Gymnastics sensation and defending Olympic champion Simone Biles withdrew from Thursday’s individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games due to her mental health.
This decision followed Biles’ decision to remove herself from the team final after a rotation on vault. When discussing her decision with the media, she said mental health was the reason.
USA Gymnastics made a statement on Wednesday that said:
“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in order to focus on her mental health. 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.”
Biles had been favored to win again as an individual all-around champion.
Who Will Take Simone Biles’ Place?
Jade Carey, who was ninth in qualifying, will take over for Biles. At first, Carey did not qualify since she was the third-ranking American (after Biles and Sunisa Lee). International Gymnastics Federation rules state that countries are limited to two athletes per event during the finals.
According to USA Gymnastics, Biles will be evaluated before deciding if she will participate in the individual events next week.
Biles qualified on all four apparatuses, which she didn’t accomplish even after winning five medals at the Rio Games in 2016.
Vault and floor exercise are the first two individual events that will be scheduled for Sunday. Biles won gold in both of these events at the Rio Games.
Simone Biles Feeling the Weight of the World on Her Shoulders
On Monday, Biles posted on social media that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders and that it had become too heavy after the vaulting during team finals. She had lost herself in midair and had done 1½ twists rather than 2½. She discusses with US team doctor Marcia Faustin before withdrawing.
Biles said,” Once I came out here [to compete], I was like, ‘No, mental is not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.”
What Has the Response Been Like to Simone Biles Withdrawing From the Games?
The immediate reaction to Biles withdrawing from the Games was highly positive. Biles’ decision was received with overwhelming support from her teammates Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee, and Grace McCallum.
USA Today said Biles’ decision was “important” and a “powerful message.” The New York Times praised Biles for putting her “mental health first and the expectations of others, at best, second.” After Biles talked about the mental exhaustion from trying to be the best, the Washington Post responded with, “What are we doing, breaking our athletes?”
On NBC’s primetime broadcast, previous Olympic swimmer, now commentator Michael Phelps, told viewers her story broke his heart. He has been open about his mental health previously. He also stated: “I hope this is an eye-opening experience … an opportunity for us to jump on board, and to even blow this mental health thing even more wide open.”
HuffPost senior wellness editor Lindsay Holmes tweeted, “No one would bat an eye if Simone Biles had to leave the Olympics because of a broken ankle. There should be no line drawn between a ‘mental’ or ‘physical’ health issue. They’re the same and they should be treated like it.”
Chirlane McCray, New York City’s First Lady, also posted to Twitter that “mental health challenges are a part of the human condition and can’t be ignored. I am proud of [Simone Biles] for showing the world you can prioritize your mental well-being above all else — even at the Olympics. You are a champion, Simone, in so many ways, and we love you!”
Sportscaster Dan Patrick had this to say:” I’m glad that there are athletes willing to talk about the mental aspect of sports.
Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer at WebMD, said in a Tweet: “Thank you #SimoneBiles for reminding us there is no physical health without mental health. #mentalhealth.”
Critics of Simone Biles
Even though the reaction to the gymnast’s withdrawal has been positive for the most part, there have been some critics. These critics are mostly white, cisgender men from right-leaning US media platforms, except for the Piers Morgan column in the Daily Mail. These men hold the outdated belief that Biles is not being brave but quitting in the face of adversity.
Piers Morgan’s column even went so far as to accuse Biles of being selfish and not being able to handle Olympic competition.
On Fox, several white, right-wing men ignored the racial and gendered aspects of Biles’ experience. Doug Gottlieb made the outrageous statement that Biles hasn’t been criticized in her career. He said: “For years, women have said, all we want to be judged as is equal. Generally, we don’t have any sort of critique for our female sports teams. On one hand, you want to be viewed, treated, and compensated the same as the men, but on the other hand whatever you do, just don’t be critical of us.”
Clay Travis also claimed that Biles has been held to a different standard and even went so far as to say that she should apologize to her fellow teammates for quitting. He said: “She wasn’t there for them, and that represents a fundamental breach of the most important aspect of team sports.”
Extreme conservative pundit Charlie Kirk took it even further on his podcast and said Biles was “selfish,” “immature,” “a shame to the country,” and a “sociopath.” He also stated: “Simone Biles just showed the rest of the nation that when things get tough, you shatter into a million pieces.”
Taking it Day by Day
However, despite these ignorant men, it has luckily been an overall positive reaction to Simone Biles looking after her mental health.
On Twitter, Biles wrote:” The outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.
For the remaining events, Biles said in an interview with Today that she’s “going to take it day by day and we’re just going to see.”