What Simone Biles Told Her Teammates When She Withdrew from the Rest of the Team Final
Simone Biles says she is "dealing with some things internally" — and hoping to ease her mind from beneath the anxiety-provoking pressure of Olympic competition — after her early exit from the women's gymnastics team final.
Shortly after Biles, Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum won silver on Tuesday evening in Japan, Biles spoke with reporters about pulling out of the competition following her first apparatus.
Asked what she told her teammates about her withdrawal, Biles said her advice was: "You have done all the training, you can do this without me and it will be just fine."
"They were freaking out. They were like, crying, and I was like, 'You guys need to relax, you're going to be fine without me, go out there and kick some butt, just like we've done in training. And just lay it out on the floor and see what happens!' " Biles told Today's Hoda Kotb.
Though the team did not win gold, Biles told reporters that she was "proud" of how the rest of the squad performed, earning second place behind the Russians.
"For me, I'm proud for how the girls stepped up and did what they had to do. I owe this to the girls, it has nothing to do with me," she said. "I am very proud of them."
At a press conference after the final, Lee recalled the moment Biles told the team that she would not be competing for the rest of the final. "I was just like, 'We got this,' " Lee said. "We can go out there and show the world what we came here to do."
"It was definitely something that was unexpected," Chiles said at the press conference with her teammates. "We were kind of emotional when we found out that she wasn't going to continue and, you know, we always kind of put our minds in a great position. Because at the end of the day, we're out there to show what we needed to show and we went out there and did what we did."
Lee agreed: "There was definitely a lot of emotions running through all of our heads, but I'm really proud that we were able to step up to the plate and do what we needed to do. It's very hard to lose a teammate, especially at the Olympic Games."
"I feel like, in that moment, we all knew that we needed to come together," Lee said.
Chiles praised Biles, telling reporters that their silver medal was "definitely for her," even as Biles tried to wave off the adulation.
"I knew they'd be okay without me, just watching them train," Biles told reporters. "They're a couple of the strongest competitors I know. Their heads are always on straight and they have a lot of dedication and courage, so I knew they were going to be just fine. So I wasn't worried."
For that, Chiles credited Biles.
"If it wasn't for her, we wouldn't be here, where we are right now," she said. "We wouldn't be silver Olympic medalists — because of who she is as a person, so kudos to you girlie."
"We're fighters," Chiles added. "We fought through this entire competition."
Also speaking with reporters after the final ended, Biles said she was "okay, just dealing with some things internally which will get fixed out in the next couple of days."
She said her decision to withdraw was related to protecting her mental health, not an injury.
Biles told reporters she planned to return for Thursday's all-around final, though she also said on Today that she was "going to take it day by day and we're just going to see."
In a statement to PEOPLE and other news outlets, USA Gymnastics said Biles' exit was for health reasons but did not provide more details: "Simone has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions."
Biles, the reigning Olympic all-around champion and five-time Olympic medalist, bailed on her planned Amanar vault for an easier 1.5 twist and posted a score of 13.766.
Then she was seen having an extended conversation with her coach Cecile Canqueteau-Landi and the team trainer, appearing alternately stone-faced and persistent as she talked with the staff and teammates both before and after she briefly exited with medical trainer Marcia Faustin.
Biles, who is widely seen as the most talented women's gymnast of all time, returned to the final in time to watch and cheer on the U.S. for their second apparatus, the uneven bars.
For the rest of the competition, the decorated athlete, who was dressed in her white Team USA warm-up gear, was seen hugging her teammates, getting them chalk for their hands and encouraging them.
Biles' next competition is scheduled for Thursday, when she is set to compete in the individual event finals for the vault, beam, floor and uneven bars.
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.