The win comes after the US gymnast bravely withdrew from all other events for the sake of her mental health.
Simone Biles‘ Olympic Tokyo 2020 journey has been far from plain sailing. After qualifying for six finals at the games, the 24-year-old ended up pulling out of five of them due to her mental health. But today, the talented athlete surprised onlookers by deciding to compete in the balance beam final – and winning a bronze medal.
Biles came up against unwarranted criticism for withdrawing from the elite events, despite the fact she had experienced a dangerous mental block known as the ‘twisties,’ which can prevent a gymnast from safely competing. After becoming disoriented during her opening vault in the team all-around event, Simone Biles later explained: “I had no idea where I was in the air … I could have hurt myself.” She went on to remove herself from the individual all-around, vault, bars and floor finals, too.
Following harsh judgment from non-athletes, Simone felt compelled to defend herself in an Instagram post she later deleted. “For anyone saying I quit, I didn’t quit, my mind and body are simply not in sync as you can see here,” she wrote. “I don’t think you realise how dangerous this is on a hard/competition surface.”
With that as the context, you’d imagine it would have been a battle to return to the gymnastic arena. But when Simone Biles turned up today with composure, ready to compete, it was clear she meant business.
The gymnast took to the balance beam third, and performed a confident routine topped off with a back-handspring-double pike dismount. The judges scored her a mark of 14.000, which was enough to win her the bronze medal behind Chinese athletes Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing. Upon hearing the news, Biles graciously congratulated her fellow competitors with hugs.
Full of pride, the official USA Gymnastics Twitter account tweeted, “Leading by example” about its team captain – and we can see why. For Simone Biles to have battled through such a difficult time, and to have come back fighting despite the pressure of the world’s gaze, is completely remarkable. She’s Olympic spirit personified, and will no doubt set an inspiring example of strength for many young athletes to come. What. A. Hero.