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Gymnastics Star Simone Biles Pulls Out Of Olympic Team Event

NOEL KING, HOST:

Simone Biles has pulled out of the women's gymnastics team competition at the Tokyo Olympics. USA Gymnastics issued a statement citing a, quote, "medical issue" but didn't elaborate further. The U.S. women's team was the odds-on favorite to win gold, but they stumbled a bit in the preliminaries. With me now is Christine Brennan, who's a sports columnist with USA Today, and she is in Tokyo. Good morning, Christine - or hello, Christine.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: (Laughter) Good morning, Noel.

KING: What do we know about what happened?

BRENNAN: It was about an hour and a half ago now, at the start of the team competition that the U.S., as you said, is heavily favored to win. Simone Biles, on the first of the rotations, the vault, something that she is so excellent at, her vaunted Amanar - it's a difficult vault. But she went up, and as she came down, it almost looked like she got lost in the air. She bailed out of it and had a 1 1/2 as opposed to more rotations and more flips than she expected, almost came to her knees. As she hit the ground, immediately looked like she was in some kind of pain, close to tears. She and her coaches talked. The trainer got involved. She left the field of play, left the arena, returned a few moments later.

Obviously, great concern at this point about what was wrong with her, the greatest of all time, odds-on favorite to win another gold medal in the individual, as she did in Rio, as well as other gold medals later in the competition. Simone Biles came back. But at that point, she put on her sweats, her team uniform, put on her mask. And it was clear within a few minutes, Noel, that she was not going to be competing. The alternate then took her place in the other three rotations, which are still going on right now in the competition.

KING: I'm thinking of what you might be seeing as you're there, what I would be seeing on TV, which is - you have the team event, and so the team are all together. Are you seeing the looks on the other young women's faces? Are they responding to what happened at all?

BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely. There was shock when it first happened, real concern. I mean, they're so close, obviously. They've trained together for months, years. This is the moment. This is the Olympic Games. It's been not just four years in the making but five years because of the postponement last year due to the pandemic. And so, yes, great concern for her, great concern among all the competitors. Obviously, the arena itself is empty, no fans - but stunned. I mean, I think the entire Olympic Games, it's almost as if they've come to a halt at this moment. The biggest name at the games, Simone Biles, 24 years old, the worst possible athletic news in an Olympics, really, that is struggling to gain its footing in the midst of the pandemic and all the restrictions and the lockdowns and the quarantines that are going on here. So, yes, definitely emotional, difficult, shock - almost anything you could think of in terms of sports major breaking news. That is what we're witnessing here tonight.

KING: What does this mean for the rest of the competition for the U.S. team? Is there a single alternate who now fills in the rest of the time for Simone Biles?

BRENNAN: It is not clear, Noel, yet if Simon Biles can continue on and be in the individual all-around or the apparatus finals. She will be assessed daily to determine her medical clearance for future competitions, said USA Gymnastics. That's all we know right now at this point.

KING: OK. Christine Brennan with USA Today, reporting from Tokyo. Thank you so much for your time, Christine.

BRENNAN: Noel, my pleasure. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.