Simone Biles has been supported by former Olympian Michael Phelps after she pulled out of two gymnastics events for the sake of her mental health
The 24-year-old gymnast won four gold medals for team USA at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and has admitted that pressure of living up to that success at the current games in Tokyo has been tough to deal with
31 July 2021
Simone pulled out of the women’s gymnastics team final earlier this week after stumbling in her vault routine, and later said her mental health had got the better of her as she revealed she would also be backing out of Thursday’s (29.07.21) individual all-round final.
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And now, former competitive swimmer Michael – who is the most decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 28 medals to his name – has said he understands the immense pressure Simone is under.
Speaking on NBC – where he is working as a TV analyst during the Tokyo
2020 Olympic Games – he said: "We're humans, right? We're human beings.
Nobody is perfect so yes, it is okay to not be okay. It's okay to go through ups and downs and emotional roller coasters. But I think the biggest thing is we all need to ask for help sometimes too when we go through those times. For me, I can say personally it was something very challenging. It was hard for me to ask for help. I felt like I was carrying, as Simone said, the weight of the world on [my] shoulders.
It's a tough situation.
“We need someone who we can trust. Somebody that can let us be ourselves and listen. Allow us to become vulnerable. Somebody who's not going to try and fix us. We carry a lot of things, a lot of weight on our shoulders, and it's challenging, especially when we have the lights on us and all of these expectations being thrown on top of us."
Michael has been open about his own struggles with mental health throughout the latter part of his career, and praised both Simone and tennis star Naomi Osaka for sharing their personal struggles.
He added: "I hope this is an opportunity for us to jump onboard and to even blow this mental health thing even more wide open. It is so much bigger than we can ever imagine.
“Look, for me when I started on this journey five years ago, I knew it was big. I knew it was going to be challenging. Five years into it now, it's even bigger than I can comprehend. So this is something that is going to take a lot of time, a lot of hard work and people that are willing to help.
“If we're not taking care of both [physical and mental health], how are we ever expecting to be 100 percent?”
Although Simone is now out of the running for the individual all-round final, her team will continue to monitor her health with the hope that she will return to the gymnastics arena for next week’s individual event finals.