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Simone Biles Returns to Tokyo Olympics to Compete in Balance Beam

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Simone Biles is back. USA Gymnastics announced Biles will compete in the final event in women’s Olympic gymnastics: balance beam.

The six-time Olympic medalist was forced to withdraw from the team competition last Tuesday after a single rotation. She was unable to perform her vault and fell a full twist short, landing awkwardly and delivering an uncharacteristically low score.

Biles explained that she was experiencing the “the twisties,” or a lack of air awareness while trying to complete extremely difficult moves.

“I didn’t know where I was in the air,” Biles said.

Biles said that she had been suffering from anxiety, stress and mental health issues heading into Tokyo due to the immense pressure to achieve perfection in every event.

“These Olympic Games, I wanted it to be about myself,” Biles said last week. “And I came in and I felt I was still doing it for other people and it hurts my heart that doing what I love has been taken away from me to please other people.”

“I am not going to lose a medal for this country and these girls because they’ve worked way too hard to have me go out there and lose a medal,”

The United States was still able to win a silver medal with Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum handling the rest of the rotations.

Following the event, Biles received an outpouring of support from olympians past and present.

Gymnasts spoke out detailing their own struggles with focus and concentration. Others praised Biles for acknowledging her mental health issues. which was a once-taboo topic for elite athletes.

Biles then decided to withdraw from the all-around, vault, uneven bars and floor exercise competitions at the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental and physical health.

She spent the rest of her time cheering on her teammates as Lee won gold in the all-around event and bronze in the uneven bars event, while McKayla Skinner stepped in for Biles and won silver in the vault event.

Now, Biles will get the chance to perform in front of the world once again, and she has plenty of experience in the balance beam.

If Biles has indeed returned to form, she will contend for a medal. Biles is a three-time World Championships gold medalist on the balance beam and won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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Simone Biles pulls out of floor exercise final after withdrawing from vault, bars finals

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Gymnast Simone Biles will not be competing in the floor exercise event final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This comes after she pulled out of the finals for the vault and uneven bars. USA Gymnastics announced that Biles has withdrawn from the most recent of the competitions on Saturday night, and she will make a decision on Tuesday’s balance beam final later in the week.

Here is USA Gymnastics’ statement on Biles’ decision to pull out of the first of the three event finals.

After further consultation with medical staff, Simone Biles has decided to withdraw from the event finals for vault and the uneven bars. She will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether to compete in the finals for floor exercise and balance beam.

 

All of this comes after Biles withdrew from the women’s gymnastics team final event last week and followed that up by withdrawing from the individual all-around competition earlier this week. She was replaced by U.S. gymnastics teammate Jade Carey, who finished eighth.

During the team final, Biles did begin by participating in the vault, which is traditionally her best event. Biles ended up making one attempt in the vault, but earned an uncharacteristic 13.766 after being unable to cleanly stick her landing.

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Ban on ‘Soul Caps’ sparks concern about swimming’s lack of inclusivity

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When she competes in next week’s women’s 10k marathon swim, the first Black female swimmer on Great Britain’s Olympic team won’t have on the swim caps that she endorses.

Swimming’s international governing body has forbidden Alice Dearing from wearing them during the Tokyo Games.

The British brand Soul Cap designed swim caps for “thick, curly and voluminous hair” in hopes of encouraging more Black women to begin swimming and making a majority-white sport more inclusive. FINA last month rejected Soul Cap’s attempt to gain approval for use at the Olympics and questioned the need for such a product.

In its decision, FINA said the caps did not fit “the natural form of the head.” The governing body insisted that to its “best knowledge, the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use caps of such size and configuration.”

On July 2, FINA subsequently announced it is “reviewing the situation.” The governing body pledged to include Soul Cap in “initiatives aimed at ensuring there are no barriers to participation in swimming.”

When the Olympics began nine days ago, 14 U.S. senators signed a letter to the president of FINA demanding “immediate action. The letter called on Husain Al-Musallam to reverse a ban on the caps designed for natural Black hair.

Friends Toks Ahmed and Michael Chapman founded their company SOUL CAP in 2017, after starting swimming lessons and meeting a woman with Afro hair who was struggling with the size of her swimming cap.

“This is an opportunity for FINA to realize its stated commitment to inclusivity and to begin to address issues of diversity and representation in competitive swimming,” the letter stated. “It is actions such as these that can move us toward the vision of a more fair and equitable society.”

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey led the letter to FINA. Booker’s letter follows on the heels of a similar one that Congresswomen Bonnie Watson Coleman and Barbara Lee wrote to FINA the previous week.

“This is an incredibly clear example of the ways in which systemic racism impacts every facet of life for black people, especially black women,” Lee said in a press release. “We are urging that FINA take steps to reform this discriminatory policy and align themselves with the intended spirit of inclusion and diversity the Olympic games represent.”

