Simone Biles marks return with beam bronze
Simone Biles won bronze on the beam, just as she did five years ago in Rio, as she ended a difficult Tokyo 2020 campaign on a joyful high.
Simone Biles returned to Olympic action in style, winning the bronze on the balance beam on Tuesday.
There was a China one-two as Guan Chenchen snatched gold with the last routine of the final, a flawless performance from the 16-year-old bringing her the glory with a 14.633 score.
Tang Xijing had looked like topping the podium, having set a high standard as the second competitor in action, only for the 18-year-old to see her team-mate scoop the top prize.
But there was no doubting who was the centre of attention in the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, with Biles being introduced to a huge cheer from the small crowd of Games and gymnastics officials inside the venue before the competition got under way.
Biles then majorly turned up on her first appearance at Tokyo 2020 since stepping away from the team final last week.
She cited mental health concerns for her withdrawal from that event, and then pulled out of each of the individual disciplines other than the beam.
The 24-year-old could not quite match Tang's early benchmark of 14.333, but a 14.000 from the four-time Rio Olympics gold medallist was a timely reminder of her exceptional ability.
The applause is thunderous as Simone Biles 🇺🇸 returns to the Olympic stage! Her set: 3/1 wolf turn. Front aerial, jumps. Back handspring to two layout stepouts. Switch to switch 1/2, pause, back pike. Side aerial. And two back handsprings to terrific double pike dismount!— FIG (@gymnastics) August 3, 2021
Biles overcomes nerves to take bronze
"I don't trust myself as much as I used to," Biles said last week, pointing to a nervousness and the sense she was no longer enjoying the sport as she once did.
Yet here on the beam, Biles displayed all the self-assuredness in the world, finishing off with back handsprings and a double pike on the dismount.
She strode away with a huge smile, and perhaps it will prove to be her farewell to the Olympics.
Biles shared a big hug with team-mate Sunisa Lee and waited for her score to come through.
It was not a gold-winning effort, but for the woman who had taken a deep breath before acknowledging a small crowd prior to the competition beginning, it was validation.
Perhaps it was valediction, too. A silver and a bronze for Biles in Tokyo is not what she came for, but that will be her medal cargo when she sets off for home.
By any standards, after her inspiring honesty of recent days, this was a triumph of the Olympic spirit.
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