Considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time, gold medal winner Simone Biles stunned fans last year when she withdrew from the team final at the Toyko Olympics.
Biles’ decision, made for mental health reasons, drew praise from fans, famous friends and fellow athletes, including tennis great Naomi Osaka, who herself previously pulled out of the French Open to focus on her own mental health.
“I do believe everything happens for a reason,” Biles reflects to the fashion website Net-A-Porter in a new interview about her decision, and her life both in and out of the spotlight.
The athlete explained she began suffering from a disorienting condition gymnasts call “the twisties,” when mind and body feel dangerously out of sync. “I felt scared,” she recalls of telling her coaches about her decision to sit out three major events during the Games.
Biles explains while her coaches were “100 percent supportive,” there were some seeds of doubt. They asked her, “‘Are you sure you want to do this?'” Simone recalls, “‘Because, a couple of years from now, you don’t want to have any regrets.'”
The athlete instead says she’d regret it if she didn’t withdraw.
Biles’ decision was hailed by the likes of Michelle Obama, Justin Bieber and even her “idol,” Osaka herself. “I definitely felt all those messages,” Simone said, adding, “I want people to know that they were heard and they were seen – even if I didn’t get to respond.”
The athlete explains she’s putting her downtime to good use with a “self-care” regimen she describes as “taking baths, going to the spa, having movie nights with my boyfriend and spending time at the pool with my dogs,” French Bulldogs Lilo and Rambo.
Biles got Lilo in 2017, to give her much-needed emotional support to deal with the mental health blowback from the arrest of former U.S. Olympics doctor Larry Nassar on charges he sexually abused the athletes in his care, including Biles and her teammates. Simone later joined her team on Capitol Hill to testify against the “entire system that enabled and perpetuated” the abuse — including the FBI, the inaction of which allowed it to continue even after complaints were filed.
Biles said, “That’s when I realized the power that I had.” She added, “I’ll always continue to be a voice for the voiceless. Gymnastics can be a safe place.”
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