Citing Mental Health, Biles Withdraws From Olympic Competitions
Gymnastics megastar Simone Biles is trying to "focus on her mental health," withdrawing during the team final and then from the individual all-around competition. News outlets discuss athletes' support for Biles and how the pandemic-era Olympics also affected tennis player Naomi Osaka.
'OK Not To Be OK': Mental Health Takes Top Role At Olympics
For decades, they were told to shake it off or toughen up — to set aside the doubt, or the demons, and focus on the task at hand: winning. Dominating. Getting it done. For years, Simone Biles was one of the very best at that. Suddenly — to some, shockingly — she decided she wasn’t in the right headspace. By pulling on her white sweatsuit in the middle of Tuesday night’s Olympic gymnastics meet, and by doing it with a gold medal hanging in the balance, Biles might very well have redefined the mental health discussion that’s been coursing through sports for the past year. (Fryer, 7/28)
Simone Biles Withdraws From Individual All-Around Competition 'To Focus On Her Mental Health'
Following "further medical evaluation," American gymnastics superstar Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics "to focus on her mental health," USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday. "Simone will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether or not to participate in next week’s individual event finals," the sport's national governing body said in a statement. "We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many." (Winsor, 7/28)
'Still Human': Houston Gymnasts Talk Mental Health Amid Simone Biles' Olympics Decision
Practice went on for dozens of scrunchie-wearing girls in leotards at a Houston gymnastic training center as fans learned Tuesday that Simone Biles would be taking a step back because of mental health, leaving her Olympic team to snag the silver without her. But for some, the decision came as a shock. Teen gymnast Sophia Butler — an USA Gymnastics member — was taken aback as she learned the news on her way to practice at Discover Gymnastics. It did not take Butler long to accept why the four-time gold medalist made her fateful decision — which Biles pegged to faltering confidence. “I think it goes to show that even the highest caliber of athletes are still human,” said Butler, 17. (Hensley, 7/27)
The Wall Street Journal:
Biles And Osaka Lay Bare The Strains Of Tokyo’s Pandemic Olympics
Biles’s exit followed a stunning defeat for Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka in the third round of the women’s singles tournament. Osaka, who has also cited the mental toll of her profession, was seen as the face of the Tokyo Games and had been chosen to light the Olympic cauldron during last Friday’s opening ceremony. They were just two of the high-profile casualties of the strangest Games in modern history. A combination of the restrictive conditions, absent fans, sweltering heat, and a one-year delay that threw off finely-tuned training cycles has dimmed the star power, in Japan and the U.S., of an Olympics already struggling for global appeal. (Robinson, Radnofsky and Bachman, 7/27)
The Washington Post:
How To Support Someone Going Through A Mentally Tough Time
Biles’s very public decision offers an opportunity to learn about the right and wrong ways to support someone — whether they’re an Olympian or not — who is going through a difficult time mentally or emotionally. Here are some do’s and don’ts from mental health experts. (Chiu, 7/27)
In other health news from the Tokyo Olympic Games —
Tokyo Sets Another Virus Record Days After Olympics Begin
Tokyo reported 3,177 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, setting an all-time high and exceeding 3,000 for the first time days after the start of the Olympics. The new cases exceeded the earlier record of 2,848 set the previous day and brought the total for the Japanese capital to 206,745 since the pandemic began early last year. (Yamaguchi, 7/28)
Quarantined Olympic Athlete Says Lack Of Fresh Air 'Inhuman'
An Olympic skateboarder who was put in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 called the conditions at the hotel “inhuman” on Wednesday. Candy Jacobs has been in isolation for eight days and missed the street event in skateboarding’s debut as an Olympic sport. She said she had to force officials to allow her a supervised short break for some fresh air away from her room, where the window doesn’t open. “Not having any outside air is so inhuman,” the 31-year-old Jacobs said in a video message posted on Instagram. “It’s mentally super draining ... definitely more than a lot of humans can handle.” (7/28)
US Volleyball Star Revels As Role Model For Deaf Kids
Growing up nearly completely deaf provided a challenge for David Smith as he tried to integrate with other kids at school or on the playground. Whatever Smith may have lacked in hearing was more than made up with empathy, compassion and most of all athletic ability. Smith was born nearly deaf with 80-90% hearing loss but has managed to overcome that to become an elite athlete competing in his third Olympics for the U.S. men’s volleyball team. (Dubow, 7/28)