Nearly a week after withdrawing from the team finals to prioritize her mental health, USA Gymnastics announced Simone Biles will compete in the balance-beam finals on Tuesday.
Considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles shocked the world by withdrawing from the team final on July 27 after a shaky performance on vault during the first rotation. She has not competed since. At the time, the team said she would be evaluated every day and that it would be making decisions accordingly about her competition status.
Biles later said she was struggling with the so-called “twisties,” a phenomenon where gymnasts lose air awareness while performing a twist during a routine, making a safe landing hard and incredibly dangerous.
In a series of posts to her Instagram Story Friday, Biles revealed she was still experiencing the “twisties,” and said her “mind and body are simply not in sync.”
Responding to news of Biles’ return to the Tokyo Olympics, former Olympian Laurie Herndanez told “TODAY” co-anchor Hoda Kotb that balance beam is probably the “safest” route for someone struggling with the twisties because “it is upright.” She said it’s harder to avoid twisting during routines on bars, vault and floor.
“The Biles is a triple-twisting double-back — if you get lost on that, that is a huge safety hazard,” Hernandez said. “I think beam is the safest route in terms of skills that don’t have too many twists. I’m curious to see what she’ll do for her dismount, but I have a feeling she’s going to do very well.”
Asked whether Biles is ready to return to competition, Hernandez said: “Honestly, if Simone says ‘I’m going out and competing beam,’ it sounds like she is ready.”
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman said she’s not surprised that her former teammate would return to take on the beam, telling “TODAY” that it’s “really incredible for her to do this event and finish on a good note.
“I hope that she can just finish on a note for this Olympic Games that she’s proud of,” Raisman said, adding that “regardless of the outcome” Biles will set a “good example” for other gymnasts on how to pick “yourself back up and keep going” when you falter.
Raisman said she’s “curious” about which dismount — with or without a twist – Biles will choose.
Finishing her second Olympics — and perhaps her career — on balance beam is poetic justice of sorts for Biles. She got bronze in Rio despite grabbing the 4-inch piece of wood that’s 4 feet off the ground when she almost slipped mid-routine. It was her fifth medal at the Games. The other four were gold.
Biles has called the bronze the medal she earned in Brazil that she’s proudest of, and she’s taken to task those who called it a disappointment, using it as proof to the double standard she believes follows her whenever she competes.
Athletes from all over — both at the Olympics and elsewhere — have rallied around her over the past week, praising her courage for speaking up about the importance of mental health.
“I’m really proud of her for coming back,” said American Jade Carey, who won gold on floor exercise Monday while Biles watched surrounded by the rest of the U.S. women’s team. “She’s been through a lot this Olympics so I’m really proud and happy to see her going after beam.”