TOKYO — It’s certainly not any kind of official announcement or guarantee, but MyKayla Skinner, one of Simone Biles’ best friends on the United States women’s gymnastics team, said Sunday she believes Biles will return to competition in Tuesday’s balance beam final here.
“Yeah, I think so. Yes. Yes,” Skinner said Sunday after securing a second-chance silver medal in the vault.
When pressed if Biles had told her that, Skinner said. “I don't know for sure, it’s kind of up to her … She should. I think she’s going to.”
If nothing else, it suggests that Biles is still actively trying to get herself capable of competing here in these Olympics. The beam final would be her last opportunity.
Biles entered these Olympics as one of the biggest stars of the Games.
However, she was forced to withdraw from the team competition last Tuesday after just one rotation due to a struggle with mental focus. She said she is battling what gymnasts call “the twisties” which make it impossible to judge where they are while flipping through the air. Her one vault in the team competition was awkward, low-scoring and ended with a major stumble.
Biles has since withdrawn from the all-around competition, plus individual finals in vault, bars and floor. A determination on Tuesday’s beam final, the final competition of the women’s meet here, will be made Monday.
Biles' withdrawal in the vault allowed Skinner to compete. Skinner had qualified fourth overall in the event, but was the third-ranked American behind Biles and Jade Carey. The Federation of International Gymnastics has a two-gymnast-per-country rule. That meant Skinner’s Olympics were done.
“I was actually going to get on a plane to go home,” Skinner said.
Then Biles dropped out and had USA Gymnastics immediately text Skinner to tell her to stay in case she was needed. Skinner won silver here Sunday. She said that while Biles is working to return to form, she has remained in great spirits.
“She's handling better than I thought,” Skinner said. “Every day she has been laughing and giggling, super supportive. I'm sure when she gets home it’ll probably hit her more.
“But since she’s around all of us and I'm sure she is still going to be competing. I'm sure she's trying to stay in the game. But honestly she’s been the happiest person, and I am so happy to see what all she’s been through that she's making the best of it.”
If nothing else, one of her best friends thinks she’ll still make an appearance. Even when Skinner first heard Biles might not compete, she figured that Biles would be back.
“[I thought], ‘Oh, she’ll come back. She’ll be OK. She’ll go into the gym and practice,” Skinner said. “This has definitely hit her really hard. It’s just a weird thing. I can't imagine going through it.
“I maybe had the twisties once but I bounced back from it,” Skinner continued. “But I have seen girls in my gym really struggle with it for a week or two just trying to get back and just have to start from the basics and build up. And she doesn’t have the gym to go with open foam and just build back up. I know that's been hard for her."
In the meantime, Biles has been coaching and encouraging the other Americans. She was again at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre Sunday jumping around and screaming for Skinner as well as Carey, who also competed on vault, and later Sunisa Lee, who was in the bars final.
“Her just pushing me along every single day to place on podium has been incredible,” Skinner said.
Biles, who won four golds and a bronze at the 2016 Olympics and is a five-time all-around world champion, was the first American to qualify for the final of all four disciplines. Right now she would leave Tokyo with just one silver in the team competition.
There is still one more chance, though.
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