Simone Biles Suddenly Exits Women's Team Event but Says She's 'Okay' and May Be Back for Other Finals
In a surprise reversal of her Tokyo Olympic hopes, Simone Biles exited the women's gymnastics team final early on Tuesday night in Japan — after briefly leaving the competition floor following a botched showing on the vault, her first event.
Speaking after the final ended, Biles said she was "okay, just dealing with some things internally which will get fixed out in the next couple of days."
Her choice was not connected to an injury, she said. Instead she described an almost overbearing amount of stress in the lead-up to Tuesday night.
If she had continued to compete while under such pressure and as mentally off-kilter as she felt, she said, she worried she would have risked the squad's medal chances.
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She hoped to reset with a break from practice on Wednesday and she told reporters she planned to return for Thursday's all-around final, though she also said on Today that she was "going to take it day by day and we're just going to see."
In a statement to PEOPLE and other outlets, USA Gymnastics said during the event that Biles had "withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions."
Biles, the reigning Olympic all-around champion and five-time medalist, initially left the floor with the team's medical trainer Marcia Faustin following her vault routine in the final, in which she bailed on her planned Amanar vault for an easier 1.5 twist and posted a 13.766.
That was the lowest vault score of Biles' Olympics career, an event in which she had dominated for years — until now.
Soon after leaving, Biles returned to the floor before the U.S. competed on uneven bars. She was seen hugging her teammates and, as she remained on the side, she was dressed in her white Team USA warm-up gear.
Jordan Chiles, who was in reserve for that event, replaced her.
Chiles, Suni Lee and Grace McCallum continued on with the competition but trailed the Russian athletes, their rivals.
"It was definitely something that was unexpected," Chiles said at a press conference later Tuesday with her teammates. "We were kind of emotional when we found out that she wasn't going to continue and, you know, we always kind of put our minds in a great position. Because at the end of the day, we're out there to show what we needed to show and we went out there and did what we did."
The U.S. ultimately won silver. (Great Britain won bronze.)
"For me, I'm proud for how the girls stepped up and did what they had to do. I owe this to the girls, it has nothing to do with me," Biles told reporters. "I am very proud of them."
Sitting next to Biles at the press conference following the final, Lee recalled the moment she told the team that she would not be competing for the rest of the final.
"I was just like, 'We got this,' " Lee said. "We can go out there and show the world what we came here to do."
"It wasn't an easy day or my best but I got through it," she wrote on Instagram, seemingly referencing the stumbles she made on floor and vault on Sunday. "I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn't affect me but damn sometimes it's hard hahaha! The Olympics is no joke!"
Biles also spoke earlier this summer about dealing with an ankle injury.
In an episode of her Facebook Watch series, Simone vs. Herself, that was filmed in May she explained that she had "landed short on a triple-double" during training that month, likely compounding earlier damage.
"So 2019 after Worlds I landed completely the wrong way on floor and partially tore a ligament in my foot," she said on her show, 48 hours after the U.S. Classic. "And then maybe two, three weeks ago, I landed short on a triple-double and I was still kind of sideways coming in and I think I re-irritated those ligaments."
"Right now, what we're dealing with is I just have a lot of fluid built up in there," Biles said then. "There's nothing we can do at this point. We don't have time for rest, we don't have time for shots and all of that stuff — so tape it is."
After her vault event in the team final on Tuesday, Biles was in extended conversation with her coach Cecile Canqueteau-Landi and the trainer, appearing alternately stone-faced and persistent as she talked with the staff and teammates both before and after she left the floor.
In Tokyo, her second Olympics, Biles was on track to compete for six gold medals after making the event finals in vault, floor, bars and beam and qualifying for all-around and team.
She is widely seen as the most talented women's gymnast of all time. Heading into the Tokyo Games, she was the most famous Team USA Olympian and the face of American gymnastics.
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.