Simone Biles will compete in the balance beam competition, officials said on Monday, in what would be the U.S. superstar gymnast’s last chance for gold in Tokyo after pulling out of other events citing mental health issues.
Biles, who shocked the world last week when she withdrew from the team and several individual events, has brought athletes’ mental health into the spotlight at a pandemic affected Games which has had its share of controversy.
Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya walked into the Polish embassy, a day after refusing to board a flight in Tokyo that she said she was taken to against her wishes by her team.
She will seek asylum in Poland, according to a member of the local Belarus community who was in touch with her.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is meanwhile looking into the gesture U.S. shot putter Raven Saunders made after the silver medallist raised her arms in an X above her head on Sunday, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told a briefing.
Saunders later said the gesture was intended as a sign of support for the downtrodden, while the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said it did not breach IOC rules.
On the track, Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn dazzled in the 100 metres hurdles, while Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece won the men’s long jump in a spectacular final leap.
Biles’ decision to take part in the balance beam final delighted USA Gymnastics. She is reigning world champion on the beam and picked up an Olympic bronze on the apparatus in Rio.
“We are so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow – Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!! Can’t wait to watch you both!” USA Gymnastics said in a statement.
The 24-year-old Biles, who won four golds at the 2016 Rio Games, dropped out of the all-around, floor exercise, vault and asymmetric bars finals in Tokyo.
The Games are taking place without spectators and under strict measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic, an unprecedented event in the history of the modern Olympics.
China has pulled ahead on the medals tally with 28 golds, followed by the United States with 21 and Japan on 17.
The Tokyo Olympics have already been complicated by public opposition, as polls have shown that most Japanese oppose holding the Games amid the worsening pandemic.
SPORT AND POLITICS
While the IOC forbids overt political expression or interference, last month it relaxed its Rule 50 that prevented athletes from protesting. Athletes are allowed to make gestures on the field, providing they do so without disruption and with respect for fellow competitors.
However, the threat of sanctions remains if any protests are made on the podium during the medal ceremony.
“Let them try and take this medal,” Saunders said in a late night post on social media in an apparent reference to the IOC’s rules restricting protests.
Athletes, however, continue to dazzle with their performances, with Camacho-Quinn winning the first Olympic gold medal in athletics for Puerto Rico at the Games.
On Monday, she exploded off the blocks to finish in 12.37 seconds despite hitting one hurdle, beating American world record holder Kendra Harrison who came in second with 12.52.
“At this point I was really running for the world record. I hit the hurdle, but everything happens for a reason. I came through with the gold. My first gold medal,” said Camacho-Quinn, who broke the Olympic record in her semi-final a day earlier.
In the men’s long jump, Tentoglou won in spectacular fashion as he leapt 8.41 metres in his final attempt to snatch the gold medal from Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarria.
Tentoglou was the world leader coming into Tokyo with an 8.60 metres leap at a domestic competition in May, but struggled to find his form and was outside the medals positions as he hit the runway for the final time.
“What an incredible competition. What an incredible jump, the last jump,” the Greek said after winning his country’s first ever gold for the long jump.
Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan staged a brilliant recovery after falling in her 1,500 metres heat, pushing hard to win and keep alive her dream of an unprecedented treble by progressing in the 1,500m event to add to her 5,000m and 10,000m competitions.
The World Cup-winning United States suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat by Canada women’s soccer tournament semi-finals, with Jessie Fleming grabbing the winner with a 75th minute penalty.
In cycling, China retained their Olympic women’s team sprint title by defeating Germany in the final as the track cycling programme got under way at the Izu Velodrome.