TOKYO: Simone Biles’ (pic) shot at a record five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics suffered a blow when the United States gymnast failed to qualify for the final on the uneven bars.
Already regarded as one of the sport’s all-time greats, Biles arrived in Tokyo targeting a record haul, including the mark of five gold medals at a single Olympics by a woman gymnast.
That target became much harder to hit, however, when she was bumped from the eighth and last spot in the bars final by Germany’s Elisabeth Seitz.
There will now be no room for error if Biles hopes to rewrite the record of four golds at a single Olympics she shares with the former-Czech Republic’s Vera Caslavska, Russia’s Larisa Latynina and Hungary’s Agnes Keleti.
The 24-year-old was expected to launch an all-out assault on the podium and record books in Tokyo but might not even match her five-medal effort at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Biles will still have a packed programme in Tokyo leading the US defence of their team title and her all-around crown while qualifying for the finals in the vault and floor exercise. But she is also in danger of losing her spot in the beam final, sitting in seventh with the final group yet to finish. The qualification round determines who will compete for the medals with eight countries advancing to the team final tomorrow and the top 24 gymnasts, competing on all four apparatus, qualifying for Thursday’s all-around competition.
Eight-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina wept as she missed out on a final spot in her last ever Games, but received a standing ovation as she left the sport’s biggest stage for the last time.
The 46-year-old was targeting a place in the vault final, and was unable to hide her disappointment when she realised her score was not high enough to keep her in contention.
Athletes and coaches lined up to embrace the legendary athlete, who made her sporting debut in junior competitions in 1987, representing the Soviet Union.
“We thank her for her contributions to artistic gymnastics,” the announcer in Tokyo’s Ariake gymnastics Centre said as teams, officials and journalists applauded.
She said later she had been crying “tears of happiness, because so many people have supported me for such a long time. I’m just so grateful.” — Agencies