In the world of gymnastics, Simone Biles is known as the greatest of all time — with multiple moves named after her and several Olympic medals at the age of 24. Biles proved this week that the pressure and stress of competing is no easy task, even for an Olympian.
Biles, a member of The United States' gymnastics team, withdrew from the women’s gymnastics team final Tuesday night due to mental health concerns.
USA Gymnastics released a statement that Biles withdrew from the team final competition due to a medical issue, but Biles cited the constant pressure and stress taking a toll on her mental health.
Physically, I feel good, I’m in shape,” Biles told Today. “Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment.”
After helping team USA take home 4 medals in the 2016 Rio Olympics and another in Tokyo, Biles is one of the most revered athletes to step foot into the Olympic games. Her and her teammates walked into Tokyo as the favorites to take home the gold.
Following the conviction and up-to-175-year sentence of Larry Nassar for sexually abusing athletes for decades in 2017, Biles spoke out about being a survivor and pushing forward with the decision to prepare for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s a bummer that Biles withdrew but you have to respect her decision," MSU law student Austin Trummel said in a Twitter message. "Who knows what she’s going through. I’m sure there are lots of pro athletes who struggle with mental health but fear the backlash if they sit out because of it or speak up about it. Maybe Biles’ decision will help encourage them to do so.”
In a new Facebook Watch series about Biles and her journey, “Verses on Watch,” Biles speaks about the trauma and strength that has grown from being a survivor.
In episode four, she speaks about being the only active athlete in an organization that failed her and many other survivors.
“It’s more than just my gymnastics at this point that I’m advocating for, but being one of the remaining survivors in this sport, I feel like I still have to be a voice for them," Biles said in the series. "And it’s going to be harder to shut us out and our voices out if there’s still somebody competing in this sport and is active.”
In a Jan. 2018 Twitter statement, Biles speaks about the heartbreak of having to return to the training facility where she was abused in order to prepare for the next Olympic games, but will not let this experience define her.
“After hearing the brave stories of my friends and other survivors, I know that this horrific experience does not define me,” Biles said in the statement. “I am much more than this. I am unique, smart, talented, motivated, and passionate.”
In response to Biles withdrawing from the competition, Angela Rose, founder and president of Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment, or PAVE, wrote a statement of support.
"Simone Biles is a hero. She is certainly not the villain," Rose said in the press release. "The true villains are Larry Nassar and the Team USA gymnastics leadership. Nassar's abuse and the leadership turning a blind eye created rippling effects of psychological torment. Her decision to leave the competition should be supported, not judged. It was courageous."
In the statement, Rose said that PAVE supports Biles' decision to take care of her mental health.
"Sexual abuse is still shrouded in shame and secrecy," Rose said. "PAVE applauds Simone’s courage for shattering the silence! Simone's bravery gives hope and helps countless other survivors to come forward and take care of their own mental health."
Biles reposted a post to her Instagram story which was shared by ex-gymnast Andrea Norris. This was the first post Biles shared mentioning her withdrawal.
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The post spoke of Biles' track record and said that whatever "she is dealing with internally has to be insurmountable and should be taken seriously."
The post also mentioned that while Biles can provide insight in interviews, there is no way to know she is fully dealing with.
"We will never know or fully understand her personal choices and struggles. She does not deserve to have any (judgment) passed — number 1. Because she's a human. And number 2. After all she's done for the sport," Norris' post said.
Despite withdrawing to compete, Biles returned to the floor in her tracksuit to cheer on her teammates.
Biles posted in support of her teammates July 27, as well.
"I'm SO proud of these girls right here," Biles said. "You girls are incredibly brave and talented! I'll forever be inspired by your determination to not give up and fight through adversity! They stepped up when I couldn't. Thanks for being there for me and having my back! Forever love y'all."
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