Simone Biles (Photo by John Cheng)
It’s the last day of artistic gymnastics competition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, and Simone Biles is back and expected to compete for the first time in a week after experiencing “the twisties” in the team final.
The U.S. star withdrew from the all-around, vault, bars, and floor finals due to the problems she’s experiencing with her proprioception while attempting twisting elements, which feature heavily for her in the majority of her routines, though beam has been going well enough for her in training, and downgrading her dismount from her usual full-in or double double to a double pike can eliminate the problem.
It’ll be interesting to see how she does with so much time out of the arena, but she’s still been training regularly, and I’d imagine if she wasn’t ready, she wouldn’t be here. Of course, feeling good in training is one thing, but competing on the most nerve-wracking apparatus in the sport with all eyes on her is quite another, especially when she’s had a few nervous routines here this year. I’m hopeful that she’ll turn out a solid set and finish the Games on a high note, but regardless what happens, she has changed the way athletes prioritize themselves over medals here, and that’s huge.
Guan Chenchen of China, who led finals with a gorgeous routine that was so underrated by the judges. I have her as my pick to win it all, but it’s beam, and obviously anything can happen. Unfortunately, Larisa Iordache of Romania came out to warm up with the other finalists, but due to an ankle injury that limited her to just beam in prelims, she opted to withdraw only moments ago, with Ashikawa Urara of Japan going into her place, and honestly, with beam being beam, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her end up one of the legitimate medal contenders.
The U.S. also has Sunisa Lee in addition to Biles, who can knock out a great set when she’s on, Tang Xijing of China is also gorgeous and precise here, Vladislava Urazova of Russia and Flavia Saraiva of Brazil both bring fantastic style, and Ellie Black of Canada is dealing with an ankle injury, but if she’s solid, I also wouldn’t count her out.
If nothing else, it’ll be an exciting final, probably in ways both amazing and awful.
The men compete on parallel bars and high bar today. Zou Jingyuan of China has a massive hold on p-bars, where he’s the heavy favorite for gold with a combination of difficulty and execution that is simply unmatched, though his teammate You Hao and Turkey’s Ferhat Arican both have incredibly difficult routines to come in as podium threats, while Lukas Dauser of Germany will also be in the mix if he can deliver what he’s capable of.
Sam Mikulak of the United States was a surprise for me here given how his routines have looked a bit weak in the U.S. this year, but he had a great prelims and could be an outside hopeful for a medal if he can put up the same quality routine he showed in qualifications and if others make mistakes. There’s also Joe Fraser of Great Britain who has an excellent routine and also has room for improvement, with Petro Pakhniuk of Ukraine and David Belyavskiy of Russia rounding out the field.
Several of the top high bar guys missed the final here, with all-around champion Hashimoto Daiki of Japan coming in as the top-ranked athlete in prelims, and as one of the only guys who has consistently hit above a 15 here in Tokyo. If he can do what he’s been doing, I think the gold is his, but I’m also expecting to see Tin Srbic of Croatia go for broke, and think if Brody Malone of the United States cleans up a few spots that were uncharacteristically messy in prelims, he’ll also be a top contender.
I’m hoping Milad Karimi of Kazakhstan can be at 100% here – he has such an exciting routine, but can struggle at times with some of his wilder connections. I’m also hoping we can see a few small improvements from Tyson Bull of Australia and Bart Deurloo of the Netherlands to make them more legitimate medal contenders, though I don’t think Nikita Nagornyy of Russia or Kitazono Takeru of Japan will factor in unless something goes wrong for the top guys.
Article by Lauren Hopkins