Simone Biles wants you to know: she withdrew from several events at the Tokyo Olympics for a valid and serious reason.
Biles returned to Olympic competition Tuesday morning in time for one last competition: the balance beam final.
She secured a bronze medal with a dazzling performance after withdrawing from the team final last week and later pulling out of the four earlier individual events: all-around, vault, uneven bars and floor exercise.
Biles pulled out of those events after experiencing the “twisties” on a vault in the team final last Tuesday, later explaining the affliction – familiar to gymnasts – as her mind and body being “not in sync” and causing her to get lost in the air.
After claiming her bronze, Biles and other U.S. gymnasts appeared on TODAY for an exclusive interview that focused on Team USA’s performance in Tokyo and the discussion surrounding mental health this Olympics.
Biles address the many misconceptions people had about her mental health and was asked what she thought the biggest misconception of her and her condition was.
“That I was at no risk and mental health isn’t a serious issue,” Biles said. “That it was basically a cop out. The girls saw me in training and my coaches saw me in training, I physically couldn’t do it safely. It’s because I was getting so lost in the air.”
The 24-year-old Biles overcame the phenomenon on balance beam, where twisting is much less prevalent than on the other apparatus in women’s gymnastics, to win bronze.
“It means more than all the golds,” Biles said of her bronze medal. “I pushed through so much over the last five years and the last week while I’ve been here. It was very emotional and I’m just proud of myself and all of these girls as well.”
Biles won four golds at the 2016 Olympics, but taking the break for her mental health gave Biles perspective on the bigger picture.
“We’re not just athletes or entertainment — we’re human, too, and we have real emotions,” Biles said. “Sometimes they don’t realize that we have things going on behind the scenes that affects us whenever we go out and compete.
“There’s more than gymnastics and medals.”
Biles was noncommittal about her future, saying she would “definitely take some time to let this Olympics sink in.”
“Maybe one day, I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Biles said about a possible future in coaching. “I’m just going to take it day by day.”
Regardless of where Biles’ career goes next, she’ll go down among the all-time greats in women’s gymnastics. She has seven career Olympic medals, tied with Shannon Miller for the most in U.S. gymnastics history.