Simone Biles withdraws from all-around final at Tokyo 2020 to focus on mental health

Simone Biles, of the United States, waits for her turn to perform during the artistic gymnastics women's final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27 in Tokyo. Biles has withdrawn from the individual all-around competition to focus on her mental health.

Simone Biles' decision to step away from the Olympic games is intensifying a new conversation about mental health in sports.

Simone Biles' decision to step away from the Olympic games is intensifying a new conversation about mental health in sports.

She joins a growing list of elite athletes who are raising awareness about mental health.

Biles withdrew from the individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday after pulling out of the team event on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old woman said she made the decision to focus on her mental health. A local mental health professional said her news could be good eventually for the mental health cause.

“It will likely allow someone to get the courage to be able to reach out to any mental health facility, mental health provider to say "Hey, I need help too." and guess what? If an elite Olympic athlete is having some difficulty, I am too and it’s okay to reach out and ask for help,” said Marie Jones-Watts of Genesee Health System.

Biles also said the pressure of living up to expectations around her quest for a record gold medal prompted her to drop out of the team competition after a low mark in her opening vault.

The International Olympic Committee said more could be done to protect and foster the mental health of athletes.

The gymnast was flooded with messages of support from other Olympians past and present, but also sharp criticism that Jones-Watts said comes from the stigma around mental health diagnoses and treatment.

She says Biles being candid is progress.

“It raises awareness. And we hope that it lessens the stigma and allows for more room for education and understanding,” Jones-Watts said.

Copyright 2021 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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