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Simone Biles quits Tokyo 2020

Simone Biles
Simone Biles Image credit:

Gymnast Simone Biles has been forced to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics due to mental health reasons.

The Olympian announced last night she would no longer be competing in the games because she had been “freaked out in a high stress situation”.

Biles made the decision on Tuesday evening at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre before she talked about the mental health challenges which athletes like herself are faced with.

Simone, 24, has an amazing track record after qualifying for six finals over a one week period, but last night she dramatically quit telling  a trainer “I don’t want to do it - I am done” after just one vault before leaving the arena.

After walking away from the contest Biles went into more detail explaining she felt pressure competing in Tokyo 2020 and being stuck in a Covid-19 secure bubble.

“I don’t trust myself as much as I used to,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s age and I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics. I feel like I’m also not having as much fun. This Olympic Games I wanted it to be for myself but I came in and I felt like I was still doing it for other people. It hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”

Biles went on to say her coaches defend the decision she had made. “They saw I was going through it and they totally agreed it was not worth getting hurt over something so silly, even though it’s so big – the Olympics Games,” she added. “But at the end of the day we want to walk out of here, not be dragged out of here on a stretcher.”

When asked what her goal is for the Olympics Biles said: “To focus on my well-being. There is more to life than just gymnastics”

Simone did not imply weather or not she would return to compete in the all-round final on Thursday.

Speaking about the counselling she had been receiving since being sexually abused by former team doctor Larry Nassar and the pressure over the past few days Biles said: “Therapy has helped a lot as well as medicine and I feel like that’s all been going really well.

“But whenever you get in a high stress situation you freak out and you don’t really know how to handle all of those emotions, especially being here at the Olympic Games.”

She did not have a good start at Tokyo 2020, on Sunday’s qualifier Simone admitted she felt she had “the weight of the world on my shoulders at times”.

Bails went on to only perform 1.5 twists on the vaults - she was expected to achieve a Yurchenko with 2.5 twists – which landed her with one of the lowest scores of her career (13.766)

After going public about her mental health problems she hopes this will break the stigma for fellow athletes.

“We are people at the end of the day, so we have to focus on that,” Biles said.

“I think it shows the power of the athlete in protecting my mental well-being.

“I didn’t want to go out there and do something dumb and get hurt and be negligent. It’s not worth it, especially when you have three amazing athletes that can step up to the plate and do it.”

Biles said Naomi Osaka pulling out of the French Open tennis championship earlier this year encouraged her to speak out about her own mental health struggles.

“She’s been a huge inspiration,” she added. “A couple of days ago I watched her whole docu-series on Netflix and it really shined a light on it. It’s like, wow she’s one of the greatest athletes in the world and she took a step back and now look at her, she’s back here at the Olympics dominating. So sometimes it is OK to take a back seat – even at the most important meet.”

For information and advice on mental health visit the Mind website.