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Guan Chenchen wins balance beam gold at the Tokyo Olympics as Simone Biles claims bronze

<i>Lisi Niesner/Reuters</i><br/>China's Guan Chenchen won gold in the women's balance beam final at the Tokyo Olympics as Simone Biles claimed a bronze.
REUTERS
Lisi Niesner/Reuters
China's Guan Chenchen won gold in the women's balance beam final at the Tokyo Olympics as Simone Biles claimed a bronze.

By George Ramsay, CNN

China’s Guan Chenchen won gold in the women’s balance beam final at the Tokyo Olympics as US gymnastics star Simone Biles overcame mental health challenges to claim a bronze.

Biles’ psychological well-being has been the focus of attention since she withdrew from the women’s team final last week.

The 24-year-old then didn’t compete in four individual finals at the Tokyo Olympics — the all-around individual competition, the vault, the uneven bars and floor — but returned to great applause from her US teammates seated in one corner of the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.

“To bring the topic of mental health, I think it should be talked about a lot more, especially with athletes because I know some of us are going through the same things and we’re always told to push through it,” Biles told reporters following her third-place finish.

“We’re all a little bit older now and we can speak for ourselves. But at the end of the day, we’re not just entertainment. We’re human and there are things going on behind the scenes that we’re also trying to deal with on top of sports.”

Following her withdrawal from the team event, Biles said that she was medically evaluated each day and also had two sessions with a Team USA psychologist.

The dismount of her beam routine was also switched at the last minute so she wouldn’t have to perform a twist.

“Going forward, it was just taking it a day at a time and seeing where that went,” Biles said about the days since her withdrawal from the team final.

“For the other events, physically and mentally, it was not safe for me to do it because I could not do the skills without jeopardizing my health and safety.”

Tuesday’s beam final was Biles’ last chance to claim a medal at Tokyo 2020 and she scored 14.000 for a clean and confident routine.

That score initially placed her second behind China’s Tang Xijing on 14.233, but the 16-year-old Guan, the top qualifier in the event and the last to perform her routine, moved into the gold medal position with a score of 14.633.

‘The twisties’

The bronze in the balance beam is Biles’ seventh Olympic medal and adds to the team final silver she won last week. She also won bronze in the balance beam at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

For Guan — who lists Biles as her sporting idol — and Tang, the gold and silver medals were their first at the Olympics.

“I never expected that I would get a medal,” said Guan. “My coach said: ‘This is your first time in the Olympics and no one knows you, so just go in and do your best.’

“I actually started gymnastics much later than other people, so I think this is a good result for me. Even though this competition is very tiring, I’m very happy with this result.”

Since withdrawing from the team final last week, Biles has spoken about experiencing “the twisties” — a phenomenon suffered by gymnasts that suddenly prevents them from performing certain twisting skills as they lose their bearings in the air.

But she was all smiles after completing her beam routine in the final and waved enthusiastically to the crowd, some of whom responded with a standing ovation.

Canada’s Ellie Black finished fourth with a score of 13.866, while Biles’ teammate Sunisa Lee, who won all-around gold and bronze in the uneven bars last week, was fifth.

The balance beam was the final event in the women’s artistic gymnastics program in Tokyo.

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