Simone Biles Is Proud Of The 'Lesson' She Gave At The Tokyo Olympics

Alexandra Lozovschi

Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles is "prouder" of the lessons she gave the world in Tokyo than of all her medals. The 24-year-old athlete, who is one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time, spoke at length about the aftermath of her difficult Summer Games in an exclusive interview with Marca, acknowledging that her decision to bow out and put herself first "has brought real good attention to mental health."

Biles, who was named 2021's "Athlete of the Year" by Time magazine, also opened up about the difficulty of that decision, saying the support of her teammates and coaches meant "the world" to her.

Here's what else she had to say.

Prioritizing Mental Health

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The winner of two silver and bronze medals at the 2020 Olympics in July, Biles withdrew from five of her six finals to focus on her mental health. Dropping out of the competition after suffering from a psychological phenomenon known as the "twisties," which causes gymnasts to lose air awareness while performing twisting elements, the US team member was since credited for bringing the topic of mental health in sports into the spotlight.

When asked by Marca how she felt about becoming one of the images of the year, Biles said: "That was the craziest thing for me, how much talk and buzz there was around my name even though I wasn't competing."

The Columbus, Ohio native, who received the MARCA Leyenda award honoring the top legends from the world of sport, also said she felt "really proud" that her decision to prioritize her mental health led to people "taking it more seriously."

"But, obviously, I wish I could have gone out there and done a little bit more. But, with the cards I was dealt I'm not mad at the results," she added.

Health

The Olympics And Mental Health: When Simone Biles Chose To Prioritize Her Well-Being

This was how the gymnast's fellow Olympians reacted to her decision

A Difficult Decision

Speaking candidly about her choice to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics, Biles said the decision was "really hard."

"It's something I never planned or would have thought of in a million years, so to have that happen was so crazy," she told Marca, admitting that "the girls' support and my coaches' support meant the world to me."

"I wouldn't wish it on anybody, but everything happens for a reason and I think there's a lot of greatness that came out of that," she continued, adding that it "feels nice" having people understand why she chose not to compete.

"It's definitely a weight off my shoulders. But, everything that happened in Tokyo I believe there's a reason that that transpired. I'm getting the correct help that I need, but it definitely feels better to be back here in the US, surrounded by my family and my friends."

Emotional Toll

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Biles also recalled the seconds before realizing she had to stop competing, describing the moments as "a whirlwind of emotions." The gymnast superstar shared she was "really sad" to come to that realization after having "trained five years for this," stating that she "had to do what was right for the team."

"I knew that was the correct decision, but also what was right for me and my mental wellbeing," she explained.

Named one of Time's "Most Influential" 100 people in the world in September, Biles, who's been practicing gymnastics since the age of 6, elaborated on the emotional toll and pressure she's experienced throughout her career.

"Everybody just looks at gymnastics at the magnitude of just what we do in the gym and what the results are, but they don't understand I've been battling anxiety, depression, and mental health issues over the years, around the topic of Larry Nassar and the sexual abuse cases and I'm still trying to work through that myself."

'Cost' Of Mental Health

Biles, who said she "should have given up way before I did," stressed the importance of speaking up about mental health, particularly in the world of sports.

"To have that topic come to the forefront is really great, but it's sad that it's been silenced and forgotten for so many years and not as cared about," she said. "But, luckily we're bringing more attention to that."

When asked why athletes have generally found it difficult to speak up about mental health in the past, the Olympic gymnast replied: "I think it cost so much because everybody thought of us as entertainment."

Biles continued: "They feel entitled to our work and [wanted us to] just go out there and put on a brave face and compete, but now you have these sports figures and heroes standing up for themselves and saying 'I'm not doing this competition, I don't get why it has an effect on you guys when I'm really the one that's being affected.'"

Following her actions at the Tokyo Olympics, Biles graced the December cover of People magazine.

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