Simone Biles did not plan for her second Olympics as a focal point in the growing conversation about mental health in sports.
She’s not complaining, though. She’s actually leaning in to it.
The American gymnastics star has no regrets about her decision to opt-out of five of the six finals in Tokyo because of a mental block, calling it a small price to pay if it lets others realize they retain the right to say “it’s OK not to be OK” no matter how bright the spotlight.
Biles said, “I wouldn’t change anything for it.” He left Japan with a team silver medal and an individual bronze in balance beam. “I provided an outlet for athletes to talk about their mental health, and they learned that it is possible to put yourself first before the athlete.
This message will be part the post-Olympic Gold Over America Tour Biles, which is headlined this fall. The exhibition will include gymnastics and dance elements, but it also features a segment by Katelyn Ohashi, a former UCLA gymnast, about mental health.
Biles stated, “We wanted it to be as relatable and let these children know that we’ve been through these things.”
Biles will be joined by Olympic teammates Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, MyKayla Skinner, and Jade Carey on Tour. Chiles and McCallum won a silver medal in the team competition, Skinner won silver on vault, and Carey took home gold for floor exercise. Biles qualified for Japan’s finals on all four apparatuses, but she pulled out of three to deal with “the twisties”, meaning that her air awareness was impaired and it wasn’t safe to compete.
She was able to win a bronze on beam when she returned, which tied her with Shannon Miller for the record of seven Olympic medals. Biles was asked if she could shed any light on the cause of “the twisties”, and she said that it might have been the accumulation of many issues over the past several years.
“I mean, therapy is something I do. She said that therapy is something she does religiously. “And it’s just something I felt (where) my body and mind told me when enough was enough.
Although Biles’ decision was met with a predictable backlash via social media, she described the overwhelming support she has received since her return from Japan two weeks earlier as remarkable.
She said that the response was on par with the one she received when she returned from the 2016 Olympics with four gold and five other medals.
Biles is very excited about this tour. She believes it will be different from the post-Olympic tours run by USA Gymnastics. Biles was interested in taking the sport in a new direction and signed on to be the headliner. Biles pointed out that the tour was being managed by women, a first in its kind, and will be “unique.”
Unique? Chiles, Carey, and McCallum will be able to receive compensation for their participation. All three incoming freshmen can take part in the tour thanks to new legislation that allows athletes to earn money for their image, name and likeness.
Chiles, Carey and McCallum don’t anticipate the tight schedule of the tour — it ends in Boston in early November — getting in the way preparation for college gymnastics season which begins in January.
Chiles said that she never considered going pro. She just wanted to go school. “But now that I see the reality, I have never considered redshirting. This (tour) is great. … We must be relevant and keep our relevance. We must ensure that we continue to do what makes us unique.
Biles also extended a tour invitation to Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee, who began her freshman year at Auburn last week. Biles stated that Lee is focused on getting college started on the right foot, but she is optimistic that she will be able to make a few appearances at the Minneapolis tour stop — Lee is from St. Paul — in October.
The tour will also include two-time Olympic medalist Laurie Hernandez, 2017 world champion Morgan Hurd and 2005 world champion and 2008 Olympic silver medalist Chellsie Memmel, who is in the midst of a comeback in her early 30s.
Memmel, a mother of two and a married mom, will still compete in the tour, but Skinner, 24, who is eager to start a family, will say goodbye to the sport. There are worse ways of going out.
She said, “I’m not going back into college and finishing my career as a gymnast so it’s going be fun to be in a position to finish and still be capable of doing gym for a bit longer.” “I’m very excited about it.”