Former GAGE gymnast Terin Humphrey applauds Simone Biles, knows pressure of Olympics

By Bill Althaus
The Examiner

Terin Humphrey, the former Olympic gymnastics star who trained at GAGE in Blue Springs, knows about injuries — whether they be broken bones, mental anguish or the suffocating pressure that comes from representing your country at a world event.

That pressure drove the gymnastics version of Wonder Woman — four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles — to withdraw from both the team final and Thursday's individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Games.

Biles said she made the decision to focus on her “mental well-being.” 

"After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in order to focus on her mental health," USA Gymnastics said in a statement. "We wholeheartedly support Simone's decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many." 

When asked about Biles' decision, Humphrey simply shook her head. She knows what that pressure is like.

“So many people simply don’t understand what it takes to compete at that level,” Humphrey said, “and the pressure that comes from competing at that level.” 

Terin Humphrey competes in the balance beam during the women's gymnastics team final at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Humphrey, who won a team silver medal and a silver in the uneven bars, understands what Simone Biles is going through at this year's Olympics in Tokyo.

Humphrey helped the United States women win their first-ever World Championships team title in 2003 before winning medals in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens — a team silver medal and an individual uneven bars silver medal.

“Simone is so strong, and I have so much respect for her, and she makes things look so easy — and believe me, they aren’t — that some people can’t understand why she made the decision to step away,” Humphrey said.

“It’s not fair or right for anyone to label her. It’s so hard to explain, but there is so much pressure, so many things to deal with. And I know about dealing with that pressure, and I applaud her decision.”

More:Simone Biles and gymnasts know mental health issues can lead to catastrophe when competing

Humphrey said Biles’ decision could end up helping others.

“It could help many young gymnasts, or athletes from any sport, open up and deal with mental health,” Humphrey said. “They might think, ‘If Simone Biles can talk about it, so can I.’

“And that might be one of her great Olympic legacies.”

Humphrey was once called “The Second Most Powerful Woman in Gymnastics” by the podcast GymCastic, when she was part of the three-member USA Gymnastics selection committee. The first was former U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi. 

As an athlete representative on the committee, Humphrey served a confidant for many of the more than 368 gymnasts who suffered abuse by coaches, trainers and doctors — including USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who is serving time in prison for sexually abusing many gymnasts.

Biles has said she was abused by Nassar.

Former Olympic medal-winning gymnast Terin Humphrey poses under a large photo mural of herself on the wall at the GAGE Center in Blue Springs. Humphrey is a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield.

Humphrey was fired from the committee in 2019 after she shared a Facebook post that critics said condoned abusive coaching tactics.

Humphrey objected her firing. She said the post in question was about her own life experiences as an athlete and condemned USA Gymnastics for perpetuating "a dysfunctional and dangerous culture."

She said she supported the survivors and believed "we should completely eradicate abuse of any type from our sport."

Today, she and her husband, Uriah, are raising their 17- month-old daughter Dani J, who just started gymnastics classes this past Saturday. 

Humphrey works full-time at a downtown Kansas City law office and is preparing to take paralegal classes. She also has her own clothing line at TerinHumphrey.com

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