Simone Biles’ decision to pull out of the women’s team final has prompted comments and analysis around the world, including much praise for Biles’ choosing to prioritize her mental health.
Biles spoke at length about her decision, saying she was shaking before the Olympic team gymnastics final — and that she withdrew after realizing that the “mental’s not there.” Biles has now also withdrawn from the individual all-around competition.
Here’s NPR’s transcript of what Biles said at the news conference that followed Tuesday’s team event, in which the U.S. women won silver.
Her decision to withdraw after her vault in the final
I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a back seat, work on my mindfulness. And I knew that the girls would do an absolutely great job. And I didn’t want to risk the team a medal for kind of my screwups, because they’ve worked way too hard for that. So I just decided that those girls need to go and do the rest of our competition.
Her overall health status
No injury, thankfully. And that’s why I took a step back, because I didn’t want to do something silly out there and get injured. So I thought it was best if these girls took over and did the rest of the job — which they absolutely did, they’re Olympic silver medalist now. And they should be really proud of themselves for how well they did last-minute, having to [adjust].
It’s been really stressful, this Olympic Games. I think just as a whole, not having an audience, there are a lot of different variables going into it. It’s been a long week, it’s been a long Olympic process, it’s been a long year. So just a lot of different variables, and I think we’re just a little bit too stressed out. But we should be out here having fun, and sometimes that’s not the case.
What’s next for her in Tokyo
Yeah, we’re going to take it a day at a time. I know tomorrow that we have a half day or at least the morning off, so it’ll be a good mental rest. So we’ll take it from there.
The technical aspects of her vault
So I was trying a two and a half, and I ended up doing a one and a half. Just got a little bit lost in the air — which is really unfortunate, especially to have a score like that go up there for the team. I feel like I robbed them of a couple of tenths and we could have been a little bit higher in the rankings. But yeah, I was trying a two and a half and I’m doing one and a half, which was definitely not my best work. So it’s just something we have to go in the gym and work on.
How her teammates responded to her absence
Well, personally, I knew they would be OK without me. Just watching them train, they’re a couple of the strongest competitors I know. Their heads are always on straight, and they have a lot of dedication and courage. So I knew they were going to be just fine. So I wasn’t worried. I know they were a little bit worried going in, and emotions were all over the place. But I think they just needed reassurance that they were going to be OK. And look, they were. They did it without me, and they’re Olympic silver medalists.
And that’s why we have teammates, because if somebody’s feeling down, you have to step up. And they did just that. So kudos to them.
How she told the coaches and team she would pull out
I was like, I think the girls need to do the rest of the competition without me. And they were like, ‘I promise you, you’re fine. We watched you warm up.’ And I said, ‘No. I know I’m going to be fine, but I can’t risk a medal for the team, so I need to call it.’
And you usually don’t hear me say things like that, because I’ll usually persevere and push through things — but not to cost the team a medal. So they were like, ‘OK, well, if Simone says this, then we need to take a pretty serious.’ So I had the correct people around me to do that.
Her mindset ahead of the final
Today has been really stressful. We had a workout this morning, it went OK. And then just that five-and-a-half hour wait or something, I was just like shaking, could barely nap. I’ve just never felt like this going into a competition before. And I tried to go out here and have fun. Warmup in the back went a little bit better. But then once I came out here, I was like no, mental’s not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.
Why she said only her teammates won silver
I didn’t do my job. They came out and they stepped up, and they did what they needed to do and more — especially last minute. Suni [Lee] didn’t even get to warm up her floor passes until the 30-second touch. So this medal is all of them and the coaches — and it has nothing to do with me, because they did it without me.
Her teammates insist that Biles won the medal with them
How gymnasts see their competition
You have to support all of your competitors so that you go in with a healthy mind and not trying to compete against each other. Because then pitting people against each other, it just gets a little bit harder. So I think if [Suni] just focuses on herself in her bar routine, she should be fine, as well as Nina [Belgium’s Nina Derwael].
Naomi Osaka inspired her to protect her mental health
I say put mental health first. Because if you don’t, then you’re not going to enjoy your sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to. So it’s OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are — rather than just battle through it.
Whether the documentary series she’s making helped her realize she needed a break
Yes and no, because in the docu series that I’m filming, I have an incredible team, I love everybody who I work with and the people around me. But it’s just like at the end of the day, we’re putting content out. So I don’t want to put anything out there that people wouldn’t view as nice.
I didn’t want to go out here and kind of end that series, and that chapter, on the note that we did. But it could be a turnaround for the better, we’re just going to have to see. But hopefully I’ll get back out there and compete a couple more events and we’ll see.
The mindfulness that Wednesday’s break could bring
Usually you practice mindfulness … we’ll have the morning off, so that’s a great start because you can’t do it in practice because then you’re really focused in and tuned in on practice. So it starts from outside the gym. However, we want to relax. And we’ll do that, hopefully get some fresh air — and we’ll just see.