(NEW YORK) — Considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time, gold medal winner Simone Biles stunned fans last year when she withdrew from the team final at the Toyko Olympics.
The athlete drew praise from fans, famous friends and fellow athletes, including tennis great Naomi Osaka, who herself had pulled out of the French Open to focus on her mental health.
“I do believe everything happens for a reason,” Biles recently shared with NET-A-PORTER’s digital title PORTER in a cover story about her decision and her life both in and out of the spotlight.
The athlete explained she began suffering from a disorienting condition gymnasts call “the twisties,” when an acrobat’s mind and body feel dangerously out of sync.
“I felt scared,” she recalled of telling her coaches about her decision to sit out three major events during the Games.
Biles explained that while her coaches were “100% supportive,” there were some seeds of doubt. She said they asked her, “‘Are you sure you want to do this? Because, a couple of years from now, you don’t want to have any regrets.'”
The athlete instead said she’d regret it if she didn’t withdraw.
Biles’ decision was hailed by the likes of Michelle Obama, Justin Bieber and even her “idol,” Osaka.
“I definitely felt all those messages,” Biles said, adding, “I want people to know that they were heard and they were seen — even if I didn’t get to respond.”
The athlete explained that she’s putting her downtime to good use with a “self-care” regimen she describes as, “taking baths, going to the spa, having movie nights with my boyfriend and spending time at the pool with my dogs,” French bulldogs Lilo and Rambo.
“There’s no timeline, and there’s nothing that’s really urgent from me right now,” she said. “My whole life has been go, go, go … So it’s kind of nice to take a step back and relax.”
She got Lilo in 2017 to give her much-needed emotional support to deal with the events surrounding the arrest of former U.S. Olympics doctor Larry Nassar on charges he sexually abused the athletes in his care, including Biles and her teammates.
Biles later spoke out about it on social media, and last year joined her team on Capitol Hill to testify against the “entire system that enabled and perpetuated” the abuse and the FBI’s inaction after complaints were filed.
“That’s when I realized the power that I had,” she said, adding, “I’ll always continue to be a voice for the voiceless. Gymnastics can be a safe place.”
Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.