KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It was a shock to her teammates and the world as gymnast Simone Biles opted out of the team finals at the Tokyo Olympics. She cited stress, saying, “The mental’s not here.”
Olympic silver medalist Terin Humphrey, a Kansas City area native, can understand the pressure.
“It makes you realize like they really are human,” Humphrey said.
Humphrey knows what it’s like to compete at an elite level. She made it to the 2004 Summer Olympics and won silver on the bars and in team competition.
“The Olympics are always a lot of pressure,” Humphrey said. “That’s the event you work your whole life for, and you get one chance most of the time.”
Biles, the reigning Olympic gymnastics all-around champion, didn’t compete in the team finals. Instead, Biles took a step back from the mat to work on her mindfulness.
“I knew the girls would do a great job, and I didn’t want to risk the team a medal for my screw-ups because they’ve worked way too hard for that,” Biles said. “So I just decided that those girls need to go ahead in the rest of the competition.”
A lot of factors led to this decision, including a long, extra year of high-intensity training.
“I couldn’t imagine training for another year at that intensity, especially when you’re older,” Humphrey said. “It’s hard on your body, and people don’t realize how hard it is.”
Biles said her decision was due to the stress, not a physical injury. That’s what she’s trying to avoid by staying outside the lines for now.
She learned the importance of boundaries and has a message for athletes.
“Put mental health first,” Biles said. “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 sit out of 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.”
Biles posted on Instagram, saying she felt the weight of the world.
Her teammates pushed on without the “best in the world” and won silver.
“We were kind of emotional when we found out that she wasn’t going to continue,” teammate Jordan Chiles said. “We all had to put our minds in a great position.”
Humphrey said back when she was competing at the Olympics, mental health wasn’t part of the conversation.
She’s happy Biles had the courage to take care of herself.
“That’s huge,” Humphrey said. “I mean, a lot of athletes put their injuries and feelings aside just to get that chance to compete in there. Simone‘s been there. So I don’t think that’s the factor. I just think that it’s, ‘Hey it’s too much for me right now. The team, you have me, have my back.’ So, it’s very big of her to stand up to do that.”
Biles said they’ll take it one day at a time. She hasn’t decided if she will return for individual competition.