Tokyo, Japan: Anyone harboring illusions as to the value Simone Biles attached to the bronze she won on the beam at the Olympics on Tuesday was set to right by the comeback queen herself.
“It means more than all the golds,” she told NBC.
Her already storied career took flight in the most unexpected direction possible in Tokyo, that comment unthinkable a fortnight ago when she had her sights set on five golds for a record-equalling haul of nine.
But a lot has happened to Biles since the Olympic flame was lit on July 23.
And social media was alight with heartfelt congratulations to the 24-year-old after she finished third on her return to competition after her ‘twisties’-enforced hiatus.
“Congratulations @Simone_Biles… the most important medal @Tokyo2020 @Olympics” tweeted Nadia Comaneci, who entered Olympic folklore at 1976’s Montreal Games with a ‘Perfect 10’ score.
Biles’ bravery in returning for the closing women’s final after withdrawing from the previous five with her body and mind out of sync rendering the fiendishly difficult art of twisting downright dangerous ranks as one of this Games’ most compelling narratives.
“Not enough words to express how proud I am of you Simone!!!” coach Cecile Landi posted on Instagram, summing up perfectly Bile’s answer to adversity delivered in the only way she knows how – with a leotard on performing gravity-defying moves mere mortals can only wonder at.
Biles’ medal haul may be less than her many millions of fans were anticipating but she still leaves Japan swelling her haul to seven to match the American record held by Shannon Miller.
Reflecting on her closing heroics behind Chinese duo Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing she told NBC: “(The bronze) means more than all the golds because I’ve been through so much the last five years and the last week while I’ve even been here.
“It was just… It was very emotional,” she said. And I’m just proud of myself and all of these girls as well.”
She added: “I didn’t really care about the outcome. I was so happy that I made the routine and then I got to compete one more time.”
And what now for the woman from Ohio who has with Japan’s tennis star Naomi Osaka helped bring athletes’ mental health out into the open?
Before Tokyo, she had intimated French coaches had got her thinking of putting off her Olympic retirement to perform as a specialist at Paris 2024.
Understandably she’s not going to rush a decision, after all, she’s been through – in 2018 after she revealed she had been among the gymnasts who were sexually abused by the US team’s former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar.
“I just need to process this whole Olympic term first. It’s been a lot. It’s been a long five years.
“So Paris is definitely not in my mind frame, there are so many things that I have to work on for myself first.”