Simone Biles has been in the center of one of the biggest stories in sports today, with the six-time Olympic medalist and 19-time world champion not looking like her dominant self in the Tokyo Olympics. Considered by most as the greatest ever gymnast, Biles admitted to be battling some personal “demons,” and eventually decided to withdraw midway through the team final and for Thursday’s individual all-around competition.
USA Gymnastics announced the news Wednesday in Japan, saying it’s to allow the Olympic champion to focus on her mental health before trying to return for the other events next week.
“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in order to focus on her mental health. Simone will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether or not to participate in next week’s individual event finals,” the statement read.
“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”
More details on her situation can be read here, especially for those who may not be too familiar with the sport: How Simone Biles saved herself — and her teammates — at the Olympics.
With mental health routinely being dismissed by many in sports, it’s great to see Team USA backing their superstar fully. As expected though, there will be critics and backlash whenever these issues are brought up, especially for such a high profile athlete like Biles.
Michael Bisping is one of those critics. The former UFC champion admitted not knowing anything about the sport or the situation Biles is in, but still claimed that “quitters never win” and quickly dismissed this all having any relation to mental health issues.
Opinion on Simone Biles withdrawing from the olympics?— michael (@bisping) July 27, 2021
I know nothing of gymnastics. I do know however that with sports of any level there comes a lot of pressure. Throwing in the towel as she wasn’t having a perfect performance is a good message to send young aspiring athletes. Other people would of killed for that spot. https://t.co/01CXS1bV6g— michael (@bisping) July 27, 2021
Mental health issues need to be respected. That said, Folding to pressure in a sports environment though is not a mental health issue.unless I’m missing some details. If so I apologize but from what I read I don’t think I am. https://t.co/WEefV44G4B— michael (@bisping) July 27, 2021
She’s incredible. What she has achieved is insane. I’m not hating. I’m trying to understand why she pulled out. If it’s because she wasn’t having a good day then that’s pretty weak. Not the lesson we teach our children. Finish the race! Try your best. https://t.co/b9cWua3AH9— michael (@bisping) July 27, 2021
Well I read the articles surrounding it online. If you have the answers- what am I missing? Come on big guy. Give me the lowdown mr fucking expert. https://t.co/5W4JUCWXft— michael (@bisping) July 28, 2021
This tweet below sums up what it looks like. “Looks like” being the key words. I asked if I’m missing any details, some sensitive pricks on here. Fuck it, give everyone a gold medal. https://t.co/lBd9si7XgU— michael (@bisping) July 28, 2021
There’s certainly a lot issues with Bisping’s statements, but here’s a few points on the matter:
- “Folding to pressure in a sports environment though is not a mental health issue.” “Throwing in the towel as she wasn’t having a perfect performance...” - Like what some fans tried to tell Bisping, we do not know any specifics, so it’s wrong and unfair to make these types of conclusions. Attributing it to just “not having a good day” is also pretty ignorant, and frankly, those specifics should be left to Biles and her team. She’s already been upfront to the entire world about some of the things she’s dealing with, but the reality is, she doesn’t owe us any explanations.
- “Finish the race!” “Other people would of (sic) killed for that spot.” - She actually helped her team by not being that selfish superstar. Biles was aware and humble enough to know and accept that her other teammate could do better. Instead of dragging them all down to try and just “finish” for herself, she put her team’s needs first and they were still able to secure a podium finish. This is also the very reason why they have alternates.
- “Quitters never win” - She’s a 31-time medalist in the Olympics and world championships. Despite being compromised and clearly not being her normal self, she still was the only athlete to qualify for all individual finals. It remains to be seen if she can return next week, but either way, her legacy has already been cemented. She’s the best to ever do it, and doesn’t even need to prove herself to anyone, but at the same time...
- Being “the GOAT” doesn’t mean you’re immune to mental health issues. Bisping should know this, as the man who put him to sleep in Georges St-Pierre has repeatedly shared how he struggled with crippling anxiety. This has not only led to him hating fighting, but it also factored in his decision to leave MMA altogether. Similar to GSP, Biles also had a hiatus from the sport before going back to become champion again.
- While Bisping thinks that’s “pretty weak,” it actually takes much more strength to admit when you need help, and to take steps to take care of yourself. It also makes their insane achievements even more impressive because they did all of that while dealing with these demons.
Fortunately, there are many other elite level athletes who voiced support for Biles, including some long term combat sports champions. Former UFC champ and Olympic medalist Ronda Rousey, put critics on blast, while Manny Pacquiao also tweeted out a nice sentiment.
“Everyone judging @Simone_Biles doesn’t know their foot from their a—hole when it comes to being in her position. She’s on the Olympic team while you’re on Twitter,” Rousey, the former Olympic Judoka wrote. “Whatever is going on cannot be grasped from outside. She’s doing the absolute best she can given the situation she’s in.”
Once a champion, always a champion. God Bless @Simone_Biles.— Manny Pacquiao (@MannyPacquiao) July 27, 2021
Everyone judging @Simone_Biles doesnt know their foot from their asshole when it comes to being in her position.Shes on the Olympic team while you’re on Twitter.Whatever is going on cannot be grasped from outside.She’s doing the absolute best she can given the situation she’s in.— Ronda Rousey (@RondaRousey) July 27, 2021