Simone Biles has thanked fellow gymnasts for their “love and support” as she considers whether to continue to play a further part in the Tokyo Olympics.
The four-time Rio gold medallist withdrew from her scheduled defence of the women’s all-around final on Friday, citing a desire to protect her mental health.
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.”
Biles said: “After the performance I did, I just didn’t want to go on. I have to focus on my mental health. I just think mental health is more prevalent in sports right now.”
She continued: “We have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do. I don’t trust myself as much anymore. Maybe it’s getting older. There were a couple of days when everybody tweets you and you feel the weight of the world.”
It comes as tennis star Novak Djokovic replied: “Pressure is a privilege, my friend. Without pressure, there is no professional sport.
“If you are aiming to be at the top of the game you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments – on the court but also off the court.”
Piers Morgan was disparaging of her decision, unsurprisingly.
Athletes are now deemed more courageous, inspiring & heroic if they lose or quit then if they win or tough it out, which is ridiculous.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 27, 2021
I blame Twitter’s virtue-signallers for fuelling this culture of celebrating weakness. The real world doesn’t think like that.
Gymnast Andrea Orris, posting on Instagram, slammed those criticising Biles and explained that if she had continued competing she could have been seriously injured.
It was later shared on Twitter by actor Brandon Marino, and it has been shared thousands of times since.
From a gymnast friend regarding Simone Biles ?❤️ pic.twitter.com/4eWPIgi4yf— Brandon Marino (@TheBatMarino) July 27, 2021
All my support to @Simone_Biles. 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.— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) July 28, 2021
Thank you for using your platform, you are a true champion! #MentalHealth pic.twitter.com/4Ym3E9VAEf