Simone Biles
AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Simone Biles Prioritizes Mental Health At Tokyo Olympics

Simone Biles has withdrawn from Thursday’s individual all-around competition for women’s gymnastics at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health. The decision comes after Biles shocked the world by dropping out of participating in the team final.

“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. 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,” USA Gymnastics said.

VIA TWITTER

The four-time Olympic gold medalist only competed in the team’s first rotation, the vault, before she removed herself from participating in the team final. As she was getting ready to complete her vault, her eyes looked shaky while she scanned the room and the vault in front of her. She seemed uneasy as she ran. Then, she became lost in the air while she fell out of her twist and stumbled on her landing. She scored 13.766, which is very low for Biles’ performance in the vault since she typically averages around 15 points for this event.

After the stumble, she went straight to her coach. A few minutes later, NBC caught Simone saying something along the lines of her not trusting herself and exited the arena with the team doctor. When she returned to the arena with her gymnastics bag, she informed her teammates that she was going to sit out for the rest of the team final. She stayed on the floor to cheer on her teammates Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee, and Grace McCallum as they competed in their events and covered Simone’s events. The women’s gymnastics team trailed the Russian Olympic Committee by 3.5 points and was short of winning gold. Still, Team USA earned silver without Biles’ competition scores.

At a press conference after the team final, Biles confirmed that she was not physically hurt but felt the pressure of performing her best on the world stage and explained why she ultimately decided to drop out of participating in the team final.

“Today was really stressful,” she said. “The workout this morning went okay, it was just the 5.5 hour wait—I was shaking, and barely napped. I’ve never felt like this going into a competition before. I tried to go out, have fun and after warming up in the back I felt a little better, but once I came out here, I felt, no, the mental is not there. I need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,” Biles said.

VIA TIME

Biles received immense love and support from her teammates, ex-Olympians, and the sports world. Michael Phelps, the 23-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer, commented on how he can relate to Biles placing importance on her mental well-being.

While Biles received support for her decision, others are in disbelief that her mental health is the reason why she withdrew herself from the competition.

Simone Biles deserves the most recognition for following through to prioritize her mental well-being, especially with knowing how much hate she was going to receive. She allowed the world to see the thoughts running through her head over the last week. She allowed the world to see how she reached her breaking point and made a rash decision to save herself. After her qualifications, Biles posted how she felt “…the weight of the world” on her shoulders. She posted this after she qualified to compete in the individual all-around for the floor exercise, uneven bars, beam, and vault. By making that Instagram post, it is obvious that she felt the pressure of having to perform her best at all times when she lost points from stepping off the mat on the floor exercise and vault during qualifications.

Biles revealed during the press conference how stress has greatly impacted her. “It’s been a really stressful Olympics as a whole; not having an audience —there are a lot of different variables. It’s been a long week, a long Olympic process, and a long year,” she said. Biles not only dealt with the stress the pandemic left on everyone, but she also had to contend with her brother’s murder charges before he was acquitted. Many people don’t realize that she is also the only survivor of the sexual abuse gymnastics scandal who is still competing. It was evident that everything she has been going through for the last year would come crashing down on her during the Tokyo Olympics.

Although her decision to withdraw from the team final and individual all-around is still shocking, Naomi Osaka also expectedly withdrew from the French Open in May to protect her mental health. Young athletes in all sports are feeling more pressure to not only be the best but to stay the best. This is an overbearing weight that no athlete should feel. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith recently compared Devin Booker to the late great Kobe Bryant. Devin Booker even said he should have never been compared to Kobe. Unreasonable comments and applying unnecessary pressure to young athletes who are just trying to play the sport they have loved since they were a child ultimately damages their mental health and desire to continue playing their sport. Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, and many other athletes are speaking up to spread awareness of the mental health stigma all athletes face. We all need to remember that all athletes are human and mental health needs to be prioritized for their well-being.

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