Simone Biles is now tied for the most decorated gymnast ever as well as most decorated American gymnast.
Gymnast Simon Biles withdrew from the team final at the Tokyo Olympics, citing mental health concerns. Biles is among many athletes who have called attention to the importance of mental health in recent times. While many praised her for making the right call, some criticized her decision and called her 'quitter', and it was pretty evident that none of these people were gymnasts. It appears many have been targeting Biles on social media and otherwise. Biles posted an image of the medals she won at the Tokyo Olympics and wrote, "Can’t believe it’s already been a month. Definitely not the way I planned the Olympics going, but I wouldn’t change anything for the world 🤎."
She then addressed those who continued to attack her for prioritizing her mental health during the Olympics. "I’m proud of myself and the career I’ve had thus far. This Olympics doesn’t erase the past accomplishments I’ve achieved nor does it define who I am as an athlete. I’ve pushed through so much the past couple of years, the word quitter is not in my vocabulary. For some of you that may be how you define me but keep talking because I can’t hear you over my 7 Olympic medals which tied me for the most decorated gymnast EVER as well as most decorated American gymnast 😊🤭." It certainly takes some nerve to call the most decorated gymnast a quitter.
Apart from the pressure of the Olympics, Simon Biles had also just suffered a personal loss. Her aunt had passed away unexpectedly during the Tokyo Olympics. Biles had the support of her team and the coach. "I asked [Simone] what do you need. And she said, ‘I just need some time,'" said her coach Cecile Canqueteau-Landi at the time, reported Buzzfeed News. Biles would go on to miss four individual finals — all-around, vault, uneven bars, and floor. USA Gymnastics also backed her, writing, "We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many."
She eventually returned to win a silver and bronze medal in Tokyo. "My mental and physical health is above all the medals that I could ever win," she said. Biles said she had the twisties when she pulled out of a few events. "I had no idea where I was in the air," said Biles. Gymnasts all over the world backed Biles because they knew what it meant. Twisties is a mental state where your muscle memory fails you when you're in the air mid-twist. Gymnasts lose their bearings and can even result in serious injuries. Gymnasts often experience twisties under extreme pressure.
As we reported, former gymnast and diver Catherine Burns explained Twisties by drawing a parallel with driving. "Think about something that took you a while to learn and required a lot of concentration at the time to get it right, but now is second nature. Driving a car is a good example (especially stick!) Suddenly, in the middle of driving on the freeway, right as you need to complete a tricky merge, you have totally lost your muscle memory of how to drive a car. You have to focus on making your foot press the pedal at the right angle, turn the steering wheel just so, shift gears. It's terrifying. You're moving way too fast, you're totally lost, you're trying to THINK but you know you don't usually have to think to do these maneuvers, you just feel them and do them. The twisties are like this, and often happen under pressure," she wrote.