Simone Biles was bullied in school, called a 'swoldier' for her muscular arms
Simone Biles' sudden exit from team competition at the Tokyo Olympics left everybody shocked and stunned. People couldn't fathom just why the most celebrated star of the long-awaited Olympics decided to pull out after performing on the vault on July 27. But the answer, as it would turn out, had been underlying in Biles' recent social media posts all along. Biles pulled out from the competition citing exceeding pressure to be the "head star" as a reason behind her poor mental health — something that she had battled as a child as well, having suffered incessant bullying from classmates over her muscular, athletic build.
Initially, it had been reported that Biles was quitting because of an injury, after she watered down her planned two-and-half version of the Yurchenko vault into one-and-half, and stumbled at the exit. Biles went inside the dressing rooms and returned several minutes later without her bar gear, as her teammates huddled around her indicating her shocking exit. Following the four-time Olympic gold medalist's departure, the US women's team ended up taking home the silver — something that Biles was also heavily slammed for on the Internet.
Bullied for muscular arms
That Biles was struggling with mental health all this while, shouldn't have come as a shock to people. Right after the prelims on July 26, Biles shared an Instagram post of multiple photos, with the caption: “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world upon my shoulders at times.” And this isn't the first time the star athlete has spoken about mental health either, as it brings back memories of her 2018 interview with Today, where Biles opened up about learning to love herself after years of being bullied.
The acclaimed Olympian had told the outlet how classmates would pass rude comments about her athletic built; "People would say mean things at the time. They used to call me a ‘swoldier,’ which didn’t make me feel the best,” Biles had told Today. “I wore sweaters or jackets all year long to cover my arms.” She finally began feeling comfortable in her own body when she became privy to the company of her fellow gymnasts. In particular, Aly Raisman was the one who helped Biles with "body confidence".
Biles preaches 'love yourself'
"As gymnasts, we look similar to each other, so we’ve helped each love our bodies because it helps us with what we do,” Biles told the outlet. “Everybody looked the same, had the same muscular build and we could all do things that other athletes couldn’t do. Aly Raisman helped me a lot with my body-confidence issues and helped me learn to love how I look,” Biles added. “She’s taught me a lot along the way, but most of the time it’s just the same message: love yourself.”
Biles, who also participated in Season 24 of the hit reality competition 'Dancing with the Stars', told Today: "Now, I show off my arms all the time,” Biles said. “I wish I could tell my younger self to be positive about my body, because when you learn to love your body, you learn to fall in love with yourself.” Biles shared how she finally believed it was just her opinion alone that mattered when it came to the way she looks. "To me, healthy body image is when you feel confident with yourself — inside and out,” Biles said. “If you love your body, then that’s all you can do. It doesn’t matter what anybody else says," she said.
'There's more to life than gymnastics'
The same confidence in herself and her decision to prioritize mental health showed as Biles addressed a press conference after the US won second place. “Whenever you get in a high-stress situation, you kind of freak out. I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being,” she told reporters. “We have to protect our body and our mind… It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head." Biles told reporters: "There’s more to life than just gymnastics. It’s very unfortunate that it happened at this stage, because I definitely wanted it to go a little bit better. [I will] take it one day at a time and we’re gonna see how the rest goes.”
Biles, who credited Naomi Osaka as an inspiration behind prioritizing mental health, also countered USA Gymnastics' statement on her reason to quit being a "medical issue". She clarified at the press conference that her injury was “just a little to my pride… physically, I feel good, I’m in shape. Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and the moment.”