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On Friday, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles reflected on her decision to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics this year to focus on her mental health during an Instagram Q&A with her fans. Now 24-years-old, Biles said that she would never have been able to put herself first as a teenager.
“What Olympic moment has marked you the most in your career?” asked a follower.
Biles replied, “2021. having the courage to take care & put myself first. 16 yr old simone would never.”
During 2020's Summer Games in Tokyo, Biles came down with the “twisties,” meaning she was becoming disoriented while up in the air during her routines. This can be a deadly issue, because a gymnast moves at high speeds and could easily land in an incredibly damaging position if their body and mind are not in sync. Biles removed herself from four out of five event finals to focus on getting her mental health back on track.
This year, Biles was also dealing with the very public trial against convicted child abuser Larry Nassar, a former doctor who was given charge of Biles and a number of other prominent Olympic athletes. Biles testified at his trial about her own abuse and the complicity of the system that allowed him access to so many girls for so long.
“I blame Larry Nasser, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated [sic] his abuse,” she said. “If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe.”
In Tokyo, Biles still took home a bronze medal in the balance beam final and a silver medal in Team USA's all-around final.
She told People in August that it's been a really challenging year to say the least, but it has also allowed her to live more honestly.
“Sometimes when we speak on these things, then we become the face of it. I'm not sure if I'm completely ready for that aspect of it,” she said. “Over the years, obviously, since I've been so dominant everybody supports the gymnastics and praised me for what I've done in the gym and not really outside. Then once I took a step back, I obviously was expecting to feel a lot of backlash and embarrassment. But it's the complete opposite. That's the first time I felt human. Besides Simone Biles, I was Simone, and people kind of respected that.”
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