TOKYO (AP) — Simone Biles found something a little more manageable than the weight of the world.
The American gymnastics superstar earned her seventh Olympic medal and second in Tokyo with a third-place finish in the balance beam final on Tuesday, a week after she took herself out of several competitions to deal with a mental block that prevented her from twisting while performing.
Biles drilled a slightly watered-down version of her usual routine in front of a crowd that included IOC President Thomas Bach. The bronze — matching the one she captured in Rio de Janeiro five years ago — moved her into a tie with Shannon Miller for the most Olympic medals by an American gymnast.
“This definitely feels sweeter than Rio’s bronze medal on beam because I did a good beam routine,” she said.
Biles, using a double-pike dismount — no twisting required — posted a score of 14.000. That was good enough for bronze behind the Chinese duo of gold medalist Guan Chenchen (14.633) and Tang Xijing (14.233).
“I had nerves but I felt pretty good,” she said.
Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee of the United States finished fifth. The 18-year-old Lee won three medals in Tokyo, including silver in the team final and bronze on uneven bars.
Biles pulled out of competition earlier in the Tokyo Games, saying she felt “the weight of the world” on her 4-foot-8 frame. She shoved it aside to reach the podium for the 32nd time in major international competition.
Biles arrived on the floor about 90 minutes before the competition started, wearing a red, white and blue leotard emblazoned with nearly 5,000 crystals. If she was nervous, it hardly showed. She warmed up as if it was just another day back in the gym her family owns in the northern Houston suburbs. Twice she hopped onto the beam to do a run-through of her routine and she stuck her double-pike dismount to applause from the stands and the whir of dozens of cameras.
Biles arrived in Tokyo as the face of the U.S. contingent in Japan and perhaps the Games themselves. Yet the brilliance she’s summoned so easily for so long during her run atop the sport came undone after qualifying on July 25.