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TOKYO -Simone Biles' bid to launch a history-making goldrush at the Tokyo Olympics fell apart after a single gymnastic vault on Tuesday, and her future at these Games was in doubt after she spoke of the need to protect her mental health.
The American superstar pulled out https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/gymnastics-biles-out-team-event-can-still-get-medal-2021-07-27 of the evening's team event, as her American team mates surrendered gold and their title to Russian gymnasts.
"There is more to life than just gymnastics," Biles said, saying a focus on her well-being was her goal.
"It is very unfortunate that it has to happen at this stage because I definitely wanted these Olympics to go a little bit better. But again, take it one day at the time. We'll see how the rest goes."
Such late-night drama was a fitting end to a day which had begun under the threat of a tropical storm, and then featured the loss of the face of the Games https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/tennis-japans-osaka-out-tokyo-2020-third-round-2021-07-27, tennis star Naomi Osaka.
Osaka had brought the issue of mental health into sharp focus earlier this year when she pulled out of the French Open Grand Slam tournament. This had been her first tournament since saying she has been suffering depression for several years.
"I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure, this time around," Osaka said. "I think it's maybe because I haven't played in an Olympics before and for the first one to be here was a bit much.
"So... I didn't really know how to cope with that pressure."
America's gymnastics silver team medal means Biles can no longer win six golds here which, added to her haul of four from Rio, would have made her the most decorated female Olympian of all time.
She had arrived in Tokyo as the superstar of these Games, and expectation was at fever pitch.
It appears it may have proved all too much.
"It just sucks when you are fighting with your own head," Biles said. "You want to do it for yourself but you're just too worried about what everybody else is going to say, think, the internet.
"So I just had to stay off of it for the past couple of days. It's just like when everybody tweeted you and you feel that weight of the world. I felt it, and at the end of the day, if I had pushed through that... okay, this is for me. It is for me, but I feel like I have do to it for other people first."
Biles could still, in theory, win five and match the current record, but it seems increasingly unlikely.
Russian great Larisa Latynina won nine gymnastic Olympic golds in the 1950s and '60s. Only Michael Phelps, with his 23 swimming golds, has won more.
Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron on Friday to open the Games after a one-year postponement, looked out of sorts and never settled into a rhythm as she lost 6-1 6-4 in the third round to Czech Marketa Vondrousova.