Simone Biles Returns from Olympic Break and Gives the World Another Flipping Performance

The athlete just tied the record for most Olympic medals won by a U.S. gymnast.
tokyo 2020, olympics, simone biles, bronze, gymnastics, mental health, balance be
U.S. gymnast Simone Biles just won bronze in the final gymnastics event of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Photo: Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

After missing much of the Tokyo Olympics, star American gymnast Simone Biles returned to the mat on Tuesday night to win bronze in the individual balance beam event.

Before she made the highly anticipated comeback, Biles had pulled out of all other individual events, citing a need to take care of her mental health. By doing so, she joined a number of high-profile athletes who have spoken publicly about the overwhelming psychological pressures of elite sports. 

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Biles won the medal performing flips, split leaps, and a final double backflip to dismount. Two Chinese athletes, Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing, won the gold and silver medals, respectively.

Biles is now tied with Shannon Miller for the most Olympic medals won by a U.S. gymnast. 

While her medal haul fell short of what she managed in the 2016 Rio Olympics, when she stunned the world by winning gold in four events, Biles’ performance carried a special significance to many of her fans and fellow athletes who have identified with her struggles.

“Supporting a human being who is brave enough to stand up for herself and her safety, modeling what I hope my children would do if they needed it, is crucial to help change the destructive culture that pushes people to their brink for gold medals,” said Sarah Gebauer, a family physician in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Seeing her put such a nice exclamation point on her games was truly an honor to experience. She is truly a wonder,” she told VICE World News. 

Biles appeared to be satisfied with her performance as well. The crowd erupted in cheers as she finished her routine with a smile and ran to embrace coach Cecile Landi and teammate Sunisa Lee.

A wave of support for the athlete erupted on social media, too. Many in the U.S. who stayed up to watch Biles compete shared messages of encouragement, thanking her for her performance even under such intense conditions. 

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Elayna Tell, a 33-year-old operations manager in Baltimore, Maryland, said that supporting Biles in her last event was like seeing “myself in someone so extraordinary,” she told VICE World News.

“I struggle with mental health issues and I am a sexual assault survivor. Knowing that she struggles, too, even as an elite athlete, makes her more human. She was advocating not just for herself, but for her sport, for other athletes, and for everyday people,” she said.

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