Simone Biles is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, but the Olympic gymnast once struggled to find the courage to even step onto the mat.
Biles, who has been named one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year, revealed that after making mistakes at a 2013 meet, she sought the help of a sports psychologist.
Though part of the senior national team that year, Biles was so shaken by slip-ups at the summer competition that she didn’t even participate in the vault, the event for which she won her third gold in Rio.
“She was competing against these girls who were her heroes, her idols,” Biles’ mom, Nellie Biles, told Glamour. “And it was hard for her to adjust to that. Simone didn’t think she was good enough to compete with them. I knew she was quite capable. But she needed to believe it.”
The therapy worked, allowing Biles to become the cool, confident gymnast that America cheered to victory this year.
“We’re out there for less than 10 minutes, and you prepare your whole life for this,” the 19-year-old said. “I knew the expectations were there, but I can only control what I do, not what anyone else wants me to do.”
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Biles ended her Rio run with five Olympic medals: four gold and one bronze. She now holds the title for most gold medals won by a female American gymnast in one Olympic Games.
Said Biles of surmounting that unbelievable pressure and finding victory, “You just have to go out and have fun with it.”