Simone Biles returned to earn bronze in the women’s balance beam final after withdrawing from other Tokyo Olympics events due to mental health problems.
From the “twisties” that have been torturing her for the past week, she returned triumphantly. Last week, she went into great detail about “the twisties,” outlining how she lost confidence in her ability to predict what her body would do in mid-air. It’s not the first time Biles dealt with the problem, though she did say the issues followed her to both uneven bars and beam, AP News reported.
“It was something that was so out of my control,” Biles said. “But the outcome I had, at end of the day, my mental and physical health is better than any medal. So I couldn’t be mad.”
And then, unexpectedly, she returned to competition; the star gymnast received a score of 14.000, finishing behind Chinese gymnasts Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing.
“To be cleared to do beam, which I didn’t think I was going to be, just meant the world to be back out there,” she said, reports TheGuardian. “I wasn’t expecting to walk away with a medal. I was just doing this for me and what happens happens.”
She spoke with IOC President Thomas Bach afterward, then wiped tears from her eyes as she accepted her seventh Olympic gold, tying with Shannon Miller for the most by an American gymnast. Following a tumultuous eight days that shifted the focus away from the Tokyo Games and into the mental health of the athletes competing under the rings, she felt a sense of relief wash over her.
“We’re not just entertainment, we’re humans,” Biles said. “And there are things going on behind the scenes that we’re also trying to juggle with as well, on top of sports.”
Suni Lee, a teammate, placed fifth after almost losing her balance during her performance.
While everyone has an opinion on what caused Biles to withdraw from the competition, ranging from pressure to rumors about her, it is clear that Biles has no idea what went wrong. She said that her problems occurred due to the USA’s imperfect qualifying performances, in which Russia defeated them. Even though the gymnasts themselves were fine, there was a huge hurry to rectify their training problems. As she attempted to tumble on the floor, “that’s when the wires just snapped. Things were not connecting and I don’t know what went wrong. People say it’s stress related but I could not tell you because I felt fine,” according to The Guardian.
It had been difficult enough not to compete, but she knew she couldn’t do it. It was much more difficult for her to accept her diminished abilities: “My problem was why my body and my mind weren’t in sync. That’s what I couldn’t wrap my head around. What happened? Was I overtired? Where did the wires not connect? That’s what was really hard because it’s like, I trained my whole life, I was physically ready, I was fine and then this happens and it’s something that was so out of my control.”
She had to withdraw from five of the six finals for which she had spent four years training. The problems haven’t totally disappeared. She still feels sick to her stomach every time she sees a gymnast perform a double-twisting double somersault because she “cannot fathom how they’re doing it. I don’t understand.” That was the simplest trick in her floor routine just over a week ago. She will have to understand all that’s happened when she gets home. Before she even considers her future in the sport, she has to get her head around all of that.
This experience, on the other hand, has taught her several key facts about herself and life in general that she will carry with her no matter what she does next: “At the end of the day,” she said. “My mental and physical health is better than any medal.”