Simone Biles now admits she “should have quit” gymnastics long before the Tokyo Olympics.
The 24-year-old said she finally buckled under a range of stresses at the July event — including the unresolved trauma of having been sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
“I should have quit way before Tokyo, when Larry Nassar was in the media for two years,” the gymnast told New York Magazine. “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 as long as my mind and my body would let me.”
The diminutive Texan said she knew her withdrawal from Tokyo was inevitable after she developed a case of the “twisties” — a severance of communication between mind and body.
When the condition strikes in the midst of a high-flying gymnastics feat, the consequences can be dire.
“Say up until you are 30 years old you have your complete eyesight,” she said of her airborne instincts. “One morning, you wake up, you can’t see s—. 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?”
Biles delivered tearful testimony against Nassar in front of the Senate this month — and pinned blame on USA Gymnastics for failing to halt his reign of abuse.
While Nassar’s crimes came to light in 2016, Biles remained mum about her involvement in the case until 2018.
Biles said she has forged a fragile peace with her Olympic departure in recent months.
Detaching from competitive athletics has allowed her to travel and reorient toward her boyfriend and family.
But Biles, who once spent time in foster care due her mother’s struggles with addiction, said she still struggles with her Olympic resignation.
“Sometimes it’s like, yeah, I’m perfectly okay with it,” she said. “Like, that’s how it works. That’s how it panned out. And then other times I’ll just start bawling at the house.”
She credited Mark Manson’s bestseller “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F—” for helping her prioritize her own needs over the expectations of others.
Biles, who has amassed 32 Olympic and world championships — including a gold and a silver medal in Tokyo — said that race has also ratcheted up her internal pressures.
“As a black woman, we just have to be greater,” she said. “Because even when we break records and stuff, they almost just dim it down. as if it’s just normal.”
Despite the tumult of the last few months, Biles told the magazine that she had no regrets.
“No, I wouldn’t change anything because everything happens for a reason,” she said. “And I learned a lot about myself — courage, resilience, how to say no and speak up for yourself.”
Despite the blizzard of often critical media coverage that followed her exit from the Tokyo games, Biles seemed comfortably cognizant of her place in sporting history.
“It will be a long time for someone to accomplish what I’ve accomplished,” she said.