Simone Biles has won bronze in the women’s balance beam final in her eagerly awaited return to action at the Tokyo Olympics.
Biles made her dramatic return to the Games after she withdrew early in the women’s final last week, citing a desire to protect her mental health.
The 24-year-old had arrived at the Tokyo Olympics with the expectation of equalling or even surpassing her historic quadruple gold medal haul in Rio in 2016.
Afflicted by a phenomenon known as the “twisties” – essentially a temporary struggle with spatial awareness – she pulled out of the first three of the four individual finals for which she had qualified.
However, she was named as the third of eight starters at the beam final, for which she qualified in seventh place last Sunday.
Biles, considered by many the greatest gymnast ever, scored 14.000 on the balance beam to finish third behind Chinese teenagers Chenchen Yuan and Tang Xijing.
She looked relaxed, waving to the crowd – made up of fellow athletes and team officials – as she prepared to return to the Olympic podium.
Even as beam is regarded as her greatest strength, Biles has won three world titles on the apparatus, including in Stuttgart in 2019, and won a bronze medal in Rio 2016.
Biles has been praised for her bravery in confronting her challenges with mental health.
She has said that, while she had only suffered from the twisties on floor and vault before, Tokyo was the first time they have affected other events.
She said: “They’re not fun to deal with. It’s honestly petrifying trying to do a skill… not having your mind and body in sync.”
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