Conn. (WTNH) — The most decorated American gymnast in history, Simone Biles, withdrew from Wednesday’s individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Games to focus on her mental well-being. Local coaches and doctors we spoke with tell us they were shocked to learn she was out of the competition but understood why she made this tough decision.
Women’s Head Gymnastics Coach at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) Byron Knox said, “It’s not uncommon for that to happen, but it happens in practice not necessarily competition.”
Knox says mental blocks can happen to all athletes, but the pressure on Biles is on a different scale.
“So the pressure to perform at the highest level is always tough and the fact that she considered the best in the world and expected to win I’m sure that aided in it,” he said.
Dr. Peter Lucchio, a psychologist at Hartford Hospital Bone & Joint Institute added, “She’s proved that she’s physically tough. The hard decision sometimes is honoring her emotional status and honoring anyone’s emotional status.”
And the coaches we spoke with both agree, when you consider the skills she performs, pushing through any issue could be very dangerous.
Mary Ann Powers, the head Acrobatics and Tumbling coach at Quinnipiac University said, “Every single sport has its different dynamic, and with this one comes the realization that you go down and it could be catastrophic.”
Knox added, “She can get hurt if, in fact, she tries to work through this thing. It’s not like a quarterback sliding to not get tackled or throw the ball out of bounds. She’s basically living to see another day.”
USA Gymnastics said they wholeheartedly support Biles’ decision. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.