Biles withdrawing from Olympics prompts conversation about athletes mental health

Sports

NEW YORK — Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic title.

The American gymnastics superstar withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready.

She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. The weight became too heavy after vaulting during team finals. She lost herself in mid-air and completed 1 1/2 twists instead of 2 1/2. She consulted with U.S. team doctor Marcia Faustin before walking off the field of play.

When she returned, she took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles and turned into the team’s head cheerleader as the U.S. claimed silver behind the Russian Olympic Committee.

“Once I came out here (to compete), I was like, ‘No mental is, not there so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,’” Biles said following the medal ceremony.

New York City Department of Education Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Jesse Pachter is telling his young athletes to pay attention.

“I think the lesson is that there are things that are more important than athletics, and I think that you need to be okay internally mentally socially emotionally before you can give your all,” Pachter told PIX11 News.

Pachter reminds his students the most important person in their life is not a parent or a sibling, but yourself. The goal is to have fun and achieve to the best of your ability.

Sometimes, that includes reminding an athlete’s parents to let go of the added pressure.

“Leave the in-game conversations to the players and the coaches, because it really can take away and cause more damage than good,” he said.

A census from the International Olympic Committee found anxiety and depression in elite athletes may be as high as 45%. The IOC is offering a mental health helpline for athletes in 70 languages that will keep running after the games are over.

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