The 24-year-old gymnastics star withdrew from the women’s all-around gymnastics events “to focus on her mental health”, and it unclear whether she will compete in the individual competitions.
Speaking after the opening round of the men’s golf competition, McIlroy said he was full of admiration for Biles and understood the enormous pressure she is under.
“I live in the United States and anything that came on the TV about the Olympics – NBC, commercials – it was Simone Biles, it’s the Simone Biles Olympics,” he said. “There’s what, six million people on the island of Ireland? You’ve got 300 million [in the USA], so the weight on her shoulders is massive.
“Just as I thought Naomi Osaka was right to do what she did at the French Open and take that time off and get herself in the right place, I one hundred per cent agree with what Simone is doing as well.
“You have to put yourself in the best position physically and mentally to be at your best and if you don’t feel like you’re at that or you’re in that position, then you’re going to have to make those decisions. I’m certainly very impressed, especially with those two women, to do what they did and put themselves first.”
McIlroy believes the “taboo” around discussing mental health in sport is slowly breaking.
“There’s been a few athletes that have really spoken up, Michael Phelps, Kevin Love, Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles. I mean the conversation, it’s not taboo anymore. People can talk about it just as somebody has a knee or elbow injury, if you don’t feel 100 per cent right mentally that’s an injury too.
“I think in sports there’s still this notion of just powering through it and digging in and you’re not a competitor unless you get through these things. But then when you hear the most decorated Olympian ever talk about his struggles and then probably the greatest gymnast ever talk about her struggles, then it encourages more people that have felt that way to come out and share how they felt.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies