Simone Biles won a bronze medal on the balancing beam at the 2021 Olympics, overcoming the pressure on her mental health and a case of the “twisties,” as well as the recent loss of her aunt.
Biles’ trip to Tokyo had already been dramatic, with her withdrawing from the gymnastics team final and then pulling out of the first three apparatus finals before defending her bronze medal on balance beam on Tuesday July 3.
Biles told the media, “It wasn’t easy pulling out of all those competitions,” and “People just thought it was easy, but I physically and mentally was not in the right head space 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. 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.”
Biles father’s aunt “unexpectedly passed,” she thought “Oh my God … I just need some time.” She dialed her parents’ number. “There’s nothing I can do from here. So I’m just going to finish my week and when I get home we’ll deal with it. Gymnasts frequently encounter the twisties, which create a loss of air awareness.
After being assessed by Team USA’s training team, Biles, 24, said she was only cleared to participate in the beam, which involves minimum twisting. She finished third with a score of 14.000, behind China’s 1-2 finishers Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing, respectively.
Biles watered down her beam routine and lowered her dismount from the “Biles”—a double-twisting double tuck—to a double pike after a slew of unusual errors in her initial events.
Biles, who is now equal with Shannon Miller for the most Olympic medals by a U.S. gymnast, remarked, “I had nerves but I felt pretty good.” then “I was a little bit nervous for the dismount just because we had to switch it and I probably haven’t done a double pike dismount since I was 12 years old, so it was kind of hard to control that.”
“But to go out there and compete one more time and have everybody’s support meant the world.”
Biles rapidly became the biggest Olympic story after sparking a conversation about athletes’ mental health. While some applauded Biles for prioritizing her mental health, others chastised her for leaving her team, which ended up with a silver medal rather of the gold they had hoped for.
“I think it should be talked about a lot more, especially with athletes,” she added, “because I know some of us are going through the same things and we’re always told to push through it. … But we’re all a little bit older now and we can kind of speak for ourselves.
“At the end of the day, we’re not just entertainment, we’re humans and there are things going on behind the scenes that we’re also trying to juggle with as well on top of sports.”