Concerns about FINA’s stance stem from swimming’s history of racial inequality. A study published last year in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education links “a systematic exclusion from public pools” with Black children being 2.6 times more likely to drown than white children.

The disparity at the Olympic level is even more stark. It wasn’t until Simone Manuel in 2016 that an African-American woman won a gold medal in an individual swimming event.

In its July 2 statement, FINA countered that “there is no restriction on ‘Soul Cap’ swim caps for recreational and teaching purposes.” Since then, prominent Black swimmers have pushed for the caps to also be approved for competitive use.

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USA falls to France at Tokyo Games for first Olympic men’s basketball loss since 2004

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Team USA’s invincibility in men’s basketball is long gone, and the journey to a fourth consecutive gold medal is already fraught with adversity.

France gut-punched the Americans with a brilliant finish for an 83-76 victory to open the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. It snapped a 25-game Olympic winning streak dating back to 2004 for Team USA.

The final blow came when Evan Fournier drilled a 3-pointer with a minute to play to give the French the lead for good, completing their comeback after the U.S. had an eight-point lead with four minutes to play. It was the biggest of his 28 points in one of the finest games he has played in his career.

It was followed by an incredible possession in which the Americans managed to get five shots off and missed them all. The final three were wide-open 3-point attempts by Zach LaVineKevin Durant and Jrue Holiday.

“I got to lead the team because I know these guys,” Fournier said. “It’s a hell of a win. Our country is going to be extremely proud. But it’s just one game, to be honest.”

If there was a moment in this game that best encapsulated the situation between these two teams, it came at the end, when the French calmly shook the Americans’ hands and left the floor with the same business-as-usual demeanor Fournier displayed. Two years ago at the World Cup in China, France celebrated wildly after beating a much-less-talented Team USA.

“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said before launching into what has become his go-to statement after losses.

“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word surprised. That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team.”

The French won the bronze at that World Cup, but their talent does not compare to that of the Americans. And it does not explain how a U.S. team built for scoring and shooting went an unexplainable four and a half minutes without a basket down the stretch.

Fatigue was a factor. Three players didn’t get to the team hotel until 1 a.m. on gameday, an unusual set of circumstances. But one of them, Jrue Holiday, was masterful in the fourth quarter as he scored 12 of his 18 points and contributed several other energy plays to help the U.S. build a lead.

Team USA Basketball Can Fix Itself Before Tokyo Olympics | Time

The Americans then had a host of stars to lean on such as Durant, Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard. But they failed as the French ran an execution clinic.

Popovich seemed irritated by media questions about the upset, as has been his custom. He has overseen losses in five of the past eight games he has coached for the national team dating back to 2019. There were some who admitted the loss was a disappointment, however.

“I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it’s not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start,” said Lillard, who shot just 3-of-10 and had two critical turnovers late in the game.

“I think that’s why a lot of people will make it seem like the end of the world, but our job as professionals and this team and representing our country at the Olympics, we’ve got to do what’s necessary and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish.”

Popovich said he’d been thinking about this rematch for two years and daily since the game was drawn in February. But he never figured out how to slow down Fournier as he repeatedly got free for open looks on the perimeter. Even Holiday, who was brilliant in the NBA Finals, helping the Bucks clinch the title Tuesday, couldn’t stem the tide.

French coach Vincent Collet also outmaneuvered Popovich by deploying a super big lineup in the second half by playing 7-footers Rudy Gobert and Vincent Poirier together.

That length against a much smaller American lineup zippered shut driving and passing lanes. After going to the double-big-man lineup after the French fell behind by 10 early in the third quarter, Team USA scored just 29 points in the last 18 minutes.

“Every team has to do what fits with their personnel,” Popovich explained. “And with our team having our two big guys, Draymond [Green] and Bam Adebayo, out there gives us a lot of pace, makes us move well, and works best for the combination of people we have.”

Still, thanks to Holiday, Team USA was in position to win. Two years ago when the score was 74-67 in the fourth quarter in Dongguan, China, the French closed with a 22-5 run to keep the U.S. out of medal contention. On Sunday, Team USA once again led 74-67 in the fourth, and France finished it with a 16-2 run, punctuated by Fournier’s 3-point dagger in the final minute.

Durant played perhaps the worst game of his storied Olympic career, getting in foul trouble and shooting just 4-of-12. His early fouls came when he defended Gobert on switches, forcing him from the floor after he’d had a hot start and scored seven points in the opening minutes. He ended up fouling out in just 21 minutes.

The Americans now will likely have to win their final two pool-play games against Iran and the Czech Republic to advance to the medal round. They could technically advance on scoring margin if they lose another game, however.

“We were just trying too hard to do the right thing,” Lillard said. “Instead of just being who we are — the best players in the NBA.”

Culled from ESPN

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