Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time, ended her Olympics with a bronze but after a turbulent week in Tokyo it felt like a victory.
The four-time Olympic champion won bronze on the balance beam in Tokyo on Tuesday. Her score of 14.000 put her behind gold medalist Chenchen Guan (14.633) and Xijing Tang (14.233), both of China.
Biles pulled out of the team final due to mental health concerns then also withdrew from the all-around, floor and uneven bars. But her bronze in the beam tied her with Shannon Miller for the most by a US gymnast at the Olympics on seven.
“It wasn’t easy pulling out of all those competitions,” Biles said after clinching bronze. “People just thought it was easy, but I physically and mentally was not in the right head space and I didn’t want to jeopardize my health and my safety because at the end of the day, it’s not worth it.
“My mental and physical health is above all medals that I could ever win. So to be clear, to do beam, which I didn’t think I was going to be, just meant the world to be back out there. And I wasn’t expecting to walk away with the medal. I was just going out there doing this for me.”
Biles quickly became the story of the Games, and prompted discussion about athletes’ mental health. On Tuesday, she said it was an important conversation to have.
“I think it should be talked about a lot more, especially with athletes, because I know some of us are going through the same things and we’re always told to push through it,” she said. “But we’re all a little bit older now and we can kind of speak for ourselves. At the end of the day, we’re not just entertainment, we’re humans and there are things going on behind the scenes that we’re also trying to juggle with as well on top of sports.”