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TOKYO – While browsing the Ariake Gymnastics Center Tuesday night, Simone Biles realized she had gotten lost. “I had no idea where it was in the air,” he said afterward. His face crumpled as he trudged from the vault to the bench. He consulted with a team doctor and then withdrew from the team final. A few minutes later, as he went to find his teammates, he seemed to find himself again.
Only Biles, and maybe not even Biles, at this stage, knows what will come next for her. He said he would take the rest of the Games “one day at a time.” But she didn’t seem like a person who was eager to get back to the gym, tweak her mechanics, and get back on the podium. She has already withdrawn from the individual competition, scheduled for Thursday night in Japan. The finals of the event begin Sunday night. It’s hard to imagine her competing in them. Here’s what she has to overcome: She is the best of all time, but she has never had a positive experience at the Olympics.
Somewhere between telling his crying teammates that he was done and smiling when he accepted the silver medal they won without her, Biles relaxed. She put on her white tracksuit, dropped the waistband of her pants (she’s 4’8 ”tall), and threw herself into her role as the lead cheerleader.
At first, he flinched with each throw of the bars. His face contorted as he yelled, “Come on!” She was left alone while the athletes waited for the scores to arrive. But when his teammates started their balance beam routines, he was sporting the biggest smile of all. She looked more comfortable on the sidelines than on any gadget this week. She performed the Jordan Chiles beam routine alongside her, hitting every landing. They both danced to “Shape of You” over the public address system while they waited for the Chiles sheet music. When the result was official – Russia first, United States second, Great Britain third – Biles was the first to congratulate the winners.
Later, speaking to the media, he praised his colleagues over and over again. “They received a gold medal from me in the fight because they never gave up and just showed the world what they are capable of,” he said. She laughed and scoffed at them, joking when someone asked Chiles about filling Biles’s shoes, “They’re probably too small for her, actually.” She laughed at the questions about the decision she made to simplify her vault: “Girl, I didn’t choose to do one and a half [twist]! “
She looked tired. She looked dizzy. She seemed relaxed. She didn’t seem sorry.
If anyone can come back next week, it would be Biles. She has endured a lot. In 2018, he won the national championship with broken toes on both feet. Two months later, he won the world championship with a kidney stone. He has now won 31 Olympic medals and world championships, all in the context of serial sexual abuse by team doctor Larry Nassar.
But all of that has come at a cost. He often feels that he is carrying on his shoulders what he called “the weight of the world.” “Shit is heavy,” he said Tuesday.
At the 2016 Olympics, he won four gold medals and one bronze. She didn’t enjoy the experience, she told SI in April, because she felt like she was doing it for everyone else. “Everybody had such high expectations for me that at the end of the day, I feel like it didn’t matter what I did as long as it satisfied everyone around me,” he said.
When the 2020 Games were postponed, he considered retiring. She wasn’t sure she could endure another year of punishment on her body, another year representing the organization that had allowed Nassar to take advantage of her and her companions.
She spent the extra year learning about herself outside of the gym and remembering why she loved being in the gym. She decided that she would do these Olympics on herself.
Then it came to Tokyo. “I don’t trust myself as much as I used to,” she said Tuesday. “I don’t know if it’s my age, but I’m a little more nervous when I do gymnastics. I feel like I’m not having that much fun either, and I know that ”—she started to cry—“ at these Olympics I wanted to do it for myself, and I was still doing it for other people, so it hurts. my bad heart, that doing what I love has been taken from me ”.
It seems like she has decided that doing it herself means not doing it at all.
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• Biles, Osaka, sign of a new era of mental health prioritization
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.