Simone Biles said Monday the psychological concerns that led to her dramatic withdrawal from multiple events at the Tokyo Olympics began well before she even arrived in Japan.
The American gymnastics superstar caused a sensation at the Olympics last month after retiring from the team final before later retiring from the individual all-around competition.
Biles, 24, who is considered by many to be the greatest gymnast of all time and who has won multiple gold medals in Japan, said she stepped back to make her mental health a priority.
In a video interview with her mother posted Monday by sponsor Athleta, Biles said her problems had built up over time.
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“I wouldn’t even say it started in Tokyo. I feel like it was a little deeper rooted,” Biles said.
“I think it was just the stressor. It built up over time and my body and mind just said no. But even I didn’t know I had to go through it until it just happened.”
Biles was plagued by an attack by the “Twisties” in Tokyo – a potentially dangerous phenomenon that made Turner lose his sense of direction in the air. She later returned to the Olympic arena to compete in the balance beam finals, where she won bronze.
Biles said while she was disappointed not being able to defy her usual gravity on the biggest stage of them all – she doesn’t regret putting her health and safety first.
“It just sucks. Train for five years, it doesn’t go the way you wanted it to,” Biles said in the video. “But I know I’ve helped a lot of people and athletes talk about mental health and say no. Because I knew I couldn’t go out there and compete. I knew I was going to get hurt. “
Biles added that she was surprised by the generally supportive response to her withdrawal from the Tokyo competition.
“I obviously expected to feel a lot of backlash and embarrassment,” she said. “But it’s the exact opposite. This is the first time I’ve felt human. Besides Simone Biles, I was Simone, and people kind of respected that. “
The Texan said she hopes her case now encourages others to seek help if they are concerned about their mental health.
“I know it’s not easy, but it’s really helpful,” she said. “And I know that most of the time you’re scared of feeling stupid. But as I’ve learned over the years, it’s okay to ask for help. “