Simone Biles receives praise for prioritising her mental health

Mental health campaigners have applauded Simone Biles for prioritising her wellbeing after the world’s top gymnast withdrew from the women’s all-around gymnastics final at the Tokyo Olympics.

Biles, 24, pulled out of the competition after a medical evaluation determined that she was not ready to compete, following her decision to leave the women’s team event on Tuesday.

“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition,” a statement from USA Gymnastics said. “We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritising her wellbeing. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”

Biles’s decision was widely commended by charities, with Rethink Mental Illness among those praising the Olympian on Wednesday. The charity said: “Everyone needs to prioritise their mental health, even the best athletes in the world. Simone Biles’s decision to withdraw from an Olympics final will not have been taken lightly, and it’s great to see the support she received from her teammates.”

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Biles said: “I say put mental health first because if you don’t then you’re not going to enjoy your sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to.

“So it’s OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are, rather than just battle through it.”

The charity Mind also congratulated Biles on her bravery after she walked away from the women’s team competition.

Mind wrote on Twitter: “Working in elite sports like gymnastics comes with unimaginably high levels of pressure, perfectionism, scrutiny, and comparison. Simone Biles is incredibly brave for speaking out, and highlighting the importance of looking after your mental heath.

“Simone is a role model for women and girls everywhere. She deserves our applause, respect, appreciation – and above all our support right now.”

In the US, Mental Health America said Biles putting her emotional health first “is just one more thing that makes her the #GOAT”. The charity added: “On the world stage, she’s bravely showing us all that maintaining one’s mental health is as important as physical health. Full stop. We wish her the best.”

The International Olympic Committee has expressed its support for Biles’s decision, with spokesman Mark Adams saying “we have huge respect and support for her”. He added: “Mental health is an incredibly important issue. Are we doing enough? I hope so, I think so. But like everyone else in the world we can do more on this issue.”