- BBC News World
Simone Biles, considered the best gymnast in history, is an expert in acrobatic jumps and flawless exits.
In making the impossible possible in all specialties of artistic gymnastics.
But perhaps his most important legacy is not what he has achieved in competitions, but outside of them.
On Tuesday, after the first exercise of the team final at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the American star decided not to continue participating in the much-anticipated competition.
He said he was doing it because he wanted to focus on his mental health.
And this Wednesday, in another surprise act, the US gymnastics team announced that Biles, 24, was not going to participate in his first individual final.
“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from her first individual final competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her courage in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, once again, why she is a role model. for so many, “the team said in a statement released on Twitter.
The surprising step to the side occurs in the middle of the Olympic Games, the maximum competition for a discipline like gymnastics, and many agree: the sport after Tokyo is hardly going to be the same.
“Biles’s statements have removed the taboo on the subject of mental management of highly competitive athletes. He has broken certain paradigms and it will be very difficult to know hide trash under the mat when we talk about this“Sergio Díaz, founder doctor of The Mind Institute, who works in the mental management of Olympic medalists such as Colombian Catherine Ibargüen and other professional athletes, told BBC Mundo.
“And this will not only change the way of mental management in that area, but also in societies in general, because athletes tend to be a role to be followed by the youngest, “he added.
However, Biles has not been the only elite athlete who has spoken about his difficulties.
Just under two months ago, Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, winner of four Grand Slam tournaments and number two in the world, made the decision to withdraw from the French Open for the same reason.
To focus on your mental health.
But how is the decision of these two athletes changing the sport in a broader way?
In less than a year
Mental health challenges for elite athletes are not a new topic.
For example, British tennis player Andy Murray announced a temporary retirement from the courts in January 2019 to focus, too, on his mental health.
But, definitely, they have been the declarations of Biles and Osaka which have led to a broader reflection on highly competitive athletes.
“What Biles has done has been to set off a series of alarms: if this happens to the most important athlete in one of the countries with the most resources for sports, then it means that the others are not going to be much better,” Díaz explained. .
“The management of mental health has been neglected by the sports industry, especially in Latin America, basically because they have neglected athletes as individuals,” added the specialist.
Although the specialty of mental health in sports has been worked on for more than 40 years by authors such as sports psychologist Richard Butler or American coach Tony Robbins, never had it reached a platform as wide as the one it has had in recent months.
“The athletes did not talk about this for various reasons. One because they did not want to be seen as weak and second, because many times they did not know what was happening,” Diaz noted.
Biles’s statements, like those of Osaka before, totally change the perception that athletes are machines that always have to win, as the BBC Mundo journalist specialized in sports José Miguel Pinochet points out.
“Biles has not been the robot gymnast to which we had become accustomed before her arrival. She is human and from the platform of her triumphs, which have given her fame and popularity, it is evident that she has never stopped being so”, He said.
Instead, Simone Biles has shown us that an athlete is the mixture of many ingredients.
“For example, she is a combination of incomparable natural talent that has allowed her to dominate her sport and to set new limits of what is possible, along with the personality that has been forged when facing all kinds of adversities in her life,” he said Pinochet.
Thus, the fact that Biles has spoken about an issue that until a few years ago was taboo, and that he did so in the middle of the Olympiad, has not only opened the debate both in the public sphere and within the delegations.
TIt has also had a wide echo among athletes around the world.
For example, Jamaican gymnast Danusia Francis pointed out that Biles’ attitude had opened up a new way of approaching sports competition.
“I don’t know about you, but I think Simone Biles just empowered everyone to put their mental well-being above everything else. What a queen. She’s the best of all time in more ways than one.”
For her part, the legendary Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who accumulated nine gold medals (five singles) in two Olympic Games, highlighted the difficulties of living up to the expectations of a nation after having previously succeeded.
“The more medals you have when you return, the heavier the backpack,” he said in conversation with CNN.
And he added: “There is a lot of pressure because you want to do the best you can. But it is important to remember that you want to do the best for yourself and not for others who expect something beyond what you can deliver.”
Another surprising comment came from the US Olympic Committee, one of the most powerful on the planet, which gave its full support to what is considered the top star of the country’s delegation.
“You have made us so proud,” said Sarah Hirshland, executive director of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
“We applaud your decision to prioritize your mental well-being above all else and offer you the full support and resources of our Team USA community as you navigate the path ahead of you,” added the sports leader.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.