Simone Biles says she may return to Olympic competition again at the 2024 Games in Paris.
Biles will be 27 when the Paris Olympics start, an age at which most gymnasts have long retired. Maria Gorokhovskaya won the women’s all-around title at the age of 30 at the 1952 Olympics. But the last time a female gymnast over the age of 20 won the all-around title was in 1972, when Ludmilla Tourischeva claimed gold.
In an interview with NBC’s Today show on Wednesday, Biles said she was keeping “the door open” for a return to the Olympics.
“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 withdrew from the team final last week citing mental health concerns and subsequently sat out the all-around, floor and uneven bars events. The four-time Olympic champion returned Tuesday to win bronze on the balance beam, matching Shannon Miller as the most decorated Olympic gymnast in US history.
Biles also won bronze on the beam at the Rio Olympics in 2016 but said this one felt more valuable. “It definitely feels better than Rio’s bronze medal on beam, 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 acknowledged that the expectation placed on her, as the greatest gymnast of all time, coming into the Tokyo Olympics had affected her. It felt, she said, “like the weight of the world on your shoulders” and the burden can be a “little bit too heavy to carry”.
“It ended on a high, so [I am] very grateful, 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.”
However, Biles said that she had come to understand that she is more than just a gymnast.
“One morning I woke up and I was like, ‘I’m more than my medals and gymnastics, I’m a human being,’” Biles 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.”