Even the GOAT requires a break from time to time. Simone Biles shocked the world by withdrawing from the Olympics in Tokyo, but it wasn’t the first time she’d advocated for her mental health.
In July 2021, the four-time Olympic gold medalist fell while attempting to land a vault in the team final in Japan, forcing her to withdraw from the competition. Jordan Chiles, Suni Lee, and Grace McCallum continued without their leader, eventually finishing second behind the Russian Olympic Committee.
Despite being seen consulting with the team’s training staff, Simone Biles later confirmed that she was “thankfully” not injured. “That’s why I took a step back; I didn’t want to do something stupid out there and get hurt,” she explained to reporters after the medal ceremony.
“I thought it would be best if these girls took over and finished the job — which they absolutely did; they’re now Olympic silver medalists.” And they should be very proud of themselves for how well they performed at the last minute when they had to adjust.”
While attempting her risky skill, the Dancing With the Stars alum “got a little bit lost in the air. It’s just something we need to work on in the gym,” she explained.
Long-time fans of the gymnast were taken aback to see her do anything other than persevere in the face of adversity. Staying in the competition, on the other hand, could have “robbed” the team of their medal and could have resulted in serious injury.
“I knew they would be OK without me. Just watching them train, they’re a couple of the strongest competitors I know. Their heads are always on straight, and they have a lot of dedication and courage,” Biles said of her elite teammates.
Simone Biles has proven to be one of the best athletes in the world not just in her sport but she has also had her share of battles behind the scenes.
She revealed in 2018 that she was one of many gymnasts sexually abused by former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar, who also abused Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Gabby Douglas. For assaulting women and girls, he faces more than 170 years in prison.
Because she was still coming to terms with what had happened, the Ohio native did not immediately come forward with her story. “It’s not like we had a lot of people to talk about it with,” she recalled in a Simone vs Herself episode.
“I remember asking one of my friends, ‘Hey, have I been sexually assaulted?’ at first thinking I was being dramatic, but she said, ‘No, absolutely.'”
Biles admitted in the Facebook series that after accepting that she was a survivor of abuse, she felt “super depressed” and “shut everybody out.”
“With gymnasts, when you get injured, your heal time is four to six weeks, but then with something so traumatic that happens like this? There is no four to six weeks, so it’s hard for us to process that. There’s, like, no time limit or healing time for it, so you just take it day by day,” she added.
Raisman was one of many athletes who expressed their support for Biles following her withdrawal from the Tokyo tournament in July 2021. Former teammate Laurie Hernandez reminded fans that more than just a gold medal is at stake.
“When something like this happens, there’s just immense pressure [and] this feeling of, ‘I don’t want to let my team down.’ … At the end of the day, mentally, physically, we just want to make sure she’s OK,” she told Today at the time.
“Having to put that much pressure on Simone to carry the team to gold, it’s not fair. This is a team of four, not a team of one.”