Simone Biles' brutal new confession about Tokyo Olympics dramas

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Simone Biles has opened up about her mental state leading into the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Simone Biles has opened up about her mental state leading into the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

American gymnastics superstar Simone Biles has further opened up about her troubled trip to the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year, revealing the toll being the face of the sport had taken.

Biles withdrew from the majority of her events very early in the gymnastics program after losing her sense of 'air awareness' in an early event.

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She felt it would be unsafe to continue to attempt the complicated aerial manoeuvres that she's made her name with, withstanding a barrage of criticism for her decision.

In a recent interview with The Cut, Biles said if she had her time again, she would have withdrawn from the Olympics long before her struggles in Tokyo.

Not because there was any way to foresee the loss of air awareness, but because the previous seven years of holding USA Gymnastics to account over the abuse of herself and dozens of other gymnasts at the hands of disgraced former team doctor Larry Nassar.

Prior to the Olympics, Biles had spoken about the responsibility that she felt to perform as a member of the U.S. Gymnastics team after the organisation had failed to protect athletes from sexual abuse, including herself. 

She even told Glamour magazine that despite wanting to give up, she was inclined to stay with the organisation to serve as a reminder of the work that needs to be done to improve its abusive culture. 

Still, she wouldn't have imagined the toll that the pressure would have on both her body and mind when it came to her Olympic performance.

"It was hard to be in the gym mentally some days," Biles said, sharing that she had been attending therapy to work through those challenges. 

When it came time to head to Tokyo, she felt she was prepared. 

"I'm good enough to go," she recalls telling her therapist. "And they were like, ‘Yes, you're good enough to go and do your stuff, but you have to come back.' And I was like, 'Nah, I'm good.'"

Still, Biles felt a build-up of anxiety as it came time to compete. 

After her performance on vault and her decision to not continue competing, she assures it wasn't just a mood that led her there. 

"If I still had my air awareness, and I just was having a bad day, I would have continued. But it was more than that," she said. 

"My perspective has never changed so quickly from wanting to be on a podium to wanting to be able to go home, by myself, without any crutches."

Simone Biles opens up on devastating Tokyo Olympics run

The phenomenon of losing her way through the elements that she's practiced countless times before is difficult to explain. 

As soon as she couldn't perform properly, however, she knew what was at stake.

"I was not physically capable. Every avenue we tried, my body was like, Simone, chill. Sit down. We’re not doing it. And I've never experienced that," she explained. 

"It's so dangerous. It's basically life or death. It’s a miracle I landed on my feet. If that was any other person, they would have gone out on a stretcher. As soon as I landed that vault, I went and told my coach: 'I cannot continue.'"

Despite withdrawing from aerial events at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles earned bronze in the balance beam. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Despite withdrawing from aerial events at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles earned bronze in the balance beam. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

But as the greatest gymnast of all time and the most decorated at just 24 years old, her skill is just as unexplainable.

"It's kind of unheard of to win as many things as I have. I don't physically understand how I do it," she said of her abilities. "It was a God-given talent."

As difficult as it's been to foster that talent, Biles is coming to terms with the fact that it will be just as difficult to work on the toll that the sport has taken on her mental health.

"This will probably be something I work through for 20 years. No matter how much I try to forget. It's a work in progress," she said. 

"It does mean sacrificing some of that stardom. But at the end of the day, you can’t have it all. And if you take care of your mental well-being first, the rest will fall into place."

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