Simone Biles’ aunt died during Tokyo Olympics, coach says

"I think she needs a good break," her coach told the media.

Simone Biles’ aunt reportedly died as the American gymnastics superstar concluded her Tokyo Olympics experience on Tuesday. 

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God. This week needs to be over,’” Biles’ coach, Cecile Canqueteau-Landi, told reporters on Tuesday, as reported by US Magazine. “I asked [Simone] what do you need. And she said, ‘I just need some time.’ I said, ‘You call me, text me if you need anything I’ll be here. Whatever that is.’

She called her parents. She said, ‘There’s nothing I can do from over here. So I’m just going to finish my week and when I get home we’ll deal with it.’”

As theGRIO reported earlier, Biles won bronze during the balance beam final on Tuesday, a week after she took herself out of several competitions to focus on her mental health.

According to Landi, the decorated athlete had “two sessions” with a Team USA’s psychologist before she was cleared to return to the competition. 

Gymnastics - Artistic - Olympics: Day 11
Simone Biles on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on Aug. 3, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Biles earned her seventh career Olympic medal — tied with Shannon Miller for the most by an American in gymnastics — by drilling a slightly watered-down version of her usual routine in front of a crowd that included IOC President Thomas Bach.

After the beam final, Biles shared the tragic news with reporters that her aunt on her father’s side “unexpectedly passed.”

“We’ve had a lot of tears combined because as much as we’re happy for Team USA, in the back, it was a little heartbreaking to know that she could’ve been out there and she could’ve, hopefully, earned some medals as well,” Landi told reporters after the beam final, PEOPLE reports.

Gymnastics - Artistic - Olympics: Day 11
Simone Biles with her coaches during the women’s balance beam Final on Aug. 3, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“But, she was the best cheerleader. She wanted to be here, she wasn’t forced. That was her own will to be here and she was really proud of all of them,” Landi said, noting that Biles supported her teammates from the stands for the event finals.

Biles’ return to competition on beam served as a fitting ending to her Olympic experience. She earned bronze on the event in Brazil five years ago thanks, in part, to reaching down to grab the four-inch piece of wood after she slipped. The decision cost her gold but assured her of a fifth medal and the one, in retrospect, she said she’s most proud of.

While she hasn’t officially announced her retirement — she’s hinted that she might want to stick around in some fashion until the 2024 Paris Games to honor coaches Laurent and Landi, who are both French — a layoff awaits after she headlines a post-Olympic tour through the fall. She stressed recently she plans to stay close to the sport.

“I just need to process this Olympics first,” Biles said.

Meanwhile, Landi said Biles deserves a vacation.

“I think she needs a good break. We’re going to go back to work but I’m happy for her that she gets to go back to her family, her boyfriend, her dog. She’s just going to go home and enjoy,” she said.

Landi also revealed that Biles is “openly talking about therapy.”

“I think honestly we all should do it,” she said.

“No shame on it. And I think I might need to,” she joked. “It’s been one hell of a week. Some very high, some very low.”

This story contains additional reporting from the Associated Press.

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