Biles withdraws from two finals, Djokovic goes empty-handed again

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Gymnastics - Artistic - Women's Team - Final - Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Tokyo, Japan - July 27, 2021. Simone Biles of the United States wearing a protective face mask gestures. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from two more finals in Tokyo on Saturday, leaving it unclear whether she will compete again at the Games, and a listless Novak Djokovic failed to take bronze in tennis after his dream of a “Golden Slam” was dashed.

The surprising setbacks for stars such as Biles and Novak have been in a way fitting for the improbable Games, taking place without spectators and amid a widening pandemic. Minutes after his singles defeat, Djokovic withdrew from the mixed doubles bronze match.

New COVID-19 infections hit 4,058 in Tokyo, a new record and the first time above 4,000. The government has extended a state of emergency in the capital and expanded it to neighbouring prefectures. read more

Swimmers Katie Ledecky and Caleb Dressel recovered some lost lustre for America, while Lyu Xiaojun took gold in men’s weightlifting, bringing China’s haul in the medal tally to 21. Japan has 17 gold and the United States is at 16.

In the first instances of doping at the Games, two sprinters, Kenya’s Mark Otieno and Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, were provisionally suspended after testing positive for banned substances.

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 semi-finals.

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 well-being.

“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 & body in sync,” Biles wrote on Instagram on Friday.

TOUGH RUN

Djokovic, who won a singles bronze medal in Beijing in 2008 but has failed to earn a place on the podium at the London, Rio and now Tokyo, withdrew from the mixed doubles bronze medal match, minutes after his defeat by Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in the singles bronze match.

On Friday the Serbian lost to Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the singles semi-finals, killing his hopes of winning all four Grand Slams this year as well as the Olympic gold for a ‘Golden Slam’.

His withdrawal from the mixed doubles means women’s world number one Ashley Barty and John Peers bag a bronze medal for Australia

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 U.S. swim team, whose eight golds are just half their tally from Rio.

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