Simone Biles boarded the flight to Tokyo with a mission to tie the record for the most decorated female gymnast at the Tokyo Olympics. The Tokyo Games were supposed to be the American’s coronation as the GOAT of gymnastics. Instead, it turned out to be a tryst as she pulled out of the finals of almost all the events.
Following her decision to step away from the game for a while, Biles shared the hardships of being an American gymnast. From the hardships of competing against the best to living up to the expectations of the masses, the 24-year-old poured her heart out highlighting her journey to the pinnacle.
“Everybody just looks at gymnastics at the magnitude of just what we do in the gym and what the results are, but they don’t understand I’ve been battling anxiety, depression and mental health issues over the years, around the topic of Larry Nassar and the sexual abuse cases and I’m still trying to work through that myself,” she told Marca
“To just put on a brave face and go out and compete, people expect a little bit too much with everything that we’ve been through. Then there’s the weight of USA Gymnastics and having to be a voice for that and stand up for all the girls. It’s just the craziest thing. With everything we’ve gone through to this point, I feel like I should have given up way before I did, so I look at how far I’ve come with everything that happened.“
Tokyo Olympics debacle continues to haunt Simone Biles
Biles withdrew from five of her six finals at Tokyo 2020 to focus on her mental health. The four-time gold medallist suffered from a phenomenon known as the twisties that affected her spatial awareness during the competition. The decision to step away from the Olympic finals for which she has been training for five years was a courageous decision and was welcomed by all.
Months after the Tokyo debacle, the decorated gymnast is afraid to take to the floor. Simone Biles shares that she is “scared” to do some twists and skills. She adds that her coaching staff has been very supportive and have allowed her to take her time and play around when she feels up to it.
“Yes, some of the skills which I twist a lot on and flip a lot on, I am really scared to do just because of everything that happened. But, [my coaches] are really great every time I come into the gym if I want to play around. They make sure I’m doing all the proper steps, so they definitely make me feel a lot better.“
Off late, numerous athletes have come forward to voice their concerns over mental health. From Michael Phelps to Naomi Osaka along with numerous cricketers have taken a stand for their mental health as the stigma around it looks to be breaking. Simone Biles is glad that athletes, who were earlier seen only as entertainers, are finally taking a stand.
“I think it cost so much because everybody thought of us as entertainment and they feel entitled to our work and [wanted us to] just go out there and put on a brave face and compete, but now you have these sports figures and heroes standing up for themselves and saying ‘I’m not doing this competition, I don’t get why it has an effect on you guys when I’m really the one that’s being affected‘.”
“To have that topic come to the forefront is really great, but it’s sad that it’s been silenced and forgotten for so many years and not as cared about. But, luckily we’re bringing more attention to that.“
Simone Biles is tired of all this noise around her apart from the sport and she feels it needs to stop. “Yeah, I definitely think there could be a better light shined on the sport because it’s a very unique and beautiful sport. But, anything to get the buzz going and for them to feel relevant, they’ll just say anything, no matter if it hurts anybody else. So…” she concluded.