Tokyo Olympics: Why ‘supernatural’ Simone Biles can change attitudes towards mental health in sport


dates: July 23 – August 8 Time in Tokyo: GMT +8
coverage: Watch live broadcasts on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and online; Listen to BBC 5 Live Radio, Sports Extra and Sounds; Live text and video clips on the BBC Sport website and app.

“Hopefully America still loves us.”

When Simone Biles—a four-time Olympic gold medalist, multiple world champion and arguably the greatest gymnast of all time—withdrew from the team and overall events at the Tokyo Olympics, it was major news across the United States and the world.

The American, a sexual assault survivor, spoke of the importance of maintaining her mental health and the need to “protect our minds and bodies,” adding, “We are human, after all.”

Biles’ decision won praise from many, but there were others who accused her of using mental health as an excuse for sub-par performance.

For many athletes, past and present, Bels’ honesty can change the way mental health is approached in sports.


“Mental and physical health is just as important”

Sam Quick, 2016 Olympic hockey medalist, speaking on BBC Television بي

“As the story went viral yesterday, I was getting more and more frustrated. I was seeing these headlines showing how weak Biles was, not mentally strong enough to handle the pressure.

“On social media, people were accusing her of using it as an excuse to quit the basement because she wasn’t doing well. I just think it’s utter nonsense.

“She said she wasn’t in the right frame of mind to go and perform well enough and that she could have done herself some damage. Every athlete knows that if you get into a state of uncertainty, you will get injured: nothing more than that in gymnastics. .

“It laid a foundation for many athletes and people around the world to say, ‘At this moment in time, on the inside, something wasn’t quite right.’ She had the courage and courage to walk away from the event.

“We talk about mental health and physical health. Both are just as important as the other.

“To the people who accuse her of not being a team player: In my opinion, she couldn’t have been more than a team player. I realized that the moves she was making, she wouldn’t have been able to get the grades needed for gold.

“Simon could have been hiding in the background. But she didn’t. She put on a tracksuit again, got out of there and stood up and applauded for her teammates.

“This is for me a hero.”


“This could transform gymnastics’

Neil Wilson, former British gymnast and 2016 bronze medalist, on BBC Radio 5 Live

“As an athlete, and particularly Simone Biles, the interest and validation come from being a superhero. I’ve always called her a female Hercules and she would definitely feel all that pressure.”

“This can make a huge shift in gymnastics talking about mental health, telling her I’m not in the mental capacity to do the biggest event as the biggest star.

“I am so proud of her. I wish her all the best and hope she is doing well and send her lots of love.”


This is a big step

British gymnast Sam Oldham, London 2012 bronze medalist, for BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat

“What Simone Biles has done is huge. Stopping and saying ‘something is wrong, I need help’ is a huge step. And for her to do it on the world stage at the Olympics, it takes courage and courage.”

“Saying ‘I put my mental health first, which comes before the Olympics’ is a huge positive message to all the young children now growing up who will have aspirations and dreams to go to the Olympics.”


Nobody qualifies you to be an Olympic champion

Chris Mears, winner of the 3 million simultaneous springboard award for Great Britain in 2016, on BBC Television

“I can relate to Simone. She feels like she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. She feels like a failure and maybe very confused and doesn’t know what’s up or down.”

“After winning the gold medal in Rio, it was so amazing. It was like all of your wildest dreams come true. Then, for me, it just fell apart. I didn’t know how to deal.”

“Nobody teaches you how to become an Olympic champion. I went into a deep depression. For me, what helped me was therapy.

“As a man, I’d say we don’t talk enough about mental health. It’s starting to happen, but it’s very important. A lot of women are more open to talking about things. Guys, we go ‘Okay, guys, we’ll be fine.'”

“My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and that was really hard. I knew I had to be there for her and that was a huge turning point for me.”


“I’m in awe of Simon”

Helen Richardson Walsh, 2016 Olympic hockey gold medalist, on BBC Radio 5 Live

Simone was amazing and still amazing, but she just kept standing up and being even more amazing [in withdrawing from the team final] It was awesome.

“The health of your athlete is the most important thing. Bottom line, it’s not about the medals they bring home, it’s about their physical and mental health.

“I have also struggled with my mental health, so I commend Simone Biles for what she did, putting her mental health first and standing up and being brave enough to do so. It really takes a lot of courage for her to say what she has to say.”

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