When your status as the greatest gymnast of all time is undisputed, it’s easy to lose yourself in your accomplishments. But after withdrawing from Thursday’s individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics in order to “protect her body and mind,” Simone Biles took to Twitter on Wednesday to thank her fans for all of their “love and support” during this difficult period.
“The outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before,” she tweeted.
Following the five-time Olympic gold medalist’s decision to withdraw, USA Gymnastics released a statement declaring its support for the face of its sport.
“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being,” USA Gymnastics wrote. “Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”
Entering the Tokyo Olympics, Biles, the most decorated gymnast of all time, was universally favored to take home the gold. In part because since 2013, she’s won every individual all-around competition that she’s participated in and collected four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But after a less than stellar debut during Sunday’s preliminary round, the 24-year-old admitted that the tremendous pressure to perform had taken a toll on her.
“It wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it,” she wrote on Instagram. “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The Olympics is no joke!”
During Tuesday’s team finals, Biles again made an uncharacteristic mistake on the vault—a mistake that could’ve lead to a catastrophic injury—and instead of continuing to push herself when she was clearly unable to perform to the best of her abilities, Biles instead opted to withdraw from competition.
In light of similar circumstances regarding Naomi Osaka and Sha’Carri Richardson, hopefully this opens the door for much-needed conversations about the importance of addressing mental health in professional sports.