Simone Biles: support has made me realise I am more than my gymnastics

Simone Biles has expressed her thanks for the support she has received since withdrawing from two gymnastics events at the Tokyo Olympics.

“[T]he outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before,” she wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

The four-time Olympic champion, who has been under immense scrutiny as one of the faces of the Tokyo Games, decided to stop competing in the women’s team event on Tuesday due to mental health issues. On Wednesday, she withdrew from the individual all-around final.

“There is more to life than just gymnastics,” she said on Tuesday after her withdrawal from the team final.

Her decision was supported by teammates, fellow athletes and fans around the world on social media. While, there was widespread support in the United States, some on the right accused of her quitting and lacking toughness. Biles addressed those accusations on Thursday, retweeting a message from an anonymous gymnast pointing out the burdens the 24-year-old has carried into the Olympics. She is a survivor of sexual abuse carried out by Larry Nassar, the disgraced doctor jailed for abusing young gymnasts. She has also been suffering from “the twisties”, a mental block in which gymnasts lose their spatial awareness in the middle of complex skills, something that can serious injury.

Another Olympic champion, Michael Phelps, has spoken of his own struggles with mental health. He lauded Biles during an appearance on NBC. “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,” he said.

Biles has not said whether she will compete in the individual disciplines in Tokyo. She is expected to be in the area to cheer on her US teammates, Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey, in the all-round final on Thursday evening.