"To do something that I've done forever, and just not be able to do it because of everything I've gone through is really crazy because I love this sport so much," the four-time Olympic gold medalist said.
Months after her withdrawal from most of her events at the Tokyo Olympics sparked an international discussion about athletes' mental health, Simone Biles admitted in an interview last week that she is "still scared to do gymnastics." The 24-year-old opened up about her ongoing struggles with performing gymnastics routines in the wake of her bout with "the twisties" in an emotional interview with NBC's Today show. Although Biles returned to the mat last month as the headliner of the Gold Over America Tour featuring an all-star cast of gymnasts, she said her performances consist solely of floor routines and nothing that involves rotating in the air.
"I don't think people understand the magnitude of what I go through, but for so many years to go through everything that I've gone through having a front, I’m proud of myself," Simone Biles said. https://t.co/lj2VYmJL19— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 24, 2021
"I don't twist," she said. "I do double layout half-outs, which is my signature move on the floor, but that's never affected me. But everything else just, like, weighs so heavy, and I watch the girls do it and it's just, it's not the same. To do something that I've done forever, and just not be able to do it because of everything I've gone through is really crazy because I love this sport so much. But it's hard. I'm sorry. And I don't think people understand the magnitude of what I go through."
"But for so many years to go through everything that I've gone through, put on a front, I'm proud of myself and I'm happy that I can be a leader for the survivors and bring courage to everybody speaking up," Biles continued. "So I'm happy to be a voice for them. But we go through our own things. It's hard. The twisting, once I got back, will come back, but I'm still scared to do gymnastics." The star gymnast — who was one of the most anticipated Olympic athletes ahead of this summer's Tokyo Games — left the world stunned when she suddenly withdrew from several events, citing mental health issues that triggered "the twisties," a sudden loss of spatial awareness while midair that can be extremely dangerous and psychologically crippling for gymnasts.
“I don’t think people understand the magnitude of what I go through.”@Simone_Biles tells @hodakotb about life after the Tokyo Olympics, the next chapter of her gymnastics career, and working for the health and telemedicine app Cerebral. The company’s CEO also joins us live. pic.twitter.com/4EG6gucUcY— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 21, 2021
When asked during the interview if she would do anything differently if she could go back and have a do-over in Tokyo, the four-time Olympic gold medalist said: "I wouldn't change anything for the world. I think everything happens for a reason." According to The Washington Post, a large part of Biles' psychological burden is due to the trauma of being sexually abused by then-USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Shortly after the Olympics in September, she broke down in tears at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing while speaking about the abuse that she and other prominent gymnasts suffered from Nassar.
"I don't want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured — before, during and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse," Biles told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee while fighting back tears. "To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse." Opening up about that experience in her recent interview, she said: "To go through something like that, and to be a voice for all of the survivors and people who want to come forward and talk about their stories, it's really inspiring. But it's hard that I have to go through it, because, again, people form their own opinions and I don't really get to say what's going on."
In an appearance on MSNBC last week, Biles shared some words of advice for anyone who feels something is amiss. "I would start off by saying that it’s okay to not be okay. I support you. You're welcome on any of my platforms," she said. "I know it's a scary route to take, but go get the help. I know it's intimidating but it's worth it in the end."