Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles sent shockwaves around the world by pulling out of two events in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health.
Her decision to withdraw from the women’s team and individual all-around competitions has sparked a global conversation on mental health.
While some people are critical of Biles’ decision, others applaud her for being brave and taking care of herself.
“Yeah, I say put mental health first because if you don’t then you’re not going to enjoy your sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to. So it’s ok sometimes to sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself. It shows how strong a person and competitor you really are, rather than just battle through it,” said Biles.
Even before the finals, Biles posted on Instagram saying “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times.”
“It’s been really stressful this Olympic Games. I think just as a whole, not having an audience, there are a lot of different variables going into it, it’s been a long week, it’s been a long Olympic process, it’s been a long year. So just a lot of different variables and I think we’re just a little bit too stressed out but we should be out here having fun and sometimes, that’s not the case,” said Biles in an interview after the team finals,” said Biles.
Lynchburg’s Dynamic Gymnastics owner Brandon Sloan said it’s a dangerous sport if your head’s not in it.
“You’re doing skills that if you forget what you’re doing in the middle of the air, you can get hurt. You can seriously injure yourself,” said Sloan.
Sheila Lythgoe with Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare commends Biles for making the tough call.
“She’s human. She’s just like the rest of us,” said Lythgoe, the community prevention initiatives coordinator. “I think that says a lot for her in helping to reduce the stigma behind mental health.”
As the only survivor of Larry Nassar’s tenure of sexual abuse to compete in these Olympics, Biles told NBC News: “I had to come back to the sport to be a voice, to have change happen.”
Lythgoe says any kind of trauma can have a lasting impact on one’s mental health.
“Our mental health is just as important as our physical health,” said Lythgoe.
She also said that Biles can inspire others to prioritize their own mental health.
“I can have everything in the world. I can be at the top and still be struggling with mental health issues,” said Lythgoe, “We’re hoping that other people will recognize, it’s OK for me to talk too, it’s OK for me to reach out for help.”