnasts.

They did not get them. Grace McCallum stepped out of bounds on her second tumbling pass. Chiles' feet slipped out from under her on the landing of one of her passes, and she landed on her backside.

Their hopes for gold were done. So, too, the long U.S. reign.

US women's gymnastics team claims silver in team final after Simone Biles withdraws at Tokyo Olympics
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