Simone Biles made a comeback to the world of gymnastics at the 2023 Core Hydration Classic, and it’s clear that she hasn’t missed a beat.
In a post-competition interview, Biles opened up about her focus on mental health during her time away from the sport, which in turn has allowed her to be in a better mental space overall.
“I feel really good about where I am right now, mentally and physically,” Biles shared with reporters after completing her event. While she expressed that she was “really nervous to compete” after her two-year hiatus, she notes that taking a mental break has had a positive impact on her recovery. “You kind of have to take that mental break because if not, obviously, your body will decide for you, and that’s kind of what mine did in Tokyo.”
During the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, Biles expressed mental health concerns known as the "twisties," a phenomenon where gymnasts experience a disconnect between their mind and body — or spinal awareness — while performing complex aerial maneuvers, which can result in serious injuries.
“It was the worst timing, but obviously, I’m really happy with what happened because I got to go and work on myself,” the four-time gold medallist adds. “I’m still continuing to work on myself and go to therapy and make sure that everything is all in line so at that in the gym, we can focus on gym.”
Biles' decision to prioritize her well-being and safety over competition was met with both support and criticism online. A reality that caused her to preserve her peace and take a step back from online discourse. “I think I feel a lot better because I’ve found ways to manage that — like deleting Twitter, not trying to look at it,” she told reporters. “There are really nice comments — you have your supporters, you have your fans, like your day-ones. And then you have those really nasty ones that can get to you.”
Her withdrawal from the Olympics sparked a global conversation about the importance of mental health in sports and the immense pressure that elite athletes face. Biles' openness about her struggles encouraged a number of other athletes to share their own experiences and highlighted the need for better support systems for athletes' mental well-being.
“I feel grateful that I get this opportunity to come back out here and to compete in front of a crowd because I truly didn’t believe that I’d be back here competing at all,” she adds.
During her time off, Biles has kept herself busy by getting back on the mat, “trying to get fit again,” and focusing on her newlywed status with her NFL husband, Jonathan Owens.
While Biles says she’s not aiming to look too far ahead to the 2024 Paris Olympics, her current focus is on “living in the moment” and trusting herself in the sport again. “Right now, I think I should just embrace what happened today, be happy,” she says. “I think we’re just trying to take it one step at a time.”
“Kind of taking a fresh start in everything. Still going out there and talking about mental health and talking to all of the other athletes and supporting them on their journeys as well.”
Feature image by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
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As much as I talk about sex, this is a topic that I was excited to shed a spotlight on. Why? It’s simple, really. Despite how sexed — and sometimes it really does seem oversexed — that our culture and society may be, virgins are not extinct. Believe it or not, it’s been reported that around 27 percent of guys are still virgins when they first step foot on a college campus (as a freshman) and, globally, approximately 38 percent of people between the ages of 18-24 are still virgins too. And even though it’s not a ton of ‘em, there are still some virgins who are over 40 (I personally know three, although they declined to be interviewed for this article).
And even though it really does seem like, over the past 50-60 years or so, virginity has been looked at as something that should be ridiculed, side-eyed, or even flat-out dismissed, I don’t feel that way at all. Fourteen sex partners and many lessons later, I actually get that there are many perks that come with waiting. Not only that, but I’ve encountered enough virgins in my time to get that, like most things in life, virginity is not a monolith, there are tons of reasons why people choose not to have sex until later in life and, if there’s one thing that you can’t really “do over” (because no, there is no such thing as a “born-again virgin.” You lose your virginity ONCE) is “losing” your virginity (I prefer to say “giving.” You know where it is)— being careful and even uber-cautious about how and when your first time goes down is something that I very much so respect.
You don’t have to take my word for it, though. As someone who gave my “conscious virginity” (I am a survivor of molestation, which is why I put it that way) at 19, I wanted to hear from women of that age and older who still haven’t “partaken of the fruit” just yet. First, to give their journey a voice and second, to remind others who may not be so vocal about their own virginal sexual status that, no matter what social media may be yapping about, when it comes to the topic of virginity, they are certainly not alone — and there is definitely nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.
*Per usual, when it comes to these types of interviews that I conduct, middle names have been used.*
“It’s not like I planned to be this age and still a virgin. When I was in high school, I thought I would be married by now. I’m not, and that’s why I’m still a virgin. Does this mean I’m waiting until marriage? I am. I don’t see the point in giving some man my all without that level of commitment. I personally admire women who can because I don’t have the emotional strength or mental stamina to go through that kind of stress or pain — especially multiple times. I just think there is already enough to worry about in life than if I’m gonna get an STD, get pregnant by someone I don’t want to deal with for the rest of my life, or even if some man is going to call the next day.
"And before y’all even start — yes, I know that marriage comes with risks too. But if a man is willing to pledge his life to me and sign a legal contract to prove it just to get some, I’d rather go that route than some dude I met at a club or a guy who I dated for a couple of months, and it didn’t work out. To each their own, and this is the way that I choose to do it.”
