US set to defend all-round title without Biles

Tokyo — Even without Simone Biles, the United States provides a solid defense of the Olympic women’s gymnastics all-purpose crown worn by Americans since the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

Undefeated in all-round competitions since 2013, Biles was seen as the key to defending the title until he dropped out of the team event in the opening round after a shock wave at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.

With a stunning admission, Biles later explained that the pressure to live up to expectations and the quest for a record gold medal had to drop out for her own mental health.

USA Gymnastics (USAG) confirmed on Wednesday that Biles would not participate in the all-round, but did not decide to return to the equipment final next week.

“After further evaluation, Simone Biles withdrew from the last individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health,” USAG said.

As the gymnast was preparing for Thursday’s overall fight, she was assigned to Sunisa Lee and Bills’ successor Jade Carey to defend her title at the Rio Olympics.

Carrie, the second-highest American after Biles and Lee in qualifying, was denied a chance to win a medal due to the all-round quota of two athletes per country.

Carrie is never considered a long shot in 9th place in Sunday qualifying.

But the United States’ best hope of hanging on a universal crown for the fifth consecutive Olympics probably rests on Lee.

The 18-year-old Hmong-American surpassed Biles on the second day of the two-day tournament, then emphasized his potential in Tokyo and finished third in qualifying after Biles and Rebeca Andrade in Brazil.

Russia is competing in Tokyo on behalf of the Russian Olympic Commission (ROC) after being stripped of its flag and national anthem for a doping breach, and is about to return with a universal title for the first time since Tatiana Gutsu. The United team was on the podium at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The ROC has two strong medal candidates, but European all-round champion Viktoriia Listunova will not be one of them after a 16-year-old woman has been sacrificed by national quota rules.

Listonova finished in 6th place, but finished in 4th and 5th place behind his compatriots Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova.

Steve Keating