How Simone Biles braved kidney stone that left her crawling in pain to dominate world championships
Team USA gymnast Simone Biles thanked her fans for their “love and support” after her withdrawal from the individual all-around final at the Tokyo Olympics. “The outpouring love and support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before,” she wrote on Twitter on July 28.
Biles’ decision to withdraw that left fans shocked and heartbroken stemmed from mental health concerns. "After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in order to focus on her mental health," USA Gymnastics said in a statement. "We wholeheartedly support Simone's decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many."
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the outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before. 🤍— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) July 29, 2021
Initially, Biles’ withdrawal from the Games made many question her physical fitness. But Biles said that while she had hoped to compete for herself, she “felt like I was still doing it for other people.” She added, “So that just, like, hurts my heart, because doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”
Biles also said, “Today it’s like, you know what, no, I don’t want to do something stupid and get hurt. And it’s just not worth it, especially when you have three amazing athletes that can step up to the plate and do it. Not worth it.” She added, “At the end of the day, we’re human, too, so we have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do. With the year that it’s been, I’m really not surprised how it played out.”
And when Biles says it, one best believes it. For she knows a thing or two about putting her body under strain in the name of sporting glory.
How Simone Biles dominated despite kidney stone
In October 2018, Biles was in an emergency room in Doha with kidney stone problems less than 24 hours before she was to compete in qualifying for the world gymnastics championships. At the time, she said on social media, "Nothing like a late-night ER visit less than 24 hrs before world championships," and, "This kidney stone can wait....doing it for my team! ...I'll be Gucci girls!"
nothing like a late night ER visit less than 24 hrs before world championships— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) October 26, 2018
this kidney stone can wait.... 👊🏾 doing it for my team! ❤️ I’ll be gucci girls ! pic.twitter.com/rKkvuEQrKc
Despite her cheery demeanor, however, she was in agony, which at times reportedly left her crawling on the floor. When a CT scan revealed a kidney stone, she, however, discharged herself from the hospital, telling the staff she'll deal with the pain later. "I heard roller coasters might help kidney stones," Biles said. "And I'm like 'Well, I'm basically like my own little rollercoaster out there'."
At the championship, she had the highest scores on uneven bars, floor exercise, and vault. But there was a lot going on behind the scenes before the event that could have hampered her chances and likely affected her mental health.
The Associated Press reported that Biles was initially concerned she had appendicitis, which would have forced her to sit out the competition entirely. While she was relieved to find out it wasn’t so, she also couldn't be treated with the same pain medication typically given to those dealing with kidney stones because it would put her in jeopardy of failing a drug test. "The adrenaline definitely helped because even when I'm walking or doing some stretches, I'm in a bit of pain," she said. "So adrenaline helps."
But that’s history now. Like Naomi Osaka, who put her mental health ahead of sports, Biles is no longer willing to put her body and mind through pain just for metal medals. Steve Magness, a performance coach for Olympians and the author of 'Real Toughness' told the New York Times, “We have a fundamental misconception of what it means to be tough. It’s not gritting our teeth through everything; it’s having the space to make the right choice despite pressure, stress, and fatigue.”