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Tokyo Olympics | Biles’ withdrawal thrust the spotlight on mental well-being

Shock exit: There is more to life than just gymnastics, said Simone Biles after the unexpected development.  

Silence prevailed in the arena after Simone Biles’ uncharacteristically substandard vault attempt at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.

The announcer at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre introduced the next athlete and talked about the four other events that were going on, but everyone’s eyes trailed Biles’ every move. She stepped off the mat and left the floor with a coach.

Reporters scrambled for updates. One suggested she had sprained her ankle, while another said he heard it was a mental issue. And a video doing the rounds on social media showed Biles mouthing the words “I can’t get up there.”

The USA Gymnastics then put out a statement on Twitter that said Biles had withdrawn from the competition due to a “medical issue” and her run in the mixed final was over. But Biles remained by her teammates and played the role of a coach and even broke into a little dance with Jordan Chiles on an instrumental version of Ed Sheeran’s mega-hit song Shape of You. The injury evidentially was not physical.

The USA returned with a silver medal and Biles, a strong advocate of prioritising mental health, revealed that she was “struggling with some issues.”

She subsequently pulled out of the women’s all-around event on Wednesday despite what was at stake — an opportunity to win six gold medals in Tokyo and become the most successful woman Olympian since Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s nine gold medals between 1956 and 1964.

Similar occasion

Tennis star Naomi Osaka had made a similar statement three months ago when she refused to go through with media requirements at the French Open citing mental health reasons.

Biles’s withdrawal thrust the spotlight on the importance of mental well-being. No one could have imagined this would happen at the Olympics.

Biles, the ultimate showstopper, had stopped the show all right, but not on expected lines.

“I want to focus on my well-being. There is more to life than just gymnastics. It’s very unfortunate that it has to happen at this stage, I wanted the Olympics to go better. It’s the Olympic Games, it’s so big, but at the end of the day we wanna walk out of here not be dragged out of here on a stretcher,” she said on Tuesday.

“We’re not just athletes but humans... We have to focus on that, even if it means taking a back seat from whatever sports we’re doing.”

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 4:04:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/tokyo-olympics-biles-withdrawal-thrust-the-spotlight-on-mental-well-being/article35615886.ece

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