In an interview with the Cut, Olympic champion Simone Biles made a powerful admission: “If you looked at everything I’ve gone through for the past seven years, I should have never made another Olympic team.”
Entering the Tokyo Olympics, the 24-year-old was heavily favored to take home five gold medals. Sadly, a serious case of “the twisties” created mental blocks that prevented her from being able to control her body in mid-air. As such, she was forced to withdraw from competition in order to preserve her safety and mental health. She would eventually return in time to compete in her final event, the balance beam, and earn bronze, but it’s clear that the entire ordeal has taken a toll on the seven-time Olympic medalist.
“I should have quit way before Tokyo, when Larry Nassar was in the media for two years,” she said. “It was too much. But I was not going to let him take something I’ve worked for since I was six years old. I wasn’t going to let him take that joy away from me. So I pushed past that for as long as my mind and my body would let me.”
As we previously reported at The Root, Biles was one of four U.S. gymnasts who testified to Congress, describing the abuse she suffered at the hands of Nassar:
Disgraced former U.S. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is currently serving up to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse and assaults upon hundreds of girls and women placed in his care. But as Simone Biles told Congress: “The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us.”
Biles was one of four U.S. gymnasts—including former Olympians Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, and former NCAA gymnast Maggie Nichols—who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, accusing the FBI of mishandling the case and failing to immediately act in response to allegations of misconduct by Nassar, therefore not bringing him to justice sooner.
“It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter,” Raisman testified, according to the Washington Post.
In discussing what it was like to try to compete during the Tokyo Olympics, Biles compared it to going blind as an adult.
“Say up until you’re 30 years old, you have your complete eyesight. One morning, you wake up, you can’t see shit, but people tell you to go on and do your daily job as if you still have your eyesight. You’d be lost, wouldn’t you?” she asked. “That’s the only thing I can relate it to. I have been doing gymnastics for 18 years. I woke up—lost it. How am I supposed to go on with my day?”
Further illustrating the challenges Biles faced in Toyko are the latest episodes of her Facebook Watch series, Simone vs. Herself. In the show’s grand finale, the Texas native tearfully admits she feels “like an idiot” and explains how difficult it was to compete with her mind and body out of sync.
“I feel like I put too much pressure on myself in everything that’s happening,” she said on July 26, the day before the team final. “I just feel like mentally I’m struggling.”
Confessing her frustration and feeling “like an idiot,” Biles demonstrated to the camera, and herself, that she was able to execute parts of her routines by flipping on her hotel room bed. “I know how to do gymnastics, it’s just frick,” she admitted about the disorientation.
Later on in the episode, we also hear the phone call that Biles made to her mother prior to withdrawing from the team final.
“You can’t do it, honey. That’s okay,” her mother, Nellie, tells her over the phone. “They will do their best without you.”
With the Olympics behind her, hopefully Biles tasks the time she needs to tend to her psychological and emotional well-being. Regardless of what’s been said, she’s not a quitter and instead is a true symbol of strength and courage.