The world’s greatest gymnast revealed in a candid interview with New York Magazine that not only should she not have competed at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, but she should have called it a career a long time ago.
In an interview with The Cut’s Camonghne Felix, Biles said that she even though she had been listed as a favorite to sweep gold medals in each event in which she competed, she should never have made another Olympic team given what she had gone through over the past seven years.
“I should have quit way before Tokyo, when Larry Nassar was in the media for two years,” Biles said. “It was too much. But I was not going to let him take something I’ve worked for since I was 6 years old. I wasn’t going to let him take that joy away from me. So I pushed past that for as long as my mind and my body would let me.”
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Biles said, however, that when people ask whether she could go back in time and make a different decision about Tokyo, she explains that she knows she made the right call.
“I wouldn’t change anything because everything happens for a reason,” Biles said. “And I learned a lot about myself — courage, resilience, how to say no and speak up for yourself.”
Biles said that while training for the Olympics, she went to therapy and worked on coping mechanisms. She said she told her therapist that she felt “good enough to go,” but the therapist said there was more to it.
“They were like, ‘Yes, you’re good enough to go and do your stuff, but you have to come back,'” Biles said. “And I was like, ‘Nah, I’m good.'”
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In the interview, Biles also opened up about how she felt after she was affected by the twisties in the Olympics. She said she started having issues after qualifiers and that no matter the fix coaches used to help her, she didn’t feel safer during her routines.
During her vault routine, she completed just 1.5 of her 2.5 flip as her muscle memory failed to come in and help her connect with where she was in the air.
“It’s so dangerous,” Biles told The Cut. “It’s basically life or death. It’s a miracle I landed on my feet. If that was any other person, they would have gone out on a stretch. As soon as I landed that vault, I went and told my coach: ‘I cannot continue.'”
When she returned from the Olympics, she had to quickly prepare for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. On Sept. 15, Biles, along with several former U.S. gymnasts, testified to the Senate that the FBI mishandled the sexual abuse investigation of Larry Nassar, and actually worked to protect USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. In 2018, Biles said she was one of the more than 200 women and girls sexually abused by Nassar during his time as the USA Gymnastics physician.
“Before we entered the room, I was in the back literally bawling my eyes out,” she told The Cut. “And then, of course, you have to pull yourself together and go out there, be strong for just that moment.”
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Biles also explained in the report that she has felt additional pressure to perform as a Black woman in the spotlight.
“As a Black woman, we just have to be greater,” Biles said. “Because even when we break records and stuff, they almost dim it down, as if it’s just normal.”
She said that she’s caring less for the expectations placed on her, and that she’s putting more focus on herself and her healing.
“It does mean sacrificing some of that stardom,” Biles said. “But at the end of the day, you can’t have it all. And if you take care of your mental well-being first, the rest will fall into place.”