After failing to win a medal on the vault on Sunday, Jade Carey went back to the U.S. gymnastics team’s hotel and searched for ways to shake off her disappointment. With one more event to go in these Tokyo Games, the floor exercise, she needed to bounce back, and fast.
Advice from Simone Biles, her teammate, helped.
“Let it go and move on,” Carey recalled Biles telling her. “It happened and you can’t do anything about it.”
On Monday, during a floor exercise final that was more complex than that of her peers, Carey took Biles’s advice and flipped and twisted her way to Olympic gold as if there had been no pressure on her at all. Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari won silver and two gymnasts tied for bronze: Mai Murakami of Japan and Angelina Melnikova of Russia.
A day later, Biles is set to take her own advice.
After withdrawing from most of her events at these Olympics because of mental health issues, Biles will compete in the balance beam final on Tuesday, her last possible event in Tokyo. U.S.A. Gymnastics announced Biles’s decision on Monday just before the start of the floor exercise final.
“We are so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow — Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!! Can’t wait to watch you both!” U.S.A. Gymnastics said in an emailed statement.
Biles, who had qualified for all four apparatus finals at these Games, elected to skip Sunday’s floor exercise final, the vault and uneven bars finals and the all-around final as well, after withdrawing from the team final last week after it had started.
At that team final, she performed a vault that was 1½ instead of 2½ twists, then promptly backed out of the rest of the competition, later saying it would have been too dangerous for her to try to perform her daring routines. She explained that she was struggling with a mental block that caused her to lose the ability to gauge where she was in the air in relation to the ground.
Her teammates went on without her and the team finished the night with a silver medal. It was the first time in more than a decade that the U.S. team had not won the team final at an Olympics or a world championships.
“Literally can not tell up from down,” Biles wrote in an Instagram story last week. “It’s the craziest feeling ever. Not having an inch of control over your body.”
Biles, the four-time Olympic gold medalist, wrote that she “seriously cannot comprehend how to twist,” and was training in a local Tokyo gym to try to ease her way back to doing her skills. It was both scary and disappointing, she said, explaining that her body was not doing what her brain would tell it to.
Competing on Tuesday gives Biles’s mind and body one more formal chance to work together at these Games. If she does finish first in the balance beam competition, it would be redemption for her performance in the beam final at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, where she faltered and finished third to win the bronze medal.
Tuesday’s competition might also be something more than just an opportunity for yet another award for Biles, who already is the most decorated gymnast in the sport. It could be her farewell bow.
Biles, 24, is considering retirement, though has hinted that she might return as a vault specialist at the 2024 Games in Paris, to honor her French coaches. Still, life outside of gymnastics is calling, and she has said she is eager to start the next chapter — one outside of the gym, without pressure. Certainly without the kind of pressure that Carey felt on Monday during the floor exercise final, where she had one final shot at a gold medal at these Olympics.
Carey, who is 21 and from Phoenix, traveled the world with her father, Brian, who is her coach, to qualify for these Summer Games through her finishes in the World Cup series. That Olympic berth did not allow her to compete with the U.S. squad in the team competition, but it gave her the chance to win individual events.
She qualified for the finals in both the vault and the floor exercise. Her performance in the vault final left her devastated.
Carey tripped during her run-up to her first vault and was forced to simplify the skill she had planned to do. Her low score on that vault ruined her chances for a medal. She left the competition in tears.
“Yesterday was really tough for me,” Carey said on Monday, calling it “a kind of a blur.” She said her U.S. teammates, especially Simone Biles, gave her a pep talk once she returned to the team’s hotel. But for the most part, she wanted to be alone, so she grabbed some food and went to her room to eat by herself.
On Monday morning, her father sat her down to discuss the situation. He told her, “Yesterday was one of the worst days of your life, but today can be one of the best days of your life.” Turns out that he was right.
Jade Carey came into the floor exercise final with a clear head and a will to do her best.
“For tonight, I just had to let that go,” she said.
In her last performance in Tokyo, Carey easily knocked out double flips with double twists and ended her routine with a full twisting double back flip.
She called it “the best floor routine I’ve ever done in my life.”
After realizing that she had won, Carey gave her father a big hug as her American teammates, including Biles, cheered loudly from the stands. The day before, the father and daughter had hugged on the competition floor, but out of sadness.
But this time, minutes before Jade Carey would slip the Olympic gold medal over her neck, they hugged out of joy.
“Having my dad here with me is really special,” she said. “It’s all we’ve ever dreamed of.”
Maggie Astor contributed reporting.