Simone Biles has pulled out of the individual all-around competition, one day after withdrawing from the gymnastics team finals. The 2016 American Olympic champion has cited her mental health as the reason for exiting the finals, and has credited tennis star Naomi Osaka for her decision.
Biles, 24, withdrew from Tuesday’s team gymnastics final due to a “medical issue.” The Olympian later explained that her decision to remove herself to focus on her mental health and “not jeopardize my health and well-being.” She also shouted out Osaka, who prioritized her own mental health when withdrawing from the French Open earlier this year, for inspiring her to be candid about her own issues.
Biles is currently the number one ranked gymnast in the world, but will not be defending her Olympic title today. She currently has five Olympic medals from her domination in Rio in 2016, with four gold and one bronze. She helped her team earn silver this week in the women’s all-around in Tokyo.
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There is still a chance that Biles will continue competing in Tokyo in the individual events next week. USA Gymnastics said Biles will be evaluated before deciding if she will participate.
While Biles has received support from a number of other athletes for her decision, including former Olympic champions Aly Raisman, Michael Phelps and more, she has also received criticism from people who are saying she has let down her country and teammates.
Although gymnastics is an incredibly challenging physical sport, it’s also psychologically demanding. Not being in the right headspace when attempting difficult stunts could very easily result in severe injuries or even death. By prioritizing her mental health, Biles is looking out for her safety while also spotlighting the fact that mental health is health.
Biles had also noted that it had been a difficult time. While all of us have suffered through the pandemic, it’s easy to forget that Biles and the other gymnasts have had to deal with pausing their training when their gyms closed due to COVID-19. She said that when this happened, she was so depressed that she was unable to sleep and wanted to quit. Plus, the star was also one of the numerous gymnasts sexually abused by disgraced doctor Larry Nassar, who was sent to prison in 2018, and she has stated those events left her with anxiety. She recently opened up about the trauma earlier this month on her Facebook Watch series.
Although we all want to see Biles compete, it’s important to remember that athletes are people — they don’t exist solely for our entertainment. Plus, who are we to criticize Biles when none of us have the skills to do what she does? It’s easy for people to sit on their couches from home feeling angry we don’t get to see her tumbling and flying, when we should be applauding her for her bravery.
Biles has always been someone who has pushed herself in the sport, medaling at worlds while contending with a kidney stone, and winning nationals with broken toes in both feet, and shattering a toe after her last Olympics. To say she doesn’t have a GOAT mentality simply isn’t it; we could all learn from Biles to do what is best for ourselves.
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