KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Local Olympic gymanst Kara Eaker says she is happy for Simone Biles, who earned the bronze medal on balance beam in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Eaker is from Blue Springs and trains under coach Al Fong at GAGE Center. She qualified for Team USA as an alternate, though she spent her time in Tokyo in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 shortly after arriving.
Biles, a renowned world champion, has been in the spotlight for reasons other than reaching new heights of success.
The four-time Olympic gold medalist dropped out of competition early due to mental health concerns, specifically a case of the "twisties."
Gymnasts described the condition as a disorientation between mind and body during which they lose their sense of position in the air while performing.
It's not only unsettling for the competitors, but dangerous as they complete complex move after move.
That, coupled with the pressure of representing the U.S. on an international stage, can be hard to overcome, Eaker told KSHB 41 News.
"There is so much pressure, especially on Simone. She's expected to be the top person for our team and for the entire world," Eaker said. "That pressure to be perfect every single time is very high, and for gymnastics, at that point, it's not about physical — it's more of the mentality... If you don't have good mental health then it's very hard to be in the game and be able to perform the way you know how to perform."
Eaker said she felt the pressure even as an alternate leading up to the Olympics.
"Knowing that I'm expected to have a certain amount of hit routines and just knowing that there are going to be people watching me just as an alternate... There's a lot of pressure to be perfect still, because any minute someone could drop out like Simone did and I'm expected to fill her shoes in that competition," Eaker said.
Eaker said she feels happy Biles was able to make a come back.
"I feel very happy for her in knowing that she feels her training and her time has been successful, and just her feeling satisfied," Eaker said. "I know how much that can mean to her, knowing that she gave her all no matter what the difficulties were, that she had earned that with her hard work."