Biles set for Olympic return, transgender weightlifter makes history

USA’s Simone Biles applauds during the artistic gymnastics women’s floor exercise final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, August 2, 2021. ― AFP pic
USA’s Simone Biles applauds during the artistic gymnastics women’s floor exercise final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, August 2, 2021. ― AFP pic

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TOKYO, Aug 2 ― US gymnastics star Simone Biles is due to make a dramatic return to Olympics action after her well-publicised struggles with mental health issues, as transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard prepared to make history today.

After pulling out of her first events with the “twisties”, a disorientating mental block, Biles was included on the list of eight finalists for tomorrow’s closing beam competition.

“We are so excited to confirm that you will see two US athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow ― Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!! Can’t wait to watch you both!” tweeted USA Gymnastics.

Biles came to Tokyo seeking five gold medals to equal the Olympic all-time gymnastics career record of nine, but her mental struggles have wrecked those plans.

Elsewhere on day 10 in a steaming Japan, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn claimed Puerto Rico’s first athletics gold in Games history, and Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou won the men’s long jump.

Camacho-Quinn, 24, who had set an Olympic record 12.26sec in the semi-finals of the women’s 100m hurdles, surged home to claim her first major title in 12.37sec.

World record-holder Keni Harrison of the United States took silver in 12.52sec while Jamaica’s Megan Tapper claimed bronze.

“For such a small country it gives little people hope,” said Camacho-Quinn. “I am just glad I am the person to do that.”

‘Double-double’ bid

In the men’s long jump, European champion Tentoglou leapt a best of 8.41 metres on his sixth and final attempt to snatch victory from Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarria, who also managed 8.41m but had an inferior second-best jump.

Defending 200m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah continued her audacious bid for an unprecedented Olympic women’s sprint “double-double” as the Jamaican advanced to the 200m semi-finals.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, outgunned by her teammate in the 100m final, also progressed, but 100m bronze medallist Shericka Jackson, also of Jamaica, failed to make it through after inexplicably slowing with 40 metres to run.

Christine Mboma of Namibia, who has to run the distance because her high testosterone levels mean she is barred from the 400m, clocked the fastest time, 22.11sec, to finish ahead of hot US favourite Gabby Thomas.

Belarusia’s Kristina Timanovskaya was supposed to be competing in the 200m heats but instead spent the night holed up in an Tokyo airport hotel.

Timanovskaya alleged that her team was attempting to send her home after she criticised Belarus’s athletics federation for entering her into a relay race without giving her notice.

The Czech Republic said it had offered asylum to the sprinter.

Distance runner Sifan Hassan fell in her 1,500m heat but picked herself up to finish first ― keeping alive her hopes of an unprecedented Olympic treble of 1,500, 5,000m and 10,000m.

Hassan will run in the women’s 5,000m final at the Olympic Stadium later today, with medals also up for grabs in the women’s discus and the men’s 3,000 steeplechase.

Away from the action, US shot putter Raven Saunders has risked disciplinary action after making the first protest on a medal podium of the Olympics.

The 25-year-old African-American athlete crossed her arms in an “X” gesture during yesterday’s medal ceremony after claiming silver. Podium protests are banned at the Games.

Transgender first

Weightlifting is in the spotlight today because of the participation of New Zealand’s Hubbard.

The 43-year-old, who was born male and competed as a man before transitioning, makes her Olympic debut

Later in Tokyo, China’s reigning Olympic champion Chen Long faces formidable Dane Viktor Axelsen in the men’s badminton final after Indonesia won the women’s doubles.

Track cycling started with a bang as the German team smashed Britain’s world record in women’s team pursuit qualifying ahead of the team sprint finals later at the Izu Velodrome.

China’s Liu Yang won gymnastics’ men’s rings, and China beat Germany in the women’s team sprint final as the track cycling competition got under way.

Women’s football is also reaching its closing stages with Megan Rapinoe’s USA, the world champions, taking on Canada while Australia play Sweden, runners-up at the 2016 Rio Olympics. ― AFP

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