Simone Biles, winner of four Olympic gold medals, has admitted to doubts over whether she could train an extra year for the postponed Tokyo Games – but now wants to prove she can be even better at 2021’s rearranged Olympics.
The United States gymnast, 23, was due to retire after Tokyo 2020 and was unsure if she could take another 15 months of preparations.
“It’s a lot mentally and physically, and I doubted my ability if I could even stay on top of my game for another year,” Biles told BBC Sport.
“My motivation now is proving to myself that I can go another year, I can do it again, and I can hopefully be better than I was in Rio.”
Biles is the most successful gymnast in World Championships history and had the chance to make the same claim at Olympic level this summer.
However, she has now had to “reset” her mind for another 15 months of hard work after the coronavirus pandemic forced the Tokyo showpiece to be postponed.
“I cried,” said Biles, “I didn’t really know where to start with the news.
“Obviously right now there are bigger problems than having the Olympics postponed.
“But in three months I was ready to clock out and be done.
“I had my mind set for four years, so how do you go from one day being told ‘hey, sorry, another year’?
“It’s hard to reset the calendar and the clock when you’ve been preparing your whole life to be ready at this certain time.
“So to have that set back it was just kind of crushing.”
And Biles admitted she did then consider the notion of not continuing through to the rescheduled Olympics in July 2021.
“A little bit, yes,” she said.
“It’s hard but I think I’m pretty strong mentally and physically so I’ll get through it just like everybody else.
“But, I feel that I didn’t come this far to just give up and I want to be the one who makes the decision if I’m done with the sport or not.”
At 23, Biles describes herself as “pretty old” for a gymnast in the United States, where females in the sport have traditionally competed for one Olympiad before retiring in their teens.
The years of hard training have taken their toll on her physically, but she feels the mental aspect will prove her biggest personal challenge.
However, it is an aspect that, if she can conquer it, could deliver better results than the four golds and one bronze medal she took home from the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“My body is already kind of breaking down at this point,” she said.
“Another year of gymnastics is a lot to put on your body.
“My coaches will have me ready, but if your mind is not in it then physically you could get hurt.
“We do a lot of hard skills and you’re going to really break something if you’re not 100% set.
“Physically, I’m already better than Rio – so that’s something positive.
“But mentally, I’ll have to be on top of my game. That’s going to be the hardest thing.
“I was a rookie in Rio, I’m a veteran now. In a way, your second time is almost scarier because I have a lot of expectations to try and uphold.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves that nobody really understands.
“At the end of the day that is our life, that is how we make money, that is how we move forward and that’s how we’re known.
“When I go out there to compete I put more pressure on myself than anybody else.
“Because I know how hard I’ve worked. I want to do well. I want to succeed.”