Simone Biles withdrew from the individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday, a day after she shocked the world by pulling out of the team event, while COVID-19 infections surged to a record 3,177 in the host city.
Simone Biles has withdrawn from the women’s all-around gymnastics final at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday after a further medical evaluation determined that she is not yet ready to compete. The news followed her dramatic decision to stop competing in the women’s team event on Tuesday after only one rotation on the vault due to mental health issues.
However, a statement from US gymnastics left open the possibility that Biles, who could still compete in four more finals, may return for the individual events at the Games next week.
“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition,” it stated. “We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her wellbeing. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”
Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’s place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals.
The organisation said Biles will be evaluated before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events.
Meanwhile Biles’s decision has been widely praised by America’s sporting superstars, with Michael Phelps among those insisting that it would “blow the doors open” over athlete mental health.
Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history with 23 gold medals, said that seeing Biles leave the arena “broke my heart” but said her actions would make waves far beyond this year’s Olympic Games.
“I hope this is an eye-opening experience, I really do,” he added. “I hope this is an opportunity for us to jump on board, and to even blow this mental health thing even more wide open. It is so much bigger than we can ever imagine.
“We carry 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.”
Speaking to NBC, Phelps also recalled his own battles with mental health, saying that he had found it hard to ask for support when he needed it.
“I can say personally, it was something that was very challenging. It was hard for me to ask for help. But it’s so important, especially to teach kids at a young age to take control of their physical and mental health. We’re human beings. Nobody is perfect.”
Meanwhile, speaking after winning her sixth Olympic gold medal in the women’s 1500m, the swimmer Katie Ledecky spoke of the pressure Biles had been under.
“Everyone around the world is watching, certainly Simone has so many eyes on her,” she said. “The cameras follow you around, I experience that on days like today. You can feel like a lot of people are watching you and every move you make is being watched and judged.”