It’s official: Simone Biles is returning to the competition floor for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics—but not without some mental preparation.
In June, a USA Gymnastics press release announced that the 26-year-old will compete at the 2023 US Classic in August alongside fellow Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee and 2020 Olympic floor champion Jade Carey, among other medalists. Biles confirmed the news on Twitter, writing that she’s “overwhelmed” by fans’ support and “excited to get back.”
In honor of the announcement, Biles recently hosted an Instagram Story Q&A, per People, and when a fan asked her how she’s “handling the mental side” of her comeback, she answered honestly.
“Lots of therapy,” she reportedly wrote. “I go once a week for almost two hours. I’ve had so much trauma, so being able to work on some of the traumas and work on healing is a blessing.”
At the pandemic-postponed Tokyo games in 2021, Biles withdrew from the US women’s gymnastics team all-around final after making some rare mistakes in the qualifying round. Although she did return to earn bronze on the balance beam, she later attributed her errors to a case of the twisties, which occurs when an athlete’s mind and body have a disconnect midair, resulting in a potentially dangerous loss of muscle memory and spatial awareness, SELF previously reported. She also cited the need to focus on her mental health.
In a post-games interview with Today, Biles connected the severity of her twisties to longtime repression of being sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. “Over the years, after suppressing so many emotions and putting up a front on a global scene, I think really all of that came to light,” she said. “My body and my mind allowed me to suppress all of that stuff for so many years for as long as it could take. And as soon as we stepped on the Olympics scene, it just decided it couldn’t do it anymore, and it cracked.”
Since then, Biles has continued to speak candidly about her withdrawal and has become one of professional sports’ top mental health advocates. “It’s challenging to talk about how you’re doing mentally since it’s an invisible injury,” she told Good Housekeeping last year. “People can’t see it, so it’s harder to understand, but I think that’s why it’s so important we feel empowered to open up about it.”
In 2021, Biles admitted to Today that she was “still scared” to do certain gymnastics moves, but therapy, time, and the support of family, friends, and fans have fueled her imminent return. In her Q&A, she recalled discovering the sport on a day care field trip. “I instantly fell in love,” she wrote. “And have done it ever since.”