Athletes and celebrities support 'brave' Simone Biles after Olympic event withdrawal

Gymnast star has mental health concerns

US Olympic superstar Simone Biles received support from fellow gymnasts, other athletes and celebrities after pulling out of the women's team event at Tokyo over mental health concerns.

Biles, 24, bidding to become the greatest female Olympian of all time, put her mental struggles in front of the world by dropping out of the women's team event on Tuesday after one vault. She said she felt the "weight of the world" on her shoulders leading up to the first of her six events at the Games.

Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallum guided the US to silver while Biles cheered from the sideline.

By taking the decision, Biles joins a growing number of world-class athletes such as Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka and US swimming legend Michael Phelps, who have opened up about coping with stress and the toll it takes to live up to expectations.

Among those supportive of Biles was Aly Raisman, who finished second to Biles in the all-around at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"Just a friendly reminder: Olympic athletes are human & they're doing the best they can," Raisman tweeted. "It's REALLY hard to peak at the right moment & do the routine of your life under such pressure. Really hard."

Biles had support from the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland, who applauded her decision to "prioritise your mental wellness over all else" and that she would receive its full support for her journey ahead.

Former US first lady Michelle Obama tweeted: "Am I good enough? Yes, I am. The mantra I practice daily. @Simone_Biles , we are proud of you and we are rooting for you."

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted "Gratitude and support are what @Simone_Biles deserves. Still the GOAT and we are all just lucky to be able to see her in action."

NBA Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns tweeted: "Sending nothing but love and positivity to the (GOAT) @Simone_Biles."

Two-time Olympic Alpine ski champion Mikaela Shiffrin offered support as well, tweeting: "@Simone_Biles keep whipping out that smile of yours cause it is undeniably golden. Always."

Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao tweeted: "Once a champion, always a champion. God Bless @Simone_Biles."

It remains to be seen whether Biles will carry on competing in Tokyo. Her schedule is clear for Wednesday but she is slated for Thursday's all-around event where she would defend her Olympic title.

Athleta, Biles' sponsor, said it stood by her supports her well-being "both in and out of competition".

Chief brand officer Kyle Andrew said: "Being the best also means knowing how to take care of yourself. We are inspired by her leadership today and are behind her every step of the way."

Athleta also tweeted on Tuesday a photo of a smiling Biles in an Athleta tank top, with the caption “Simone” and a heart emoji.

Updated: August 1st 2021, 11:42 AM
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