Simone Biles explains competition withdrawal at Olympics: 'My mind and body are simply not in sync'
"I didn't have a bad performance and quit," the gymnast wrote.
Simone Biles spoke out for the first time since she shocked the world by dropping out of the team final and women's individual all-around at the Tokyo Games to focus on her physical and mental health.
On her Instagram Story Thursday night, the Team USA gymnast, who has six Olympic medals under her belt (four golds, one silver, one bronze), explained to fans why she decided to gracefully exit.
The 24-year-old started off by posting two videos of her training on bars, trying complete her twisting and flipping dismount. She explained that what she is supposed to do in competition and what she actually accomplished in training Thursday morning do not match up.
"For anyone saying I quit. I didn't quit my mind & body are simply not in sync," she wrote. "As you can see here."
"I don't think you realize how dangerous this is on hard/competition surface," she wrote about the twist. "Nor do I have to explain why I put my health first. Physical health is mental health."
She explained that in competition, she is supposed to do one-and-a-half more twists than what she was able to do in training. "Almost there but not quite," she wrote, later adding, "Sometimes I can't even fathom twisting. I seriously cannot comprehend how to twist. Strangest & weirdest thing as well as feeling."
She is also used to landing on a soft mat, which breaks the impact from a hard fall.
On her Instagram Story, Biles said she did not have a problem with her Olympic routine before she left the U.S. for Tokyo. "It randomly started happening after prelims competition the VERY next morning," she wrote. "By that time NO an alternative was not allowed to be placed in my position for you 'know it alls.'"
"We have 4 on a team for a reason," she continued. "I chose to not continue team competition in jeopardizing losing a medal (of any color) for the girls/US."
Biles opened her Story to questions from fans, answering honestly when asked what it's like to experience the "twisties," which is the term for when a gymnast's air awareness is off.
"Literally can not tell up from down. It's the craziest feeling ever. Not having an inch of control over your body. What's even scarier is since I have no idea where I am in the air, I also have NO idea how I am going to land. Or what I am going to land on. Head/hands/feet back…," Biles wrote. "I didn't have a bad performance and quit. I've had plenty of bad performances throughout my career and finished competition. I simply got so lost my safety was at risk as well as a team medal."
For any gymnast, especially an elite one like Biles, air awareness is key, as it means that at all times during a skill, they know where they are in the air and how long they have until they reach the floor. The Olympian said she has had the twisties before, and has heard that they may be triggered by stress -- but she's not sure that's what's happening to her.
"It's honestly petrifying trying to do a skill but not having your mind & body in sync," she wrote. "10/10 do not recommend."
She also admitted that she doesn't know how she made it through her vault routine, as she felt completely off while doing it.
"I also have no idea how I landed on my feet on that vault bc if you look at the pictures & my eyes you can see how confused I am as to where I am in the air," she said. "Thankfully I landed safe enough but I also don't think some of you realize I was supposed to do a 2 ½ and I only completed 1 ½ twists before it looks like I got shot out of the air."
Since Biles' withdrawal from the team final and individual all-around, many have rushed to her defense, agreeing that prioritizing mental and physical health is more important that competing for a medal.
The gymnast thanked her supporters in an Instagram post earlier this week. "The outpouring love & support I've received has made me realize I'm more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before," she wrote alongside a photo of herself at the Games.
Biles also celebrated her teammate Sunisa Lee, who took home the gold for the women's artistic individual all-around. "CONGRATS PRINCESS 🤍✨✨ absolutely killed it!!! OLYMPIC CHAMPION RIGHT HERE !!! So so so beyond proud of you!!!!" Biles captioned a photo of the two holding up their Olympic medals together.
Biles was on track to win six gold medals at the Tokyo Games, as she qualified in all six of the women's gymnastics finals: team, individual all-around, vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor.
"Simone will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether or not to participate in next week's individual event finals," USA Gymnastics said in a statement Wednesday. "We wholeheartedly support Simone's decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many."