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Hollywood, athletes and politicians are rallying around U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles following her decision to step back from the U.S. team’s finals in light of her mental health.
The 24-year-old gold medalist and Tokyo 2021 competitor withdrew from the competition following one rotation in the team finals. An initial statement from the U.S. gymnastics team, which was posted to Twitter, confirmed Biles’ decision to step back. “Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions,” the statement said.
Since then, the gymnast has made several public statements and in each expressed that she left the women’s gymnastics event over concerns about her state of mind, specifically the high pressures around Olympic competition.
“We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we’re human, too,” Biles said. “So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”
In an interview with Today‘s Hoda Kotb, Biles reiterated that her decision to withdraw was not due to an explicit physical injury, but the emotional pressures around the expectations of her performance. “Physically, I feel good. I’m in shape,” she said. “Emotionally, it varies on the time and moment. Coming to the Olympics and being head star isn’t an easy feat.”
Following Biles’ decision and public comments around her mental health, media, entertainment, sports and political figures came out to support the young athlete.
That includes Biles’ own teammates, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum, who appeared on the Today show Wednesday morning.
“I really can’t say a lot because she has to tell her own story, but all I know is I’m going to support her no matter what. I am her teammate, I am her best friend, like she said,” Chiles told Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie. “This is the moment that I think that I truly realize that I’ve gotten so much closer to her than I really thought. She’s my ride or die. I will forever be by her side.”
When asked whether they’d want to see Biles compete again during the Tokyo Olympics, both Chilles and McCallum said they would, but “we also just want what’s best for her,” Gilles followed up.
Michael Phelps, former American Olympic swimmer, gold medal record holder and the most decorated Olympian of all time, also stopped by Today Wednesday and shared his thoughts on the pressures and fear that Biles was experiencing around her body and her performance. After encouraging people to remember that athletes are human, he told Kotb and Guthrie that the stress “can be overwhelming, especially during a competition.”
“First I wanted to make sure she was okay. It’s got to be difficult having something like that happen in a competition,” Phelps said of his first reaction upon hearing the news of Biles’ decision to withdraw from the team event. “I don’t know if that’s ever happened for me. But also I think on the other side, this is an opportunity for us, all of us, to really learn more about mental health to all help each other out.”
Aly Raisman, former Team USA gymnast and three-time Olympic gold medalist, shared her support of Biles during a Tuesday appearance on Today and stressed how much pressure Biles was under entering this year’s event.
“I think that Simone is the biggest story going into the Olympics, so this is just … it’s really, really devastating,” she said. “But I think it’s also just really important to think about how much pressure has been on her, and there’s only so much that someone can take.”
“She’s human, and I think sometimes people forget that. And Simone, just like everyone else, is doing the best that she can,” Raisman continued.
Adam Rippon, former American figure skater and Olympic bronze medalist, posted on his Twitter, “I can’t imagine the pressure Simone has been feeling. Sending her SO much love. It[‘s] easy to forget she’s still human. WE LOVE YOU.”
Former first lady Michelle Obama shared a personal mantra while showing her support for Biles and the other Team USA gymnasts. “Am I good enough? Yes, I am. The mantra I practice daily. @Simone_Biles, we are proud of you and we are rooting for you. Congratulations on the the silver medal, Team @USA!”
Comedian and actor Billy Eichner joked about the strength and maturity of Biles’ versus himself. “The wonderful Simone Biles pulls out of an Olympic event to protect her well-being and I can’t even bring myself to leave Twitter.”
Comedian Chelsea Handler highlighted the gold medalist’s decision to set boundaries. “@Simone_Biles drew a boundary for herself and her health on the world stage. This is real superhuman strength, setting an example for all of us.”
Beth Behrs, former star of CBS’s Two Broke Girls wrote in a lengthy statement, “You are incredible. I wish I’d had the strength and bravery in my 20s to prioritize my mental health the way you and @naomiosaka have done. You have set an incredible precedent for all the young girls who look up to you, and to this gal in her 30s. Thank you.”
Actress, comedian and talk show host Loni Love said, “Protect your peace @Simone_Biles .. you are and will always be a champion…. Only positive vibes going out to you !!!!!”
Watch What Happens Live host Andy Cohen sent a simple and sweet message, telling the young athlete, “We love you @Simone_Biles!!!” while Ellen DeGeneres also had a few words of encouragement. “.@Simone_Biles, you’re solid gold in my book.”
Poet Amanda Gorman, who rose to widespread public recognition following her appearance at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, was among many online who called Biles a “GOAT,” writing, “Biles still cheering on her teammates, even while taking care of herself, is one of the many graces that make her a true champion, forever & always. We love u Simone.”
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted, “Gratitude and support are what @Simone_Biles deserves. Still the GOAT and we are all just lucky to be able to see her in action. And congrats and tks to the tough as nails #TeamUSA @sunisalee_, @ChilesJordan, @grace_mccallum2 for being role models and champs.”
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) July 28, 2021
— Uzo Aduba (@UzoAduba) July 27, 2021
.@Simone_Biles, you're solid gold in my book.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) July 27, 2021
.@Simone_Biles drew a boundary for herself and her health on the world stage. This is real superhuman strength, setting an example for all of us.
— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) July 27, 2021
We love you @Simone_Biles !!! 🇺🇸
— Andy Cohen (@Andy) July 27, 2021
Someone said it best. @Simone_Biles already won. She is a class act. Withdrew from team competion after vault… stayed and cheered on her teammates… got them chalk for their hands.. encouraged.. hugged them. She already won. Congrats on the silver medal! @TeamUSA @USAGym
— Hoda Kotb (@hodakotb) July 27, 2021
The wonderful Simone Biles pulls out of an Olympic event to protect her well being and I can’t even bring myself to leave Twitter. God I’m so fucked.
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) July 27, 2021
— Bobby Berk (@bobbyberk) July 27, 2021
Thank you for everything you do.
— Felicia Day🇺🇸 (@feliciaday) July 27, 2021
— Loni Love (@LoniLove) July 27, 2021
Simone Biles is still the most amazing athlete ever
— ✌🏼rosanna arquette (@RoArquette) July 27, 2021
Love you @Simone_Biles
— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) July 27, 2021
I can't imagine the pressure Simone has been feeling. Sending her SO much love. It easy to forget she's still human. WE LOVE YOU.
— Adam Rippon (@AdamRippon) July 27, 2021
The idea that some believe that showing your vulnerabilities publicly is somehow ‘soft’ is just ridiculous. I’m so thankful that loved ones close to me helped me to get out of that way of thinking from my upbringing b/c it made me a better man #SimoneBiles
— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) July 27, 2021
Everyone judging @Simone_Biles doesnt know their foot from their asshole when it comes to being in her position.Shes on the Olympic team while you’re on Twitter.Whatever is going on cannot be grasped from outside.She’s doing the absolute best she can given the situation she’s in.
— Ronda Rousey (@RondaRousey) July 27, 2021
Sending nothing but love and positivity to the 🐐 @Simone_Biles
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) July 27, 2021
The GOAT @Simone_Biles having to sit out–because a man is not held accountable to do the same-is shameful. Biles still cheering on her teammates, even while taking care of herself, is one of the many graces that make her a true champion, forever & always. We love u Simone. https://t.co/nrfaJhoaja
— Amanda Gorman (@TheAmandaGorman) July 27, 2021
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) July 27, 2021
I stand with Simone Biles.
I still stand with Naomi Osaka.
Your health and peace matters. You’re reminding Black women that we can take the space we need for ourselves.
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) July 27, 2021
People go back to their lives after the game is over but these athletes struggling w/ mental health issues don’t get to switch channels. The issues don’t magically disappear. The pressure to be on & perfect all the time is immense. Sending love to @Simone_Biles & others! https://t.co/R54RxL917V
— Jaime Harrison, DNC Chair (@harrisonjaime) July 27, 2021
Gratitude and support are what @Simone_Biles deserves. Still the GOAT and we are all just lucky to be able to see her in action. And congrats and tks to the tough as nails #TeamUSA @sunisalee_ , @ChilesJordan, @grace_mccallum2 for being role models and champs
— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) July 27, 2021
— Chasten Glezman Buttigieg (@Chasten) July 27, 2021
— Kennelia Stradwick (@Kennelia) July 27, 2021
Seems to me @Simone_Biles is just showing a new way to win – by prioritizing being a person that YOU are proud of, and by making your life and the lives of the people around you as good as possible. It’s a whole life, not a series of competitions with filler in between.
— Eliza Skinner (@elizaskinner) July 27, 2021
You are incredible #SimoneBiles . I wish I'd had the strength and bravery in my 20s to prioritize my mental health the way you and @naomiosaka have done. You have set an incredible precedent for all the young girls who look up to you, and to this gal in her 30s. Thank you . pic.twitter.com/iM41bdvA8L
— Beth Behrs (@BethBehrs) July 27, 2021
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