Simone Biles thanked her supporters for the "outpouring of love" after she chose to withdraw from Tokyo 2020 Olympic events.
The gymnast stepped away from a dramatic team competition earlier this week, then pulled out of Thursday's individual all-around competition, stating she wanted to prioritize her mental health. Since then, she has received applause from the public, as well as other prominent athletes. Biles expressed her gratitude in a heartfelt Tweet.
"the 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.
Hours before Biles chose to walk away from the Tokyo Olympic events, she wrote on Instagram about how, at times, she felt as if she had "the weight of the world" on her shoulders.
"I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha!" she wrote. "The olympics is no joke! BUT I’m happy my family was able to be with me virtually, they mean the world to me!"
Speaking on Tuesday following her decision to withdraw from the women's team final, Biles explained that she was walking away in order to "focus on my mental health."
"I just think mental health is more prevalent in sports right now ... we have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do," she said, according to Sky Sports. "I don't trust myself as much anymore ... maybe it's getting older. There were a couple of days when everybody tweets you and you feel the weight of the world."
In a statement, USA Gymnastics said it backed Biles for her decision.
"After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition," the statement read. "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."
However, three-time Olympic gold medalist and former teammate Aly Raisman criticized USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for a lack of leadership in supporting athletes, according to CNN.
"USA Gymnastics has been an absolute disaster for years and unfortunately not enough has changed for us to believe in a safer future, but I think this just really shows the lack of leadership [of] USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee," she said. "Does Simone have the support that she needs? Do other athletes have the support that they need? It's a tremendous amount of pressure... I'm completely devastated and I support her so much."
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