Simone Biles is famous for many things. She’s the most decorated gymnast in U.S history and widely considered one of the greatest of all time in the sport. But since the Tokyo Olympics, Biles has become famous for something much more important: for having the courage to put herself first, even in the face of tremendous outside pressure and the weight of expectations.
Biles’ monumental decision to withdraw from the competition for the individual all-around event, as well as the uneven bars, vault, and floor finals, which she’d qualified for, shocked the world. It all came on the heels of Simone developing a case of “the twisties,” a gymnastics term that essentially means she had lost awareness of herself while on the air. That meant every move she performed was potentially life-threatening.
“Say up until you’re 30 years old, you have your complete eyesight,” Biles told The Cut for its latest cover story featuring the gymnast. “One morning, you wake up, you can’t see shit, but people tell you to go on and do your daily job as if you still have your eyesight. You’d be lost, wouldn’t you? That’s the only thing I can relate it to. I have been doing gymnastics for 18 years. I woke up — lost it. How am I supposed to go on with my day?”
Biles didn’t. And the world, her fans came to her support.
It was especially big of Biles, the star who famously only remained in the sport to keep up the pressure against USA Gymnastics, the governing body of the sport, the same one who, for years, protected Larry Nassar, the team doctor who allegedly abused over 100 girls and women, including Biles. A couple of weeks ago, Biles went on to testify in front of the U.S Senate’s Judiciary Committee in an investigation about the FBI’s handling of the Nassar Investigation.
“If you looked at everything I’ve gone through for the past seven years, I should have never made another Olympic team,” Biles shared in her interview with The Cut. “I should have quit way before Tokyo, when Larry Nassar was in the media for two years. 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.”
As emphasized in this latest cover and interview, Biles put herself first, and by doing so, showed an entire generation of girls and women that it’s okay to put your own mental health over everything else – even during the “biggest moment of your life.” No, especially in that moment.