Two weeks after delivering harrowing and emotional testimony before a US Senate hearing investigating the failings of the FBI into the Larry Nassar sexual assault case, Olympic champion Simone Biles is back on the cover of The Cut’s latest issue, where she speaks frankly and honestly after a whirlwind year. The Tokyo Olympics, Nassar’s assault, and her state of emotional happiness are all on the table for the most decorated gymnast in history.
“If you looked at everything I’ve gone through for the past seven years, I should have never made another Olympic team,” Simone tells the magazine, which describes her as welling up with tears as she speaks
“I should have quit way before Tokyo, when Larry Nassar was in the media for two years. It was too much,” she continues. “But I was not going to let him take something I’ve worked for since I was 6 years old. I wasn’t going to let him take that joy away from me. So I pushed past that for as long as my mind and my body would let me.”
With a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, the most decorated athlete of all time knew her body and mental state were not communicating this past summer during the Tokyo Olympics, and she made the difficult choice to withdraw from the remainder of competitions. Referencing the “twisties,” which is a colloquial term used to describe the phenomenon amongst athletes when muscle memory doesn’t kick in after a miscommunication between mind and body; Simone described to The Cut how it manifested.
“Say up until you are 30 years old you have your complete eyesight,” she said. “One morning, you wake up, you can’t see s**t. But people tell you to go on and do your daily job as if you still have your eyesight. You’d be lost, wouldn’t you?”
“That’s the only thing I can relate it to. I have been doing gymnastics for 18 years. I woke up — lost it. How am I supposed to go on with my day?”
She added, “Sometimes it’s like, yeah, I’m perfectly okay with it. Like, that’s how it works. That’s how it panned out. And then other times I’ll just start bawling at the house.”
She credits Mark Manson’s bestselling book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k, for helping her prioritize her own needs over the expectations of others, and has used her time since resigning to travel and spend quality time with her boyfriend, the football player Jonathan Owens, family, and friends.
Although her withdrawal from the summer competition caused quite the stir amongst political and sports pundits, who dared call her a quitter, she reminds The Cut that race always plays a part in how she is covered in the media.
“As a Black woman, we just have to be greater,” she tells the outlet. “Because even when we break records and stuff, they almost just dim it down. as if it’s just normal.”
Luckily, she has no regrets for how it all played out. “No, I wouldn’t change anything because everything happens for a reason,” she continues. “And I learned a lot about myself — courage, resilience, how to say no and speak up for yourself. It will be a long time for someone to accomplish what I’ve accomplished.”
Former Team USA doctor Nassar has been accused by more than 330 women and girls at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University of sexual abuse. His abuse first came to light in 2016, and Simone came forward with her own story in 2018. Nassar is currently serving a life sentence behind bars.
An earlier version of this story stated that Biles was the most decorated Olympian in history and has since been amended.
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