USA Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles has decided to put her mental health ahead of outside expectations and pulled out of Olympic competition Tuesday.
The first official statement on her choice cited "medical issues" as her reason for exiting mid-team competition but Biles later spoke to reporters about the "high-stress situation" that forced her to reconsider her participation.
"Whenever you get in a high-stress situation, you kind of freak out," she said. "I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. We have to protect our body and our mind. It just sucks when you're fighting with your own head."
Though Biles clearly needed a break from feeling the pressure of an entire nation willing her to compete, she did return to the mat to cheer her teammates on like the number one cheerleader she is.
Simone had competed in the first event, the vault, but according to many reports, she changed the routine and skill level of her original set, leaving many bewildered. She then walked out of the main hall, and when she returned, she was in her team sweats and windbreaker rather than her competition costume.
Reporter for the Dallas News, Callie Caplan, tweeted from the event, that Biles “got lost in the air” during her warm-up vault and the same happened during the competition, where she only completed “1.5 twists instead of 2.5.”
While people were speculating about the apparent injury, NBC News reported via The Athletic that the “medical issue” Simone wasn’t physical but a mental one and her coach confirmed that "physically, she is fine. But she is done for tonight"
After Biles' exit, US women’s gymnastics team trailed behind the Russian Olympic Committee (Russia has been banned from the Olympics since their widespread doping scheme was exposed) and ultimately pulled the silver medal, while the ROC won their first gold in the sport since the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Great Britain surged past Italy for the bronze.
Simone has previously opened up about the mental and emotional pressure to represent the US at the Olympics. On Instagram on July 26th, she wrote, “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The olympics is no joke!”
Her home country and the world seem to have her back.
Upcoming events for Olympic Women’s Gymnastics include the Women’s All-Around, Vault and Uneven Bars, Floor Exercise, and the Balance Beam.
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