LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – After a shocking decision from Simone Biles to withdraw from the gymnastics team finals at the Tokyo Olympics, local gymnasts say it changes nothing about her talent or her legacy.
“I hope that she recovers at her own speed, that she doesn’t feel pressure to get back as soon as possible, that she can take the time she needs to get better,” said 14-year-old Leah Parker, a gymnast from Lakeland.
The gymnasts at Nova Athletics Academy in Lakeland have one hero who stands above the rest and her name is Simone Biles.
“She kind of makes me want to keep going because I watch her on TV and I’m like, I want to do that,” said 14-year-old Lakeland gymnast Lorelei Price.
“She’s had a pretty big impact. She’s one of the greatest of all times, just looking up to her and seeing all she can do,” Parker added.
“It’s been really stressful this Olympic Games,” Biles said. “I think just as a whole, not having an audience, there are a lot of different variables going into it. It’s been a long week, it’s been a long Olympic process, it’s been a long year. So just a lot of different variables and I think we’re just a little bit too stressed out. But we should be out here having fun, and sometimes that’s not the case.”
The gymnasts in Lakeland say they understand how the pressure could get to her.
Price said she has experienced several times how the mind can get in the way.
“You’re gonna go but your mind stops you and it’s kind of scary,” she said.
“Mental is half of it. You have to be able to do it physically but if you can’t do it mentally then it’s not going to go well,” said Parker.
Gym owner and gymnastics director Michelle Carberry says mental clarity in gymnastics is a matter of safety.
“If you’re not focused, if your mind is not clear, gymnastics can be a very dangerous sport,” she said.
Carberry said she hopes Biles continues competing in Tokyo.
“She is the greatest and all these gymnasts that look up to her, that’s what she’s always going to be. One meet does not define her career,” said Carberry.
You can watch Team USA compete in the women’s gymnastics finals starting at 8 p.m. on WFLA.
To learn the results of the team finals, click here.