As athletes of the highest caliber headed to Tokyo for the Olympics this year, two young women chose to let their champion dreams go to prioritize their mental health.
Simone Biles Said ‘No’
Simone Biles, previous gold medalist and hopeful for setting the new world record of becoming the first back-to-back gold medalist stepped down from competing when she suffered an injury during a vault attempt on Tuesday. The US Gymnastics team released a statement that Biles “has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”
The 24-year-old has been dubbed the “greatest gymnast in the world” and clearly has felt pressure from this title. She’s stated on Instagram and social media comments such as feeling the “weight of the world on [her] shoulders” and similar comments on the pressure of reigning world champion in the sport.
When opening up to the media after her withdrawal, Biles said, “I do not trust myself anymore. I have to focus on my mental health. There is more to life than just gymnastics. It is very unfortunate that it has to happen at this stage because I definitely wanted these Olympics to go a little bit better. We have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”
Naomi Osaka Tells Us Why
After facing defeat in the tennis competitions at the Olympics, Naomi Osaka has been eliminated. The athlete has been vocal about mental health concerns on multiple occasions, including when she withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon earlier this year.
Reporters asked Osaka about the emotional impact of performing in the world’s foremost sports competition. Osaka responded, “I definitely feel there was a lot of pressure for this. I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year, [it] was a bit much. I think I’m glad with how I played, with taking that break that I had.”
Additionally, she said, “I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great, because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure; so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation. I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others.”
On Twitter, Osaka gave a statement fleshing out her departure and the need for mental health care more than ever.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
Leaders If Not Medalists
Biles walks away from the Olympics this year with the team silver but otherwise won’t receive any other medals. Osaka walks away with none. These young women, however, have given the world something to think about: Mental health and well-being is more important than titles and awards.