She may have gotten criticism from every corner of the world, but Simone Biles has no regrets about pulling out of multiple events at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Team USA gymnast, who skipped much of the competition to prioritize her well-being and mental health, said Wednesday at the 43rd annual Simmons Leadership Conference, per People, “Walking away from the Olympic Games was a win in itself. I know a lot of people thought I failed because they expected me to go out with five or six medals, but walking out of it was my biggest win.”
At the Olympics, following her vault routine, Biles withdrew from the final individual all-around competition. She explained her graceful exit on her Instagram Stories, writing, “For anyone saying I quit. I didn’t quit my mind & body are simply not in sync.”
She also shared two videos of her training on bars, trying to complete her twisting and flipping dismount, and said that what she was supposed to do in competition and what she actually accomplished in training did not match up. When fans asked her what was wrong, she said she was experiencing the “twisties,” which is the term for when a gymnast’s air awareness is off.
Biles was on track to win six gold medals at the Tokyo Games, and after withdrawing from various exercises, she still took home the silver for women’s artistic team all-around and the bronze for women’s balance beam.
At the conference for women leaders Wednesday, Biles said, “I had to put myself into consideration for one of the first times throughout my career. Most of the time, I’ve always put myself on the back burner, because I’ve always cared and thought about everybody else before myself.”
She added, “I was like, ‘You know what? I have to do what’s best for me, what’s safe, and what’s healthy for me.'”
The gymnast said she considered competing despite not feeling her best and having no air awareness, but she said, “That would be so selfish of me to put the team’s medal contention in jeopardy, put myself in jeopardy,” adding, “I had to be like, ‘Simone, it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just sports. If you walk away from this and you still are walking, that’s a win in your book.'”
Though she was understandably devastated and confused at the time, she now sees the decision as “probably the most courageous I’ve ever been.”
“I had worked for five years and I didn’t want to let that dream go. I had to put myself first, listen to my mind and body, what my heart was telling me to do,” Biles recalled. “I had to put my pride aside and say, ‘Okay, this isn’t going to work.'”
In an Instagram post at the time, Biles shared how proud she was of herself and her team, regardless of the unfortunate circumstances. “Not at all how I imagined or dreamed my second olympics would go but blessed to represent the usa. I’ll forever cherish this unique olympic experience. thanks everyone for the endless love and support. I’m truly grateful,” she captioned a photo of the Olympic logo. “Leaving Tokyo with 2 more Olympic medals to add to my collection isn’t too shabby! 7 time olympic medalist.”
These days, Biles—who is getting ready to walk down the aisle with Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens—continues to put her mental health first by journaling, giving herself pep talks in the mirror, and attending therapy, which she said lets her “get out of my own head.”
“I’ve struggled with that growing up and to this day. Everybody’s going to tell you you’re good enough. My strength is I like proving people wrong and going above and beyond,” she said. “That’s what I like to do.”