US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles was the talk of the sports world on Tuesday when she withdrew from the women’s gymnastic team final. After initially citing a medical issue as the reason for stepping away, the four-time Olympic gold medalist later elaborated on a mental health-related matter after struggling to land a vault.
“After the performance that I did, I didn’t want to go into any of the other events second-guessing myself,” Biles said afterward. “So I thought it was better if I took a step back and let these girls go out there and do the job, and they did just that.”
“I was still struggling with some things.”
Biles is the latest athlete to put their mental well-being above the sport they compete in over the last several months.
Naomi Osaka walked away from the French Open in March, citing a “disregard for athletes’ mental health” after opting against the mandatory press conferences with the media. Kyrie Irving left the Brooklyn Nets for two weeks back in January to tend what he called “family and personal stuff.”
That’s three of the best athletes in their respective sports letting us know how important mental health is, a development that didn’t start with them but has certainly picked up more steam thanks to their efforts, which is a great thing.
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.— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) July 29, 2021
Athletes are held to an incredibly high standard by the general public. Because they’re some of the best in the world at what they do, we expect them to maintain their excellence all the time.
They’re supposed to be above the frivolous issues that weigh down the common being because they’ve already achieved what the masses could only dream about.
We call them machines and super-human, but that only puts them on a pedestal more and more athletes are trying to tell you is unwarranted. They may have reached the pinnacle of their respective careers, but they’re also human beings, and human beings have problems no matter their circumstance.
Millions of dollars and worldwide fame don’t mask the pressures of professional sports. If anything, it aggravates the issue. You have to justify what you’ve been given every time you go out there. You have to earn the approval of others. And when it comes to representing an entire country, the outside voices become harder to ignore, which can ultimately take away from the core of how they got to this point.
“This Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself,” Biles said after Tuesday’s event. “I came in and felt like I was still doing it for other people. That just hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”
Of course, not everyone understands the struggle, but those people don’t deserve any more space in this article. If you need any indication Biles made the right decision, look at the support she’s received from athletes across all sports, including Boston’s own Jayson Tatum.
“Is it that hard to be supportive and empathetic to what others are going through,” Tatum tweeted in response to a video of someone criticizing Biles. “This is someone’s daughter and her health you're referring to. Wonder if he has kids and how he would feel as a parent someone talking about his kids this way. Cause I’d be DAMNED. Simone is a hero!”
Is it that hard to be supportive and empathetic to what others are going through? This is someone’s daughter and her health your referring to. Wonder if he has kids and how he would feel as a parent someone talking about his kids this way. Cause I’d be DAMNED. Simone is a hero! https://t.co/kJWnXK2tlk— Jayson Tatum (@jaytatum0) July 28, 2021
Biles missed out on the chance to add another gold medal to her impressive collection. We don’t yet know if she’ll participate in the individual events beginning this coming Sunday.
But by being open about her mental health struggles, Biles reignited an important conversation that continues to grow louder. And she did it on the Olympic stage, which has the potential to send ripple effects across the world.
She and every other athlete are more than what they contribute to their sport, but they’ve always known that. It’s long overdue everyone else does as well.