The internet went into a frenzy yesterday when it was announced that Simone Biles withdrew from the team competition as part of the USA Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team, leaving the gymnastics’ final mid-competition on Tuesday. According to USA Gymnastics, Biles withdrew to focus on her mental health.
During warmup for the vault on Tuesday, Biles, the reigning Olympic Champ in the event, had a small bobble and could only do one-and-a-half of her planned two-and-a-half twists. Biles visibly gets lost mid-air. She would repeat this blunder in the competition and score just 13.733 compared to the 15.183 she scored in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Simone was recorded speaking to her teammates, “I’m sorry. I love you guys, but you are going to be just fine.” After leaving the floor and speaking with medical staff, officials announced that she was withdrawing from the competition due to a “medical issue.” Simone would hit the floor again, put on her warm-up clothes, and go from competitor to team cheerleader of sorts. Simone enthusiastically cheered on her teammates.
The U.S. Women’s Gymnastic team took the silver medal behind Russia. After the competition, Simone spoke with reporters saying, “I thought it was best if these girls took over and did the rest of the job, which they absolutely did. They are Olympic silver medalists now, and they should be really proud of themselves for how well they did last minute, having to go in.”
As for her withdrawal, Biles shared with reporters, “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.”
She added, ““Whenever you get in a high stress situation, you kind of freak out… I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being.”
Quickly following the news of her withdrawal, some people criticized the gymnast’s decision under the opinion that she abandoned her teammates. Many others — including celebrities and athletes — came to her defense and praised Biles for having the bravery to prioritize her mental health. “It takes real guts to know your needs & publicly own your mental health. THAT is courage too,” tweeted Maya Wiley, while basketball player Pau Gasol tweeted, “Mental health is a key component of our health, and it MUST be a priority always. We need the sports world to focus on emotional and mental well-being a lot more.”
In the meantime, it’s not determined if she will compete in next week’s individual event finals, but USA Gymnastics says they will be evaluating Biles daily.