US gymnastics icon Simone Biles has thanked fans for their “love and support” after she withdrew from two events at the Tokyo Games, watching on as America settled for second behind the Russian Olympic Committee on Tuesday.
Four-time Olympic champion Biles pulled out after her opening vault of the team final this week, leaving the remaining three members of the US quartet to battle on in her absence.
Biles later cited mental health issues as the reason for the withdrawal and will also miss Thursday’s individual all-round final at the Ariake Gymnastics Center.
READ MORE: Simone Biles pulls out AGAIN at Tokyo 2020, gymnast withdraws from individual all-around competition final
The 24-year-old has received gushing support from fans, members of the media and fellow athletes for her decision to “prioritize her mental well-being” – although elsewhere some have questioned her decision as lacking courage.
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Biles herself has now taken to Twitter and Instagram to thank her supporters, writing: “The outpouring love and support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.”
The post follows an initial social media message to fans in the wake of Biles’ withdrawal, in which she simply posted a white heart.
Biles’ decision – which follows a similar move by tennis star Naomi Osaka earlier this year – has triggered a debate about mental health in sport, or whether lazy buzzwords are being applied to defend poor performance.
Biles’ further Olympic participation remains up in the air, with the young star – who boasts a remarkable haul of 31 medals at Olympic and World Championship level – yet to decide whether she will compete in the four individual finals in Tokyo.