July 28, 2021 4:00:18 pm
Gymnast Simone Biles, who was representing the United States at the Tokyo Games, withdrew from the gymnastics team competition prioritising her mental health.
According to a New York Times report, the 24-year-old pulled out of the event because she wasn’t in “the right place mentally” to perform “difficult and often dangerous skills” that she is known for. She also cited feeling pressured, adding that she had been struggling with the stress of being “the greatest gymnast in history”.
And this is perhaps the reason she has a lot of respect for fellow Olympian Naomi Osaka, who had previously opened up about her own struggles with mental health. Osaka had withdrawn from French Open this year, and her decision came after she refused to participate in the post-match press conferences. The tennis player also wrote an essay for The Times, stating that the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, among others, had backed her decision to prioritise her mental health over everything else.
After Biles pulled out, 23-year-old Osaka lost her third-round match on Tuesday. Extending her support to the tennis star, the gymnast was quoted as telling reporters, “I say put mental health first, because if you don’t, you’re not going to enjoy your score and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to… So, it’s okay sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor or a person that you really are.”
“At the end of the day, I have to do what is right for me,” she said, adding, “It just sucks that it happened at the Olympic Games.”
Simone Biles: ‘I feel like I’m also not having as much fun – and this Olympic Games I wanted it to be for myself and it felt like I was still doing for other people – and that hurts my heart that doing what I love has been taken away from me.’
— Ian Herbert (@ianherbs) July 27, 2021
For Osaka, the Olympics were her first major tournament in two months — after she withdrew from the French Open and the Wimbledon to take care of her mental health. While talking to reporters, she also spoke about the emotional impact of performing in the world’s biggest athletic arena. “I definitely feel there was a lot of pressure for this. I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year, [it] was a bit much. I think I’m glad with how I played, with taking that break that I had,” she was quoted.
“I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great, because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure; so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation,” she told reporters. “I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others.”
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
Just like her, Biles also struggled, and while it was heartbreaking for everyone to have to watch her pull out, it was vital that she prioritised her mental health, sending a powerful message to the world.
She also told reporters, “You usually don’t hear me say things like that, because I’ll usually persevere and push through things, but not to cost the team a medal. So they were like, ‘Okay, well, if Simone says this then we need to take it pretty serious’. I had the correct people around me to do that.”
“Today has been really stressful. We had to work out this morning and it went okay. And then just that five-and-a-half-hour wait or something, I was just like, shaking, [and] could barely nap. I just never felt like this at this point in a competition before. And I tried to go out here and have fun and warm up in the back, feel a little bit better. But then once I came out I was like, ‘No, mental [health] is not there’. So, I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,” Biles said.
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