Protecting her peace. Simone Biles subtly took aim at those who’ve criticized her for exiting the Tokyo Olympics as USA Gymnastics confirmed she won’t be competing in the upcoming individual all-around meet.
The 24-year-old gymnast took to her Instagram Story on Wednesday, July 28, to share a post from trainer and former NCAA coach Andrea Orris.
“It makes me so frustrated to see comments about @simonebiles not being mentally tough enough or quitting on her team,” Orris’ caption began. “We are talking about the same girl who was molested by her team ‘doctor’ throughout her entire childhood and teen years, WON the World All-Around Championship title WHILE PASSING A KIDNEY STONE, put her body through an extra year of training through the pandemic, added so much difficulty to her routines that the judges literally do not know how to properly rate her skills because they are so ahead of her time, and countless more obstacles that we may not even know of. All of this while maintaining her responsibilities to her endorsement deals, the media, personal relationships, etc.”
To those who’ve argued “Simone Biles is soft” or “she is a quitter,” Orris said, “That girl has endured more trauma by the age of 24 than most people will ever go through in a lifetime.”
Biles didn’t perform up to her high standards during the preliminary qualifying competition on Sunday, July 25, and two days later, she stumbled while attempting to land her vault exercise. She was seen leaving the gym with members of the training staff, returning moments later to tell her teammates — Jordan Chiles, Suni Lee and Grace McCallum — that she was pulling out of the team final. The USA gymnasts went on to win the silver medal, with the Russian Olympic Committee taking home gold.
“For non-gymnasts who may not understand, the fact that she balked mid-air and accidentally did a 1.5 on her first vault instead of a 2.5 IS A BIG DEAL. It’s TERRIFYING,” Orris’ supportive post continued. “She could have been SEVERELY injured getting lost in the air like that. The fact she somehow landed on her feet shows her experience and is incredible. … A very small wrong move, and career-ending or even worse, life-threatening injuries can occur.”
The Dancing With the Stars alum previously swept the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning individual gold medals in the all-around, vault and floor, bronze in balance beam and gold as part of the United States team. She’s had multiple skills named after her — and judges are forced to give her lower execution scores so other gymnasts don’t attempt her extremely challenging routines.
Off of the mat, Biles has become a champion for progress in a sport that desperately needs it. The ESPY Award winner is one of the last remaining elite gymnasts to survive sexual abuse at the hands of former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison in December 2017 after pleading guilty to child pornography and evidence tampering charges. The following month, he was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in a Michigan state prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault of minors.
Following her shocking exit from the Tokyo competition, Biles told reporters that her struggle was mental, not due to physical injury. Former teammates Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez, as well as Olympic legend Michael Phelps, have both applauded Biles for her bravery and expressed their concern for her mental health after her withdrawal.
“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 on Wednesday. “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.”
The post concluded, “Regardless if Simone comes back for [all-around or event finals] or not, she is the #GOAT!!!”
Though she didn’t compete with the team, Biles was the biggest cheerleader in the stadium for her fellow Olympians — and praised their strength after they secured second place.
“OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALISTS 🤍,” she captioned an Instagram post on Tuesday, July 27. “I’m SO proud of these girls right here. You girls are incredibly brave & talented! I’ll forever be inspired by your determination to not give up and to fight through adversity! They stepped up when I couldn’t. Thanks for being there for me and having my back! Forever love y’all.”