Simone Biles is prouder of the mental health lessons she gave the world with her Tokyo Olympics withdrawal than any of the medals she has won.
The United States star withdrew from four individual events for which she had qualified after pulling out of the women's team competition after just one rotation in Japan in late July.
Biles cited a need to focus on her mental health as she chose not to contest the individual all-round, vault, uneven bars and floor exercise finals.
But she returned to action emphatically as she won the bronze medal in the women's balance beam final at the Games in early August, an achievement that she stated felt far more significant than her exploits in Brazil, in which she collected four gold medals in 2016.
Asked by MARCA if she was prouder of her achievements or the message sent by her withdrawal, the seven-time Olympic medallist said: "Most definitely the lesson that I gave the world in Tokyo, because nobody would have ever thought that would happen but everything that happened because of that has brought real good attention to mental health and the awareness that it brings.
"It was kind of a whirlwind of emotions, like 'oh my God, what's happening because I've trained five years for this?'
"So, I was really sad, but I had to do what was right for the team and I knew that was the correct decision, but also what was right for me and my mental wellbeing.
"I am really proud that people are taking it more seriously. But I wish I could have gone out there and done a little bit more. But, with the cards I was dealt I'm not mad at the results."
Biles continued to reflect on mental health in sport as she pinpointed more athletes standing up to talk about a potentially sensitive topic as a positive for the future.
"I think it cost so much because everybody thought of us as entertainment and they feel entitled to our work and [wanted us to] just go out there and put on a brave face and compete," she said.
"But now you have these sports figures and heroes standing up for themselves and saying 'I'm not doing this competition, I don't get why it has an effect on you guys when I'm really the one that's being affected'.
"To have that topic come to the forefront is really great, but it's sad that it's been silenced and forgotten for so many years and not as cared about. But, luckily we're bringing more attention to that."
Though she is proud of the impact of her experience in Tokyo, Biles admitted there are still some aspects of gymnastics that she is scared to perform.
"Some of the skills which I twist a lot on and flip a lot on, I am really scared to do just because of everything that happened," Biles added.
"But, [my coaches] are really great every time I come into the gym if I want to play around. They make sure I'm doing all the proper steps, so they definitely make me feel a lot better."
From Taylor Swift to Michelle Obama, Simone Biles received many heartfelt messages of support during #Tokyo2020.— Olympics (@Olympics) October 11, 2021
Here's her response...@Simone_Biles | @taylorswift13 | @MichelleObama | @kerrywashington | @AdamRippon | @BilesNellie | @gymnastics | @TeamUSA | #StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/1BozYRQBKy
While citing her coaches' help as a driving factor for her recovery, Biles also believes she would not have made it through the troubles in Tokyo without the help of her USA team-mates.
Despite a turbulent 2021, Biles remains happy as she continues on her indefinite break to rest and recover from a difficult year.
"What's next in my career right now is I'm obviously on a break," she concluded. "So, we have to see. I'm not sure if I'll continue with the sport. Right now, I think it's just relaxing taking quality time with family and with friends and just being normal for once.
"I think I'm happy with the way my life has turned out, especially starting gymnastics at six years old.
"All I wanted was a college scholarship and I've been to five World Championships and two Olympic Games. So, I think I've achieved more than my wildest dreams, so I can't complain."