Simone Biles finally revealed the reason she bowed out of the women’s team competition at the Tokyo Olympics. The G.O.A.T explained that she’s feeling the pressure to live up to her name. And after a shaky performance during the preliminaries, Biles is feeling stressed and anxious.
“After that performance, I just didn’t want to go on,” the four-time Olympic champion told reporters. “I’m just dealing with things internally that will get fixed in the next couple of days.”
On Tuesday, Simone Biles withdrew from the competition, leaving her teammates to fend off the Russian gymnasts on their own. USA gymnastics was not able to grab gold but the team did earn a spot on the podium, taking silver instead. The shocking withdrawal from Biles was a shock to the system, not just for her team but for her supporters in the United States.
“Physically, I feel good, I’m in shape,” Biles admitted to Hoda Kotb in Tokyo. She then explained that it’s her mental state that’s the issue. “Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment. Coming here to the Olympics and being the head star isn’t an easy feat.”
“After the performance that I did, I didn’t want to go into any of the other events second-guessing myself, so I thought it was better if I took a step back and let these girls go out there and do the job and they did just that,” Biles explained of her withdrawal. “We have to protect our body and our mind. It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.”
Simone Biles is still human, according to her former teammate Aly Raisman, who competed alongside Biles at the 2016 Rio Olympics. In an interview with the Today show, Raisman said she doesn’t know the pressure Biles is feeling and claims that it’s “way too much.”
“People forget that Simone is human,” Raisman explained during the interview. “I can only speak from my own experience, and then watching the pressure that’s on Simone, she had way more pressure [than what] was on me. I felt like it was too much for me to handle. I would say way too much pressure. The amount of pressure that everyone has been putting on her is just, it’s too much.”
Aly Raisman pointed out that “the U.S. gymnasts did the best that they could. They did a great job, and they have so much to be proud of. And I think it’s important that we start saying they won the silver medal.”
Laurie Hernandez also addressed the immense pressure Simon Biles is feeling. Hernandez competed with Biles in 2016 and said in a statement Tuesday that what happened to the Olympian was a symptom of that pressure.
“When something like this happens, there’s just immense pressure [and] this feeling of, ‘I don’t want to let my team down,'” Hernandez explained. “We don’t want to speculate [about why Simone exited] … at the end of the day, mentally, physically, we just want to make sure she’s okay.”
Before the G.O.A.T addressed her withdrawal from the team competition, she posted a hint on her Instagram that the pressure was mounting. She wrote on Instagram Monday that the “weight of the world” is on her shoulders. “The Olympics is no joke!”
Simone Biles isn’t the only USA gymnast to feel the “weight of the world.” The controversy surrounding USA Gymnastics was brought to light in the last few years, with gymnasts claiming the institution is plagued with verbal and emotional abuse.
A story published in The Associated Press in 2018 details the tremendous struggle U.S. gymnasts face while training for competitions. Thirteen athletes and three coaches described countless examples of emotional and physical abuse throughout their training. From lifelong injuries to crippling anxiety, there are extreme consequences involved. And the problem hasn’t been resolved.
In fact, that problem is decades old. There have been multiple accounts of gymnasts cracking under pressure during competition, resulting in injury and emotional trauma.
In 1992, Kim Zmeskal performed poorly despite being picked as a clear-cut favorite of the Olympic games. She faltered multiple times and did not secure a top spot in the Olympics. It was later revealed that the athlete suffered from a stress fracture in her ankle before the competition and competed anyway.
Kim Zmeskal’s case brought to light a very serious question: Are we pushing gymnasts too hard?
While people have become aware of the issues involving USA Gymnastics, many issues remain. Simone Biles is clearly feeling anxious, feeling like she holds the weight of U.S. victory on her shoulders.
Despite her emotional pain, the world still wants to know if she is going to compete in the all-around competition. Even with her inner struggles, most people are focused on winning gold.
When asked whether she was still going to compete, Biles said that “yes” she is still going to compete. While confident at first, Biles’ answer has changed slightly. “We’re gonna take it day by day, and we’re just gonna see,” she told reporters.
It’s unclear whether USA Gymnastics will look out for Simone Biles ahead of the competition. In a statement, the institution claimed that “[Simone] will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions,” though what happens backstage is anyone’s guess.