Simone Biles cheers on Team USA teammates in all-around gymnastics final

The four-time Rio gold medallist withdrew from her scheduled defence of her all-around title

Mark Staniforth
Thursday 29 July 2021 13:17
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Simone Biles says mental health issues behind Olympics withdrawal

Simone Biles cheered her Team USA teammates on from the stands after withdrawing from the Olympic individual all-around final on Thursday.

The four-time Rio gold medallist withdrew from her scheduled defence of her all-around title citing a desire to protect her mental health.

But she was still on hand at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo to lend support to USA teammates Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey who went for gold in her absence.

Biles is as yet undecided on whether she will compete in any of the four individual finals for which she has qualified, and which take place next week.

The 24-year-old American wrote on social media on Friday: “The outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.”

Despite qualifying for four finals, Biles looked some way from her best, and on Wednesday she pulled out of the women’s team final after making a mistake on her vault in the first rotation.

Some reports in the United States suggest Biles will elect to compete in the beam and bars finals, but not vault or floor, which would correspond with her intimation that she is suffering from a lack of confidence known in the sport as ‘twisting’.

The phenomenon, to which a number of gymnasts have admitted being afflicted, relates to issues of spatial awareness and rhythm, and self-doubt over the ability to perform particular moves or routines.

If Biles does withdraw from the floor competition, Great Britain’s 16-year-old Jennifer Gadirova will make the final as first reserve. Gadirova’s twin sister, Jessica, has already qualified for the final.

Biles watched on from the stands on Thursday

US teammate and three-time Olympian Sam Mikulak, who has spoken previously of his own mental health concerns, paid tribute to Biles after competing in the men’s all-around final on Thursday – an event Biles also watched from the stands.

Mikulak said: “We’ve had some conversations. She seems like she’s doing what’s best for her. It’s awesome to see that she’s gotten to go against the pressure of society and do what’s best for herself.

“I am really proud of her for prioritising mental health and making sure that everyone knows and understands that we’re not just athletes.

“We’re human beings, and sometimes it’s too much, and when that’s the case you have to do what’s best for you.”

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