Simone Biles fails in gold bid as Naomi Osaka crashes out
TOKYO: Simone Biles’ bid to launch a history-making goldrush at the Tokyo Olympics fell apart after a single vault on Tuesday when the gymnast superstar pulled out of the team event, and her American team mates were beaten to the title by the Russians.
The late-night drama was a fitting end to a day which had begun under the threat of a storm and featured the loss of the face of these Games, tennis player Naomi Osaka.
America’s silver team medal means Biles can no longer win six golds here which, added to her haul of four from Rio, would have confirmed her status as the greatest gymnast of all time.
“After the performance I did I just didn’t want to go on,” Biles said, tearfully citing concerns for her mental health after a dramatic withdrawal.
While she could still, in theory, win five and match the current record, it seems unlikely.
Russian great Larisa Latynina won nine gymnastic Olympic golds in the 1950s and ‘60s. Only Michael Phelps, with his 23 swimming golds, has won more.
If Biles does win five here she would join four athletes on nine — Latynina, swimmer Mark Spitz and track and field athletes Paavo Nurmi and Carl Lewis.
The team representing the Russia Olympic Committee surged past the short-handed US to the top of the podium, posting a score of 169.258 to win the country’s first Olympic team gold in nearly 30 years.
Biles — one of the faces of the Tokyo Games — got off to a shaky start at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre with a lacklustre opening vault.
Stunned onlookers watched as Biles was led off the competition floor before returning wearing a tracksuit. Soon afterwards, USA Gymnastics confirmed she would sit out the remainder of the final with an unspecified medical issue.
Speaking to reporters after the final — eventually won by Russia’s team — Biles said concerns for her mental wellbeing prompted her decision to withdraw.
“At the end of the day, I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and my wellbeing,” she said.
“Because at the end of the day, we’re human too so we have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”
Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron on Friday to open the Games after a one-year postponement, looked out of sorts and never settled into a rhythm as she lost 6-1 6-4 in the third round to Czech Marketa Vondrousova.
Her departure left Japan without its best known global sporting figure in the Olympics, one whose multi-ethnic background contrasts with the image of an insular and male-dominated country that emerged in the run-up to the event.
“I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in an Olympics before and for the first one to be here was a bit much,” she said.
It was her first tournament since she pulled out of the French Open in May saying media commitments were harming her mental health.
While Osaka was out, and Biles diminished, other competitors enjoyed better days.
Japan won their second straight softball gold medal, beating the United States 2-0 in an emotional repeat of their 2008 victory in Beijing that again left the Americans in tears.
Brazil’s Italo Ferreira and America’s Carissa Moore claimed the first-ever Olympic gold medals in surfing.
In the men’s competition Ferreira, who learned his trade standing on the foam box from which his father sold fish, snapped his board on the first wave but soon recovered his composure to take gold.
Hawaiian Moore beat South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag in the women’s final.
FIRST FOR BERMUDA
Triathlete Flora Duffy won the first gold of the day in the women’s event, making Bermuda the smallest territory or nation in terms of population to win a gold medal at a Summer Games.
“It’s bigger than me and that’s a really cool moment. That was the longest kilometre of my life [the final one of the run].”
Elsewhere, swimming powerhouses Australia and the United States won one gold medal each in the morning session and are on three golds apiece.
Australian world-record holder Kaylee McKeown upstaged American arch-rival Regan Smith to claim the women’s 100m backstroke crown as Russia and Britain also won golds.
McKeown flew through the water at the Tokyo Aquatic Center to touch in 57.47 seconds, a new Olympic record and only fractionally outside her own world best while Smith had to settle for bronze.
On a day of upsets, American women’s 100m breaststroke world-record holder and defending champion Lilly King was beaten by 17-year-old compatriot Lydia Jacoby and teammate and defending 100m backstroke champion Ryan Murphy also tasted defeat.
Russian swimmer Evgeny Rylov took gold in the final, with Murphy pushed into third place.
Britain’s Tom Dean came back from two bouts of coronavirus to edge out team-mate Duncan Scott and win the 200m freestyle.
The US women’s basketball team opened play with an 81-72 win over Nigeria that extended the Americans’ win streak at the Olympics to 50 games.
The United States women’s football team made it through to the quarter-finals after a 0-0 draw with Australia.
The expected Olympic showdown between the top two women’s volleyball teams in the world turned out to be a one-sided affair.
The US women swept defending gold medalist China 29-27, 25-22, 25-21 in a pool-play match that left the Americans at the top of Pool ‘B’ and the Chinese seeking to win their first set of the tournament after two straight sweeps to open the Games.
After Tuesday’s events
(Tabulated under gold, silver, bronze, total):
Japan 10 3 5 18
United States 9 8 8 25
China 9 5 7 21
Russian OC 7 7 4 18
Great Britain 4 5 4 13
South Korea 3 2 5 10
Australia 3 1 5 9
Canada 2 3 3 8
France 2 2 3 7
Germany 2 0 3 5
Kosovo 2 0 0 2
Italy 1 5 6 12
Taiwan 1 2 3 6
Brazil 1 2 2 5
Switzerland 1 2 2 5
Serbia 1 1 1 3
Slovenia 1 1 1 3
Hungary 1 1 0 2
Tunisia 1 1 0 2
Austria 1 0 1 2
Croatia 1 0 1 2
Estonia 1 0 1 2
Bermuda 1 0 0 1
Ecuador 1 0 0 1
Hong Kong 1 0 0 1
Iran 1 0 0 1
Norway 1 0 0 1
Philippines 1 0 0 1
Thailand 1 0 0 1
Uzbekistan 1 0 0 1
Netherlands 0 3 0 3
Spain 0 2 1 3
Georgia 0 2 0 2
South Africa 0 2 0 2
Mongolia 0 1 2 3
Belgium 0 1 1 2
Czech Republic 0 1 1 2
Indonesia 0 1 1 2
Bulgaria 0 1 0 1
Colombia 0 1 0 1
Denmark 0 1 0 1
India 0 1 0 1
Published in Dawn, July 28th , 2021