Fans were shocked when Simone Biles withdrew from the women’s team gymnastics final during the Tokyo Olympics.
After initial reports of a medical issue, the gold medalist revealed that she left the floor for her mental health and knew her team could go on without her.
Simone shared in a press conference: “Mental is not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.”
Gymnastics fans were surprised Tuesday morning when reigning champion Simone Biles altered her vault in the air and stumbled the landing during the Olympics team competition. But people were stunned when it was announced that Simone would be pulling out of the rest of the team competition.
Plenty were left wondering, “Why did Simone Biles withdraw?” and the answer wasn’t clear immediately. After some initial reports that the gymnastics G.O.A.T. was physically injured, U.S.A. Gymnastics released this statement online: “Simone has withdrawn from the team final competition because of a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”
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But soon after, NBC reported that the 24-year-old wasn’t physically injured. Instead, they said, she pulled out of competition due to a mental health issue.
Simone told Today’s Hoda Kotb that her teammates were “freaking out” when she told them she was leaving the competition. “They were like crying, and I was like, ‘You guys need to relax, you’re going to be fine without me. Go out there, kick some butt just like you’ve done in training, and just lay it out on the floor and see what happens,’” she said. Simone could be seen during the competition cheering her teammates on from the sidelines and even helping to move around mats for them.
In a press conference after the event, Simone said that she “took a step back” because she “didn’t want to do something silly” and get injured. “I thought it was best if these girls took over and did the rest of the job, which they absolutely did. They’re Olympic silver medalists now and they should be really proud of themselves for how well they did,” she said.
Simone said that “it’s been really stressful” at the Games, “just as a whole, not having an audience. There are a lot of different variables going into it.” Simone said that “it’s been a long week, it’s been a long Olympic process, it’s been a long year…just a lot of different variables and I think we’re just a little too stressed out. We should be out here having fun and sometimes that’s not the case.”
Simone later repeated that she felt “stressed out” before the meet, noting that she was “shaking” beforehand. “I’ve never felt like this going into a competition before and I tried to go out,” she said. “But once I came out here, I was like, ‘no. Mental is not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.'” (FYI, she’s talking about Jordan Chiles and Suni Lee, who definitely showed off their skills.)
Simone hinted earlier this week after having a shaky start during the preliminary round that she was mentally struggling with the pressure going into the Olympic games. “It wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it,” she wrote on Instagram. “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! BUT I’m happy my family was able to be with me virtually🤍 they mean the world to me!”
Other athletes have cheered Simone on, including her former teammate Laurie Hernandez. “The whole globe is watching her,” she told Today. “The pressure is immense.”
Laurie added: “When something like this happens, there’s just immense pressure [and] this feeling of, ‘I don’t want to let my team down.’ We don’t want to speculate [about why she exited] … at the end of the day, mentally, physically, we just want to make sure she’s okay.”
Simone told Today that she felt ”good” physically. “I’m in shape,” she said. “Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment. Coming here to the Olympics and being the head star isn’t an easy feat, so we’re just trying to take it one day at a time and we’ll see.”
Simone also didn’t say if she would compete in the all-around competition on Thursday, where she is the heavy favorite to take home gold. “We’re going to take it day by day, and we’re just going to see,” she said.
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