ABOVE PHOTO: U.S. gymnast Simone Biles poses with her bronze medal for the artistic gymnastics women’s balance beam apparatus at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
By Jim Vertuno
TOKYO — Simone Biles returned to the competition at the Tokyo Olympics in style, and will leave with another medal.
What color it is really isn’t the point. That she delivered a tense, heart-pounding routine on the balance beam and nailed it with a smile meant everything.
Biles looked calm as she moved, turned and flipped across the beam. It was everyone else watching who held their breath.
“I had nerves but I felt pretty good,” she said.
Biles won the bronze medal when she drilled a slightly altered routine in front of a crowd that included IOC President Thomas Bach a week after taking herself out of several competitions to focus on her mental health.
That move by the gymnast regarded the greatest in history had amplified attention on the importance of mental health in sports in general, and among Olympians specifically.
“I was just happy to be able to perform, regardless of the outcome,” Biles said. “I did it for me, and I was just proud of myself for being able to compete one more time.”
Biles changed her routine a bit while dealing with a mental block surrounding twisting. She used a double-pike dismount — no twisting required — to score a 14.000, which was ultimately good enough for third in the eight-woman final, behind China’s Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing.
Biles earned her seventh career Olympic medal and tied Shannon Miller for the most by an American in gymnastics.
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.
The U.S. men’s basketball team rode the slender shoulders and smooth shooting of Kevin Durant to advance to the medal round with a 95-81 victory over Spain in the quarterfinals.
Durant finished with 29 points. Jayson Tatum scored 13 and Jrue Holiday added 12 for the U.S., which will play either Australia or Argentina in the semifinals on Thursday. The American men have never failed to medal in all 18 of their previous Olympics appearances.
For Durant, only one will do.
“We’ve just got to finish it. Got to finish it,” Durant said. “We’re supposed to be here. For us, it’s about getting the gold.”
It was the fifth time since 2004 that the top two programs in the most recent FIBA world rankings — the U.S. is No. 1 — had met in the Olympic quarterfinals or later, with the Americans winning each time.
Ricky Rubio scored 38 points for Spain, which led by 10 in the second quarter before the U.S. turned the game with a 36-10 run to take control.