Earlier this week, Simone Biles announced her withdrawal from the women’s gymnastics individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics due to her suffering mental health. The 24-year-old athlete has been dubbed the greatest gymnast of all time, winning more world championship medals than any gymnast in history. At the time of her decision, USA Gymnastics said she had withdrawn due to a “medical issue.” Later, speaking with reporters, Biles cited her mental health and noted that she was “dealing with some things internally.”
At a press conference on Tuesday, Biles said: “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 even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are, rather than just battle through it.”
Biles’ decision was met with praise worldwide, with many saying the next generation of young athletes, including Naomi Osaka who pulled out of the French Open for similar reasons, are changing the conversation about mental health.
The public support also came via Biles’ NFL player boyfriend Jonathan Owens, who commented on her Instagram, “I’m so proud of y’all.” The pair, who met on the celebrity dating app Raya, have been dating since March 2020, with Biles previously saying in interviews that the fact they’re both athletes helps to keep their relationship simple.
Following the messages of support from people all over the world, Biles wrote on Twitter, “The outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realise I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.”