Tokyo 2020 Olympics: USA gymnast Simone Biles reacts after widespread support for prioritising mental health

Team USA gymnast Simone Biles has responded to the widespread support she received in the wake of her decision to prioritise her mental health.

The 24-year-old withdrew from the team competition element of the gymnastics at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, citing mental health issues.

During a post-even press conference Biles confirmed her decision to withdraw was not due to physical injury. Instead, the gymnast said she was concerned the stress she was enduring was compromising her team’s medal chances.

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She pulled out of the individual all-round competition for the same reason days later.

Simone Biles has been widely praised for putting her mental health first

Biles explained that she had suffered a psychological phenomenon that affects a gymnast’s perception of air awareness during routines, dubbed “the twisties”.

While the quadruple Olympic gold athlete is still to make a call on her participation in Sunday’s individual apparatus finals, saying she will “take each day as it comes,” she took to Twitter to show her appreciation for the widespread support.

"The outpouring of love and support I’ve received has made me realise I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics, which I never truly believed before.”

She has received backing from fellow athletes as well as Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, and the mayor of her hometown.

"You've pushed boundaries time and time again. Rest up and take time,” Team GB gymnast Max Whitlock told her on social media.

Pogba described Biles’ decision as a “moment of undeniable strength” while Susan Rice, a senior advisor to US President Joe Biden, added: “Thank you to the #GOAT Simone Biles for reminding us that mental health comes first."

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said: “You are so much more than your accomplishments and gymnastics. You are an amazing person. If you never dance, flip, or swing on the uneven bars again you will forever be an American and international champion. Just be happy!”

Nile Wilson, a former British gymnast and 2016 bronze medallist, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “This could make a massive shift in gymnastics in talking about mental health, for her to say I'm not at the mental capacity to do the biggest event as the biggest star.

Biles, a sexual assault survivor, told the media earlier this week of the importance is “protecting our minds and our bodies,” adding: “We are people, at the end of the day.”

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