American gymnastics superstar Simone Biles stunned the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by withdrawing from the women’s and individual competitions, in which she was seen as one of the top contenders, for what she said were “mental health issues.”
The 24-year-old has received widespread praise for drawing attention to mental health, dispelling the stigma that persists around the issue and highlighting the immense pressure placed on elite athletes.
National figures including former United States first lady Michelle Obama, fellow athletes and commentators have supported the decision made by Biles, often hailed as the greatest gymnast of all time.
“[Simone Biles] we are proud of you and we support you, ”Obama wrote on Twitter.
Spanish Olympic basketball star Pau Gasol said Biles’ decision underscored an important reality: “Mental health is a key component of our health and MUST always be a priority.”
“We need the world of sports to focus much more on emotional and mental well-being,” he wrote on Twitter. “Thanks for using your platform, you are a true champion!”
All my support for @Simone_Biles. Mental health is a key component of our health and MUST always be a priority. We need the world of sports to focus much more on emotional and mental well-being.
– Pau Gasol (@paugasol) July 28, 2021
Sarah Hirshland, Executive Director of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Tweeted: “Simone, you have made us so proud. Proud of who you are as a person, teammate and athlete. “
“We applaud your decision to prioritize your mental well-being above all else and offer you the full support and resources of our Team USA community as you navigate the path ahead.”
– Max Whitlock MBE (@ maxwhitlock1) July 28, 2021
Biles, who won four golds at the 2016 Rio Olympics, withdrew from the women’s team competition on Tuesday, in which the best scores of a country’s team in the four major gymnastics events are combined to determine a winner. after an unusually shaky vault.
She detailed her decision in a press conference after the event.
“At the end of the day, we are also human, so we have to protect our mind and body instead of just going out and doing what the world wants us to do,” he said. “With the year that has passed, it really doesn’t surprise me how it played out.”
we love you and we are with you 🇺🇸 @Simone_Biles
– Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) July 27, 2021
The US women’s team took silver at the event, and the Russian Olympic Committee team took gold. On Wednesday, it was announced that Biles would also not compete in the individual comprehensive event, in which individual athletes are cumulatively evaluated in the four main events: jump, uneven bars, balance beam and floor.
It was not yet announced if Biles would compete in the next few days in the individual events for each of the skills, with the athlete saying that she was taking things “day by day.”
Biles has spoken openly about the pressures of being one of the most visible athletes on the United States Olympic team.
The revelation that she was one of hundreds of young women abused by former American gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has compounded that public attention.
Several observers have liked Tuesday’s decision by tennis star and fellow Olympian Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open in May, citing her mental health and “bouts of depression.”
Following the lead of Biles and Osaka, Washington Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg wondered if viewers can change their own expectations of greatness.
“Perhaps we fans can learn to adopt broader definitions of excellence and courage,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Lindsay Crouse wrote that Biles was part of a growing group of young athletes who are taking more agency over their careers and unrealistic public expectations.
“Obviously everyone wants to win. So it’s exciting that many of these stars also recognize that being their best means knowing their own varying limits and when to overcome pain and when not to force it, ”he wrote.
“How many Olympians have we seen push, persevere, and then crumble when the Games are over?”
“These young men and women are extraordinarily talented and they perform under incredible pressure, but they are not superhuman,” he added. “We have no right to expect them to be.”