TOKYO (NewsNation Now) — After a tumultuous Olympics that has seen Simone Biles arrive with the highest of expectations surrounding her, only to withdraw from team competition and most of her individual events, Biles capped her trip to Tokyo with a bronze medal in the balance beam competition Tuesday.
In what was likely her final Olympic performance, Biles was steady and strong on the beam, with no trace of the spatial awareness issues that had caused her to withdraw earlier. Called “the twisties,” these issues can be life- and career-threatening for athletes whose entire competition involves flying through space in one way or another.
The gold in the event when to 16-year-old Chinese phenom Guan Chenchen, while Guan’s teammate Tang Xijing Tag took the silver. Biles had entered the event, not known as her strongest, with the seventh-highest qualifying score.
With her bronze, which matches the one she took in Rio in 2016, Biles ties Shannon Miller as the most-medaled gymnast in American Olympic history. She’s got more gold than Miller though, by a score of 4-2.
“This definitely feels sweeter than Rio’s bronze medal on beam because I did a good beam routine,” Biles said.
“I was proud of myself just to go out there after what I’ve been through,” she said.
Suni Lee, who stepped in to win gold in the individual all-around when Biles withdrew, took fifth place in the beam.
Biles pulled out of competition earlier in the Tokyo Games, saying she felt “the weight of the world” on her 4-foot-8 frame. She shoved it aside to reach the podium for the 32nd time in major international competition.
In a move that perhaps allowed her to re-enter competition, Biles replaced the normal twist in her dismount with a double pike. She stuck the dismount, beamed the smile that has been missing this Olympics, patted her heart and acknowledged the cheers from her teammates and coaches. With quick bear hugs for her coach, Cecile Canqueteau-Landi, and Sunisa Lee, she likely began her post-Olympics life.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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