TOKYO (NewsNation Now) — The Russian Olympic Committee won the gold medal in women’s gymnastics after reigning Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles exited.
The 24-year-old U.S. star, considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time, withdrew from the competition following one rotation, a stunning decision that opened the door for the team Russian Olympic Committee to surge to gold.
“There is more to life than just gymnastics,” Biles said, saying a focus on her well-being was her goal.
Her American teammates held on for silver after the 24-year-old realized following a shaky vault she wasn’t in the right headspace to compete.
“I didn’t want to go into any of the other events second-guessing myself,” Biles said. “So, I thought it would be better if I took a step back and let these girls go out there and do their job.”
NewsNation spoke with Dominique Dawes about Biles’ decision to withdraw from team events. See the interview in the player below.
The U.S. began finals on vault, with Biles going last. She was supposed to do an “Amanar,” a vault that begins with a roundoff back handspring onto the table followed by 2 1/2 twists. She seemed to change her mind in mid-air, doing just a 1 1/2 twist instead. She then exited the competition floor with the team doctor.
Biles returned several minutes later with her right leg wrapped. She took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles before putting on a jacket and sweatpants. Chiles replaced Biles on uneven bars and balance beam.
“It’s very uncharacteristic of me,” Biles said. “So it just sucks that it happens here at the Olympic Games than have it happen at any other time. But, you know, with the year that it’s been, I’m really not surprised.”
Biles spent the final three rotations serving as head cheerleader while McCallum, Lee and Chiles carried on without her. The U.S. drew within eight-tenths of a point through three rotations. ROC, however, never wavered on the floor. And they erupted when 21-year-old Angelina Melnikova’s score assured them of the top spot on the podium.
The Russian gymnasts posted a team score of 169.528, ahead of the U.S. in second place at 166.096. The gold is the first for the Russians since the Unified Team triumphed in Barcelona in 1992 and came a day after the men’s team edged Japan for the top spot in the men’s final. Great Britain won bronze.
The International Gymnastics Federation confirmed earlier Tuesday that Biles would play no further part in the team event, but said she would still receive a medal if the U.S. ended up on the podium.
“And then at the end of the day, it’s like ‘you know what, I have to do what is right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and my well-being,'” Biles said to reporters after the competition.
Biles, considered by many to be the greatest female gymnast of all time, kept open the possibility of still competing in Tokyo, but said she would take it a day at a time. Individual all-around and apparatus competitions still remain.
Biles is scheduled to defend her Olympic title in the all-around final on Thursday. She also qualified for all four event finals later in the Games.
Biles arrived in Tokyo as the unquestioned star of the Games but struggled, at least by her high standards, during qualifying. In a social media post on Monday, she admitted she felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders and that the Olympics “were no joke.”
Biles won five medals in Rio de Janeiro five years ago. It remains to be seen whether she will be available for the all-around final on Thursday night and the event finals later in the Games.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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