When the bronze was draped around Simone Biles earlier this week, everyone thought it could be the end of one of the greatest Olympic medal runs of all time. But it seems like she might not be done quite yet.
Tokyo 2020 didn’t go as planned for the world’s greatest gymnast. She pulled herself out of a string of events after struggling with her mental health, and fought back for the bronze in Tuesday’s beams final, winning praise around the world for her perseverance and strength.
Before heading home, Biles sat down for some media appearances and told the Today show that she’s not ruling out another Olympic appearance. The superstar said she’s “leaving the door open” for a return, but has a lot to work through before she can make the call.
“I have to relish and take this Olympics in, and kind of recognize what I’ve done with my career because after 2016, I didn’t get to do that," the 24-year-old said. “Life just happens so quickly and now I have a greater appreciation for life after everything that’s happened in the last five years.”
Biles is clearly proud that she managed to fight back to a medal position this week. In an Instagram post late Tuesday, she wrote, “Not at all how I imagined or dreamed my second olympics would go but blessed to represent the USA... Leaving Tokyo with 2 more Olympic medals to add to my collection isn’t too shabby! Seven time olympic medalist.”
It’s easy to see why she’s proud. Biles told Today that she thought about completely withdrawing from the Games before clinching her medal—and had no expectations of winning anything when she stepped up.
“It definitely feels better than Rio’s bronze medal on beam [from the 2016 Olympics] but it also shows that I did it for myself, I can go out there and hit another set,” Biles said. “I was just excited to compete in the Olympics again because at the beginning I just thought it was over.”
Biles said that she’s also proud of herself for having the strength to realize that she wasn’t performing at her best and pull out. She explained in the interview that her decision came down to her not wanting to put in a bad performance and damage the medal hopes of her teammates.
“I thought that was brave of me too, just because if you would have asked me a couple years ago, I would have kept pushing through, but I’m at the age now where I kind of control my own mental well-being and I knew that it was the best decision for the team and myself,” she said.
In another interview with NBC’s Mike Tirico, Biles gave up more details about what she called the “twisties” that forced her out of competing, saying her mind and body abruptly stopped working together during one practice after she arrived in Japan.
“Just completely random,” she said. “I went to do a floor pass and I got lost in the air and I was like, ‘OK, it was a fluke.’ ... The next day we had a little practice before team final and I was like, ‘OK, well I have to do that again because that was really weird and it seemed off.’ And then I just could not get a sense of where I was in the air.”
However, Biles said she felt able to do Tuesday’s beam final after practicing what she called a “downgraded dismount” that she hadn’t attempted since she was in her early teen years. The switch made her routine a bit more simple and gave her the confidence to take the stage again.
“I just felt like I wanted to do this for me,” Biles explained. “It ended on a high, so very grateful, thankful for that.”
Despite the happy ending, Biles said she now has to work out her next steps to make sure the hardships of the past weeks were worth it. She said, “I still feel like we go back home and there's still a lot of things I need to work on internally and mentally to kind of feel like I had success here.”