Simone Biles’s quest to win five gold medals at the Rio Olympics will fall short – in her fourth event Monday afternoon in Rio, Simone “fell” off the balance beam.
Except she didn’t actually fall off the balance beam. Instead, she lost her balance and put her hands on the beam, which, according to current gymnastics scoring rules, counts as a fall. In the photos below, you can see the moment when she stumbles and then catches herself:
Despite the high difficulty score her routine came with, the wobble meant Simone’s final score came in at 14.733. This was a grand total passed by the next gymnast on the beam, the Netherlands’ Sanne Wevers, who earned a 15.466. Her teammate Laurie Hernandez also scored higher and took the silver medal. After a rejected inquiry from fourth placer, France’s Marine Boyer, Simone took the bronze medal. As NBC’s commentators noted, this speaks for Simone’s skills in itself – that she’d medal after a fall is a big deal.
Simone and Laurie were the top two Team USA qualifiers for the beam, and Simone is the two-time reigning world balance beam champ, which makes Monday’s events that much more surprising (though she did also fall in the Olympic trials). But she’ll still have the opportunity to earn a fourth gold medal during the floor event tomorrow, and she’s still the greatest gymnast, thanks very much.
Update 8/15, 6:30 p.m.: In interviews following the event, both Biles and her coach, Aimee Boorman, addressed the stumble, saying a bronze in the Olympics is nothing to be disappointed in, and the fall could have happened to anybody.
“I’m not disappointed in the medal that I received because anyone would love to have a bronze at an Olympic Games,” Biles said, according to the Guardian. “I’m disappointed in the routine that I did. Not so much the entire routine, just the front tuck, I guess, because the rest of the routine was pretty good.”
“She is human,” her coach added. “She made that save, because both of her feet were coming off the beam. I was pretty impressed with that. I see it as a triumph. She won a bronze medal on beam at the Olympics. That’s huge. She should be proud of that. Besides that error, the rest of the routine was excellent. Sometimes your feet slip … She unfortunately had a significant error, but the rest of her routine was good enough to get her a bronze.”