The talented gymnast went on to win bronze on the balance beam following the family bereavement.
Olympic gymnast Simone Biles has revealed that her aunt died just two days before she won bronze in her Tokyo 2020 comeback. The sad news came as a shock to the 24-year-old, who went ahead with competing in the balance beam final anyway.
“I woke up the other day and my aunt had unexpectedly passed,” Biles told reporters following her medal-winning gymnastic display yesterday. “I’m like, you guys have no idea what we’re going through.”
Simone Biles is the most decorated Olympic gymnast of all time, having won seven medals across two games. But after sweeping the floor at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she won four gold medals and one bronze, her Tokyo 2020 campaign has been significantly more challenging. The young athlete qualified for six finals at the games, but pulled out of five of them due to her mental health.
While executing her opening vault in the team all-around event, Biles became disoriented mid-air, in a dangerous phenomenon known in the gymnastic world as the ‘twisties’. “I had no idea where I was in the air … I could have hurt myself,” she said. Simone Biles went on to remove herself from the individual all-around competition, as well as the vault, bars and floor finals. These decisions were made before she learned news of her aunt’s passing, but the circumstances make it all the more remarkable that she went on to compete in the beam final – and win a medal.
“That was another one,” Biles’ coach, Cecile Canqueteau-Landi told People, in reference to the athlete’s aunt’s death. “[Simone] said, ‘There’s nothing I can do from over here. So I’m just going to finish my week and when I get home we’ll deal with it.’”
Yet another demonstration of her unyielding strength.
Speaking candidly about her bumpy ride in Tokyo after yesterday’s win, Simone Biles told reporters: “My physical and mental health is above all medals I could win. To be cleared to do beam – which I didn’t think I was going to be – meant the world. Just to be back out here. I wasn’t expecting to walk away with a medal.
“I was out there doing this for me and whatever happens, happens,” she added.
Biles shared her delight at having ended her Olympic campaign “on a high” – and there’s no doubt that she has. Back home and all around the world, she has astounded onlookers with her resilience and her unwavering support of her teammates. And nobody is prouder, it seems, than her boyfriend, American footballer Jonathan Owens.
Taking to Instagram Stories, he shared a photograph of his girlfriend during her beam competition, and wrote: “Words can’t explain how proud I am of you right now.”
She’s done everyone beyond proud, so now that her Olympics is over, let’s hope Simone Biles is going to allow herself to indulge in some much-needed rest and recuperation before she moves on to whatever it is she’s going to tackle next.