If you are not familiar with Simone Biles, she is one of the best— if not the best — gymnasts in the world.
She rose to fame in 2013 after winning two World Championship golds at 16, including a World All-Around title. From there, she has been on a winning streak, amassing six All-Around titles, for now at least.
However, in 2020, the artistic gymnast sent shockwaves worldwide when she decided to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics. Her reason? To prioritize her mental and physical health. Let’s take a look back at Simone Biles's unexpected decision and how she has been advocating for mental health since.
Simone Biles Steps Out of The Olympics to Prioritize Mental Health
Simone Biles has proved to be the greatest in her field, and her collection of awards speaks for her. However, at some point, she started experiencing “twisties,” which she describes as not having control of her body mid-air.
For a professional like Simone, with years and years of muscle training, experiencing this is terrifying. Simone’s decision to step out of the Olympics was met with an equal share of praise and backlash, with some social media users arguing that her withdrawal was a sign of weakness or abandonment of her team.
Simone’s Sheer Bravery
After all is said and done, her decision to step out of the competition at the team finals took strength, bravery, and courage. Her decision was an expression of vulnerability and showed others that it was safe to feel the same.
Dr. Raab, a psychiatrist at Lee Health’s Behavioral Health Center, talked about the event, saying, “I always tell patients that when they acknowledge that there is something that they need to work on, that’s a strength.”
Simone made a comeback in the 2023 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships after a two-year-long hiatus. The decorated gymnast went on to win four gold medals at the event, making her the most decorated gymnast of all time. However, Simone didn’t care so much about the medals as she did with getting a chance to show the world that she still got it.
“I had to prove to myself that I could still get out here, twist,” Simone told reporters. “I could prove all the haters wrong, that I’m not a quitter, this, that and the other. For me, I didn’t care. As long as I’m out there twisting again and finding the joy for gymnastics again, who cares?”
Balancing Mental Health With Athletic Training
Simone is one successful artistic gymnast. But choosing to step out of something she loved to take care of herself is a true embodiment of self-love. Her wins after taking a hiatus show that the therapy sessions and time she took paid off.
Today, Simone says she manages her mental health with a lot of therapy, telling People magazine, “I go once a week for almost 2 hrs. I’ve had so much trauma, so being able to work on some of the traumas & work on healing is a blessing.”
Plus, conversations about mental health issues are becoming more prevalent, thanks to Simone.