New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday praised Olympic gymnast Simone Biles as a “role model” for taking a break from competition to focus on her mental health — and then returning to win yet another medal for Team USA.
“She showed that she is a role model, not just as an athlete, but a leader for just all people,” the Democrat told TMZ on Capitol Hill.
The congresswoman’s comments came after Biles, 24, cinched a bronze medal on the balance beam Tuesday.
It marked the four-time Olympic gold winner’s return to competition after she pulled out of several events due to struggles with her mental health and a case of the “twisties.”
Her “bravery,” Ocasio-Cortez said, showed that people don’t have to choose between their performance and their health.
“Her bravery, I think, was a huge example to everybody,” the progressive lawmaker said. “And her coming back to win another medal it showed that her taking care of herself helped us … it helps you be better in the end.”
Asked whether Biles might come out to Capitol Hill to speak about mental health, Ocasio-Cortez replied, “I hope so. We need her voice.”
Following Tuesday’s event, Biles said that her bronze medal “means more than all of the golds.”
“My mental and physical health is above all medals that I could ever win,” Biles added. “So to be clear, to do beam, which I didn’t think I was going to be, just meant the world to be back out there.”
“And I wasn’t expecting to walk away with the medal. I was just going out there doing this for me.”
The USA Gymnastics star’s performance in Tokyo may be her last, according to reports. It’s possible she could attempt to qualify in one event at the 2024 Paris Olympics, when she would be 27, though there aren’t many gymnasts who can continue to compete at that age.
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