Simone Biles will compete in the balance beam competition, officials said on Monday, in what would be the US superstar gymnast’s last chance for gold in Tokyo after pulling out of other events citing mental health issues.
Biles, who shocked the world last week when she withdrew from the team and several individual events, has brought athletes’ mental health into the spotlight at a pandemic-affected Games which has had its share of controversy.
Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya meanwhile took refuge in the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Monday a day after refusing her team’s orders to board a flight home from the Olympics. She has been granted a humanitarian visa by the Warsaw government.
Tsimanouskaya, 24, had been due to compete in the women’s 200 metre heats on Monday but she said that on Sunday she was taken to the airport against her will to board a Turkish Airlines flight.
She refused to board the flight, telling Reuters she feared for her life. Tsimanouskaya said she had been removed from the team as she had spoken out about what she described as the negligence of their coaches.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is meanwhile looking into the gesture US shot putter Raven Saunders made after the silver medallist raised her arms in an X above her head, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told a briefing.
Saunders later said the gesture was intended as a sign of support for the downtrodden, while the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it did not breach IOC rules.
On the track, Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn dazzled in the 100 metres hurdles, while Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece won the men’s long jump in a spectacular final leap.
The Games are taking place without spectators and under strict measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic, an unprecedented event in the history of the modern Olympics.
China has pulled ahead on the medals tally with 28 golds, followed by the United States with 21 and Japan on 17.
The Tokyo Olympics have already been complicated by public opposition, as polls have shown that most Japanese oppose holding the Games amid the worsening pandemic.
While the IOC forbids overt political expression or interference, last month it relaxed its Rule 50 that prevented athletes from protesting. Athletes are allowed to make gestures on the field, providing they do so without disruption and with respect for fellow competitors.
However, the threat of sanctions remains if any protests are made on the podium during the medal ceremony.
“Let them try and take this medal,” Saunders said in a late night post on social media in an apparent reference to the IOC’s rules restricting protests.
Athletes, however, continue to dazzle with their performances, with Camacho-Quinn winning the first Olympic gold medal in athletics for Puerto Rico at the Games.
On Monday, she exploded off the blocks to finish in 12.37 seconds despite hitting one hurdle, beating American world record holder Kendra Harrison who came in second with 12.52.
“At this point I was really running for the world record. I hit the hurdle, but everything happens for a reason. I came through with the gold. My first gold medal,” said Camacho-Quinn, who broke the Olympic record in her semi-final a day earlier.
In the men’s long jump, Tentoglou won in spectacular fashion as he leapt 8.41 metres in his final attempt to snatch the gold medal from Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarria.
Tentoglou was the world leader coming into Tokyo with an 8.60 metres leap at a domestic competition in May, but struggled to find his form and was outside the medals positions as he hit the runway for the final time.
“What an incredible competition. What an incredible jump, the last jump,” the Greek said after winning his country’s first ever gold in the long jump.