Simone Biles, largely recognised as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, has been inundated with supportive messages from fellow athletes and celebrities after pulling out of Olympic events to focus on her mental health.
On Tuesday, day four of the Games, Biles competed in the all-round team event representing Team USA before exiting the competition mid-way through due to a 'medical issue'.
She later returned to the gymnasium wearing a team tracksuit to cheer on her fellow teammates, and joined them on the podium when they won silver medals. The Russian Olympic Committee claimed gold and Great Britain, bronze.
A day later Biles announced that she would not be competing in the individual all-round event either, which was largely expected to win her back-to-back Olympic Games wins - the first for a woman since the Sixties - and break records in the process. The 24-year-old disclosed that she had decided to sit out on the events for the last two days due to her mental health.
Great Olympic athletes are often treated as performers for our entertainment and assumed to have near superhuman qualities, with little acknowledgment of them experiencing the same pressures, stresses and struggles as the rest of us. It's an issue Biles' fellow Olympian Naomi Osaka has also spoken about in recent months after she withdrew from doing press interviews at the French Open on the grounds of protecting her mental health.
Biles and Osaka discussions about mental health are now being lauded by fellow athletes and celebrities who similarly experience public pressures and intrusions.
Following Biles' departure from the events, athletes, actors and politicians all praised the athlete:
Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States
Aly Raisman, former Team USA gymnast and Olympic gold medallist
Max Whitlock, Team GB gymnast and Rio 2016 gold medallist
Michael Phelps, former Olympic champion and Team USA swimmer
Cori Bush, congresswoman
Adam Rippon, former figure skater
Billie Jean King, former tennis champion
Uzo Aduba, actor
Rosanna Arquette, actor
Greg Rutherford, former Team GB long jump gold medallist
Helen Richardson-Walsh, Team GB hockey player and 2016 Olympic gold medallist
Danusia Francis, British-Jamaican gymnast representing Jamaica in Tokyo
Ellen DeGeneres , talk show host
Billy Eichner, comedian and actor
Chelsea Handler, comedian
Ronda Rousey, MMA and UFC fighter
Andy Cohen,talk show host
Following Team USA's silver medal performance, Biles spoke during a press conference about her decision, saying: 'I say put mental health first because if you don't then you're not going to enjoy your sport or succeed as much as you want to so it's ok sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor and person you really are, rather than just battle through it.'
On Wednesday, when USA Gymnastics confirmed Biles would sit out the individual event too, they issued the following statement on Twitter:
It awaits to be seen whether the athlete will compete in the individual apparatus events later in the tournament. Biles has previously said she is taking her decisions day by day.
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