Simone Biles withdrew from the team gymnastics final in Tokyo amid speculation about her mental health
Simone Biles, the undisputed star of this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, suddenly withdrew Tuesday’s team gymnastics final because of an unspecified “medical issue,” according to a statement from USA Gymnastics.
The ongoing Olympic Games in Tokyo are, quite honestly, a mess. No spectators are allowed. Despite being kept in strict quarantine bubbles, many athletes have tested positive for COVID-19. Public support for the Games is incredibly low, as many residents of Japan worry that COVID infections are going to spill over into their communities. And now Biles, one of the most beloved athletes from the U.S., has withdrawn from competition.
“She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions,” the organization added.
Biles withdrew after competing in the first event, the vault. It’s normally one of her best, and she planned on performing a difficult move with two-and-a-half twists. However, she seemed to change her mind in midair, completing only one-and-a-half twists and then stumbling on the landing. After huddling with her trainer, Biles returned to the floor, took off her wrist guards, hugged her teammates, and left.
As Biles left the competition floor, NBC announcer John Roethlisberger said, “We’ve just been told that, with regards to Simone withdrawing, it is not injury-related. It is a mental issue that Simone is having.”
No one has officially confirmed that statement, but these Games have had an unprecedented focus on athletes’ mental health. That change has been led by tennis star Naomi Osaka, who has been open about her mental health struggles in competitions leading up to the Olympics. WNBA star Liz Cambage withdrew from the Olympics before they even started, saying she feared for her mental health if she played in a stadium with no fans, while being isolated in a strict quarantine bubble.
On Monday, Biles posted to Instagram about how she’s struggled in Tokyo so far.
“it wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it,” she wrote. “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The olympics is no joke!”
Biles came into this year’s Games at a high point in her career, but that only meant the pressure placed on her by fans and spectators was even more immense. There’s no word yet on whether she will withdraw from individual events, or if she’ll still defend her gold medal in women’s all-around.