The first day of women’s artistic gymnastics at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is in the books, and the six days of competition started with some big surprises. Though Simone Biles was the top scorer overall, she made multiple costly errors on a day she later acknowledged wasn’t her “best,” which made for an unexpectedly tense qualification. On top of that, Team USA — the heavy favorite to take gold in the team final — wound up behind the Russian Olympic Committee gymnasts heading into the event.
Qualification scores don’t carry over to finals, but both Biles and the U.S. Team were expected to get off to a stronger start. Biles, who won four gold medals and a bronze at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games (not to mention her unmatched World medal count), has long been considered the unquestionable GOAT of gymnastics. In Rio, she won the all-around by 1.759 points, and her margin at the most recent World Championships, held in 2019, was even bigger — a record-breaking 2.1 points. In qualification on July 25, however, Biles found herself finishing just 0.332 points ahead of second-place qualifier Rebeca Andrade of Brazil and within a point of five gymnasts in total.
Execution issues came into play for the Olympic vet. On floor, vault, and balance beam, she made mistakes that even casual fans could spot, taking sizable extra steps. After she finished, it even looked like she might not have done enough to earn a spot in the balance beam and uneven bars finals. Missing out on beam, in particular, would have been a huge below as Biles medaled on it in Rio. As her fans waited to find out her fate, there were a lot of nerves on Twitter.
Despite the scare, an off day for Biles is not the disaster it would be for almost anyone else. Even with mistakes and opting not to max out her difficulty, the GOAT still secured the chance to compete for medals in every single event. It’s a feat that hasn’t been done since 1992, when both American Shannon Miller and Romanian Lavinia Milosovici managed it, according to NBC.
Biles opened up about the stress of the competition in an Instagram post many hours later. “It wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it,” she wrote in part. “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The olympics is no joke!”
Team USA as a whole will be looking for a better day in the team final on July 27. The ROC team beat them by more than a point in qualifying, becoming the first team to do so in a major international competition since 2010, per NBC. That said, the American gymnasts did their job by making it to the team final, plus they maxed out their two spots per country in every individual final. Biles and individual specialist Jade Carey will both compete floor and vault, and Sunisa Lee joins Biles in the beam, bars, and all-around finals.
Day 1 of Tokyo might not have been perfect for Biles and crew, but they’ve still got more opportunities to shine in the days ahead.
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