Simone Biles, who is leaving the Tokyo Olympics with a bronze medal and international support after publicly dealing with a case of the "twisties" that led to her withdrawal from multiple events, said she is open to returning to the Olympics in 2024.
Before leaving Japan, she sat down with the "TODAY" show's Hoda Kotb, who cheered on Team USA during their competitions, to talk candidly about her time in Tokyo and her future plans.
Biles, 24, hinted that this might not be the last time fans see her at the Olympic Games, saying she's "keeping the door open" for a potential return.
"I think I have to relish and take this Olympics in, and kind of recognize what I've done with my career because after 2016, I didn't get to do that," she said. "Life just happens so quickly, and now I have a greater appreciation for life after everything that's happened in the last five years."
Biles also said that she was glad to be able to compete Tuesday.
"It's so crazy. I'm happy I was able to get back out there and do one more routine, especially since I had the girls there rooting me on, as well as the guys. It just felt really amazing," the gymnastics star said.
"I'm proud of myself for the way I pushed through and even learned that dismount that I haven't done in years. And just put up a good set, that's all I really wanted. I wasn't expecting to walk away with a medal or anything, I just wanted to go out there and do it for myself," she said. "And I did."
Biles said that early on, she thought about withdrawing from the beam event, but finally became confident enough in her dismount and other skills to compete. She told Kotb that the bronze medal for the routine was extremely meaningful.
"It definitely feels better than Rio's bronze medal on beam (from the 2016 Olympics), but it also shows that I did it for myself, I can go out there and hit another set," she said. "I was just excited to compete in the Olympics again because at the beginning, I just thought it was over."
Biles withdrew from the team all-around, the individual all-around, the vault, floor exercise and uneven bar events after getting "lost in the air" during her vault in the team all-around competition last week. The gymnast said that she was "petrified" and uncertain where she would land, which led to her decision to withdraw. She also feared that her difficulty would make the team lose its chance at earning a medal.
"They worked so hard and I couldn't lose a medal for those girls," she said. "I decided to pull myself out so if anything, I think by having me not in competition they won the medal because if I would have been in, I would have got more lost in the air and had a fall and potentially injured myself and you can't replace an athlete. It could have gone a lot of different ways, but people don't know the rules. They think, 'Well, she just quit,' and I'm like, 'No, I don't think so.'"
The gymnast said that it was "not easy" to "give it up" after "working five years for a dream," but she knew it was necessary to step back.
"If you would have asked me a couple years ago, I would have kept pushing through but I'm at the age now where I kind of control my own mental well-being, and I knew that it was the best decision for the team and myself," Biles said. "I wasn't stubborn, so I'm proud of myself for the growth."
She said that even before the Olympics began, she was under so much pressure that it felt "like the weight of the world on your shoulders." She said the feeling can be "very overwhelming" and a "little bit too heavy to carry," but it helps to take a step back and focus on her mental health, like she did in Tokyo.
"It ended on a high, so I'm very grateful and thankful for that," Biles said. "But I still feel like we go back home and there's still a lot of things I need to work on internally and mentally to kind of feel like I had success here."
Biles also shared a post to her Instagram reflecting on her time at the Games as she prepared to leave Tokyo.
"Not at all how I imagined or dreamed my second olympics would go but blessed to represent the usa," she wrote. "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!" she continued, before ending her post with: "7 time olympic medalist."
Kotb suggested that one additional layer of stress was competing as the only gymnast who had been abused by the former team doctor Larry Nassar. Biles said that as a star in the sport, she felt a responsibility to make sure that Nassar's abuse wasn't "buried under the rug," and said that the pressure could have affected her.
"Now that I think about it, maybe in the back of my head, probably yes," Biles said. "There are certain triggers that you don't even know."
Despite the stress, Biles said, her time at the Tokyo Games helped her realize that her self-worth was more than just how other people saw her. She said her worst moment was "probably realizing or recognizing that I would only be remembered for my medals," but she was able to overcome the fear.
"One morning I woke up and I was like, 'I'm more than my medals and gymnastics, I'm a human being,'" she said. "And I've done some courageous things outside of this sport as well, and I'm not a quitter and it took all of that realizing to see that, because ... if this situation didn't happen I don't think I would have ever seen it that way, I would have never been able to walk away and think I'm more than just gymnastics and medals."