In the biggest upset for the United States at the Tokyo Games, Simone Biles withdrew from the gymnastics team competition after it had started on Tuesday, handing Russia’s squad a path to victory and ending American domination of the event for more than a decade.
Biles, the American gymnastics star, pulled out of the event “due to a medical issue,” according to a statement from U.S.A. Gymnastics, the national governing body of the sport.
“She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions,” the statement said.
Russia finished with a total score of 169.528, more than three points ahead of the United States at 166.096. Britain won the bronze medal with a score of 164.096.
The Russian team had surprised the Americans in qualifying on Sunday, raising the pressure even higher for the U.S. team to maintain its dominance in the sport. The Americans were aware of their impressive winning streak, which included Biles and the team called “the Final Five” at the 2016 Rio Games and Gabby Douglas and “the Fierce Five” at the 2012 London Games.
The last time the United States lost a team final in the Olympics or world championships was back in 2010, to Russia. Since then, the United States has been far ahead of the world in the sport, winning world championships and Olympics by at least four points. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Americans crushed the Russians by more than eight points.
The U.S. team in Tokyo did what it could to preserve its legacy of success. Biles, the greatest gymnast in history, performed her signature moves that elevate her well above her competition — and far above the floor — but even then it wasn’t enough to beat Russia.
One day after its men’s team won the Olympic gold medal, the Russian team’s women executed its challenging routines with precision and grace, and the U.S. team simply could not keep up. It didn’t help the Americans’ confidence that it came into the final trying to bounce back from a second-place finish to Russia in qualifying.
During that qualification on Sunday, Biles and some of her teammates made uncharacteristic mistakes because they were nervous. Biles stumbled on her balance beam dismount, taking a huge step and several tiny ones backward. On the floor exercise, she stepped so far out of bounds that she slid down the edge of the slanted, raised competition surface. On vault, she stepped off the mat after landing.
Those errors, as well as those of her teammates, were wiped clean for Tuesday’s final. Yet even though United States took a deep breath and tried to gather its composure, it wasn’t enough to reestablished itself at the top.