After withdrawing from this week’s Olympic events due to mental health reasons, Simone Biles has received an outpouring of support and respect from people across the globe – including Michelle Obama.
Updated on 29 July:
Michelle Obama has shared her support for Simone Biles, following the gymnast’s withdrawal from this week’s Olympic events as a measure to protect her mental health. As well as showing her support for Biles, Obama shared her daily wellbeing mantra.
“Am I good enough? Yes, I am. The mantra I practice daily. @Simone_Biles, we are proud of you and we are rooting for you. Congratulations on the the silver medal, Team @USA.”
It came after people across the world shared similar messages with Biles. Catch up with the story below.
Originally reported on 28 July:
“I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me, but damn, sometimes it’s hard.” These are the candid words that Olympian Simone Biles shared on her Instagram account ahead of the gymnastics final earlier this week.
Biles – 30-time Olympic and World Championship medallist – is widely referred to as the ‘GOAT’ (Greatest Of All Time). She needs four podium finishes at Tokyo 2020 to become the most decorated gymnast – male or female – in history.
That really is an unimaginable amount of pressure for a 24-year-old athlete competing in the Olympics during a pandemic that we’ve all struggled to navigate.
Yesterday (27 July), Biles withdrew from the gymnastics finals to prioritise mental wellness after scoring her lowest Olympic vault score. In a press conference after the event, Biles said: “No injury, thankfully, but that’s why I took a step back – I didn’t want to do something silly out there and get injured.”
She added: “It’s been really stressful, this Olympic games. Just as a whole. Not having an audience; there are a lot of different variables going into it. It’s been a long week, a long Olympic process, it’s been a long year…”
Explaining that she didn’t want to cost her teammates a medal, Biles said: “Once I came out here, I was like, no ‘the mental’ is not there,” she added. “I had to let the girls do it.”
Asked what advice she would give to other young women experiencing mental health problems in competitive situations, she replied: “Put mental health first, because if you don’t, you’re not going to enjoy the sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to.
“It’s OK sometimes to sit out of big competitions, to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person you really are, rather than just battling through it.”
It has since been confirmed that she will not be competing in further gymnastic events at this Olympics.
Biles’ decision to prioritise mental health over winning a medal comes weeks after fellow Olympian and tennis champion Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open for mental health issues. “It’s OK not to be OK,” she said in a later Time interview following the exit.
Celebrities and sports champions have been quick to share their support for Biles and praise her for highlighting the importance of treating mental health problems the same as a physical health issue.
“Don’t know about you but I think @Simone_Biles just empowered everyone to put their mental well-being above everything else. WHAT A QUEEN,” Jamaican gymnast Danusia Francis tweeted. “GOAT in more ways than one.”
“So glad @Simone_Biles made that call tonight,” added Australian gymnastics champion Mary-Anne Monckton. “As a gymnast, I can tell you, if you don’t trust yourself, you can’t keep going. It’s no joke; you could get seriously hurt. It’s not worth the risk. No medal is worth the risk.
“Let’s normalise putting your mental health first.”
Jameela Jamil shared a tweet by sports writer Kavitha A. Davidson, which read: “Simone Biles won nationals w/broken toes in both feet, worlds w/a kidney stone, and has carried the burden of being a face of sexual assault survivors as a national institution failed to support them
“Half of y’all yelling about ‘toughness’ can’t handle wearing a mask in Wegman’s.”
And Jordan Chiles, who replaced her friend Biles and went on to win silver with Team USA, shared a photograph, captioning it: “To my best friend, just thinking about everything we have gone through together from us getting mad at each other for no reason to laughing at jokes, to bringing the love of this sport back to me with your help words can’t explain how proud I am of you.
“I LOVE YOU and am literally crying just thinking about everything. WE did this together – love Jo.”