Simone Biles has admitted that she should have walked away from the Olympic programme “way before” the Tokyo Games.
Biles withdrew from five of her six finals at the Olympics in July to focus on her mental health after suffering from a phenomenon known as the twisties that affected her spatial awareness when competing.
The 24-year-old, who had been expected to add to the four gold medals she won at Rio 2016, revealed in 2018 that she was one of the United States gymnasts abused by team doctor Larry Nassar, who is now serving a life sentence in jail. Earlier this month, when testifying at a senate committee hearing into the FBI’s handling of the Nassar case, she revealed how the burden of dealing with being a victim of sexual abuse had increased the pressure she felt in Tokyo.
“If you looked at everything I’ve gone through for the past seven years, I should have never made another Olympic team,” she said in a New York Magazine interview. “I should have quit way before Tokyo, when Larry Nassar was in the media for two years. 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.”
Biles had been seeing a therapist in the run-up to the Olympics and said anxiety set in on her arrival in Tokyo. Explaining her need to withdraw from events as a result of the twisties, she said: “Say up until you’re 30 years old, you have your complete eyesight (then) 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? 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?”
The 19-time world champion returned home from the rearranged Games with bronze in the balance beam, in addition to silver in the team competition.
In the interview, Biles also underlined the additional expectations on her due to her race. “As a Black woman, we just have to be greater,” she said.
“Because even when we break records and stuff, they almost dim it down, as if it’s just normal.”
Biles is currently touring America with other members of the United States’ gymnastics team and has not decided if she will return to competition.