Simone Biles is stepping into the Olympic spotlight again. She is better prepared for the pressure

If the gymnastics superstar has learned anything in the three years since those strange, uncertain days in Tokyo when she put her mental health and personal safety ahead of her pursuit of more Olympic glory, it is that the battle to protect yourself is never really over. Never fully won.

It’s a lesson she learned in front of the entire world in Japan, where Biles arrived as the face of the Summer Games only to withdraw from multiple competitions, including the team final, when her body simply stopped doing what her brain was asking it to.

In the moment, Biles blamed it on “ the twisties.” On the surface, she was right. Yet they sprang from something deeper and harder to define.

“She can’t even explain it (and) the doctors she sees probably can’t even explain it to her,” said Laurent Landi, who along with his wife Cecile has coached Biles since 2017.

 “It’s a trauma that happened to her and that came at a bad time and she could not handle it. It’s as simple as this. She could not function. She could not be a gymnast at that time.”

She can now, though the road to this moment — Biles will compete for the first time in 2024 at this weekend’s U.S. Classic — has been difficult. It has required a new mindset, at times a literal mother’s touch and constant vigilance to work on herself, work she now understands has no expiration date.