TOKYO (NEWS 1130) — Saying she needs to focus on her mental well-being, the world’s top gymnast has withdrawn from a second event at the Tokyo Olympics.
Simone Biles has decided to not compete in the all-around gymnastics competition.
The 24-year-old is getting some hateful responses as a result, but the support seems to far outweigh the negative comments.
Elite athletes such as Michael Phelps are among those showing their support. The most decorated Olympian of all time has spoken publicly about his own mental health struggles, but has also faced backlash.
Biles’ decision is drawing comparison’s to tennis great Naomi Osaka, who made recently made headlines and drew fierce criticism after she withdrew from the French Open
Biles was a favourite going into the Olympics, and has been featured in the majority of commercials for the games.
Her combined total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals made her into a celebrity, with many speculating that there is more pressure on her than anyone else.
Early this week, Biles wrote on her social media, “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times.”
U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky can relate with that pressure, saying, “I understand it. We are at the highest level. We have the most eyes on us than anyone in the world right now.”
While many on Twitter are lashing out, saying that the mental health of athletes should not be an excuse, officials have made public statements of support for Biles.
“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 official statement says.
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland also applauded Biles for prioritizing her “mental wellness over all else” and offered the organization’s full support.
Ayanna Sealey, a mental health performance coach, told Breakfast Television that she is very proud of Biles, and knows that choosing your health over your performance is incredibly difficult.
“We’ve got to stop separating the athlete from the human beings…being an elite performer myself I understand the pressure that comes when I’ve got to say, ‘you know I’m not doing well,’ she said.
The decision to not compete in the all-around comes just one day after Biles withdrew from the another event, the team final. She completed 1 1/2 twists instead of 2 1/2 on the vault and the shaky performance led to her walking off the field of play. She said she felt she wasn’t mentally ready.
She told reporters that she experienced a little bit of the ‘twisties,’ which is described as a moment when an athlete’s rhythm can be off, making it difficult for the brain to compartmentalize and can throw off the whole skill.
Former U.S. national team member Aleah Finnegan described it as something that can be very dangerous.
“I can’t imagine having it happen to you during a competition,” she wrote on Twitter. “You can’t control yourself and what your body is going to do next therefore literally risking your life,” Finnegan explained.
Biles says she wanted to persevere, as she normally does, but wanted to ensure her teammates had their best chance to capture a medal for Team USA.
“Put mental health first because, if you don’t, you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to,” she said following the decision.
USA placed second to Russia in that competition, and Britain captured the bronze.
The organization says Biles will be evaluated before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events.