“I was there for her, I supported her, I did try to tell her, ‘Look, you know how to do everything, this is you, this is your moment, it’s all up to you,” the 20-year-old silver medalist told Today‘s Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday, July 28, as news broke that the 24-year-old World Champion would no longer perform in the upcoming individual all-around competition.
Chiles “really can’t say” what exactly prompted the Dancing With the Stars alum to pull out of the team final on Tuesday, July 27, she noted. “She has to tell her own story, but all I know is I’m going to support her no matter what. I am her teammate, I am her best friend, like she said. This is the moment that I think that I truly realize that I’ve gotten so much closer to her than I really thought. She’s my ride or die. I will forever be by her side.”
The Oregon native and the Courage to Soar author have a special bond. In 2018, Chiles considered leaving the gymnastics world completely, feeling disillusioned after a tough year of competitions. Biles later encouraged her to move to Spring, Texas, and train alongside her at the World Champions Centre — and everything changed.
On Tuesday, July 27, Chiles stepped up to the plate after the six-time Olympic medalist dropped out of the team final. The decision shocked viewers around the world, and as Team USA finished in second place, Biles clarified that she chose to give herself a break from the pressure.
“Physically, I feel good, I’m in shape,” she told reporters on Tuesday. “Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment. Coming here to the Olympics and being the head star isn’t an easy feat, so we’re just trying to take it one day at a time and we’ll see.”
USA Gymnastics confirmed one day later that Biles would not participate in the individual all-around competition on Thursday, July 29, “in order to focus on her mental health.” Jade Carey, who did not initially qualify for the all-around meet, is set to take the GOAT’s place.
Biles has yet to announce whether she’ll return for the event finals, but through all the ups and downs, her teammates will continue to have her back.
“Whatever she puts her mind to [she can achieve],” Chiles told Today. “She’s Simone for a reason. She’s not a quitter. You will never see Simone just go out there and not do what she knows she can do. … I did have to fill some humongous shoes out there, but I did it for a reason. I did it for her. She was with us the whole time.”
Since deciding to prioritize her mental health, Biles has received supportive messages from fellow athletes, including Michael Phelps and Aly Raisman. Former first lady Michelle Obama, Kerry Washington and Andy Cohen are among other celebrities to send their love to Tokyo as Biles considers her next step.
Though she’s faced her fair share of backlash, with some viewers believing she walked out on her team, Biles posted an expert’s perspective to her Instagram Story on Wednesday. Former NCAA coach Andrea Orris noted that “career-ending” or “life-threatening injuries” could have occurred had the athlete continued to compete in her vulnerable mental state.
“The fact that she took herself out of the competition on her own merit means that whatever she is dealing with internally has to be insurmountable and should be taken seriously,” Orris wrote. “Despite what she’s able/choosing to articulate to the public in interviews, we will never know or fully understand her personal choices and struggles. She deserves respect. She deserves compassion. She does not deserve to have any judgement passed – number 1, because she’s a human. And number 2, after all she’s done for the sport.”
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