Troubled American gymnastics superstar Simone Biles produced a superb performance on her surprise return for the balance beam final at the Olympic Games, earning bronze behind Chinese teenagers Chenchen Guan and Tang Xijing.
A four-time gold medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, out-of-sorts Biles shocked the world by making an emotional early withdrawal from the team event last Tuesday, blaming the ‘twisties’ – a sensation she later explained had caused her to have “no idea” where she was during during performances.
Days of speculation and debate followed before Team USA excitedly announced on Monday that one of their most decorated athletes of all time would be returning to the beam, on which she won bronze five years ago.
Despite her previous anxieties, the 24-year-old produced a sure-footed show of balletic brilliance to put her in a medal position from the outset, with a score of 14 on her first attempt meaning she only initially trailed 18-year-old former youth champion Tang.
“Did you all see that?” asked Team USA on social media, accompanying their words with a shot of Biles grinning. “That’s greatness.”
Elsabeth Black, of Canada, appeared to be Biles and Tang’s key rival for a place in the top three, only for 16-year-old Guan to intervene with a stunning display, storming to gold ahead of her compatriot.
The result saw Biles earn her seventh honor at the Games, closing in on 1960s gymnastics legend Vera Caslavska’s haul of 11 medals at the showpiece.