US gymnast Simone Biles said she overcame her mental health issues thanks to “secret” workouts at a facility about an hour outside of the Tokyo Olympics.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Simone Biles, her coaches, and a team doctor would travel to Junetendo University gym three times over the past week to train in private for two hours each time. Biles was suffering from “the twisties,” a phenomenon where gymnasts lose the ability to orient themselves while doing aerial maneuvers. It’s also incredibly dangerous, as Biles showed in a training video.
It was so bad that she was forced to withdraw from several events at the Olympics. Her decision to focus on her mental health rather than risk her safety drew scorn and praise. And it made her the center of a heated debate, something she wasn’t going to help her overcome her issues.
So, Biles needed a facility away from prying eyes that had soft mats and people who could keep a secret. Whenever Biles would show up, Junetendo University would lock the doors so she could train in peace.
Biles returned to Olympic competition on Tuesday for the Balance Beam final. It was the final event she could compete in, in what could be the 24-year-old’s last Olympics. And the G.O.A.T. proved her mettle, earning a bronze medal. That ties Shannon Miller’s record for the most medals ever for an American gymnast. Though, Simone Biles has more gold medals.
But this bronze is more precious to Biles.
“It means more than all the golds because I’ve pushed through so much the last five years and the last week while I’ve even been here,” Simone Biles told the TODAY show. “It was very emotional, and I’m just proud of myself and just all of these girls, as well.”
Simone Biles: ‘We’re Humans’ Not ‘Entertainment’
Simone Biles pushed back against criticisms she received for withdrawing from several events at the Tokyo Olympics. She admits that she was struggling, but that’s part of being a world-class athlete. It just, unfortunately, happened to her on a worldwide stage.
“Mentally I still have a lot of things that I have to work on but to bring the topic of conversation on mental health to light means the world to me,” Biles told the TODAY show. “People have to realize that at the end of the day we’re humans, we’re not just entertainment. There are things going on behind the scenes that people have no idea about.”
Other athletes have come forward to defend Biles’ decision. Swimmer Michael Phelps, arguably America’s greatest Olympian, said Biles showed courage in being so open about her struggles. And she deserves the respect to be able to deal with her issues without facing criticism from those who don’t understand the pressure of the Olympics.
“We’re human beings,” he said on Wednesday. “We have emotions. We deal with things just like everybody else does. It’s difficult. I would say we want [to have] support. We feel the love from everybody else.”