‘Mental health’ behind Biles’ shock Olympic team final exit

The retirement from the gymnastics team competition has left Simone Biles’ future participation at the Tokyo Games in limbo.

Simone Biles, 24, is widely considered to be the best gymnast of all time [Ashley Landis/AP Photo]

Reigning Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles has said “mental health concerns” were behind her shock dropping out from women’s gymnastics team final at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 24-year-old American, widely considered to be the best gymnast of all time had been expected to feature in all six events at the Games that included a defence of her all-around crown on Thursday followed by four apparatus finals next week.

“I do not trust myself any more,” said Biles, fighting back tears as she met with the world’s media. “I have to focus on my mental health.

The 24-year-old reigning Olympic gymnastics champion Biles huddled with a trainer after landing her vault. She then exited the competition floor with the team doctor [Gregory Bull/AP Photo]

“There is more to life than just gymnastics.

“It is very unfortunate that it has to happen at this stage because I definitely wanted these Olympics to go a little bit better.

“We have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”

After performing the one vault on Tuesday, Biles exited the competition floor with the team doctor and returned several minutes later with her right leg wrapped.

She took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles before putting on a jacket and sweatpants.

‘Dealing with the demons’

Biles has spoken openly about her battle with depression after revealing she was among the hundreds of gymnasts sexually abused by former US team doctor Larry Nassar, who is now serving a life prison sentence.

She said on Tuesday that therapy and medicine had helped her, but had not been enough.

“I feel like that’s all been going really well but then whenever you get in a high-stress situation you kind of freak out. You don’t really know how to handle all of those emotions, especially being at the Olympic Games.

“Once I step up onto the mat it’s just me and my head, dealing with the demons in my head.”

Gymnastics’ ruling body the FIG later confirmed on Twitter: “After one routine Simone Biles will sit out the rest of the women’s team final”.

USA Gymnastics released a statement later in the day saying that Biles “has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue.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 US will have to finish the rest of the team competition, in which the top scores in the four main events from each country’s gymnasts are combined to determine a winner, without Biles, who won four gold medals in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Her absence is sure to hamper the US team’s bid to claim a third straight Olympic title.

Simone Biles of the United States in action on the vault [Lindsey Wasson/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies