Tokyo Olympics: Max Whitlock leads messages of support for USA Gymnastics star Simone Biles


Max Whitlock has led the messages of support for American gymnastics superstar Simone Biles after she withdrew from her individual all-round final to focus on her mental health.

Biles, 24, the most successful US gymnast of all time, was a favourite to retain her Olympic title in the event but decided to pull out just a day after she dramatically withdrew from the team event final, with Jordan Chiles replacing her before Team USA went on to claim the silver medal.  

The 24-year-old admitted on Tuesday she has been struggling with her mental health and dealing with the pressure at the Olympics, but has received huge support from the sporting world and her fellow athletes.

Simone Biles withdrew from her all-around individual final at the Tokyo Olympics

Max Whitlock sent her a message of support after the news broke on Wednesday

Max Whitlock is one of several big names in the sporting world to offer support to Simone Biles

Biles withdrew from her individual all-around final in Tokyo to 'focus on her mental health'

Biles withdrew from her individual all-around final in Tokyo to ‘focus on her mental health’

USA Gymnastics commended Biles for her ‘bravery’ and ‘courage’ in prioritising her wellbeing over competing in Thursday’s all-around final in a statement confirming her withdrawal from the event.

The statement read: ‘After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition.

‘We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritising her wellbeing. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.’

Britain’s double Olympic champion Whitlock offered his support to Biles just minutes after the announcement and lavished praise on her for her accomplishments in the sport.

The 24-year-old also withdrew from the team event final on Tuesday after struggling on vault

The 24-year-old also withdrew from the team event final on Tuesday after struggling on vault

Biles was replaced by Jordan Chiles as Team USA went on to win the silver medal in the event

Biles was replaced by Jordan Chiles as Team USA went on to win the silver medal in the event

Taking to Twitter, he wrote: ‘You’ve pushed boundaries time and time again. Rest up and take time.’

US swimming legend Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 28 medals, talked about the need for mental health resources for Olympic athletes after Biles’ withdrawal, having revealed back in 2018 he suffered with depression himself and contemplated suicide after the 2012 London Games. 

Speaking to The Athletic he said: ‘I hope this is an opportunity for us to jump on board and to even blow this mental health thing even more wide open.

‘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.

‘We’re human beings. Nobody is perfect. It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to go through ups and down and emotional rollercoasters. The biggest thing is, we all need to ask for help when we go through those times. It was hard for me to ask for help.

‘I felt like I was carrying, like Simone said, the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s a tough situation. I hope this is an eye-opening experience.’

Swimming legend Michael Phelps was one of several present-day and former athletes to sympathise with Biles and commend her for prioritising her mental health

Swimming legend Michael Phelps was one of several present-day and former athletes to sympathise with Biles and commend her for prioritising her mental health

Three-time Olympic medallist Paul Gasol, who is a Spanish basketball player, also sent a message to Biles, writing: ‘All my support to Simone Biles.

‘Mental health is a key component of our health, and it MUST be a priority always. We need the sports world to focus on emotional and mental well-being a lot more.’

Simone Biles’ Olympic medal chart

RIO 2016

Team: Gold medal 

All-Around: Gold medal

Vault: Gold medal

Floor Exercise: Gold medal

Balance Beam: Bronze medal

TOKYO 2020

Team: Silver 

Michelle Obama, tennis icon Billie Jean King, Coco Gauff and former football star Landon Donovan also sent messages of support to their compatriot.

Biles admitted to feeling the ‘weight of the world’ on her shoulders in the lead-up to the Olympics and openly spoke about her mental health struggles after the team event final on Tuesday.

The American withdrew halfway through that event after she struggled with her first vault. Speaking after her gymnastics team-mates won the silver medal in her absence, Biles said: ‘I’m not injured. Just a little injury to my pride.

‘After the performance I did, I just didn’t want to go on.

‘I have 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.

‘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.

‘We are not just athletes, we’re people at the end of the day and sometimes you just have to step back.

‘I did not want to go out and do something stupid and get hurt.

‘I feel like a lot of athletes speaking up has really helped.

‘It’s so big, it’s the Olympic Games, at the end of the day we don’t want to be carried out of there on a stretcher.

‘You have to be there 100 per cent or 120 per cent or you’re going to hurt yourself.’

In the USA Gymnastics statement released today, it stated that Biles has not yet decided if she will compete in her four other individual events next week. 



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