“I’ve always been called an old soul. I don’t think that 22 is old, but it is old, these days, to be a virgin. Some people assume that I’m one for religious reasons. Really, it’s because I’m observant, and my sisters and friends who already gave it up usually had more drama in their lives than anything. I just want my first time to be with someone who, when I look back on it, I don’t have regrets. I’m not looking for the perfect guy, but damn, can he at least not ghost me, give me an orgasm, and keep the moment to himself instead of telling all of his boys? I don’t think that’s too much to ask — and if it is…oh well.”
“The question I get asked all of the time is if I’m saving it for marriage. I am. I used to say that I was waiting until I got engaged or at least fell in love, but I have friends who did that, and months after they had sex, the guys were gone. I know that marriage doesn’t guarantee anything, but I have some other friends who were virgins on their wedding night, and their lives just seem to be less intense.
“Not having sex has shown the true colors and real agendas of a lot of guys, so while it does get lonely, being this way makes it easier to see who is serious about a relationship and who just wants to get their d — k wet. Virginity can be the ultimate male marriage material predictor. At least it’s been that way for me.”
“I almost gave it up to my first love, and ‘he’ didn’t happen until college. The break-up damn near turned me into a basket case, so that proved to me that I’m not really for a sexual relationship. I think the best way to explain it is, until I know that I can emotionally handle giving myself to someone and it possibly not working out, I need to stay just where I’m at…and I’m just not there yet.”
“The timing of this is crazy because I almost lost my virginity last weekend. It’s a long story, but I was going to give it to a guy friend because I want my first time to be with someone who I trust. We didn’t go through with it because he said that he didn’t want to chance me regretting it and it ruining our friendship. I think it’s interesting that it seems that men value a woman’s virginity more than women do these days. Anyway, all I know is it won’t be just some random guy. If I don’t trust you with my heart, you will never be able to have my body. My standard will definitely be someone who was my friend first.”
“I’ve been too busy to give up my virginity. Sounds crazy, but it’s still the truth. I’ve always been very career-driven, so after getting my master’s, I decided to do a lot of traveling and then buy a home. It’s probably been over the past few months that my sexual status has even crossed my mind because dating just hasn’t been a priority.
“I guess you can say that having a full life is why I’m a virgin. When I can fit a man into my schedule, and I find him just as stimulating as what I currently have going on, I can almost assure you that my sexual status will change. Until then…stamps on the passport are my orgasms.”
“I’ve had plenty of oral sex — not giving, receiving. Some people say that, technically, I’m not a virgin anymore, but I guess I’ll speak for the women who fall into my special situation. The reason why I’ve never gone down on a guy is because I want that to be reserved for the one [who] I first have intercourse with. The reason why several have gone down on me? You know how guys are — they see virginity as a challenge and will go the distance to be the first. If they wanna try, who am I to stop them?
"As far as what I’m waiting on…I don’t really see it as ‘waiting.' I am open to it. I just haven’t been with someone who seems like he is who I should give it to. I think that the guy who never brings sex up will probably be the one who piques my interest. I’m already a challenge. I think I’m looking for someone who is one, too.”
“I’m a virgin because I’m focused. There are too many women at my school who are so distracted because of what some guy is doing or didn’t do — and I don’t have the time. I want to be able to have my master’s degree before my 23rd birthday, and I’m on the way to making that happen. I haven’t told anyone this, but the present I want to give myself is losing my virginity for graduation. I think an orgasm for all of my hard work makes sense. I know who I want the guy to be, too. He doesn’t know. Hope he doesn’t blow it. I’ll try to keep you posted.”
“All of the holy books value virginity, and that’s why you will never be able to convince me that there is not a serious spiritual breakdown in our society. What used to be respected is now a so-called social construct, and to me, that sounds like so many people are so hyper-sexed with no real reason or purpose that they want to take the ‘misery loves company’ approach — that because they weren’t taught to value virtue and virginity, they want as many other people as possible to follow suit. That will never be me. Until I meet the man who is deserving of being the first and only to enter into my body and spirit, I will remain a virgin and very proud of it.”
“I honestly don’t know why I’m still a virgin. Remember how you told me [Shellie] that after the first couple of years of abstinence, you got pickier and pickier? That’s the way I’ve been all of my life. I’m sure that sex is amazing, but it’s also complicated, physically kind of messy, and exposes you to a world of stuff that you don’t have to think about when you’re a virgin. I’m not scared to have sex, but I’m not in a rush. Look at me — I’m sure I’ll open these legs up one day, but I’m not checking off the calendar or anything. When I have room to explore the good and bad of sex, I’ll be more aggressive about it.”
There you have it — proof that there are at least ten virgins on the planet who aren’t still in high school. And what I like about each of them is there is both a confidence and focus outside of their sexual status that serves as a great reminder that sex is a part of who we are yet…it’s certainly not everything. And you know what? It never was designed to be.
So yes, kudos to them for having a personal type of conviction, for whatever the reason, and standing by it.
Virgins or not, it’s a reminder that we all should be firm in our standards about…something.
Amen? 1000 percent.
Featured image by Giphy