During the Tokyo Olympics, star gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the team final after performing on the vault, later saying that she withdrew for her own wellbeing and that "there is more to life than gymnastics." She explained: "I feel like I’m also not having as much fun—and this Olympic Games I wanted it to be for myself and it felt like I was still doing for other people—and that hurts my heart that doing what I love has been taken away from me."
Biles, who has four Olympic medals from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and is the most decorated gymnast ever, is well-known for speaking openly about her struggles and maintaining a high standard for herself. What happened at the Tokyo Olympics might have surprised hardcore fans and spectators alike, but Biles has never shied away from difficult subjects that mean a lot to her. From her record-breaking performances to her disclosure that she's one of the gymnasts who survived early sexual abuse, she's stayed authentically herself. Below are some of her most well-known quotes that represent both her competitive spirit and her quest for balance and wellness.
"Work hard in silence let your success be the noise"
When asked what advice she has for women inspired by her: "I would say to make sure you always have fun [with what you're doing], and to make sure that it's your decision. If it's not your decision, you're not having fun, and if you're not having fun, you might not enjoy it. If you're having fun, that's when the best memories are built."
USA Today, 2016
On getting competition experience: “A successful competition for me is always going out there and putting 100 percent into whatever I’m doing. It’s not always winning ... People, I think, mistake that it’s just winning. Sometimes it could be, but for me it’s hitting the best sets I can, gaining confidence and having a good time and having fun.”
Teen Vogue, 2016
On finding joy: “If I thought of gymnastics as a job, it would put too much stress on me ... At the end of the day, if I can say I had fun, it was a good day.”
On her body, and working through self-consciousness: “I was built this way for a reason, so I’m going to use it."
On hoping to contribute to a group gold: “The team comes first.”
The Rio Olympics, 2016
On her performance: “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps ... I’m the first Simone Biles.”
In a tweet disclosing her abuse: "After hearing the brave stories of my friends and other survivors, I know that this horrific experience does not define me. I am much more than this. I am unique, smart, talented, motivated, and passionate. I have promised myself that my story will be much greater than this and I promise all of you that I will never give up ... I won't let one man, and the others that enabled him, to steal my love and joy."
On not doing mat talk: "[In gymnastics,] you’re taught at a very young age to just focus on you. Whenever you’re up there, it feels like it’s just you, your team, and your equipment. Before I go out and compete, my mom always says ‘be the best, Simone,’ but other than that, there’s nothing special that I do. I’m just myself.”
Speaking to young women who look up to her: "No matter how good you are in your sport, in life, in work, the number one thing people talk about is how you look ... You’re still going to thrive. You’re going to become somebody amazing and great. You guys are all beautiful, inside and out.”
"Growing up, I didn’t see very many Black gymnasts ... So whenever I did, I felt really inspired to go out there and want to be as good as them. I remember watching Gabby Douglas win the 2012 Olympics, and I was like, If she can do it, I can do it.”
On holding gymnast officials accountable: “Personally, for me, I don’t think of it as an obligation ... I think of it as an honor to speak for the less fortunate and for the voiceless. I also feel like it gives them power.”
“We can’t feel comfortable promoting our sport if we fear that something might happen like this again because they’re not doing their part. And the hardest part for us is we’ve always done our part. We’ve always represented the U.S. to the best of our ability, and all the time, most of the time, every time I’ve represented, come back with gold medals. It’s like: We’ve done our part. Come on.”
New York Times, 2021
Discussing going to the Olympics after speaking out about her abuse: “I’m going to go out there and represent the U.S.A., represent World Champions Centre, and represent Black and brown girls over the world...At the end of the day, I’m not representing U.S.A. Gymnastics.”
Marie Claire, 2021
On her GOAT leotard: "I just hope that kids growing up watching this don't or aren't ashamed of being good at whatever they do. And that's my problem: when people kind of harp on other people that are good at something. And it's like, everybody can say you're good, but once you acknowledge it, it's not cool anymore. And I want kids to learn that, yes, it's okay to acknowledge that you're good or even great at something."
Tokyo Olympics, 2021
On pulling out of the team final: "I have to put my pride aside. I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. That’s why I decided to take a step back."