Simone Biles said Tuesday her bronze medal win on the balance beam in Tokyo means more than her gold medals because it represents her focus on mental health and her perseverance.
"It means more than all of the golds because I pushed through so much the last five years and the last week while I’ve even been here," Biles told Hoda Kotb on NBC's "TODAY" show.
Biles, 24, said she was nervous while she competed and "shocked" that she medaled, but "I didn’t really care about the outcome. I was just happy that I made the routine and that I got to compete one more time."
After withdrawing during the team gymnastics final, Biles pulled out of other events including the individual all-around and uneven bars finals, saying her mind and body were not in sync, resulting in a case of the "twisties."
Her decision to withdraw from the competitions highlighted the importance of athletes' mental health.
Biles said she chose to compete on the balance beam because "I didn’t have to twist or do anything, so it was very much at less risk," especially since she executed a different dismount.
Biles said she has received a lot of support during the Games, but she was bothered by the misconception of some people that "I was at no risk, and mental health isn’t a serious issue."
"The girls saw me in training, my coaches saw me in training, like I physically couldn’t do it safely, and it was because I was getting so lost in the air," she said.
"It wasn’t an easy decision, so it hurts that people were like, 'Oh, she quit,'" Biles said. "I worked five years for that. Why would I quit? ... I just don’t quit. That’s not what I do."
She said she understood people might be confused since hers wasn't an injury they could see, "so I get that that was hard, but for me, it’s like I need to take a step back and work on myself."
She added she would usually "push things under the rug," but she felt doing that would be dangerous this time.
"At the end of the day, we’re not just athletes or entertainment; we’re human, too. We have real emotions, and sometimes they don’t realize that we have things going on behind the scenes that affect us whenever we go out and compete," Biles said.
The experience was "very emotional, and I’m just proud of myself and just all of these girls as well," she said of her team.
Each woman on the team — Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey — is going home with at least one medal, a reality that would not have come to be had Biles competed in all the events she qualified for.