‘We’re all human’: Athletes support Simone Biles decision to focus on mental health, step down from Olympics

SPOKANE, Wash. — Simone Biles’s announcement shines a spotlight on mental health in sports, and it’s often overlooked and disregarded.

Biles competes on the world’s most intense stages. She’s always expected to perform at the highest level. For young athletes, seeing her choose to step down and focus on her mental health makes her even more of a role model in their lives.

“For so long, I don’t think mental health has ever really been talked about,” said Kaitlyn Crider, a coach at Dynamic Gymnastics Academy.

Her announcement is opening up the discussion for athletes to say it’s okay to not be okay. Biles stepped away from the team competition today to focus on something much more important than winning gold.

“If we don’t have our mental health, we don’t really have anything,” said U-District mental health counselor Ashlee Bradshaw.

Bradshaw  works with athletes on strengthening their physical and mental strength and says gymnasts often struggle with striving for perfection in every aspect of their lives, creating an unreal expectation that can be damaging.

“A lot of the time, gymnastics is just kind of like portrayed as a beautiful sport and everyone’s perfect. But at the end of the day, we’re all human,” said gymnast Maren Forsnes.

To stay safe, gymnasts also have to be healthy in their mind and body.

“With the level Simone is at, her mental health, if she’s not fully there mentally, she could get seriously injured,” said gymnast Hailey Freeman.

That’s why these gymnasts are thankful she’s choosing to say something when the world’s watching.

“Just because she pulled out of the team finals in the Olympics doesn’t mean that she’s an awful gymnast in any way. She’s still the greatest of all time, and she will always be the greatest of all time,” said gymnast Megan Morrow.

They see Biles as someone who showed even greater courage, stepping down to stand up for her health.

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