During the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Biles made the courageous decision to take a break from competing to focus on her mental health. She experienced the “twisties” which is a gymnastics term for a dangerous sensation of not being unable to locate your body while in the air. Also, she dealt with the trauma of being a survivor of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse. She was outspoken about how USA Gymnastics and the Olympic Committee allowed the abuse to continually take place.
“I definitely do think it had an effect,” she recalled. “It’s a lot to put on one person. I feel like the guilt should be on them and should not be held over us. They should be feeling this [pain], not me.”
Back in September, Biles was named to Time‘s list of the 100 most influential people of 2021 and tennis icon Serena Williams penned the section on Biles, praising her for prioritizing her mental health.
“What she embodies truly reflects the endless potential of Black women. I wish I had her to look up to when I was younger and trying to realize my dreams,” Williams wrote.
“Simone’s greatest work, however, is what’s being done outside of the gym,” she continued. “She is using her mature voice and platform to share her personal journey of self-love, respect, and acceptance—Simone is wise beyond her years. By living her truth so loudly and by championing mental health, she is setting new standards of beauty, strength, and resilience, breaking down today’s image-obsessed stereotypes, and encouraging others to do the same. Simone is a shining example of what success looks like when you let go of what the world thinks and gather your strength from yourself … from your soul.”
“It wasn’t easy pulling out of all those competitions,” she said to ESPN at the time. “People just thought it was easy, but I physically and mentally was not in the right headspace, and I didn’t want to jeopardize my health and my safety because, at the end of the day, it’s not worth it.”
“My mental and physical health is above all medals that I could ever win,” she continued. “So to be clear, to do beam, which I didn’t think I was going to be, just meant the world to be back out there. And I wasn’t expecting to walk away with the medal. I was just going out there doing this for me.”