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SIMONE BILES put her mental health first today when she backed out of the women’s gymnastics team final.
Biles supported her US teammates as they finished with a silver medal, while the Russian Olympic Committee claimed gold.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist left the arena after the vault, in which she recorded her lowest Olympic vault score with a 13.766, many assuming she had picked up a physical injury.
But speaking alongside her three teammates, Biles said her decision to pull out was due to her being concerned with her stress levels and not wanting to jeopardise the US’ chances of claiming the gold medal.
“No injury, thankfully,” Biles said. “And that’s why I took a step back, because I didn’t want to do something silly out there and get injured.
“So I thought it was best if these girls took over and did the rest of the job, which they absolutely did. They’re Olympic silver medallists now. And they should be really proud of themselves for how well they did last minute having to go in on it.
“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. We should be out here having fun and sometimes that’s not the case.”
Biles said that she had spoken to training staff following her vault display and that though there were some initial resistance from those above her, who said that she looked fine, Biles knew better.
“I was like: ‘I think the girls need to do the rest of the competition without me’,” Biles said. “And they were like: ‘I promise you, you’re fine. We watched you warm up.’ And I said: ‘No, I know I’m going to be fine, but I can’t risk a medal for the team, so I need to call it.’
“And 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: ‘OK, well, if Simone says this and we need to take it pretty serious.’ And so, I had the correct people around me to do that.”
Biles added that given the recent exposure around mental health among athletes, Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open and revealed she suffered from bouts of depression, helped her come to this decision.
“After the performance I did, I just didn’t want to go on,” she said.
“I have to focus on my mental health. I just think mental health is more prevalent in sports right now.
“We have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do.
“I don’t trust myself as much any more. Maybe it’s getting older. There were a couple of days when everybody tweets you and you feel the weight of the world.
“We’re not just athletes. We’re people at the end of the day and sometimes you just have to step back.
“I didn’t want to go out and do something stupid and get hurt. I feel like a lot of athletes speaking up has really helped.
“It’s so big, it’s the Olympic Games. At the end of the day we don’t want to be carried out of there on a stretcher.”
She continued: “Today has been really stressful. We had a workout this morning. It went OK. And then just that five-and-a-half-hour wait, I was just like, shaking. I could barely nap.
“I’ve just never felt like this going into a competition before. And I tried to go out here and have fun and warm up in the back when a little bit better. But then once I came out here, I was like, no, [the] mental is not there. So I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.”
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