Olympic athletes face the most pressure of any athletes in the world. Imagine preparing your entire life for a single day of competition, and if you don’t cut it, you have to wait another four years to maybe — only maybe — get another chance.
Now imagine you have the entire weight of the most successful country in Olympics history — the United States — on your shoulders, and any minuscule misstep or brief loss of balance can cost your nation a medal. That’s the reality facing superstar gymnast Simone Biles at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
That kind of pressure is hard to deal with for even the most mentally strong athletes in the world, which Biles clearly is. But she recently revealed it was taking a toll on her in a blunt Instagram post, and that may have foreshadowed her shocking withdrawal from the women’s gymnastics team final on Tuesday.
Simone Biles shockingly withdraws from gymnastics team final
Team USA entered the women’s gymnastics team final at the Tokyo Olympic Games as the two-time reigning champions of the event. The Americans have dominated the gymnastics circuit over the past few Olympic Games, and they were expected to finish off a three-peat this week behind Biles.
But on Biles’ vault attempt during the team final on Tuesday, the gymnast fell during her landing attempt and later walked off the competition floor alongside a team doctor. Soon after, USA Gymnastics announced she would not be returning to the competition.
“Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions,” USA Gymnastics wrote in a statement on Twitter.
But a conflicting report emerged when Biles returned to the floor. During the live broadcast of the team final, NBC’s John Roethlisberger had this to say on-air: “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.”
Without Biles for the rest of the competition, Team USA fell short of the gold medal and ended up with silver.
Biles’ latest Instagram post gives us a hint of the immense pressure she’s facing
Biles’ sudden withdrawal from the gymnastics team final shocked American fans watching from home, and the following report of a mental issue stunned them even more. The 24-year-old is one of the most confident athletes alive, and she’s never folded under the pressure throughout her incredible career.
But it’s impossible to know what’s going on with Biles behind closed doors. She gave us a glimpse into her mindset at the Tokyo Olympics with a candid Instagram post a day before the team final.
“I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times,” she wrote. “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! BUT I’m happy my family was able to be with me virtually. They mean the world to me!”
Mental health must come first for athletes no matter the stakes
Biles has been such a dominant force in the gymnastics world over the past few years that fans have come to expect greatness and perfection every time she steps on the mat. But even the greatest and most confident athletes in the world can struggle with their mental health behind the scenes.
If the report of Biles pulling out of the team final due to a “mental issue” is true, American fans should be supporting her with all their might, not tearing her down for costing the United States a gold medal.
After all, it’s still just a sport. Mental health is so much more important than any Olympic medal could ever be.