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Uninspiring Biles can still win six golds

Simone Biles will get a chance to atone for an uninspiring qualifying effort, having a shot at six gold medals that would enshrine the American gymnast in the pantheon of all-time Olympic greats.

Already regarded as one of the sport’s all-time greats, Biles arrived in Tokyo targeting a record haul.

The American currently shares the women’s gymnastics record of capturing four golds at a single Olympics with a number of others, including Larisa Latynina, Vera Caslavska and Ecaterina Szabo.

The 24-year-old had been expected to launch an all-out assault on the podium and record books in Tokyo but her first appearance at the Ariake Gymnastics Stadium on Saturday was not without a bit of stress and drama.

Indeed, she had to wait until well into the evening before finding out that she was among the eight qualifiers who’d just made the cut for the asymmetric bars and balance beam finals.

After completing her last routine on the beam, a grim-faced Biles looked up at the scoreboard and exited the arena without talking to the media.

Despite some initial disappointment with her effort, Biles will have a packed program in Tokyo leading the US defence of their team title and her all-around crown.

She’ll then compete in the finals of the beam, uneven bars, vault and floor exercise.

If the Americans, who were surprisingly pipped by the Russians in qualifying, capture the team gold on Tuesday, Biles could potentially still win six golds.

With the five medals she won in Rio in 2016, Biles needs three more to move past Shannon Miller as the most decorated US gymnast in history.

Four more and she will also break the gymnastics record of combined world and Olympic 33-medal haul held by Vitaly Scherbo, of Belarus.

With no spectators allowed inside the arena due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was very much a business-like effort by Biles and her American teammates. However, it was far from business as usual with a resurgent Russian team firing a warning shot.

On Sunday, they earned a combined total of 171.629, more than a full point clear of the Americans, who finished with 170.562.

With zero energy in the building, Biles got the competition off to a flat start by flying off the mat with both feet at the end of one tumbling pass during her floor exercise.

But such was the degree of difficulty of her routine that even with the big error she still drew the second-highest score, behind only Vanessa Ferrari of Italy.

She finished with the top mark in the vault, but could not find her best form on the beam and asymmetric bars.

In fact, her score of 14.566 on the uneven bars left her trailing in 10th but she squeezed into the final thanks to an Olympic rule that limits only two finalists per nation, with two higher-placed Russians missing out.

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