For those of us watching from the comfort of our homes, it’s nearly impossible to imagine what type of pressure Olympic athletes are forced to perform under. And while we’d love nothing more than for Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, two of the best in their respective sports, to be rewarded for their hard work and tremendous sacrifice with gold medals, it appears that fate has other plans.
On Tuesday, ESPN and Yahoo Sports report that Biles was ruled out for the remainder of the women’s team competition for what USA Gymnastics said was a “medical issue” after a low-scoring attempt on vault. The four-time Olympic gold medalist appeared to be in tears as she left the mat and soon after left the arena floor with a trainer.
Shortly thereafter, the 24-year-old returned to the floor and had her wrists wrapped. But instead of competing in the next discipline, the uneven bars, she removed her wraps and changed into her warm-ups. Soon afterward, USA Gymnastics announced that she would not be competing for the duration of the night. Biles was then replaced by Jordan Chiles during the uneven bars.
“Simone has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”
But Al Butler of United Press International reports that her exit wasn’t injury-related and instead has been attributed to a “mental issue she is having.”
Second-seeded Naomi Osaka, who pulled out of the French Open in May, citing her need to prioritize her mental health, also had a rough Tuesday after suffering a shocking loss to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic during the third round of the Olympic tennis tournament, per ESPN.
While Osaka, the highest-paid woman in sports, expressed her excitement earlier this week about returning to the sport she loves, she also admitted after her loss on Tuesday that the expectations that come with playing on such a big stage were difficult to handle.
“I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,’’ the 23-year-old said. “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this. I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year [it] was a bit much.’’
On Twitter, both Biles and Osaka received an outpouring of compassion and support for their efforts despite falling short in their quests for Olympic gold. (In Biles’ absence, Team USA finished with the silver medal in the women’s gymnastics team finals. The Russian Olympic Committee won the gold.)
We at The Root remain incredibly proud of everything that both Biles and Osaka have accomplished both in and out of competition and hope that each of these amazing women are able to take whatever time they need to prioritize their physical and emotional well-being.
Updated 7/27/2021, 11:02 a.m. ET: CNN reports that while addressing the media about her exit during the women’s team gymnastics final, Biles broke down in tears and confirmed that her withdrawal was due to mental health concerns.
“Whenever you get in a high-stress situation you kind of freak out,” she said. “I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and wellbeing. We have to protect our body and our mind. It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.”
Biles then reminded everyone that competitors are “not just athletes, we’re people at the end of the day.”
The team has scheduled a “mental rest day” on Wednesday and while Biles will be in attendance for the individual all-around competition on Thursday, she declined to guarantee her participation.