This past week, one of the biggest stories in all sports has involved Simone Biles, who most consider the greatest gymnast of all time. The 24-year-old hasn’t looked like her normal self during recent performances, and has since decided to withdraw from a few Tokyo Olympics events.
As she battled “the twisties” and decided to “focus on her mental health” before trying to return on the latter Olympic events, Biles drew both harsh criticism and full support from a wide range of people both in and out of the sport.
In the combat sports world, former UFC champion Michael Bisping questioned the 26-time World and Olympic champion’s heart, and said “quitters never win. This elicited a response from an Olympic champion gymnast, who explained the “twisties” and just how dangerous and “catastrophic” it can get for the athletes.
MMA fighters and former Olympians have since come out to support Biles as well. Ronda Rousey said people from the outside just cannot grasp the situation, and now two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields also backed Biles’ decision.
“Being a returning champion, there’s a lot that comes with that, you know, so much pressure. Nobody wants to withdraw from the Olympics; it had to be something mentally stressful and definitely going on with her to make that huge decision,” Shields told Fox News. “She had her whole team riding with her and if she wasn’t fully there, she did the right thing.
“I just feel like she made the best decision, which is doing what’s best for her mental health,” Shields said.
Shields, who like Biles, is considered as one of the greatest ever in her sport, says people tend to take athletes and their well-being for granted. Being “the GOAT” after all, doesn’t make you immune to mental health issues.
“We’re not supposed to react or have emotions and things like that, when it’s like, we’re human and we all go through things,” she said. Shields also shared that she survived sexual abuse and a rough upbringing, and that she’s acknowledging and working through “some things going on inside of me.”
“Mental health is something that we need to look more at,” she said. “Everybody needs to know that it’s OK to take a break and deal with our own stuff and put us first, put our family first and put our hearts and our minds at ease that it’s OK to do that.”
Following her historic amateur career, Shields went on to become an undefeated three-division world champion as a pro-boxer. She also recently transitioned to MMA, winning her debut last June.
After the team event, Biles also recently withdrew from two of the four individual gymnastics events. In a series of Instagram stories that have since been deleted, Biles was seen still struggling in practice. CNN describes it:
In the first video, she says she was supposed to perform one-and-a-half more twists on her dismount. Instead, the video shows her landing on her back on the mat.
A separate video shows another dismount, in which she said she still needed to complete another half twist, and she falls to the mat in apparent frustration.
As gymnasts describe, the twisties is when the athletes lose track of the ground and their positioning midair. Countless gymnasts have been seriously injured, and it’s particularly dangerous with the extreme degree of difficulty on the techniques Biles have been known for.
“It’s honestly petrifying trying to do a skill but not having your mind & body in sync,” Biles said as she opened up about her struggles. “(it’s) something you have to take literally day by day, turn by turn.”
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