Simone Biles Makes Olympic Comeback, Wins Bronze on Beam

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On the final day of events for artistic gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles made her triumphant return to the competition floor, winning bronze at the balance beam final.

This win is the culmination of a turbulent Olympic run for the star gymnast, who withdrew from multiple events to focus on her mental health. Biles made the decision after a shaky performance on vault at the team final on July 27, twisting fewer times during her routine than planned.

Biles later explained to the media that she lost “air awareness” while twisting, a dangerous sensation called the “twisties” in gymnastics. The twisties are a mental block that causes a mind-body disconnection mid-air and mid-skill, meaning gymnasts lose control over where and how they land.

Biles pulled out of all subsequent events at the team final, and more events in the following days, including the individual all-around finals, an event she’s been undefeated in since 2013. According to Sports Illustrated, Biles was “assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions,” and USA Gymnastics announced on Monday that Biles would be returning to compete in the balance beam final.

Even after a tough week of attempting to practice through a mental health challenge like the twisties and responding to intense criticism for her event withdrawals, Biles earned her seventh Olympic medal, finishing in third place.

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"My mental and physical health is above all medals that I could ever win,” Biles told reporters after the beam final. “So to be clear, to do beam, which I didn't think I was going to be, just meant the world to be back out there. And I wasn't expecting to walk away with the medal. I was just going out there doing this for me."

Per Yahoo! Sports, Biles’ replaced her twisting dismount on beam with a double pike, altering her routine to be twist-free and ultimately allowing her to compete one more time. “The other ones I couldn't physically do without putting health and safety at risk because it is twisting,” Biles said, referencing her other event routines. “Beam, I didn’t have that issue.”

Biles said that she “was just happy to be able to perform regardless of the outcome.” China’s Guan Chenchen took home the gold with a score of 14.633, with teammate Tan Xijing Tag winning the silver with 14.233, and Biles rounding out the podium with her bronze win and score of 14.000. Biles’ teammate Sunisa Lee finished with a score of 13.866, out of medal contention. It’s been speculated that Biles’ bronze will be her final career medal, as the 24-year-old gymnast is considering retirement.

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“She’s Simone Biles, and she means everything to the sport,” teammate Lee said to the press. “If she does retire, it’s going to be super weird without her.”

Though she might not compete, Biles has reportedly hinted at participating in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games as a vault specialist. "Paris is definitely not in my mind frame because I think there are so many things that I have to work on for myself first," she told ESPN.

Even if she had not earned a bronze medal for her performance on beam, Biles would still be returning to the United States as a winner. The most decorated gymnast of all-time has thrust athlete mental health into the global spotlight, during a watershed moment in sports in which multiple professional athletes are speaking publicly about their experiences and struggles with mental health and advocating for themselves in an industry that so often prioritizes the body over the mind.

Speaking with IOC President Thomas Bach after accepting her bronze medal, Biles teared up. "We're not just entertainment, we're humans," she said. "And there are things going on behind the scenes that we're also trying to juggle with as well, on top of sports."

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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Simone Biles Returns to Competition for Balance Beam Final

Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue