Team USA's six women gymnasts, all of whom are heading home from Tokyo with at least one medal, sat down Hoda Kotb live on TODAY Tuesday on the heels of the last gymnastics event at the 2020 Olympics.
In the conversation, superstar Simone Biles discussed how it felt to win bronze in Tuesday's individual balance beam final after withdrawing from the team competition one week before, citing her mental health and a case of "the twisties." She told Hoda how she coped with the criticism of her decision not to compete in several events last week and praised her teammates, Jordan Chiles, Jade Carey, Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee and MyKayla Skinner, who also reflected on their accomplishments with Hoda.
Read the full transcript:
HODA: Raise your hand if you're proud of your teammates. (Everyone raises their hands.) Raise your hand if you're proud of Simone. (Everyone raises their hands.) Simone is proud of Simone. Girl, you did it.
BILES: Thank you. I'm very shocked. I feel like it's still kind of a whirlwind. I don't get to embrace it yet, but I'm just proud I could go out there and compete one more time before the Olympics was over and do a new beam dismount I haven't done since I was probably 12.
HODA: You got up on that beam, and I was thinking about that bronze medal, and I wondered does it mean more than the others?
BILES: Yes, it means more than all of the golds because I've pushed through so much the last five years and the last week while I've even been here. It was very emotional, and I'm just proud of myself and just all of these girls, as well.
HODA: Were you scared?
BILES: I was a little bit nervous.
HODA: We were watching and you were stepping around, I was like OK, what's she feeling? I'm feeling your feels. How did you sleep last night?
BILES: Like a baby, really. I never have an issue sleeping. Now my nap time, I laid down for two hours, but I wasn't asleep. I was kind of like half awake, half asleep.
HODA: How did you feel once you finished the beam?
BILES: 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.
HODA: When you decided that you were not going to compete early on, there may have been some misconceptions. What do you think the biggest misconception was about your decision?
BILES: That I was at no risk, mental health isn't a serious issue and it was basically a cop out. The girls saw me in training, my coaches saw me in training. I physically couldn't do it safely, and it's because I was getting so lost in the air. Before team finals, the girls were terrified for me, and they've never really been scared whenever I do something, but they were really nervous.
HODA: Why the beam? Why was that the one that you decided to come back to?
BILES: Because I didn't have to twist or do anything, so it was very much at a less risk, especially if I could do a different beam dismount.
HODA: Do you think it would have been different, Simone, if your family had been here, if your people had been here with you?
BILES: They were here as much as they could have been. I swore my parents were trying to jump through the phone with all the calling, texting and sending all the messages.
HODA: By the way, I was texting your mother. I took a picture of the beam. I was like, 'That's the beam where Simone is going to be, she's good,' and your mom was sending back hearts. I saw you speaking to her right after. What did you guys say to one another?
BILES: They were just really excited because before, my dad was like, 'Since I can't be there, can you FaceTime me in the tunnel?' So right before I walked out, I did FaceTime my parents in the tunnel, and that kind of put me at ease, and then right after beam, I just wanted to say hi to them.
HODA: I think the funny thing is, Simone, when you decided in the beginning that you weren't going to compete, all of a sudden we realized all the depth on this team, and you all probably knew about the depth the whole time, but I think America learned about the depth. Every single person sitting here has won a medal. Suni, best all-around, a gold medal. Did you ever imagine in your wildest dreams that you would be leaving here with a medal in every single color?
LEE: No. Bars and beam are probably the ones that I was hoping for the most. Everybody's competing for second place because of Simone. When that happened, it was just like, 'Oh my gosh,' because I was second to her the whole season, so I felt like I was just doing this for myself, and I just wanted to prove that I could be up there. It was just crazy.
HODA: Can you guys take me back to that moment when you found that Simone was not going to be competing? You all are a team.
CHILES: That was a crazy moment. We were just very, very stressed. I do have to say that. I feel like we all put ourselves in a position where we just were hoping that no matter what was going happen, we're just going prove to ourselves that we could do anything. And with her help, in the midst of her encouraging us and supporting us throughout every single event that we were doing, it definitely helped.
HODA: I could hear Simone. I knew exactly where Simone was when you guys were competing. Grace, you had to get right back up there right after you learned. You were on those uneven bars, and I feel like you set the tone for the team. Tell me about that.
MCCALLUM: I definitely felt a lot of nerves going into that bar routine, just knowing that my bar routine set the tone for the rest of the meet. So I really wanted to do well so the rest of the girls were like, OK, I got this.
HODA: Talk about getting it. MyKayla, wow, your story is just such a beautiful story in these Olympic Games. You thought you were going home, and now you are going home with a silver medal. You got a second chance. You are now an Olympian with a medal. And I love what you said when you were doing it. You said to Simone, 'I'm doing this for us.' What does that mean exactly?
SKINNER: It's just definitely not the way that I wanted to go in, to win a vault metal. I would've liked to have it at prelims, and so it really broke my heart to see Simone go through what she was going through, and she should've been the one out there. So for her to step down and give me this opportunity, I really wanted to go out there and say, 'This is for us,' because she deserves it, too.
BILES: I said do it for yourself. I'll be cheering, I'll be the biggest cheerleader, and that's exactly what I did.
HODA: Simone, I think one of the things that these Olympics did was put mental health on the forefront. I know that was not your intent, it's just how life rolled out, but I don't think people think about mental health. They think, 'Just get your courage up, get your guts up and go do it,' but it's not that.
BILES: Yeah, it's not, and at the end of the day, we're not just athletes or entertainment. We're human, too, and 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.
HODA: I know how strong you are because I know you and I know what you've been through in your life, and I've watched all the things you've been through, and you're always you're there, back straight. So, when that day happened, when you decided not to compete, I knew it had to be crushing for you not to compete.
BILES: It wasn't an easy decision, so it hurts that people were like, 'Oh, she quit,' or, 'She did this,' because I've worked five years for that. Why would I quit? I've been through so much over the past couple years in the sport. I just don't quit, that's not what I do. But the girls could see it, and I knew that they would get the job done, and that's exactly what they did.
HODA: The other point was brought home, too, that it's about being injured. It's about getting lost in the air and hurting yourself, and I think people didn't understand that either.
BILES: Because it's not something they could physically touch or see. It's inside of my head, so it's like they can't get a grasp of it because they can't see it, so I get that. That was hard, but I have to take a step back and work on myself.
HODA: Was that the first time that it happened to you, Simone?
BILES: Yes because most of the time, I push things under the rug, and I just go along with it, but it was something bigger than me in that moment.
HODA: Jordan, I know you all are super tight. Were you worried about Simone?
CHILES: Yeah. I was more devastated because, like she said, she's been working so long for this, and she's not a quitter, and feeling that emotion that she had deep down was something that I did not want to feel because she's amazing, and I was just very, very sad that in that moment that's what she had to do. But we all pulled together, and we put everything down, and we had to do it for her.
HODA: Did you know you were loved this much?
BILES: I honestly had no idea. After team final or so, we went to the village, and I honestly expected to feel a little bit embarrassed, and people were still coming up to me saying how much I meant and I've done for them in their world, and that was just the craziest feeling ever. In that moment, I was like, 'OK, there's more than gymnastics and medals.'
HODA: I remember when I interviewed you guys after you won the silver, and I said, 'You are a coach,' and you said, 'I'd rather be that.' Were you serious?
BILES: In that moment, I felt like yes, but I was also the biggest cheerleader, so it felt really good. Maybe one day. I have no idea what's going to happen. I'm just going to take it day by day.
HODA: I did wonder if we're going to see you compete again.
BILES: I definitely am going to take some time and let this Olympics sink in because I don't think I did that after 2016. So we'll let this sink in, we have tour after this, Gold Over America. We'll be going to 35 cities, so I'm super excited about that. So we'll just see.
HODA: Jade, wow, girl. Come on. We were watching you on that floor, and it was like a magic wand, and it just hit you. I remember you the day before, and that was probably one of your worst days competing, and you went from the worst to the best. How did you turn that corner?
CAREY: Vault finals was definitely one of the worst days of my life. I was just really disappointed. But I had my wonderful teammates and my dad just telling me to let it go for the moment and that I could turn the worst day into the best day.
HODA: Well, you did it. Suni, you just had a home run Olympic Games. You must be going home proud. I bet you that Dad is waiting for you. Tell me what you're going to say to him when you see him.
LEE: Thank you for always supporting me. He's always been my number one supporter, so I'm just really excited to see him and put that gold medal around his neck.
HODA: I can't tell you how great it was being there in the stands cheering you on. I'll never forget this Olympic Games either. It wasn't about me, but I loved every single second of it. America is proud of you. You did it, you did it, you did it.