Simone Biles Leaves Tokyo with 'Full Heart': 'Not at All How I Imagined or Dreamed Second Olympics Would Go'
"My mental and physical health is above all the medals that I could ever win," Simone Biles said after winning a bronze in Tokyo
Simone Biles has left an indelible mark on the sports world as a mental health champion and decorated athlete after an unexpected turn of events at the Summer Games.
The day after winning bronze in the balance beam final, Biles, 24, departed Japan for the U.S. and shared a closing message about her time in Tokyo. "Not at all how I imagined or dreamed my second Olympics would go but blessed to represent the USA," she shared on Instagram Wednesday.
"I'll forever cherish this unique Olympic experience. Thanks everyone for the endless love and support. I'm truly grateful 🤍 - leaving Tokyo with 2 more Olympic medals to add to my collection isn't too shabby!" Biles wrote, adding, "7 time olympic medalist. 😱."
On her Instagram Story, the star wrote: "Leaving Tokyo with a full heart."
With her bronze medal, Biles is now tied with Shannon Miller as the most decorated U.S. gymnast in Olympic history. During the 2016 Rio Games, Biles won gold in the individual and team all-arounds as well as the individual event final for floor. She scored bronze in the beam final that year too.
In Tokyo, Biles also earned silver in the team all-around final, during which she pulled out of the competition after her first apparatus (vault). Her bronze in beam was her first individual medal in an event final since withdrawing from four individual finals (all-around, vault, uneven bars and floor).
The Tokyo Games were extra special for the U.S. women's gymnastics team. Not only did their bonds of friendship become even tighter after Biles' withdrawal and rallying to support her, but every member on the roster — Biles, Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum as well individual specialists Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner — also won at least one medal.
Before she made her return to the Olympic competition on Tuesday, Biles struggled with what she called the "twisties," a disorienting condition that causes an athlete to lose air awareness and endangers their safety. In addition, Biles previously said that due to the "twisties," her "mind and body [weren't] in sync."
Though she withdrew from four out of the five individual gymnastics events, Biles already had won by prioritizing her mental well-being. "My mental and physical health is above all the medals that I could ever win," she told reporters after her final competition in Tokyo as she explained that she had to be cleared to compete and was medically evaluated by doctors, Team USA's sports psychologist and medical staff from International Gymnastics Federation (FIG).
Biles' coach Cecile Canqueteau-Landi, a former gymnast at the 1996 Olympics for France, recently told PEOPLE that she could not have imagined an athlete withdrawing from an event to protect their mental and physical health back when she was competing.
"I don't think I would have had the guts to say I'm not okay. I think I would have probably just crashed somewhere, and probably injured myself. I think for me, she's the first one at a meet at the biggest stage, to say 'I'm not okay.' A lot of people don't understand it, but we do," Landi said. "I don't think I would have [imagined], no. I never would have imagined someone saying it, but I know I would have not said a word. I would have just pretended to be okay, and keep going and probably not end well."
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.