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Simone Biles’ Exit Highlights Importance Of Athletes’ Mental Health

Simone Biles of Team United States is embraced by coach Cecile Landi during the Women's Team Final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Simone Biles withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics is shining a light on the mental health struggles of elite athletes.

KSL’s Tamara Vaifanua spoke to a mental performance coach about the mounting pressure athletes face on the international stage.

For Biles, prioritizing her mental health over an Olympic dream reminded us of the tough decisions they make.

Representing your country, family and team and being in the constant spotlight can take a toll on athletes.

Simone Biles’ Withdrawal From Team Final Sparks Conversation On Mental Health

Biles isn’t alone in speaking up and taking time to care for herself.

Tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open to focus on her mental health.

Factor in strict COVID-19 protocols Olympic athletes must follow and no fans in the stands – the pressure can be overwhelming.

Riley Jensen, lead mental performance coach for Real Salt Lake, has worked with athletes in various sports and said Biles’ withdrawal shows mental health affects everyone, and taking a step back because of it is OK.

“They’re human beings,” Jensen said. “We make them out to be superheroes, but these are very real people with real issues going on. With that extra pressure of COVID on top, it just exacerbates some of the things we’re dealing with.”

Biles has been criticized for her decision.

Gymnastics is a dangerous sport, and Biles said she was worried she could have been seriously injured if she wasn’t in the right state of mind.

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