Biles withdraws from two finals, Ledecky and Dressel light up the pool

Simone Biles of Team United States looks on while cheering on teammate Sunisa Lee in the women's all-around final on day six of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan on July 29, 2021.
Simone Biles of Team United States looks on while cheering on teammate Sunisa Lee in the women's all-around final on day six of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan on July 29, 2021.
Image: Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images

US gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from two more finals in Tokyo on Saturday, leaving it unclear whether she will make another appearance at the Games, while swimmers Katie Ledecky and Caleb Dressel recovered some lost lustre for America in the pool.

In the first failed drug test of the Games, Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare was provisionally suspended after a positive test for human growth hormone ended her Tokyo run.

American BMX racer Connor Fields was moved out of intensive care after suffering a brain bleed during his horrific crash a day earlier. Originally one of the big favourites for gold, Fields went down hard in a first-corner crash during the semifinals.

China now top the medal tally with 20 gold. Japan have 17 and the US are at 16.

The Games are being held without spectators and after a year's delay because of the pandemic, an unprecedented turn in the history of the modern Olympics. There is growing concern in Japan as infections spike, forcing the government to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and expand it to neighbouring prefectures.

Infections in Tokyo hit a new record of 4,058 on Saturday, topping 4,000 for the first time.

Much of the focus at the Games has been on superstar Biles, who this week stunned the world when she dropped out of the team competition after a poor opening vault and then declined to defend her all-around crown, citing concern for her mental and physical wellbeing.

“Today, after further consultation with medical staff, Simone Biles has decided to withdraw from the event finals for vault and the uneven bars,” USA Gymnastics said, adding she would continue to be evaluated daily to see whether she would compete in the finals for the floor exercise and balance beam.

Her candour has pushed the issue of athlete mental health into the spotlight and triggered an outpouring of global support. She has spoken about the “twisties”, incidents of disorientation, during some of her gravity-defying skills.

“It’s honestly petrifying trying to do a skill but not having your mind and body in sync,” Biles wrote on Instagram on Friday.

In swimming, Ledecky and Dressel added to their medal haul and took some sting off what has been a disappointing Games so far for the US swim team, whose eight golds are just half their tally from Rio.

Ledecky, who lost her 200 and 400 metre titles to Australia’s Ariarne Titmus before beating her in the 1,500, on Saturday became the first female swimmer to win six individual golds, cruising home in the 800 metres.

Taking control from the start, Ledecky increased her lead over Titmus from the 500 mark and came home more than a second ahead of her rival, winning the event for a third straight Games, another first.

“She made it tough and so it was a lot of fun to race,” Ledecky said.

World champion Dressel stormed to the 100m butterfly title in world record time, picking up his second individual gold to add to the gold he won in the 4x100 freestyle relay.

“It took a world record to win the Olympic final,” he said.

“My plan was go out quick, and then hold on.” Britain won the Olympics’ inaugural mixed 4x100 medley relay for their fourth swimming gold delivering a world record time. Britain’s four swimming golds marks their best return in more than a century.

In women’s volleyball, the US’ hope of winning a first gold took a hit when they lost ace spiker Jordan Thompson to injury in a straight-sets defeat by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team.

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