Simone Biles made a fearless return to competition on Tuesday (August 3), capping a tumultuous Tokyo Games with a bronze medal on the balance beam.
The final gold of the women’s artistic gymnastics programme would go to China’s Guan Chenchen with a score of 14.633 and the silver to her compatriot Tang Xijing but it was Biles who grabbed the spotlight for her courageous comeback.
Biles arrived in Tokyo having already won four golds and a bronze in Rio five years ago.
Three times a world champion on the beam, she finished with bronze but it was considered a victory after a dramatic Tokyo Games in which she abruptly dropped out of the team competition last Tuesday after performing just one vault citing mental health issues.
The 24-year-old came to Tokyo eyeing a record haul of six golds, which would have made her the most successful female Olympian of all-time across any sport, but instead suffered a crisis of confidence that led to her withdrawing from the all-around, vault, asymmetric bars and floor exercise finals.
Biles, winner of four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, explained later she was dealing with the “twisties” — a type of mental block where gymnasts are disoriented during their gravity-defying sequences.
If there was any lingering apprehension or pressure, it did not show as a relaxed Biles blew kisses to the television cameras as she entered the arena for her final shot at a medal.
After a quick hug from her coach and deep breath it was back to work as Biles stepped to the beam with a look of determination.
With billions of viewers transfixed on Biles as she mounted the 10cm wide apparatus, she did not waver as she began to showcase a number of complex skills with a triple spin in the squat position.
But as she prepared to get ready for her dismount, everyone held their breath willing the American to make a safe landing.
Before she arrived in Tokyo, Biles had spent hours perfecting a double twisting, double back dismount from the beam — and unsurprisingly she did not attempt that combination on Tuesday.
What she did pull off was a double-piked somersault dismount — and when she landed that safely, roars could be heard in the arena, in Tokyo and probably the rest of the world.
She broke out into a huge smile and clutched her heart as soon as she completed her routine before performing a delightful jig after hugging her coach.
Her performance was clearly not the normal perfection expected from a gymnast billed as the greatest of all-time but was fearless in its execution.
The third of eight competitors to perform, Biles’ mark of 14.000 did not look as if it might be enough for a place on the podium but in the end the only one to leapfrog the American would be the last one to compete — Guan.
When the final scores appeared, Biles celebrated by first embracing her team mate Sunisa Lee, who had claimed the all-around crown earlier in the competition.
The bronze was the second medal Biles picked up at the Tokyo Games, to go along with the silver she shared in the team event.
The two medals bring her Olympic total to seven.
All-around champion Daiki Hashimoto capped off the artistic gymnastics programme by capturing another gold for Japan with a high-flying routine on the horizontal bar.
Following his triumph in last week’s men’s all-around competition, Hashimoto had been hailed in Japan for following in the golden footsteps of Kohei Uchimura, whose hopes of a medal at his home Games ended prematurely following a fall from the horizontal bar during qualifying round.
Hashimoto’s victory on Tuesday will further burnish his name after he finished with a Tokyo medal haul of two golds and one silver.
Hashimoto’s 15.066 points put him ahead of silver winner Tin Srbic of Croatia, with 14.900 and Nikita Nagornyy of the Russian Olympic Committee, who took bronze with 14.533.
China’s Zou Jingyuan won the parallel bars title, taking his second medal after claiming bronze in the men’s team event last week.
Germany’s Lukas Dauser took silver and Ferhat Arican captured Turkey’s first ever medal in gymnastics when he finished with a bronze.
Zou showcased a number of complex moves while swinging up and down the bars and he completely obliterated the field with a score of 16.233. Dauser, a corporal in the German army, was a distant second with 15.700.
Arican, who stuck gold on the apparatus at this year’s European Championships shortly after testing positive for COVID-19, trailed with 15.633.
In a series of near-perfect twists, rolls, tucks and pointed toes, China’s Xie Siyi claimed yet another men’s 3 metre springboard Olympic gold medal for his country whose athletes have dominated the sport for years.
With this, Xie becomes the first male diver in 20 years to win both individual and synchronised 3m springboard at the same Olympic games, after his compatriot Xiong Ni managed the feat at the 2000 Sydney Olympics Games.
His teammate, 19-year-old Wang Zongyuan, also produced six impressive dives to claim the silver, while Britain’s Jack Laugher bagged the bronze.
Xie and Wang, who embraced and cried after they won, had been in the top two for the entire competition, and finished with 558.75 and 534.90 points, respectively.
Xie, scouted soon after entering primary school, slid into the water to pin-drop silence each time he dived, and finished to resounding cheers from teammates waving the Chinese flag.
Xie and Wang each scored a whopping 102.60 points for their last dives, the highest score of the finals.
China’s dominance in diving is akin to its performance in table tennis and badminton, having won 37 of 48 gold medals in diving at the last seven Olympics.
The Russian Olympic Committee’s Musa Evloev won gold in the men’s Greco-Roman heavyweight category.
Armenian Artur Aleksanyan took the silver, and Poland’s Tadeusz Michalik and Iran’s Mohammadhadi Saravi claimed the bronze medals.
Hungary’s Tamas Lorincz won gold in the men’s Greco-Roman welterweight category.
Kyrgyzstan’s Akzhol Makhmudov took silver while Japan’s Shohei Yabiku and Azerbaijan’s Rafig Huseynov claimed the bronze medals.
Australia set up a showdown with Belgium in the men’s hockey final after handing 2016 Olympic bronze medallists Germany a 3-1 defeat.
Young forward Tim Brand opened the scoring for Australia with a seventh-minute goal when he pushed in a low shot from team mate Flynn Ogilvie that crossed the striking circle.
Germany made the most of a penalty corner when Lukas Windfeder flicked the ball into the goal, but that was not enough to keep the dominant Kookaburras at bay.
Blake Govers gave Australia the lead shortly before the halftime break and Lachlan Sharp sealed the win late in the second half.
Australia and world champions Belgium will play their gold medal match on Thursday, while India and Germany will battle for bronze.
(Production: Andy Ragg)