UPDATE: Simone Biles has since withdrawn from Thursday’s all-around competition, citing her desire to focus on her mental health.
Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles was pulled from the team gymnastics competition at the Tokyo Olympics Tuesday, as the U.S. lost its title to Russia.
After a disappointing vault in the first rotation of the women’s team event, the American was signified by an ‘R’ on the competitor list before the bars began, indicating she would not continue in the competition.
“After the performance I did, I just didn’t want to go on,” Biles said after the event. “I felt like it would be better to take a back seat. I didn’t want to risk the team a medal because they worked way too hard for my screw ups.”
According to an official Olympic Twitter account, Biles was attended to by a trainer after her vault, and returned to the arena with her foot strapped heavily. Her teammate Jordan Chiles performed on the uneven bars in her place.
USA Gymnastics confirmed in a statement that Biles withdrew because of a “medical issue” and said she would be assessed daily to determine whether she can participate in future competitions.
According to Reuters, Biles said Tuesday that she was not injured, “Just a little injury to my pride.”
“I have to focus on my mental health,” she said.
“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’re not just athletes, we’re people at the end of the day and sometimes you just have to step back.”
Others expressed understanding and sympathy for Biles’ choice.
“Gymnastics probably more than any other sport… requires laser, pinpoint focus… Being a global presence, the greatest of all time, all that starts creating interference,” said Robert Andrews, a mental training expert who has worked with Biles for about four years. “If she’s this stressed out to where she has a mental block, I would approach it with caution.”
“This is very unusual for her, but if you’re under a lot of pressure it can affect your body,” said Japanese Olympics gymnast Mai Murakami. “I think she decided to save her body for later this week, for the all-around and apparatus.”
The International Gymnastics Federation confirmed Biles would play no further part in the team event, but said she would still receive a medal if the heavily favoured U.S. ended up on the podium. The team ended up winning silver, behind the team from Russia.
Biles was chasing the six gold medals she needed to become the most decorated woman in Olympics history, but will not achieve it this Games. She won four gold medals at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
On Wednesday, USA Gymnastics confirmed that Biles was withdrawing from Thursday’s all-around competition as well, meaning she will no longer be defending her medal from 2016.
USA Gymnastics released a statement saying the decision was made “after further medical evaluation,” and so Biles could continue “to focus on her mental health.” It’s still unclear if she will compete in next week’s individual event finals.
“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being,” USA Gymnastics said.
–With files from Reuters