TOKYO — Simone Biles isn’t going home with a fistful of gold medals. A mental block — one brought on by exhaustion or stress or something the American gymnastics star still can’t quite grasp — that forced her to pull out of four Olympic finals saw to that.
Yet standing on the podium Tuesday, a bronze medal hanging around her neck and tears in her eyes, the 24-year-old Biles may have claimed something far more valuable: a piece of herself back.
From the “twisties” that have haunted her for a week. From the endless speculation about her state of mind. From the hype machine — one, admittedly, she fed into at times — that set expectations so high coming to Tokyo nothing short of the impossible would have been enough.
It all became too much. A week ago, her internal wires got crossed when she hopped on uneven bars during practice. Suddenly, she couldn’t spin. She could barely move. She still doesn’t quite know why. And if she’s being honest, the wires still aren’t reconnected. She’s not sure when they will be.
“It was something that was so out of my control,” Biles said. “But the outcome I had, at end of the day, my mental and physical health is better than any medal. So I couldn’t be mad.”
Biles and coach Cecile Landi adjusted her balance beam routine to ease her anxiety, switching out a dismount that required her to twist for one with two simpler backflips instead, a skill she hadn’t done in competition in 12 years, half a lifetime ago. Even with the degree of difficulty lowered, she earned a 14.000, good enough for third behind Chinese teammates Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing.
Afterward, she chatted with IOC President Thomas Bach, then wiped away tears after accepting her seventh Olympic medal, tied with Shannon Miller for the most by an American gymnast. A wave of relief washed over her following a turbulent eight days that shifted the focus from the Tokyo Games to the mental health of the athletes who compete under the rings.
“We’re not just entertainment, we’re humans,” Biles said. “And there are things going on behind the scenes that we’re also trying to juggle with as well, on top of sports.”
Biles thought she had it under control. Then the Americans finished a surprising second to the Russian team in qualifying. She sensed the weight of the world on her shoulders. During the first vault rotation in the team final, the weight became too much. Shaken, she took herself out of the final three events and watched as her teammates held on for silver.
The decision made her a touchstone of sorts. Yes, there was a lot of support. She felt “embarrassed” when a trip through the Olympic Village included a steady stream of people coming up to tell her how much she meant to them. There was a lot of hate, too, one of the reasons she moved her Twitter app to the back of her phone, hopefully tamping down the temptation to search her mentions.
“It’s not good for me right now,” she said.
There was no phone in sight when she appeared on the floor in a red, white and blue leotard with nearly 5,000 crystals stitched on. If she was nervous, it hardly showed. She warmed up and then sat on the floor next to teammate and newly minted all-around champion Sunisa Lee to watch highlights from other sports on a large video board.
Her routine was steady, seemingly immune to the whir of dozens of cameras capturing her every move. She made a small hop after landing her double-pike, then saluted the stands. One last bow, perhaps, in a career that includes 32 major international medals and a spot atop her sport.
It’s far too soon to think about Paris.
“I just need to process this Olympics first,” she said.
Brazil’s Cunha wins marathon swimming
TOKYO — Dodging leaping fish in Tokyo Bay and pressure on the lead, Ana Marcela Cunha kept her cool and finally won at the Olympics on her third try.
The Brazilian claimed the women’s 10-kilometer marathon swimming event on Wednesday in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 30.8 seconds.
Cunha finished nine-tenths of a second ahead of defending champion Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands. Van Rouwendaal took silver in 1:59.31.7.
Kareena Lee earned bronze in 1:59.32.5, giving Australia its first medal in marathon swimming. Lee got hit in the chest by one of the fish.
“I didn’t know what it was at first and I was like, ‘Whoa,’” she said.
Neither the heat and humidity nor the marine life fazed Cunha. Quite a change from her first Olympics as a 16-year-old in Beijing.
She was dazzled by meeting Americans Michael Phelps and Kobe Bryant, along with star Brazilian swimmer Cesar Cielo, and finished 10th in the debut of marathon swimming. Cunha didn’t qualify in 2012 and was 10th five years ago in Rio de Janeiro.
“We arrived here wanting, as much as you can, this medal,” she said. “I said to my coach to win this race will be very difficult for my opponents because I want it so hard, so much, and I’m really well-prepared.”
Elaine Thompson-Herah speeds to second Olympic sprint sweep
TOKYO — It was billed as a star-studded race that anyone could win.
So long as that person’s name was Elaine.
Elaine Thompson-Herah blew away a much-decorated field in the 200 meters Tuesday night. The latest sprint star from Usain Bolt’s island country of Jamaica completed her second straight Olympic sprint sweep in 21.53 seconds, the second-fastest time in history.
“It means a lot to me to be in that history, to be in that work-hard book,” said Thompson-Herah, who spent much of 2021 ailing with an Achilles injury and didn’t reach top form until she got to Japan.
It marked the second time in four nights that Thompson-Herah has won a sprint and recorded a time that fell short of only the late Florence Griffith Joyner’s hallowed, 33-year-old world records. The 200 record is 21.34.
Mensah-Stock is first Black U.S. woman wrestler to win gold
CHIBA, Japan — As Tamyra Mensah-Stock celebrated winning her Olympic gold medal, she hoped her victory would encourage Black girls in the United States to consider wrestling.
When she defeated Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu 4-1 in the women’s 68-kilogram freestyle wrestling final on Tuesday, she became the first American Black woman to win Olympic gold in wrestling and the second American woman overall.
“These young women are going to see themselves in a number of ways and they’re going to look up there and go, I can do that,” she said. “I can see myself.”
Helen Maroulis was the first American woman to earn Olympic gold in the sport when she upset Japan’s Saori Yoshida to win the 53 kg class in 2016.
Black women have had their moments in U.S. women’s wrestling. Toccara Montgomery won gold at the Pan-Am Games in 2003, Iris Smith won a world title in 2005 and Randi Miller earned bronze at the 2008 Olympics.
“They paved the way for me,” Mensah-Stock said.
Casas’ third homer, Kazmir help U.S. beat Dominicans
YOKOHAMA, Japan — Triston Casas hit his third home run of the Olympics, a two-run drive in the first inning off Boston Red Sox Double-A teammate Denyi Reyes, and the United States baseball team beat the Dominican Republic 3-1 on Wednesday to stay in gold medal contention.
Tyler Austin, a former major leaguer in his home ballpark of the Central League’s Yokohama Bay Stars, added a solo home run in the fifth, his second long ball of the tournament.
The U.S. (3-1) plays next on Thursday night, meeting the loser of Wednesday night’s Japan-South Korea matchup for a berth in this weekend’s gold medal game.
Scott Kazmir (1-0) escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first, and the 37-year-old left-hander went on to pitch two-hit ball over five scoreless innings.
Four relievers finished, with David Robertson allowing a two-out homer in the ninth to Charlie Valerio. The U.S. was outhit 5-3 and overcame three errors and a 0-for-12 afternoon from its Nos. 6-9 batters.
Austin walked with one out in the first, and Casas drove a 1-1 pitch to center. He is batting .313 with eight RBIs.
The Associated Press’ Beth Harris, Eddie Pells, Cliff Brunt and Ronald Blum contributed to this report.