When I opened my phone this morning to scroll through the headlines, I found one name plastered everywhere: Simone Biles.
The 24-year old gymnast, deemed by many the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) made the decision to withdraw from the team competition at the world’s most prestigious athletic competition earlier this morning.
The reason? The state of her mental health.
Just yesterday, Biles took to Instagram to share the stress she’s been feeling this week. “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard,” the young gymnast confided in her post.
In today’s team finals competition, Biles made the decision to step back from the event after faulting the landing of her vault. Her team went on to win the silver medal while Biles cheered them on from the sidelines.
Although initial reports speculated that maybe the gymnast had been physically injured, she cleared the air in her post-competition interview when she shared that her withdrawal was based on her mental—not physical—health.
“Put mental health first,” she said. “It’s okay sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor and person you really are.”
And to that, I just want to say thank you, Simone.
Thank you for your bravery.
Thank you for your awareness of the state of your heart and mind, and for risking skepticism.
Thank you for showing the world what it means to prioritize mental health.
I don’t know you, but as someone who struggles with anxiety myself, I am so darn proud of you and grateful for your courageous example.
In a world where we condemn “quitters” as being weak, sometimes we fail to see how much strength it takes to know when to step back in a gesture that says, “I’m not OK, but I’m working on it.”
And for that, Simone’s bold decision deserves every bit as much applause as a gold medal would have.